Historical Character Costume Ideas

Historical Character Costume Ideas

This is a great theme as it can encompass a wide range of eras throughout history and thus lends itself to a host of costume and fancy dress opportunities, with many different time periods available. As there are potentially so many historical costumes for men, ladies & kids to choose from, it usually helps to narrow the field. This can be done in two ways.

Firstly, you can decide which character you would like to portray. It could be someone you were particularly interested in at school, or have found out about since. You might want to start by looking at the Kings and Queens from different time periods or other famous people who were well renowned. Naturally, there are certain characters throughout history who are not instantly recognised by their costume, so you might want to avoid these, as you do not want to spend the whole party explaining who you are.

Secondly, you might decide to choose a particular time frame you like and focus on characters from that period.

There are all sorts to choose from:-

For some, the twentieth century is now perceived as a historical era and you will also find ideas for costumes from this particular period featured in our Decades sections.

Here are a few examples:-

Blackadder – Not technically a historical character, but Rowan Atkinson’s portrayal in the four series’ have now become part of historical legend – well that’s our excuse!

Charlie Chaplin – Comedy Actor from the early 20th Century.  His trademark was his Tramp, which consisted of bowler hat, ill-fitting suit and cane.

Elvis Presley – Singer and actor and known as the King of Rock and Roll.  The 1970s rhinestone encrusted jumpsuit in a range of colours is the most popular look.

Marilyn Monroe – Actress who died young. Various looks are available, but the white dress tends to be the iconic one.

 

Kids Victorian Character Costume Ideas

Children’s Victorian Costumes

As already mentioned Victorian costume is not just for the adults. We get asked for both rich and poor Victorian kids’ outfits for school dress-up days. All of our children’s Victorian Fancy Dress Costumes are made to the current EU certification.

The rich Victorian child is more difficult to cobble together, as they were often miniaturised versions of their parents, with bonnets, top hats and walking sticks all playing their part. The difference between the types of classes would be identified by the materials used, and the fact that as far as the poor child was concerned, they would often be dressed in ill fitting, shabby clothing, which were effectively hand-me-downs from older siblings. At Props & Frocks we have costumes and accessories for both types of Victorian and we look forward to helping you out.

From our professional experience, most children tend to go for the poorer style of costume as this is more practical for a day at school, or out visiting a local museum etc. The boy’s Victorian costume includes a shirt, waistcoat, shorts, scarf and cap. A waistcoat and cap version is also available to purchase to help you make up your own costume at home.

There are quite a few choices of girl’s Victorian costume that we stock, from the wealthier looking ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ costume to the poorer looking dress with pinny and mob cap. The latter we do sell as separate items, so you can reduce the cost by just purchasing these and wearing over a dark skirt and top.

Our Victorian Costume Kit range includes:

  • Girls Mob Caps
  • Adult Mob Caps
  • Boys Waistcoats
  • Boys Waistcoats & cap
  • Boys Cap & Cravat
  • Girls Apron & Mob Cap

Ladies Victorian Character Costume Ideas

Victorian Ladies fashion

Unlike male fashion, Victorian female fashion changed considerably during the reign of Queen Victoria.

In 1837, when Victoria ascended the throne, the look was still very much that of the Romantic era, with ankle length bell shaped skirts, puff  sleeves and large hats. Within a few years, bodices became rigidly corseted and shaped to a point at the waist, with wide necklines and sloping shoulders.  Skirts became fuller and needed more petticoats to puff them out.  The Victorian lady would have worn many undergarments to achieve the desired look. These included long bloomers (anklelength pantaloons), a chemise, a starched petticoat, a crinoline (this was a caged undergarment which gradually grew more fuller), a flounced petticoat, a muslin petticoat and finally the gown itself.

By 1862 the crinoline had been flattened out at the front, first by only having half a cage (to the rear) and then becoming the bustle, (a pad or small cage positioned to emphasise the bottom of the lady). In the early 1870s, with the introduction of aniline dyes and the invention of the sewing machine, clothes became brighter than the soft, subdued look of the previous decades. At this time bonnets were discarded in favour of small hats or fascinators.  These were perched on a mass of curls. (Hair often had to be imported to help this fashion). Towards the end of Victoria’s reign the bustle had dropped to the floor forming a long train, or waterfall effect and there was a move to more practical tailored garments for women. Throughout the Victorian era no woman would go out in the summer without a parasol or hat, or to a function without a fan. Gloves were worn throughout the century.

