The colors of Elizabethan fabrics are mostly based on natual dyes, the commonest being brown, grey, red, blue, yellow, and green. The various colors sometimes have specific associations, in many cases related to the expense of producing them. Brown and grey fabrics are generally inexpensive, and are associated with the poor. Clothes can be further ornamented by slashing or pinking (piercing) the outer layer to reveal a fine contrasting fabric underneath. Other adornments include "guarding" (ribbon trim) and even gems or pearls on the most fancy outfits. A distinctive feature of Elizabethan clothing is the extensive use of padding, known as "bombast," to give the garments a fashionable shape. Bombast is especially common in men's clothes, and typically consists of raw wool, cotton, or horsehair.
The basic components of Elizabethan clothing are linen and wool. Linen derives from the fibres of the flax plant; it is a very comforatable fabric, easy to clean and quick to dry, which makes it ideally suited for shirts, underwear, collars, cuffs, hose - anything worn next to the skin. Linen is also used for lining and interlining garments. Sometimes, as an interlinin, it is impregnated with gum ( a sticky secretion derived from certain plants) to make it stiffer, in which case it is called buckram. A certain amount of linen is produced domestically, although the best linens are imported from the Continent, especially from northern France and the Low Countries. Table linen might be had for 5 d. an ell (45 inches). Holland could cost 1s. 6d. for the coarser varieties, 5s for the finer ones, and cambric could range from 2s. to 20s; both of these are finer linens often used for shirts. Lawn, an extremely fine linen used especially in neckwear and cuffs, costs 10 s. and up.
Cotton is also used ( although less widely, as it has to be imported from farther afield) and serves similar purposes. One of its commonest forms is fustian, a blend of cotton and linen: it costs 1s. for coarse stuff, 3-5s. for fine. Fustian is often used to give the appearance of silk and is particularly useful for stuffing padded garments.
Occasionally linen or cotton is used for outer garments such as breeches and doublets, particularly for reasons of economy. In such cases, it is generally of a heavier type than shirt-linen, such as linen canvas, which might range in price from 1s to 3s. a yard. Canvas can also be made from hemp, the plant fiber used in making ropes. Canvas of this sort is very tough, suitable for such purposes as making sails and packing merchandise, but it might be used for clothing when economy or durability is more important than comfort. Hemp is also used to make lockram, a particularly coarse fabric used in shirts.
By far the most common fabric for the outer layers of clothing is wool, which is one of the principal sources of England's wealth in Elizabeth's day. Wool is sturdy and versatile - it resists rain, keeps the wearer warm in cold weather, yet is remakably cool in the summer. It accepts dye readily but does not absorb moisture (such as sweat) or wash well. One of the cheapest sorts is called frieze, which costs 6d. to 3s. a yars; 2s to 4s. is a standard range for English wools. Woolen fabrics tend to be heavily felted, to the point that they can be cut without the edges fraying.
Finer fabrics are invariably made of silk and quite espensive. Satin is one of the cheaper luxury fabrics, ranging from 3s. to 14s. a yard; taffeta might cost 15s; velvet, 31s.; and damask a princely L4, more than most people make in a year. Plain silk is used for fine shirts, satin and taffeta for outer layers and for lining, velvet for outer layers. Leather is also an important element in the Elizabethan's clothing. It is used not only for gloves, belts, and shoes, but also for a variety of garments, especially among men, including hats, doublets, and even breeches
Stockings might be white or colored; they are sometimes decorated with silk embroidery about the top and down the sides - colors included red, green, and black. Knit stockings often have elaborate patterning in the same places. In addition, people sometimes wear heavy colored overstockings outside comfortable white ones. Riders might wear protective overstockings of heavy linen, known as boothose.