Renaissance Costumes: A Basic Guide
By Jeremy David Clos
Historical Director, The North Carolina Renaissance Faire
Renaissance Costumes: An Introduction | Renaissance Costumes: Building Blocks | Undergarments
Renaissance Costumes for Men | Renaissance Costumes for Women | Other Renaissance Garments
Renaissance Hats & Headwear | Renaissance Costumes for Sale
Renaissance Costumes for Men
Men's lower-body garments changed dramatically during the coarse of Elizabeth's reign. In the earliest years, some people still wore simple "long hose" with a codpiece that had been popular with little change since the late Middle Ages. The hose were roughly the equivalent of modern tights, though being made of woven wool, not knit, and therefore were rather loose fitting. While this style might still be found in the country and amongst the poorer of society, it was well out of fashion by the time Elizabeth took the throne.
Well-dressed men began to wear "trunkhose" or "slops" over their long hose. These were a roughly onion shaped garment which extended from the waist to the thigh. They could be plain or slashed to reveal a contrasting fabric beneath, or constructed in the "paned" style, made from several separate strips of fabric. These could by bombasted with much padding to create dramatic, even ludicrous proportions.
A new style of lower-body garment began to make its way from Italy into Elizabethan fashion as well: "Venetian breeches", or just "Venetians" as they became popularly know. Essentially knee-length trousers and originally cut rather close to the body, these became more and more voluminous as the reign wore on. They normally reached to just below the knee, though some styles have been documented of stopping just above the knee.
A commoner's trunkhose or Venetian breeches would be made of wool, probably lined with linen. Even less expensive versions might be made solely of linen. It was customary for the breeches to feature trimming along the out seam. These fastened at the waist with a button fly.
Men's upper-body garments did not change nearly as much during the course of Elizabeth's reign. The characteristic upper-body garment, a short, fitted jacket called a "doublet", was made of wool, canvas, or a finer fabric, sometimes even of leather. The doublet might be padded or quilted, plain or heavily trimmed and either buttoned, hooked, or laced up the front. The wealthy might have a doublet that laced on the side seams.
Like a woman's bodice, the doublet was often adorned at the v-shaped waistline with tabs, or piccadills, and would feature wings at the shoulders. The doublet might have a detachable set of sleeves that laced in, making them interchangeable with other sleeves.
An additional garment, called a jerkin, could be worn over the doublet when temperature or fashion required. The jerkin was essentially the same design as the doublet, but would be sleeveless.
While the doublet was worn by a wide section of society, more rustic types might wear a coat. The most elaborate versions being essentially a doublet in its tailoring, the coat would instead feature a straight waistline and long skirting instead of piccadills. The simplest version would not be fitted or tailored at all, but would hang straight down from the shoulders and be belted at the waist.