During the 1890s, the earlier fashion for pantaloons was revived by creating knickerbockers (instead of undergarments, these were a loose form of trousers which tapered at the ankle) to enable women to ride their bicycles unhindered by skirts. This look was also seen in the style of the Victorian/Edwardian bathing belle.

Ladies Victorian fancy dress costumes are available for hire or to purchase, normally for a wealthier look. We also stock short gloves and parasols to help you to complete your Victorian outfit.

Named characters from the Victorian era

  • Amelia Bloomer – American lady who scandalized fashion in the 1850s by    advocating the bloomer dress (a shorter dress worn with bloomers underneath that allowed more freedom of movement).
  • Anne, Emily & Charlotte Bronte – Victorian family of authors who published   their works during the Victorian era.
  • Florence Nightingale – A pioneer and reformer of the health service during the Victorian era.
  • Lily Langtrey – Known as the Jersey Lily.
  • Sarah Bernhardt – Famous French stage & early film actress.
  • Queen Victoria – Reigned from 1837-1901.

Victorian Fancy Dress costumes and accessories

Other Ladies Victorian fancy dress suggestions:

  • Carol Singer
  • Cyclist
  • Dickensian Book Characters such as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and Nellie from Oliver Twist.
  • Governess
  • Housekeeper
  • Ice Skater
  • Maid – There were many different types of maids, from the lowly scullery maid who gets all the boring jobs to the Ladies Maid.
  • Music Hall Star
  • Nanny – A popular profession during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  .
  • Street Seller – Match girls and flower girls are just two examples.
  • Victorian Vampiress – A creature of the night in human form based on the dark period clothing and Victorian-style seen in the film ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ featuring Gary Oldman as the Count.

 

Victorian Character Costume Ideas

Although the Christmas period may see an outbreak of requests for Victorian costumes, we do hold stock all year round for all the family as there are many different reasons for people holding Victorian events. Of course, it is not just the adults who dress up in Victorian outfits, but also the children.  For example, we get requests for school events throughout the year. The two main areas of school dress-up tend to be Storybook characters (for school book days and book weeks), and historical costumes of particular eras, such as Ancient Times, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan, Victorians and 1940s.

Steampunk

Aside from the regular Victorian fashion we are also aware of the developing trend of ‘Steampunk’ styles. Here Victorian/Edwardian fashion, mixes with the Sci-Fi visions of authors such as Jules Verne and HG Wells to create a ‘retro-futuristic’ look (as per the films Hugo, Van Helsing & The Wild Wild West). There are certain defining costume elements to create the look including corsets and petticoats for women, waistcoats and tail-suits for men and, most symbolic of all, goggles!

Victorian Men’s fashion

During the Victorian era, Men’s fashions did not change very much. The three piece Victorian outfit of trousers, jacket/coat and waistcoat tended to be standard wear throughout the era, with evening wear consisting of a more formal approach with tailsuit, white waistcoat, top hat, cane, etc.. The shorter lounge suits/jackets came in towards the end of the Victorian period.  Suits were worn with a shirt, and although cravats (a form of necktie) were still being worn in early Victorian times, these were gradually replaced with either a bowtie or loosely knotted tie. Hats were also worn and during the mid-1800s the traditional tall Stovepipe Top Hat begun to be replaced by shorter versions and also Victorian Bowler hats. For outdoor pursuits such as hunting or shooting Norfolk suits and deerstalkers were being used towards the end of the era.

Men wore their hair longer than in the early part of the century with a centre parting. After 1850 a moustache and large sideburns (muttonchops) became popular.

As far as footwear was concerned the well dressed man would wear short, lace up boots during the day and carry a walking stick. For the evening, he would wear patent leather shoes and gloves.

