Ever since a young age, I’ve been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I and the era to which she bequeathed her name (and since she died without producing an heir [a tale of politics, lies, and gamesmanship that I’d be THRILLED to tell you ALL about] that era was, in many senses, her legacy in a way that it may not have been had she birthed a more conventional child instead of being proud mother to all of England.) And with that gargantuan sentence, I’m cutting myself off cold-tofurky from parenthetical within parenthetical.
Another thing we had in common as kids: both bookworms.
So why was I so obsessed even as a young kidling? Is it because Elizabeth and I share a name? Was I a budding Feminazi even at the age of 7? Did it stem from a game my best friend in third grade and I made up, involving a complicated playground ritual that would take us back in time? Perhaps, yes, and probably (respectively.)
So in the last few weeks, I’ve been rediscovering my love of this complicated, intelligent, vain, petty, jealous, passionate queen. I tore through three juicy, sordid, and compelling books about her, and now I have all this built-up energy I must dispel somehow.
First, let’s talk hair. I don’t think we appreciate how fucking EASY we all have it these days when it comes to hair. Most work days I wake up and decide where to part my hair (much more satisfying now that my cursed bangs are gone) and from there it’s either gathered into a low pony, or simply tucked behind my ears and set free. If I were a young noblewoman in 1565, this process just got a whole lot more onerous. Luckily, as a noblewoman, I would have a lady-servant or two to help me, plus, I wouldn’t have a job to get to.
(I’m consoling myself with the thought that while these lucky souls might have had servants to do their hair and unlimited leisure time, they also had little to no property rights, died in childbirth at astronomical rates, and their underwear was INSANELY uncomfortable.)
Here’s a quick crown braid. Beloved hairstyle of Ren Faires and that day after you showered. Yes, the crown braid is simple, but sweet, and easily adaptable for however much hair you’ve got. My hair is long, but not quite long enough to wrap one braid all the way around my head, so I simply do one braid right above each ear and cross them over the top. If you want to go a little more costume-y:
This here’s called hair taping, and it’s pretty simple: you just weave a long ribbon around the braids, ideally securing the braid tightly to the scalp by using a plastic needle of some sort. Not as scary as it sounds. Here, I cheated and just looped the ribbon around the braid and bobby pinned the ends.
Here’s my take on another popular hairstyle: long, wavy locks, mostly for young unmarried virgins. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please.)
Long hair, don’t care (about split ends)
This fashionably frizzy ‘do was easy as pie: I simply unbraided my hair and brushed it out. Here’s Queen Liz’s take on it, at her coronation:
Let’s talk shoes.
Here’s one great thing about shoes of the Elizabethan era: most of them were flat. Sure, there were slight heels here and there, but for the most part, shoes were the least important part of the outfit. After all, since gowns reached all the way to the floor, what was the use having flashy hooves? So most women (and men) wore soft, leather flats. Some like these ones:
So I happily slipped on my soft, faux-leather faux-Oxfords (*cough* Target *cough*) and paired them with some bright orange stockings-
-and a little skirt I got a long time ago (*cough* Forever 21 *cough*) that reminds me a little bit of a satin brocade. Sorry about that cough; I seem to be having some sort of allergic reaction to all the shitty places I’m realizing I shop at. Shopping epiphanies aside: the nipped-in waist and structured, full shape of the skirt bring to mind the classic Elizabethan silhouette without the dozen-plus layers of underskirts, whalebone corsets, and wooden frames.
Here’s one thing you should know about the queen: that broad LOVED pearls. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that pearls symbolize purity; Elizabeth knew that the “Virgin Queen” image she smartly cultivated was very useful to her, politically.
Here’s my take, throwing all the pearl jewelry I own at my head and seeing what sticks:
Put it all together (don’t forget fashionably ghostly pale skin and subtle reddish lips) and you’ve got a fairly work-appropriate outfit:
Of course, I’ve worn red velvet leggings to work before, so my bar for “work-appropriate” may be lower than most. And were I to be transported back in time in this attire, I’d probably be viewed as a prostitute or some sort of witch, or worse: a Catholic.
So a tip of the hat to you, Ms. Queenie! You were a badass in a time when women often had to hide their light under a bushel. You were a petty, indecisive, often bitchy badass, to be sure, but perhaps that’s why I can relate to you so much.