When you hear Elizabethan women's fashion images of huge ruffs, skirts so wide it was hard to get through doorways and puffy sleeves are bound to appear in your mind. However, as I've discovered the fashion of the time underwent several changes and shifts. What we commonly attribute to Elizabethan fashion actually appeared late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
Below I've done a very rudimentary sketch of what gowns looked like in the 1590s vs the 1560s. The differences are immediately apparent. At the start of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the fashion was for the more traditional cone shape skirts of the previous decades that created the illusion of narrow waists. The sleeves were fitted though still decorated in a variety of ways. Ruffs were smaller and based at the throat. The gown still had that V-shape slit that exposed the kirtle. The length of the skirt is floor-length.
Fashion has always played an important role in expression of power and symbolism and it was especially true during this time period. Portraits and the clothing worn in them were full of meaning. This is some thing I'm delving into deeper for my upcoming novel about the Elizabethan Court. Fashion will be taking center stage. Stay tuned!