Mens Victorian fancy dress suggestions:

  • Alexander Graham Bell – Inventor of the telephone.
  • Benjamin Disraeli – Prime Minister to Queen Victoria.
  • Charles Dickens – Prolific writer and social historian of the Victorian period.
  • David Livingstone – Scottish Missionary and African Explorer.
  • Edward, Prince of Wales – Became Edward VII on the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, in 1901.
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel – Famous engineer and builder in Victorian times. Frock suit, ‘stovepjpe’ (or standard ‘top’) hat, ‘mutton-chop’ sideburns and a large cigar.
  • Lewis Carroll – Alias of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a Victorian author, who wrote ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’.
  • Oscar Wilde – Victorian playwright and author.
  • Prince Albert – Prince Consort and husband of Queen Victoria.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson –Author of ‘Treasure Island’ & ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.
  • Robert Peel – Prime Minister who created the Police Force.
  • Thomas Edison – American Inventor, whose inventions included the electric light bulb.
  • WG Grace – Famous Cricketer who also sported an impressive moustache and beard.
  • William Gladstone – Victorian Prime Minister.

Male Professions from the Victorian era

  • Butler
  • Chimney Sweep
  • Footman
  • Lamplighter
  • Parson
  • Schoolmaster – Teacher’s gown and Mortar board      worn over a suit.
  • Stable Boy
  • Street Seller

 Here are a few accessories you might like to also consider:-

 

 

Medieval Costume Ideas

Medieval Character Costume Ideas

Spanning roughly 1000 years, the Medieval period lasted from the 5th century through to the late 1400s. Prior to this time there were a number of invaders of Ancient Britain following the fall of the Roman Empire. These included the Danes, the Vikings, Saxons and Normans. For this period there were a lot of myths and legends arising, including those of dragons, knights, wizards, sorcerers and heroes such as King Arthur and Robin Hood. Nowadays, many of the costumes from this period would also be suitable for ‘Game of Thrones’ re-enactments and parties, although the fictional land of Westeros, portrayed in the books, is of indeterminate location and time.

