1 – Welcome to #threadtalk, the first in my icon series.
Yup. It's gonna be ruff.
It’s fitting that we begin with the very monarch who signed the East India Company into being: Queen Elizabeth I.
Join me as we travel back to the 16thC to one truly warped family. 👑🧵🪡
2 – No one expected the daughter of Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn would ascend the throne–but she did. Her coronation (1558) portrait shows her swathed in cloth of gold–the very same her deceased sister Mary had worn (bit creepy).
Oh, that cloth of gold? £2170 a yard in today's $$.
3 – Every line of her dress is a message: the cloth of gold was a favorite of her father's; the fleur-de-lis represented the ongoing claim of France; the Tudor roses: legitimacy. Her long hair and serene expression? The beginnings of the Virgin Queen. And all that ermine.
4 – And though Elizabeth was a bit less extravagant to start, she knew the importance of fashion PR. And she came by it honestly: Henry spent the equivalent of £2,400,000/year on clothing (& loved his, uh, codpieces)
This is Mary, Edward, Hank, Jane Seymour & young Lizzy (1545).
5 – Now, Mary. She loved fashion, too, & may also have adapted the French style of dress, which allowed for a freer middle (absent of a stomacher) to show off her (phantom) pregnancies.
She also adapted to new trends, shirking the gabled hood for the English version.
6 – (Also of note: Mary wasn't *that* bloody. I mean, no bloodier than the rest of her family.)
Though Mary I certainly used fashion to her benefit, she was a notably bad politician & died without an heir. Lizzy came to the throne just five years after Mary's coronation.
7 – Elizabeth had a relatively humble upbringing & her nurse plead with Henry for more clothing for the young princess:
"she hath neither gown, not kirtle nor sleeves, nor railes, nor body stitchets, nor handkerchiefs, nor mufflers nor biggins" (a biggins was a child's cap).
8 – One portrait of Elizabeth as princess (1546) I love is this one. It's much like the earlier one of Mary: a demure, studious daughter. But you sense a bit of personality here. Not to mention the depth of fabric.
Pearls became a big part of her repertoire later, too.
9 – As queen Elizabeth had a big job. There was no precedent for a monarch like her in England. Plus, her kingdom was financially unstable, politically wobbly & generally a mess. She could not be seen as weak.
So she made herself Gloriana, step by step, stitch by stitch.
10 – Court reports show that Elizabeth took over two hours to get ready–no surprise considering all the elements of her gowns.
This step-by-step guide is delightful, and not even as elaborate as Elizabeth would have endured.
11 – Elizabeth also knew how to dress politically. She was know for internationalizing fashion, incorporating Venetian, German, Spanish & French elements into her repertoire.
Also a lute because she was jaunty like that. This Hilliard miniature is 🔥
12 – She imported not just insanely expensive fabrics, but tailors from all over, sending patterns to courts across Europe to make gowns.
Lizzy also squeed routinely about getting fabric as gifts, & often gave it as well. Remember, fabric is basically currency at this point.
13 – Liz also had about twenty ladies in waiting, who addressed her every whim from emptying the trash bins to applying & making her makeup (more on that shortly).
One of whom was Bess of Hardwick (who eventually became one of the wealthiest people in all of England).
14 – Bess of Hardwick had a life of ups and downs before becoming one of Lizzy's ladies & was a good friend.
But Elizabeth had a problem named Mary Queen of Scots. And that problem became Bess's problem… you know, as good friends do. A 15 year problem. Because Queen. 👑
15 – Mary Stuart was a Catholic & had good (arguably better) claim to the throne. Her mom was Margaret Tudor, Henry VII's sister. And she was legit.
Lizzy didn't know what to do with her cousin. So she locked her up w/Bess.
And like, some screwball comedy, they became friends.
16 – This makes me giddy: Bess and Mary collaborated on an incredible series of tapestry miniatures, known as The Prison Embroideries.
