As far as fashion goes, the rich and famous have always influenced popular culture. During the 16th century in particular, European courts were all the envy when it came to Renaissance dress. Monarchs and courtiers strove to dress in the most swank and up-to-date attire around.

In England, social advancement for the upper class, including good marriage prospects for women, often lay in service to the court, so it was vital to be well dressed. For those familiar with Anne Boleyn, her mother knew the importance of her having gowns of silk and fine accessories for her head and neck if she were to assume a position in Henry VIII’s court. As the story goes, she was successful in doing so.

By the 1530s, women were wearing stiff bodices that shaped the torso into a flattened, inverted cone. From about 1545 they also adopted the farthingale, a cone-shaped, hooped petticoat that originated in Spain.

During the 1550s, the somber colors of Spanish styles became popular in England. However, brighter colors and busier surfaces returned with Elizabeth I in 1558, who presided over one of the most richly attired courts in Europe. Women began to swap the Spanish farthingale for the wheel-shaped French one in the 1580s.

The ruff was also adopted during this time. This is a stiff, pleated collar developed from the ruffle trimming of a chemise. It became the most distinctive accessory of its era.

By the 1640s, there was a change from high-waisted styles to the more balanced silhouette, with its waistline at natural level at the sides and back and extending to a point at the center front. Decorative emphasis was provided by moderately full skirts, often worn looped up over a contrasting petticoat, modest ribbon trim, collars and kerchiefs.

The beauty of these styles during the Renaissance era is that you are never at a loss of Renaissance dress for faires, costume parties or themed events. From England’s courts to the influences of the Spanish and French, you can get a unique look and that will transform your style to one of the most fashion-rich eras of our time.