Next in line for historic beauty regimes is a very traditional English look – The Elizabethan Era (1558-1603), or as I like to call it, the ‘English Rose’ look.
The first thing that comes to mind, for me, is like the later Victorian era, the majority of women in an Elizabethan society were fair skinned – however not all of this was purely natural.
For instant, Queen Elizabeth is depicted with this white complexion which is actually enhanced with a heavy make-up base. Some may claim this is due to the famous ‘virgin status’ of the Queen, with the colour white being symbolic of this characteristic. Additionally, women were inspired by the Queen’s presence that her style was also reflected in daily beauty regimes, a lot like celebrities nowadays being the style icons and trend setters.
As already mentioned in my Victorian regime, there is the additional factor of the paler face being a social status; those with paler skin were seen as wealthy compared to women with natural tans caused by the outdoors and working.
In jumping back to Queen Elizabeth there is actually some evidence of other reasons for this complexion. The young Queen once contracted a form of small pox, resulting in facial scarring. As beauty was regarded as one of the highest forms (drawing from Ancient Greek philosophy) the white powdered face allowed the Queen to have an illusion of societal beauty while masking the marks which could have been subject to criticism and objection by the society she was ruling. After all, she took the thrown as the final child of the King with no one thinking at her birth she would become queen. Similarly she was a powerful woman, a figurehead over traditionally patriarchal societies with a lot of male opposition. She merely could not afford, at first, to show reasons why she would be an unsuccessful leader.
In focusing upon this ‘artificial’ white face, the powered base was created in a form of ‘ceruse’ which was made up on lead and vinegar. Obviously, this is an extremely poisonous combination – potentially cutting the natural life expectancy (Elizabethan clearly missed this bullet, having an extremely long reign for any monarch of the time).
This was not the only way of gaining a foundation, another form was ‘face paint’ which was created from natural entities, like plants and their leaves. Natural seeds and oils were then developed into acting as hair dye while kohl was an ongoing popular way to darken the eyelashes. Unlike the use in the Egyptian style, kohl was used to create the natural, but not overly enhanced eye make-up for the Elizabethans. This whole natural look then ran all the way to probably the 1920s, with the exception of historic actresses or ‘backstreet’ working women, who donned more extravagant make up.
The English ‘rose’ look was complemented by the signature rose lips and the blush cheeks, also created by different dyes and natural substances gaining the prominent colour.
The main idea that came to mind when researching Elizabethan hairstyles for my ‘tutorial’ is that the era contained various hairstyles, rather than one singular style which is normally associated with certain historical periods.
Commonalities between women’s hairstyles was the ‘frizzy’ nature of the hair, moulded into certain frames on the head using wires and newly invented hairpieces (which are created by their own or other’s hair).
Fun Fact: metal hairpins, like ‘bobby pins’ are an English creation, appearing in around 1545.
Original hairstyles were inspired by the social developments of the time – mimicking a sort of social ‘enlightenment’. Compared to the notorious Middle Ages, the Elizabethan and the general Tudor dynasty paved ways for new themes and lifestyles, including politics, music and art.
Bordering on the philosophical impacts of thought, I believe that women embraced this new society and creativity through their looks, especially their hair styles. Note the variety of hairstyles shown in these pictures:
As mentioned, women were inspired by the coronation of a new Queen, and used her style did have an impact in their everyday routine as well as experimenting with their own hairstyles. For example, Elizabeth is known for the fiery red hair – causing lighter hair to seem more beautiful in a society, hence the development of dying and wig wearing. Elizabeth’s hair colour shade was actually presented as bolder within paintings with the hair thought to be more of a strawberry blonde with hints of red. I believe the way she appears in illustrations is to express her power and her determination to succeed and protect – and this is shown through the symbolic red tone within her hair. Additionally, Elizabeth’s hair was also a wig, she actually had many wigs which became known as ‘periwigs’.
The Elizabethans decorated and embellished their outfits with a range of colourful jewellery. Both precious and semi-precious jewels were contained their jewellery and even the lower classes had access to cheaper, costume like jewellery, resembling real jewels.
Fun fact: Earrings were known as ‘ear-pickes’.
Pearls are commonly associated with heavily decorated, upper class Elizabethan women. I believe that this was popularised by rosary beads – as England had gone through a period of both Catholicism and being Protestant. Elizabeth’s elder sister Mary was a Catholic, wearing rosary beads as a symbol and communication of her faith. The round stones were in necklace, and were worn by a large majority of Tudor women at the time. When the change of royalty came about women kept the string necklaces, opting for more plain white beads – or pearls. With Elizabethan being a Protestant, the religious element then became relaxed and women wore these necklaces and mostly jewellery – in some cases the cross is evident in a lot of Elizabethan depictions.
Alongside my ‘Elizabethan’ make-up, I am sporting a handmade lace ruff which is drawn from one measure of elastic. The ruff was a common garment worn by all in a society to stop the necklace of clothes becoming damaged or dirty.