Fashion in the Time of William Shakespeare

Written by Sarah Jane Downing
Review by Tamela McCann

This rather short book is actually packed to the gills with information on the fashions those alive during the time of William Shakespeare may have worn. Mostly about the upper classes, we are given much detail on how the fashions evolved during the years of Shakespeare’s lifetime (roughly the late 1500s). Downing gives us many illustrations and paintings to show us how items were worn, even devoting an entire chapter to the ever-expanding ruff. Both men’s fashion and women’s fashion are covered in this slim volume, and details such as cloth types and width of skirts are examined. Throughout, Downing weaves mention of Shakespeare’s works of the time, though this reader would have liked a vocabulary list of commonly used items more than a recitation of works of the writer. Overall, however, this book would be invaluable especially to those who write of the period and need visual cues to explain the fashion of the day.