Globe Theatre Costumes

Globe Theatre Costumes
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  • Interesting Facts and information about Globe Theatre Costumes
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  • Theatre in the Elizabethan era
  • Elizabethan Theatre in the 16th century
Globe Theatre Costumes

Interesting information about the Globe Theatre Costumes during the life and times
of William Shakespeare and Elizabethan London, England

Globe Theatre Costumes
The Globe Theatre Costumes were fabulous - sumptuous materials, vivid colors and extremely costly. The costumes did not always reflect the correct period of the Play. The Globe actors generally wore the dress of their own time. Some were specifically made for the actors and some were donated by rich patrons.  The Globe plays had to be produced in a great hurry in order to ensure a rapid turnover of new material and performances for the insatiable Elizabethan audience and to beat the competition from rival theatres. Not enough time was available to build up a ready made store of costumes which reflected the correct period of the play. The costumes in a play, such as Julius Caesar, would have been easier to develop as togas are relatively easy to make. In this instance a combination of Roman clothes and Elizabethan clothing might well have been seen together.

Globe Theatre Costumes
Elizabethans were forbidden to wear clothes indicating a high status...

To understand the impact of the costumes worn during the time of William Shakespeare it is necessary to learn a little of the laws which determined the clothes which were worn during the Elizabethan Era.  The Elizabethan period dominated by the Class structure. Elizabethans were not allowed to wear whatever they liked! It did not matter how rich they were - the fabric, and even the style of their clothes were dictated by their rank or status. These strict rules were enforced by English Laws about clothing which were called Sumptuary Laws. They were designed to limit the expenditure on clothes - and to maintain the social structure of the Elizabethan Class system! Lower Class Elizabethans were not able to wear the latest fashions. Fashionable clothes would only be seen at a distance, when wealthy nobles or were in view! Costumes in the Elizabethan Theatre would therefore double as a fashion show! It was illegal to wear items of clothing which indicated a high rank or status. This would have been disastrous for clothing actors in appropriate costumes relative to a King or noble. These English Sumptuary Laws were strictly obeyed and the penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life! Elizabethan men and women therefore only wore clothes that they were allowed to wear - by Law! But like the Laws of today there was the usual 'get out' clause! The upper classes wanted to maintain the elite class system but they also wanted to enjoy the new form of entertainment that the Theatre had to offer!

Globe Theatre Costumes - the Sumptuary Laws and the Globe Actors
The English Sumptuary Law of 1574 ( The Statutes of Apparel ) contained the following clause:

" 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 'get out' clause applied to the Globe 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. And these licensed Acting troupes were allowed to flout the strict Sumptuary Laws. For additional information click the following link to Sumptuary Law of 1574 ( The Statutes of Apparel )

Globe Theatre Costumes - Character recognition
Elizabethans understood the meaning of different colored clothing in relation to position and status. This concept is totally alien in our modern age where we are allowed freedom of choice. However, we would recognise that purple was the color associated with royalty during the days of the Roman Emperors. But nearly every color of clothing had its own meaning in relation to status and rank during the Elizabethan era! And these meanings were totally understood by the audience. The colors, materials and styles of the Globe Theatre costumes therefore conveyed an enormous amount of information as soon as the actor walked on to the stage! As soon as a character walked on the stage the fabric and color of his clothing would indicate the role of the character he was playing. The character and rank of an actor wearing a Globe Theatre costume made of velvets, furs, silks or lace would be instantly recognised as a member of the Upper Class. Cottons and taffeta would indicate a much lower status.

Globe Theatre Costumes - List of clothes owned by the Rose Theatre
Philip Henslowe wrote a diary when he took inventory of the costumes that were owned by the Rose Theatre. The Globe Theatre costumes and wardrobe would have been of a similar calibre:

Item, j orenge taney satten dublet, layd thycke with gold lace.
Item, j blew tafetie sewt.
Item, j payr of carnatyon satten Venesyons, layd with gold lace.
Item, j longe-shanckes sewte.
Item, ij Orlates sewtes, hates and gorgettes, and vij anteckes hedes.
Item, vj grene cottes for Roben Hoode, and iiij knaves sewtes.
Item, ij black saye gownes, and ij cotton gownes, and j rede saye gowne.
Item, Cathemer sewte, j payer of cloth whitte stockens, iiij Turckes hedes.
Item, j mawe gowne of calleco for the quene, j carnowll hatte.
Item, j red sewt of cloth for pyge, layed with whitt lace.

Globe Theatre Costumes
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