Here are a few ideas and costume choices for the period:-

  • Baron – During the medieval period, the Barons (such as Simon de Montfort) were extremely influential and wished to display their wealth by dressing in      expensive outfits, often made of velvet or velour. The costume would consist of a long robe or tunic with a matching or contrasting coat on top and a hat. Fur trimmed collars also denoted wealth.
  • Boadicea (Boudicca) – Warrior Queen of the Iceni Tribe who fought the      Romans.  Xena the Warrior Princess is one possible role model, although others might channel Keira Knightley’s warrior-like Guinevere from the 2004 film ‘King Arthur’.
  • Chancellor – A Chancellor was essentially an administrator and financial advisor, and hence important in anyone’s retinue. Long robe and hat with suitable decoration and (sometimes) a chain of office.
  • Edward I  (Reigned 1272-1307)  Costume could consist of a knee-length buttoned tunic in heraldic colours with fur trim. Male tights or leggings.  The headdress is a close fitting hood in white fabric or chain-mail style material, topped with a circlet crown.
  • Edward, The Black Prince – Eldest son of Edward III.  Despite his nickname, black armour may not be entirely practical, so a variation on the Medieval costume used by Rowan Atkinson in the first Blackadder series may be used. The addition of suitable heraldic devices or a surcoat should distinguish the two! If you want to go for the armour approach, bear in mind replica armour can be very costly and heavy to wear and also not very practical.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen – A powerful queen of Early Times. A simple Medieval gown and crown as befits a queen.
  • Executioner – More often than not dressed in black, the hooded mask and suitable weaponry (although a sword may prove more practical than an axe as a prop) are essential items for this character.
  • Friar Tuck – The religious member of Robin Hood’s band of ‘Merry Men’Monks, friars, etc. were important and influential in Medieval times in that they, unlike many, could read and write. That said, Friars and monks come in a variety of plain colours. Hooded brown robes are the obvious choice,  but both grey and black also exist.The robe usually has a matching collar, rope belt and cross.
  • Henry II (reigned 1154-1189) – A long simple Medieval robe with cloak and crown will suffice for this costume. As an alternative, chain mail armour, a sword and shield of the late 12th Century.
  • Herald – Although of lowly status, the herald acted as messenger for his master. In addition to the standard doublet and hose, his costume would involve either a tabard or cloak, inset with his master’s coat of arms.
  • Jester - There are various styles of Jester that can be found. Most versions available concentrate on a two-tone breeches and tunic approach, which will serve well for most periods.
  • Joan Plantagenet – Now known as the Fair Maid of Kent.  Married Edward, the Black Prince amongst others. Medieval gown.
  • John, King (Reigned 1199-1216) – King best known for signing of the Magna Carta. Also supposedly king at the time of Robin Hood. Tight mid-length tunic with dagged or serrated lower edge to facilitate movement. Two belts. The first to hold in the tunic at the waist, the second to hold the sword and      scabbard.
  • Knight – There are many costume variations available for the Knight, but probably the most classic look (and the one generally available) is the one for Saint George, Patron Saint of England (see below).
  • Maid Marion – The female member of Robin Hood’s outlaws, but one who initially acted as an informant for Robin within the court of the Sheriff of Nottingham. One of the most popular female costumes for a medieval theme. A simple Medieval dress in Blue or Green with gold trim finished off with a circlet headdress.
  • Minstrel – Doublet, hose (possibly parti-coloured), plus instrument.
  • Norman – When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, he and the Normans brought with them their own style of armour and helmets.
  • Peasant/Serf – From Norman times onwards, peasants dressed for warmth and practicality, using homespun coarse materials. Men and women wore similar garments to each other often in dull browns and greens.  Various forms of smocks with hoods were also in use. In the latter part of the period, doublet and hose featured with styles being similar to the rich, albeit in much cheaper materials.
  • Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart.  Reigned 1189-1199.  A basic chain mail looking balaclava and suit, over which a surcoat with the lion’s emblem is placed. Bassinet helmet, if available.
  • Robin Hood – Robin is both a folk legend and English hero. With a number of incarnations to choose from, much may depend on the image you wish to adopt. On the one hand there is the green castellated tunic, trousers/tights and the feathered cap of Errol Flynn. On the other, are the earthier browns and greens of Herne the Hunter. In either case, some form of bow, arrow and quiver, are fairly essential accessories.
  • Saint GeorgeCrusader-style costume similar to Richard I. Chain-mail effect tunic, white surcoat/tabard with elongated ‘St.George’ red cross. Sword or lance for dragon-slaying!
  • Saxon – Costumes were made of plain colours with trim around the necklines.       Decorative brooches and buckles were also worn.
  • Sheriff of Nottingham – A Medieval surcoat with fur collar, decorative tunic, tights and hat.
  • VikingThe horned helmet is the obvious starting point.  This needs to be      coupled with fake fur tunics and cloaks, thick leggings and suitable weaponry.

Ancient Times Costume Ideas

Ancient Times Character Costume Ideas

It started off with Toga parties back in the 1960s/1970s, when white cotton sheets were easy to find, but since then the Ancient Times theme has developed enormously. There are now many different variations of the toga on the market, several looking more like robes and dresses, rather than the original shaped wrapped garment. Some of these are named after particular gods, goddesses and characters from Greek and Roman history. Not quite so easy to find are costumes from other ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, apart from one main exception that of Cleopatra.

As a general rule, clothing often denoted status. For example in Egypt, slaves and attendants wore basic, minimal clothing. The poor used linen or cotton-style cloths, whilst the rich had more exotic and sheer fabrics for their ‘simple’ clothes which were dictated by the climate. The theory was that the more see-through the fabric, the richer the wearer. Although coloured fabrics featured in Egyptian clothing, the one colour apparently never used was red, the colour sacred to death.

Here are some examples of the types of costume and characters you can go as with an Ancient Times theme.

AmazonA female archer and warrior. Think Xena, The Warrior Princess or Red Sonja from the film of the same name.

Ancient BritonFair hair and skin were much desired by the Romans and some Ancient Britons found themselves heading to Rome as slaves. For a more aggressive look, the Britons were famed for their use of blue woad body-designs and chest-length blue-dyed hair moustaches in an (unsuccess­ful) attempt to scare the Romans.

