Define Chemise and Farthingale
Each layer of clothing worn by a Tudor lady was necessary to achieve her final, and distinctive look. The underwear itself was one of the most important layers as in many cased this is where the overall shape of the outfit would be defined. For a lady at court only the finest materials would have been used for the creation of her wardrobe, whereas a woman of poor social standing would have to make to with poorer fabrics, course linens and wool. Chemise is a term which is still used today to describe a certain kind of under garment, though farthingales are no longer fashion items, they were however the forerunners of the panniers and crinolines of later periods in history.
The Tudor Chemise
The chemise which is also referred to as a smock, is the foundation garment on which all others are added. Everyone, regardless of rank or status would have a chemise, they would also ensure that there were enough in the wardrobes to provide at least a week's worth of clean linens. The higher the rank of the lady the more that she had access to, and the more changes of linen were available to her.
Despite hygiene not being as good as it should have been there was still some pride to be had in being able to wear clean linens every day. For the nobility this item would be of the whitest and finest linen. It would have intricate embroidery around both the neck and the cuffs in black, red or white thread work. Some may have even been trimmed with an early form of lace. In the time of Henry VIII the chemise was worn with a usually square neck shape which would mirror the line of the bodice when worn.
The Elizabethan chemise or smock would have a small standing collar which was edged with a small frill. This frill would later develop into the Elizabethan ruff. The sleeves of the chemise were long, with a narrow frilled cuff.
The farthingale is believed to have been intruded into England by Catherine of Aragon when she came to England to marry Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII. As a princess of Spain she would wear the Spanish farthingale, and it was a style that was soon adopted at court. Essentially it was a hooped skirt which had been stiffened by the use of willow cuttings, robe, bent or even whalebone to give it its structure.
This structure would then define the shape of the gown when it was worn. They soon became an essential part of Tudor fashion. The Elizabethan farthingale was a little different. It moved away from the conical shape of the Spanish farthingale and instead took the broad, crescent shaped form of the French farthingale. This took the form of a large crescent shaped pad which was again stiffened with wood or whalebone. It was fastened around the waist of the lady beneath the skirts. It resulted in the gown taking on a broad and rounded look over the hips, and allowed the skirts to hang freely in natural folds.