As we mentioned in our podcast on Shekar Kapur’s Elizabeth, here are some recommended resources about Queen Elizabeth and Elizabethan costuming…
From Trystan: First is a good, approachable biography of QEI: The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. This book gives a comprehensive look at Elizabeth’s reign and is supported by tons of period quotes nad references. I especially found the details of what is actually known about Elizabeth and Dudley’s relationship to be very enlightening. We’ll still never know if they did the deed, but you can find out how close they had their bedrooms ;-). The only drawback to this book is that it starts with Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, so you won’t learn much about her childhood and youth or the formative experiences during her elder sister Mary’s reign.
For an interesting look at Elizabeth’s youth, I’ve enjoyed Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn. This book is about Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. The later is a subject of personal fascination, particularly because she gets short-shrift in comparison to QEI.
What’s great about this book is that it has a lot of details about Elizabeth’s youth and young womanhood, especially her tutors and studies, down to specifics of what she read and what that meant in the era. Gives some excellent background for her later speeches as queen. And the contrast between Elizabeth and Mary’s early education is pretty dramatic — one was raised to be the equivalent of a male ruler, the other was raised to be a traditional wife and consort. Why do you think they turned out the way they did?
From Sarah: First up is Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d by Janet Arnold. Nearly 400 pages of discourse on women’s clothing during the reign of QEI, drawing from wardrobe accounts, public and private correspondence, political policies, and other primary resources, this book is absolutely indispensable for serious students of 16th century English clothing. It is also extremely expensive. Get it on interlibrary loan, bribe your loved ones for your anniversary/birthday/holiday/wedding, or do what Trystan did and have your absent-minded friend forget it at your house. ;-)
Next, we have Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcom-Davies. This book is a great how-to for men and women’s clothing during the 16th century. Concise, affordable, and well-illustrated (by Ninya’s extremely talented husband, Michael Perry), Tudor Tailor offers scalable patterns for everything a Tudor reenactor or enthusiast could ever need, from breeches to smocks to stays to gowns and everything in between. Trystan and I have both used the book to scale up patterns for a farthingale, with excellent results. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you’re new to 16th century clothing, or if you’re an old pro looking for solidly researched pattern diagrams.
From Kendra: For those interested in Renaissance Italian costuming, check out Moda a Firenze, 1540-1580: lo stile di Eleonora di Toledo e la sua influenza. Fabulous, fabulous book (in Italian and English) that goes into incredible detail into the wardrobe of Eleanor of Toledo and a great resource for Florentine fashions.
Also, two of my favorite image databases are:
BildIndex — Huge art database, all in German. Use Google to help you translate. To search for portraits from a particular era: click on Expertensuche (top nav bar), type in your start and end dates in the top right boxes (von=from, bis=to) and then type “portraet” in the top left Gesamtindex box.
Joconde — Art from French museums. Use Google to help you translate. To search for portraits from a particular era: click on Recherche avancée, then input the following: In Sujet représenté, type in “Portrait”; in Périod/Datation, input a century as ##E SIECLE (17E SIECLE=17th century); check off Avec Image.