Costume at Mary's Court

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk and his wife Mary Fitzalan 1555-6.

Two major fashion trends during Mary's reign were the farthingale and the ruff. The farthingale,from Spain, was now universally adopted. It was a petticoat that consisted of a series of hoops, smaller at the top increasing toward the bottom. This gave a base to spread out the skirts in order to show the petticoat or forepart at the front opening. Previously cane or rush hoops had been used and now rope was introduced.

The broad toed shoes of the previous reigns were no longer fashionable in Mary's reign. The narrower shoes were made of velvet, silk and leather and usually heelless.The French hood had evolved into a flattened top that was sometimes dipped in the centre. Colours favored were reds, scarlets, purple, black, green, tawney and russets. Mary's favorite colour was crimson. A light grey-blue was worn from 1553. Dark blue was the colour of apprentice or serving-man's coat and a mark of servitude.

Mary Fitzalan has the tight fitting bodice and,interestingly, tight fitting sleeves under false sleeves of red velvet lined with ermine. She has the flattened French hood and ruffs on her neck and sleeves. The well fitting bodice became more pointed and low waisted than in previous reigns. The corset was made with steel stiffeners sewn into the lining. This, along with padding, completely flattened the bust and hid the natural curves

Thomas Howard wears the high necked doublet and ruff along with the order of the garter and his staff of office as Earl Marshal. He wears the English/German style of shaped coat which was adopted in Spain after 1550. The men's doublet had a standing collar with a circular ruff with wrist ruffs to match. The ruffs were made of holland or lawn. The first knit stockings came from Spain during Henry VIII's reign.


Portrait of an unknown lady. It has been suggested that it represents a woman who attended Elizabeth at her coronation in 1559. There were 42 ladies who were each given 16 yards of crimson velvet (one who received red) and 2 1/2 yards of cloth of gold for turning up the sleeves. This Mid-Tudor style of costume continued into the next decade and the hood was still in evidence as late as 1569 as seen in the painting of Elizabeth and the Three Goddesses(inset).

Portrait of Henry Stewart Lord Darnley, 1555. He is dressed in the height of fashion, following the Spanish line with high-necked, fitted doublet with a small standing collar and ruff. The front fastenings are buttons and buttonholes or loops. He is wearing a cape and a soft velvet hat, with jeweled band and ostrich plume.





Portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots as Dauphine, c. 1558

The Queen of Scots wears the pointed collar we associate with Mary's reign but probably originated in France. This portrait ably demonstrates the elegance with which the French were able to apply to similar cuts of dress that were fashionable in England. The lack of hood with jewels intertwined in the exposed hair is also very appealing.

Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, 1554

Lord Darnley wears an early version of the peaseod-belly doublet. It buttoned full length and dipped to a low V in the front, sloping upwards to hip bone level at the sides. He also wears small ruffs on the collar and cuffs and a long cape. Capes, introduced from Spain, were fashionable at various lengths and could be worn on the shoulders, one shoulder or attached to the sleeve.

New to women's fashion was the introduction of the Spanish surcote, which was a long outer robe with deep collar and puffed sleeves tied, buttoned or pinned down the front and worn over an under-dress with close-fitting sleeves. The looser fitting ropa was also popular. Instead of buttoning to the waist it was attached at the neck and opened in an A shape to reveal the gown beneath.

Visitors to Mary's court were instructed to report on the queen and the fashions of her court. A description of Queen Mary by the Venetian ambassador Giacomo Soranzo, stated that:

'She seems to delight above all in arraying herself elegantly and magnificently and her garments are of two sorts: the one gown such as men wear (surcote), but fitting very close, with an under-petticoat, which has a very long train, and this is her ordinary costume, being also that of a gentlewoman of England. The other garment is a gown and bodice with wide hanging sleeves in the French fashion, which she wears on state occasions, and she also wears much embroidery, and gowns and mantles of cloth of gold, and cloth of silver of great value, and changes every day. She also makes great use of jewels, wearing them both on her chaperon (hood), and round her neck, and as trimming for her gowns.' This interesting report challenges our idea of Mary's daily costume. Instead of the bell sleeved, low-waisted gown we identify with Mary (right, Lady Mary Sidney) she preferred to wear the surcote as shown on the Portrait Gallery page or in the painting of an Unknown Woman, 1557 (left) and kept her signature costume for state occasions such as her first meeting with Philip as described by Andres Muñoz : 'The queen was clad in a gladres (gown) of black velvet, high in the neck, according to the custom over there, without any ornament whatsoever, with a front of frosted silver embroidery, and a chapiron (hood) of black velvet with its gold pieces of great value, gracefully set; and a narrow girdle of very marvellous stones and a collar of the same sort.'




Simon Renard, 1553

Mary's trusted advisor at court and the Imperial ambassador. He is dressed in the austere black favored by the Spanish.



Below: Lady Mary Neville, and her son, Gregory Fiennes, Lord Dacre, 1558

Here can be seen again the surcote and flattened French hood with the hair puffed out to the sides from a centre parting. Her son is sumptuously dressed in embroidered doublet and ruffs and fur-lined coat. In 1558 the family had been restored to their titles and property forfeited after the execution of Lady Dacre's husband in 1541.















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