Attila the HunHe was one of several barbarians who took their fight back to Rome in the early stages of the Christian calendar. To get the look, you need trousers, a belted leather long tunic (an early coat), a large bronze helmet and a cloak of animal hide/fur (nowadays fake).  Huns and other tribes (Goths, Visigoths, Vandals) were collectively called Barbarians, due to their being hairier than the mostly clean-shaven Romans. For an alternative look why not try a Visigoth? They had red-dyed hair, bison-horn headdresses and wool and animal-skin tunics (plus jewelled swords).

CaesarThere were, of course, several Caesars but Julius is possibly best known.  The costume here can either be the purple toga and laurel-leaf headdress approach, or the military helmet and battle-dress as used in his conquests.  Other Emperors included Augustus; Constantine; Hadrian (he of the wall); Marcus Aurelius and Nero.

Caveman or WomanNeanderthal man wore animal skins to keep warm and were generally of unkempt appearance. 

Cleopatra – Possibly one of the most famous Egyptians from ancient times. It is still the Elizabeth Taylor version from the 1963 film that epitomises the Cleopatra look.  This is one Egyptian costume where there are many versions available. We also have a great selection of Cleopatra Accessories to complement our costumes, including snake headdresses, armbands and belts.

Druid – White hooded robes and symbolic oak and/or mistletoe headdress or garlands.

GladiatorIn the tradition of Spartacus, the Gladiator epitomises both the nobility and brutality of the Roman Empire. Aside from the leather skirt of the Roman Centurion, breastplates, masks and helmets (plus weaponry) may be used.

HerculesGreek hero renowned for his strength. He was committed to Twelve Labours following one of his many misfortunes. Traditionally Hercules is dressed in lion skin (from slaying the Nemean Lion as his first labour) and carries a club.

Jason - One of the Greek heroes. His claim to fame was the retrieval of the Golden Fleece, with the help of the Argonauts and the sorceress Medea. Other heroes included Perseus, who slew Medusa the Gorgon; Achilles, hero of the Trojan War and Theseus who slew the Minotaur.

Marc Anthony –  Romantic rival with Julius Caesar for Egyptian Queen Cleopatra’s favours. The outfit is similar to the Gladiator costume.

MummyMummies hold a fascination, from Tutankhamun to the recent remake of  The Mummy films.  Note: A Mummy costume should not be made of real crepe or linen bandages unless sewn onto a base such as a body-suit.

Neferititi – The high Egyptian crown dates from a much older period than Cleopatra’s reign. A long white sheath dress completes the look.

PharaohRulers of Ancient Egypt.  As noted with Cleopatra and Nefertiti, clothing was simple, with most effort being put into elaborate jewellery, especially necklaces, earrings (for both sexes) and the shendot, an elaborate belt.  Symbols of office such as the crook, the flail and the Ankh (symbol of Life) may be carried.

Priest/PriestessMany Ancients had to make sacrifices to maintain their status, and these were just the people to do it for them.

Rameses – There were several Egyptian Pharoahs called Rameses.

Tutankhamun – This Egyptian Pharoah is probably one of the most famous to the Western World following the discovery of his almost intact tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.

Greek (G) & Roman (R) Gods/Goddesses

The Ancients had Gods and Goddesses for almost all aspects of their lives, so there is a wide choice for potential characters.  Aside from the basic classical look (short curly hair for males, long flowing hair for females and togas or gowns) the god/goddess in question is best suggested by the props carried: Wine or grapes with vine-leaf headdress for Bacchus / Dionysius, an owl plus some books for Minerva / Athene, bow & arrow for  Diana / Artemis, etc..  There are costumes available which are named after various Gods and Goddesses.