They still exist–they're full of symbolism, they're funny, and clever & darling.
UNICORN & DOLPHIN ALERT, feat. Mary's initials.
17 – You can clearly see their monograms throughout, and it really just brings such closeness across history.
It's on green velvet, and no expense was spared in materials (I know that feel). Over 100 panels were made along with household staff, & they're beautifully preserved.
18 – I do have to get back to Lizzy, but if you want to know more about the Prison Embroideries, the V&A has a great page about the history: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/prison-embroideries-mary-queen-of-scots
Sadly, Mary was convicted for treason in 1586 & beheaded. The phoenix she made speaks for itself, I think.
19 – Lizzy was ruthless with her cousin & with herself.
She refused to marry or name an heir–meanwhile, her image was to be preserved at any cost. She guarded her image fiercely, even approving only certain portraits, and fought against the tide of aging.
20 – At 29, Lizzy got smallpox. She didn't believe it. But, you know, germs don't care (SSDD).
Though she survived, it left her face pock-marked & so began a lifetime of pale makeup application.
Some debate remains over whether she used a substance called Venetian ceruse.
21 – Venetian ceruse was a white face paint made primarily of lead, mixed with some vinegar & water. Women infrequently washed their faces of it, thinking it gave a more youthful look.
B/c the lead was probably eating away at their skin underneath.
22 – There was other weird and sometimes toxic makeup including cinnabar (uh… mercury) & our friend cochineal (beetles).
The more her health & youth declined, the more ornate Elizabeth's wardrobe got. This unfinished miniature may have been too realistic to meet approvals.
23 – Lizzy loved sweets which was not good news for her teeth. She had many removed which resulted in a sunken appearance to her face.
In private, she wore very plain clothes–sometimes for days at a time–but in public and in portrait, she was basically a Colonialst Liberace.
24 – Portraits were guarded and replicated — Gloriana was big business. She was the virgin queen & goddess of love; a demure maiden & a warlike conqueror.
This (SUPER EXTRA) portrait is my favorite b/c it hung at Bess of Hardwick's. Lizzy may never have seen it…
25 – Lizzy's later years were plagued by loss, grief, depression, illness, & loneliness. Her own love life was a shambles.
Yes, she ushered in an age of fashion, but she also made the slave trade possible. Not to mention she was also peeved with all the "blackamoors" in London.
26 – And that's not even to mention all the sumptuary laws she passed, prohibiting elegant fabrics to the royals.
A visitor said of her: “When anyone speaks of her beauty she says she was never beautiful. Nevertheless, she speaks of her beauty as often as she can.”
27 – Lizzy remained petite, but in time her hair fell out, her skin became sallow & she was plagued with abscesses in her mouth.
Her ladies in waiting, doctors, & courtiers begged her to seek help, but she refused. She would not be looked at. She was the Virgin Queen, after all.
28 – As Lizzy began ailing in early 1603, she refused rest. When Cecil, her advisor, said she must sleep, she said:
"Must is not a word to be used to princes! Little man, little man, if your late father were here he would never dare utter such a word."
Well then. There you go.
29 – It's said that Lizzy grieved Mary Queen of Scots' death until the end. No doubt, Lizzy also suffered from severe depression (as her father had).
Elizabeth left an indelible mark on fashion, power, politics, and the language of textiles, that remains today.
30 – Bess of Hardwick died at 81, one of the most affluent & well-connected women in England. She was married four times & catalogued an incredible collection of textiles that remains to this day along with her embroidery.
Mary Queen of Scots' son, James, succeeded Elizabeth.
31 – There's so much more I couldn't fit. Please, there are some FABULOUS sources this week!
32 – Sources, part deux.
33 – Sources, part the third.
34 – Part four?
35 – Thank you for joining me on this week's #ThreadTalk! Raise a cup for Lizzy, Bess, Mary, Mary, Hank, and all the rest. Or don't. Maybe just enjoy the details on this DRESS. Good heavens.