Now that I’m in London and all settled in, I thought it was high time to get out and see some fashion exhibits. I checked out an exhibit called “In Fine Style: The Art Of Tudor & Stuart Fashion” at Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is AMAZINGLY beautiful inside and I always see it when I come to London as a tourist, but now I’m living here, so I’m seeing it as a resident. Again, it’s amazing but my agenda was getting to this exhibit. I had to see how this fashion, mostly seen in paintings influenced the fashion that we see today on the runways of London, New York, Paris and Milan.
Tudor Fashion and Stuart Fashion covers the years 1485, when Henry VII acceded to the throne of England as the first monarch in the House Of Tudor to 1714 with the death of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne. Most, if not all of these garments were quite showy and opulent, made with rich fabrics (silk, velvet, taffeta, hand made lace, etc), and totally done to show the wealth and social status of not only the royal families, but of their relatives, friends, and even their court (or entourage). The original garments no longer exist, but the style lives on in many of their portraits. The garments were always on the cutting edge of fashion and were always the most formal. They were also not always the most comfortable pieces and they can take a great deal of time to put on, as there were many layers and details. The portraits were done for some royalty in military attire, with also fashion nods to France, Italy and Spain coming through.
What was also amazing about the exhibit was how the painter handled the details of what the sitters (royalty, military, and even the royal children) were wearing, getting in all of the detailing of the garment correct as well as how their bodies looked in the garment (seeing the folds where the wrinkles are from arm movement, leg movement, the type of fabric). The details gave the paintings a kind of texture that was simply to die for because you wanted to touch the painting to see if there was velvet, taffeta or silk in the paintings.
The monarchs and the other elite (rich) sitters used fashion in a variety of ways, and they each had their own personal taste (Henry VIII was all about using his clothes to portray the image of the court being prosperous as well as his personal image of magnificence, while Elizabeth I’s portrait contributed to the cult of The Virgin Queen, using colors of royalty and painting her very ethereal-like). While the Tudor monarchs were over the top and all about showing their wealth, the Stuarts were all about restrained elegance (Charles I was less ostentatious fashion wise, so everything was all about being regal, but not flashy, a reserved elegance).
One thing that came out of the Stuart’s reign was the invention of the three piece suit, which Charles II had a major hand in. Sporting a vest, jacket and trousers, it was a bit of an understated look but this set the tone for what men wear today. Another trend that did well in fashion, even though it has not become the big debate that it has become today and every season is the shorter skirt, which was started by Catherine of Braganza to coincide with the vest, created by her husband. The shorter skirt showed silk stockings to the ankle and their shoes.
Even if the royalty weren’t interested in fashion, they knew that keeping up appearances with the royal court, their family and their friends (having them dress as well so they would appear cultured and worldly), would make them the leaders in fashion, so the rest of the world would look to them for the new looks and trends.
Not only the Tudor monarchs set the trends with fashion, they also played a role in dictating the clothes worn by the population. Through legislation they specified what types of material, colors, and types of garments could be worn by each rank in society. These are the sumptuary laws and they have been in existence in England since 1337. They were designed for two purposes: to maintain the social order through class distinctions and to stimulate the domestic economy by limiting the importation of furs and fabrics from abroad.
I would suggest you check out this exhibit because you can learn so much from it about fashion and see all of the great paintings that to this day inspire so many other artists, musicians, actors, fashion designers, costume designers and even this blogger!!!! When you check it out, let me know what you think!!!!
Stay fashionable and sexy!!!!!