Fashion and self-PR cemented Elizabeth 1st’s identity as the iconic ‘Virgin Queen. Through carefully crafted style, the tolerance of imitation from others and her own vanity, Elizabeth established her own design upon the fabric of history – all thanks to her original flair.
Transition of Style
When Liz first acclaimed the Tudor throne at the tender age of 25, the country was in a period of deep political instability. She dressed, as any smart woman would, with a conservative style as to not offend or ‘rock the boat’ further. In doing so, she avoided causing further unrest as a female ruler.
Thus, as her reign continued, Elizabeth was slowly able to define herself as a monarch by rejecting these past ideals of conservative style and adopting a far more daring appearance. Through this powerful physical statement of appearance, Elizabeth defined herself and her own impressive status. It was out with simple cone skirts and embroidered sleeves, and instead back in with gowns with deeply revealing colleges.
Instead, Elizabeth opted for farthing tides (aka hoop skirts) which accentuated her hips. She became the world’s first fashionable redhead – and hundreds of women dyed their own hair to match the fiery queen.
What’s more, Elizabeth was extremely vain. Despite a bout of small pox and the unfortunate aging process, she refused to give up the beauty of her youth. Instead, she began to dye her hair red and yellow to thicken & brighten her barnet.
She masked wrinkles with ‘ceruse’ in order to give her skin a delicate pale shade – despite the fact it was a toxic powder that slowly poisoned the user.
Most importantly, she developed her own PR tactics to avoid her ageing face and body from appearing weak to her people – or remembered in history.
Own PR agent
Elizabeth insisted her official portraits were painted from a pre-established pattern, which came to be known as ‘The Mask of Youth.’ This created the iconic image of the flame haired young queen that we know today. In essence, she became somewhat of a Tudor celebrity – airbrushed to appear perfect for her loving fans (and more importantly, envious enemies).
By controlling the image portrayed, her fashion and appearance established power. The strong queen that we remember today could not fade from memory – or appear weaker as she grew older.
What does this tell us about our past queen? For one, it firstly establishes that woman have eternally suffered for beauty. We’ll do what it takes to establish power through fashion – because it gives us an identity, a platform to speak from and an important method of communicating leadership. More importantly, it proves her intelligence. Her reign proved successful because of carefully constructed political tactics. It proves the importance of appearance when it comes to status and power – and how fashion plays a crucial role in identity for women everywhere.