What did Tudors wear?

Staff at Winchester City Museum and the Westgate Museum use the museum costume collection to look at how to dress like a Tudor.


Getting dressed as a Tudor was slightly more complicated than it is today. There were laws put in place that told you what you could and could not wear depending on your social class. If you were a farmer who tried to dress like a King, you could have got in BIG trouble!

Most ordinary people wore plain coloured clothes, but if you were rich you might have been able to afford to wear bright red or blue, and if you were very lucky, you could have worn purple, silver or gold.

The Tudors went about clothes shopping very differently to us today. In fact, in most places you couldn’t buy one whole item...instead, you would just buy the fabric and make your own clothes, or if you were very rich, get someone to make them for you. Tudor clothes were also made in separate bits, which meant they were easier to mix and match (which would have been very handy if you only owned a few pieces of clothing!). The downside to this being that each bit of clothing was held together by a giant pin...

So, what did Tudor men and boys wear? If you were poor, it was a lot simpler. A wool or linen shirt, trousers and tunic would do the job. If you were rich, you might have worn a white silk shirt with frills at the wrists and neck to create a big ruff, hose (thick tights), a doublet (a short-sleeved coat with padded shoulders), pleated sleeves revealing another layer of material underneath and a cap, decorated with badges and feathers.

A performance of Tudor music at the Westgate Museum.

If you were a poor Tudor lady or girl, you would have worn a simple, white underdress called a chemise, woollen stockings tied above the knee and a practical, short dress, along with a plain headdress and an apron. If you were rich, it got a lot more complicated. You might have worn a petticoat, a big, stiff hoop structure called a farthingale under your skirt to keep it puffy, a tight corset with a bit of fancy material over the top called a partlet, another skirt called a kirtle, a bum roll (padding on the hips), a fancy headdress and finally, your gown over the top.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing
Museum Assistant Lauren at the Westgate Museum, often known to visitors as ‘Lady Lauren of the Gate’!

Needless to say, it could be complicated getting dressed as a Tudor!

Have a go at drawing yourself in a Tudor costume – what colours will you pick? Be sure to give yourself an enormous ruff and put some feathers in your cap or bonnet...

When Winchester City Museum and the Westgate Museum are open again and it is safe to do so, why not come in and try on some of our costumes to see how they feel in real life.


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Hampshire Cultural Trust

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