Internet Shakespeare Editions


Fashion and colour

Fashionable colours* changed from season to season; some had what we would now think of as unusual names: gooseturd green, lustie gallant, the devil in the head, rat, puke, and Virginia frog.

Colours then, as now, were often symbolic:

There is evidence, however, that white was sometimes used for mourning, and was not used for weddings. Blue symbolized constancy, and was worn by serving men and apprentices; people of high degree therefore avoided true blue, although they did wear other shades.

Philip Henslowe recorded his expenses for costumes* in his Diary.

The Castle of Perseverance and colour.

A discussion of colour in Elizabethan Dress is available on line.


  1. Fashion as a deformed thief

    Borachio, in Much Ado, comments on fashion:

    "See'st thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is? How giddily he turns about all the hotbloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty? Sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers in the reechy [greasy] painting, sometime like God Bel's priests in the old church window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirched worm-eaten tapestry, where his codpiece is as massy as his club?
    (Much Ado about Nothing, 3. 3. 130-37)

    The codpiece was an article of clothing, worn by men, rather like an external jock-strap; it was often exaggerated in size and elaborately decorated.

  2. Entries in Henslowe's Diary

    Henslowe was willing to spend more on a good costume than a new play:

    Bought the 29 of December 1597 i short velvet cloak embroidered wth bugles [beads] and a hood cape. . . iii li[pounds].
    Item, i Span[ish] jerkin.
    Item, i Harry the Fifth's doublet.
    Item, i Harry the Fifth's velvet gown.
    Item, vi green coats for Robin Hood, and iiii knaves' suits.
    Item, Eve's bodice. . . i ghost's suit and i ghost's bodice
    Item, i Moor's coat
    Item, i pair of French hose, cloth of gold.
    Item, i Tamburlaine's breeches of crimson velvet
    Bought a doublet of white satin laid thick with gold lace, and a pair of round hose of cloth of silver, the panes laid with gold lace. . . 7-0-0 [pounds].