The Elizabethan Era was a period in English history dominated by the Class structure. People who lived in the Elizabethan era were not allowed to wear whatever they liked! It did not matter how wealthy they were - the fabric, and even the of their clothes were dictated by their rank, status or position and these strict rules were enforced by English Law! These laws about clothing in the Elizabethan era were called Sumptuary Laws. They were designed to limit the expenditure of people on clothes - and of course to maintain the social structure of the Elizabethan Class system! So it was illegal to wear various items of clothing - disastrous for clothing actors in appropriate costumes! The English Sumptuary Laws were strictly obeyed! The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life! Elizabethan men only wore clothes that they were allowed to wear - by Law! But like the Laws of today there was a 'get out' clause! The nobility wanted to maintain the elite class system but they also wanted to enjoy the new form of entertainment that the Theatre had to offer! Elizabethan Costumes - the Get Out Clause
The English Sumptuary Law of 1574 ( The Statutes of Apparel ) stated the following: " Note also that the meaning of this order is not to prohibit a servant from wearing any cognizance of his master, or henchmen, heralds, pursuivants at arms; runners at jousts, tourneys, or such martial feats, and such as wear apparel given them by the Queen, and such as shall have license from the Queen for the same." The above clause applied to actors ( and their costumes ). Acting Troupes had to be licensed. Licenses were granted by the Queen to the aristocracy for the maintenance of troupes of players - such troupes included the Earl of Leicester's Men, Lord Strange's Men, Chamberlain's Men and the Admiral's Men. Did Theatrical Costumes reflect the correct period of the Play?...
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