  • Aphrodite (G) & Venus (R) (Love and Beauty)
  • Apollo (R) & Appollon (G)  (The Sun)
  • Ares (G) & Mars (R) (War)
  • Bacchus (R) & Dionysus (G) (Wine)
  • Cupid (R)  & Eros (G) (Love)
  • Hermes (G) & Mercury  (R)  (Messenger)
  • Hephaestus  (G) & Vulcan  (R)(Fire & Metal-Work)
  • Jupiter (R) & Zeus (G) (The Heavens and Skies)
  • Neptune (R)  & Poseidon (G) (The Sea)
  • Pan (G) (Countryside/Mischief)
  • Pluto   (R) & Pluton  (G) (The Underworld)

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses

More off the wall suggestions would be to go as one of the Egyptian Gods. This will probably require some improvisation on your part as the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses were often portrayed with animal heads. They also often had elaborate headdresses, symbolising their aspect of influence.

  • Bast is the female God of the sun, represented as a Cat.
  • Sekhmet is the female God of War, represented as a Lioness.
  • Anubis is the Messenger of the Gods, represented as a Jackal
  • Osiris  is the God of  The Underworld.
  • Amen-Ra is the God of The Heavens and Skies

Tudor Costumes

Tudor Character Costume Ideas

When it comes to the Tudor period, costumes of the era were heavily influenced by European fashion and in particular Britain’s nearest neighbours; France, Spain and also Italy.

Up until Elizabeth I’s reign the main style of dress for males was the doublet (a short or long padded top, with or without sleeves, which buttoned up the front) and hose (tights).  Men also wore jerkins (tunics) and cloaks, which could be either kneelength or floorlength. Both ruffs and breeches became particularly fashionable during Elizabeth I’s reign, with longer style breeches making their mark during later years.

Male Garments
Other garments that were worn at this time included:-

  • Gowns or cloaks were worn over a jerkin (a tunic which sometimes had a skirt attached). They were usually made out of a heavy woollen material lined with fur and would normally be floor-length or to the knee.
  • Shirts were worn next to the body and consisted of a low neckline showing the shoulders and were frequently embroidered.  Sleeves were full and loose & finished with a small band or frill.
  • Shoes & Boots were flat.  Boots of soft coloured leather were worn for riding.       Peasants sometimes wore ‘Rush’ shoes – made of plaited reeds and straw which covered the entire foot. Loose ends of ‘rush’ formed a rough fringe around the ankle.
  • Tights/Hose/Stockings were simple & tight fitting. Gradually the upper part started to be adorned with embroidery and slashing. It eventually developed into the trunkhose, which became a predominant feature of the 16th Century.

Female Costume

    • Dresses during Tudor times had close fitting bodices and a waistline that sloped to a deep V shape. Necklines were square, U or V-shaped with collars.  The high necked collar came in around the time of Mary Tudor. Sleeves were originally plain full sleeves tight at the wrist.  These developed into the bellshape, with the lower edge turned back several inches forming immense cuffs. 
    •  A gown  was an overgarment worn on formal occasions over the bodice and skirt.  It had a high neck with small ruff.  Full trailing skirts which were laced at front or back.
    • During the start of the Tudor period gabled headdresses concealed the hair completely. The  tube-like ‘French hood’ was also used, but by the time of Elizabeth I’s reign, decorative headdresses, caps or hats were worn as the hair and wigs rose in prominence.
  • Hats were worn by males and females. The beret style hat with brims and feathers was popular during Henry VIII’s reign, but as hair grew shorter, so the crown of the hat grew taller and stiffer, often pleated with elaborate decoration.
  • Belts and  girdles (to hang keys, pouches, purses, daggers & other miscellaneous items) were also worn by both sexes.

Beards, Hair and Wigs
Beards - In Henry VIII’s time beards were worn more fuller than in Elizabeth I’s reign, where the introduction of the neck ruffle was designed to set-off the shape of the  beards and many men had their beards dyed in unusual colours.   

Female hair when not hidden by wigs or headdresses, was frizzed or curled and dressed to either side of the head, retaining the high forehead. Males wore their hair short with optional fringes. By Elizabeth’s reign these had developed into the short neat cut seen in portraits of the period. The Elizabethan period in particular saw a widespread use of wigs in bright colours, imitating the Queen.

Tudor Character Costume Ideas

Chancellor – (Sir Thomas More, Sir Thomas Cranmer) Long fur gown, trimmed with fur. Matching beret-style hat with jewel decoration. Badge of office on heavy chain. It is also well documented that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey habitually donned himself in scarlet.

