Dress of the Day: Queen Elizabeth I, the "Ditchley portrait". For many people, this is the primary mental picture of Queen Elizabeth I, one of the great leaders of all time. She understood the power of fashion to convey, well, power. Queen Elizabeth imported dresses, styles, and tailors from all over Europe, and throughout her reign the aristocracy followed the Queen's lead as the fashion became ever grander. This gown appears to be of jewel and pearl encrusted satin or taffeta, with elaborately jeweled headress, lace ruff and wing-like extension behind her head. Skirts were puffed to massive proportions using a hoop skirt called a Spanish farthingale, with a pad known as a bumroll fastened around the hips for extra volume. The full sleeves and floor-length cape reinforce the Queen's imposing stature. She carries gloves and fan. In addition to her red hair, Queen Elizabeth's slender, pale hands were considered her most attractive feature. Her delicate face and hands contrast with the heaviness of her garb.
This is an excerpt from Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe accounts.
1588 Wardrobe Warrant April 3, ER 30
Item for making of a payer of highe bodies & slevis of russett satten tyssued the slevis lyned with cloth of silver tyssued and drawinge oute the Jagges with lawne of our greate Guarderobe
This portrait is at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The meaning and iconography of the painting are very interesting.