What Did Young Girls Wear During the Elizabethan Era?

Poufy hairstyles of the Elizabethan Era often included false hairpieces.
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During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, from 1558 to 1603, children were dressed like miniature adults, in the same style of clothing with variations according to social class. The female Elizabethan wardrobe was complicated by today's standards, especially for the rich, and anyone who could afford it would get dressed with the help of servants.

1 Starting at the Foundation

Many of the undergarments worn by a young girl were the same, whether born nobly, into the middle class or to a working class family. She would begin her morning dressing with a smock or shift, sometimes called a chemise, which was a simple, linen knee- to calf-length garment. Next came a linen corset, stiffened with whalebone, reeds or heavy rope to create the fashionably flat silhouette. Poorer women might skip the corset, or they might wear a more loosely laced version.

2 Building the Fashionable Shape

With her shift and corset in place, the Elizabethan girl would don knee-high wool stockings. Next came the farthingale -- an A-line hoop skirt that tied to her corset, worn by the upper classes -- as well as her bum rolls, or semicircular pads that rested on her hips to hold out her skirt, sometimes also worn by the lower classes, but without the hoop skirt. The Elizabethan girl would then slip into her petticoats, which were usually red wool, although the poorer lass might wear grey or natural white wool, instead of red.

3 Layer upon Layer

The layers of clothing don't stop there for the Elizabeth miss, either. She would next don a kirtle, a gathered underskirt that attached to a tight-fitting bodice, and a partlet, which was a rectangular piece of fabric, sometimes shirred or embroidered, that tied under her arms, covering her shoulders and filling the low neckline of her dress to maintain her modesty. Finally, a full-skirted gown fell to her ankles over the rest. A working-class girl might stop with the kirtle, saving an over-gown for the most special occasions.

4 Finishing Touches to Head and Feet

Over her stockings, an Elizabethan female slipped on her thinly-soled shoes. An upper-class girl might also wear a starched, pleated ruff around her neck, with matching wrist ruffs as well. Any female much past toddler age always wore a head cover of some sort, including a coif, or linen cap. Over the coif, she might add a flat cap, a French hood or any variety and size of hat, all held in place with lethal-looking hatpins.

5 Accents and Accessories to Make the Outfit

An Elizabethan young girl might have a small basket to carry her personal items and her shopping, as well as a small leather or fabric pouch for any money she might carry. A working-class girl would also wear a simple apron to protect her kirtle and dress. Middle-class and noble young women might don a variety of chains, chokers, pendants, rings and earrings, as well as a "safeguard" or outer skirt designed to protect the gown from mud and dust. They often carried pomanders, or small containers of perfume or potpourri, to ward off unpleasant odors, along with fans, gloves and handkerchiefs.

Pamela Martin has been writing since 1979. She has written newsletter articles and curricula-related materials. She also writes about teaching and crafts. Martin was an American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in elementary education from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in curriculum/instruction from the University of Missouri.