Court JesterJerkin in two or more colours, worn over multi-colour hose/tights. Traditional three-point hood, often with bells. Colours usually red & yellow, or red & green.

Edmund Blackadder – A fictitious creation, portrayed by Rowan Atkinson in the 1980s second series of Blackadder. A black slashed Tudor outfit, which would be similar to Sir Francis Drake or Sir Walter Raleigh was worn. Other characters from Blackadder II the Elizabethan series included:-Lord Melchett, Nursie, Lord Flashheart & Sir Percy.

Elizabeth I (Reigned 1533-1603) – Ornate dress with farthingale underskirt (to give it that circular appearance), plus elaborate stand-up collar and reddish short-curl wig.

ExecutionerAlso a popular Halloween character. Black jerkin, trousers, hood or mask, and black gloves. A sword or axe completes the look.

Sir Francis DrakeShirt, waistcoat, doublet, trunk hose over tights. Beret-style hat & feather. Cape. Bodkin beard.

Henry VII  (Reigned 1485-1509) – Hose, shirt, doublet or vest, and short, flared robe. Beret-style soft hat with slashed brim featuring jewels. Early’ Tudor cap, in fur or velvet with turned up brim. Tudor rose insignia may also be a decorative feature.

Henry VIII (Reigned 1509-1547) – This is one of the most popular choices for males when depicting the Tudor period, even though it does involve the wearing of tights. The basic costume consists of a tunic, cloak with fur trim, tights and hat. Black, green, red & brown are the most popular colours.

Henry VIII had six wives. He and all his wives were characterised in portraits by artist Hans Holbein. There are various Tudor dress styles available, with each wife adopting a slightly different style.

  • Catherine of Aragon (divorced 1533) – Mother of Mary Tudor. Costume shows continental influence with tight bodice and bell sleeves. Headdress is either gable or templer.
  • Anne Boleyn (1504-1536) (beheaded)  – Mother of Elizabeth I.
  • Jane Seymour (1509-1537) (died) – Gave Henry VIII his only son, Edward V.  She died 12 days after childbirth.
  • Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) (divorced) – Also known as the Mare of Flanders.
  • Catherine Howard (1523-1542)(beheaded)
  • Catherine Parr (1512-1548)Sixth wife of Henry VIII.  After Henry VIII’s death, she married Lord Thomas Seymour, but died in childbirth the following year.

Lady Jane Grey (Reigned 1553 for just over a week) – Tudor gown.

Mary Tudor (1516-58) (Reigned 1553-1558) - Gown based on a corselet bodice with a large bell sleeve tight at the wrist.

MusketeerMore commonly associated with the reign of the Stuarts. This can be a popular costume choice if you want to get away from the doublet and hose look. It also works well for groups of 3 or 4.

Sir Walter Raleigh Shirt, waistcoat, doublet, trunk hose over tights. Beret-style hat & feather. Cloak. Pisa/Stilletto beard.

William Shakespeare – Prolific playwright William Shakespeare is acquainted with Elizabethan England, but he actually was still writing at the time of James I ascension to the throne in 1603. His costume would consist of doublet, stiff lace collar, padded short breeches, silk stockings, shoes with rosettes. Beard.

Yeoman of the Guard - The traditional scarlet and gold uniform of the Yeoman of the Guard devised by Henry VII has been embellished over the centuries. (The ruff originated in the Elizabethan era, with the be-ribboned bonnet in James II’s reign).

Georgian Costumes

Georgian and Regency Character Costume Ideas

The Georgian era started in 1714 with the death of Queen Anne (the last of the Stuarts). Costumes of the period were extremely elaborate amongst the aristocracy, with the court of Versaille dictating fashion of the period, until the collapse of the French monarchy, following the French Revolution.

Hoops were used under dresses and determined the look during the 1700’s. First they were flattened at the front and back, then oval and finally towards the end of the 18th century, bell-shaped. Powdered wigs and hairpieces were very popular with huge elaborate fashions for both males and females.  Exotic hats were also worn. Make-up and powder was worn by both males and females as were patches on the face such as hearts, beauty spots, etc..

The 1700s saw a number of famous painters including John Constable, J M W Turner, Thomas Gainsborough and William Hogarth. The latter two were most famous for their portraits which are a great source of reference if you are looking for costume inspiration for the period.

The early 1780s, saw the dawn of the ‘Romantic era’ and with it came a new style of dress.  Classical revival was centred on simple & clean-cut lines. Gone were the extravagances of the rest of the 1700s.  Think plain, high-waisted dresses such as worn by Jane Austen or the Empress Josephine.  The aristocracy and servants were for the first time dressing similarly, with the preference being for lightweight and sheer fabrics, such as muslin. Large Kashmir shawls which were warm and light, and had richly woven borders, proved popular. Heavy cumbersome wigs were dispensed with and loose, lightly curled hair done in the Ancient Greek style was much favoured, with simplicity of style one of the key elements. Bonnets also became popular.

Male fashion throughout the 1700s was based on the cutaway coat, long breeches, shirt, long waistcoat, cravat, wig and tricorne hat.  By the start of the 1800s the use of wool broadcloth and superior tailoring of the English meant Britain became fashion leaders in Men’s outfits. Coats and waistcoats became much plainer and were worn with long ‘made to measure’ trousers (instead of breeches) for the first time.

  • Beau Brummell (Real name George Bryan) – Fashion Guru of late 1700s/early 1800s and close confidante of Prince Regent, future George IV) until they quarreled in 1813.
  • Beau Nash Regency Dandy.
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie – Known as ‘The Young      Pretender’. Was brought up to believe the Scots and English wanted the      Stuarts back on the throne. His Jacobite troops were defeated at the      battle of Culloden in 1746. Fled disguised as a woman.
  • Lady Caroline Lamb – Lover of the poet Lord Byron, whom she said was “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”.
  • Charles & John Wesley founded the Methodist movement in 1729.
  • Dick Turpin – Infamous Highwayman who was executed in 1739.
  • Lady Emma Hamilton – Lover of Lord Horatio Nelson.
  • King George I  – Ascended the throne in 1714-1727.  Elector of Hanover and Grandson of James I. He ascended the throne following the death of Queen Anne.
  • King George II  – Ascended the throne in1727. Reigned with his wife Caroline until 1760.
  • King George III (1760-1820) – The film ‘The Madness of King George’ (1994) is a good source of reference for costumes of the period.
  • King George IV (1820-1830) – Prince Regent during the ‘Regency Years’ when his father King George III was suffering from Porphyria.
  • George Frederick Handel – Composer of the Water Music amongst others.
  • Lord Horatio Nelson – Killed in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. Military style costume of the period.
  • Jane Austen – Romantic novelist whose works included Pride and Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Emma. 
  • Josephine – Wife of Napoleon and Empress. The Empire line (high-waisted) dress was attributed to her.
  • Les Miserables Characters – Set during the time of the French Revolution, this musical is a good source of reference for the look of the period.
  • Louis XVI – Last of the French Kings.  Guillotined in the French Revolution.
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven –  Judge style wig worn with plain clothes of the period.
  • Madame de Pompadour Extravagant Mistress of Louis XV.
  • Marie Antoinette – Ill fated queen of Louis XVI.  A very popular choice of      costume, with some even in the short, skimpy style. (Not correct for the period, but great for masked balls – a popular Georgian past-time).                         
  • Napoleon Bonaparte – He rose to prominence during the latter part of the French Revolution and became Emperor of the French from 1804-1814.  Military      costume in blue, white, red and gold, worn with bicorne hat.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley –  He, along with John Keats, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake and Lord Byron were known as the Romantic Poets.
  • Robert Peel – Home Secretary who instigated the founding of the police force by Act of Parliament in 1829.
  • Scarlet Pimpernel – Fictitious character created by Baroness Orczy. A British aristocrat who ‘rescued’ some of the French aristocracy from Madame Guillotine.
  • William IV – Reigned from 1830-1837.  Queen Victoria succeeded him following his death.
  • (Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Composer whose life was portrayed in the 1984 film ‘Amadeus’.