Costumes of the heroines of Shakespeare (part 2: Cross dressed)

If we were playing a game of Guess who and you said “Cross dressing” I would probably say “Shakespeare” He is known for the way he dresses his characters disguised as a person of another sex to bring in a flow or a twist in his play. I am not dwell further on the significance of cross dressing or its gender related issues. All that I am going to do is take two of his heroines who cross dressed as a man in their roles. In both the plays I chose the heroines dress up as non-noble men.One is Viola in Twelfth night disguised as Cesaro (a boy servant of Duke Orsino ‘s court) and Rosalind in As you like it disguised as Ganymede.Fashion,during the Elizabethan period was way different from what we see like I mentioned in my previous article. There were a lot of etiquettes on the way the men dressed. It was not just what they wore but the material they chose and the colour of the attire was at regulation too.

Usually a typical working class man of the 16th century wore a

Muffin caps or toques

Shirt made of rougher material

Breeches that were round and broad and the colours that they were allowed to wear included drab colours such as brown, beige and yellow


Viola ( Cesario) in Twelfth night

One of the well known plays of Shakespeare especially for the love triangle present in the play, the play had a number of movie and theatrical adaptations and the most prominent ones were the two movies of twelfth night that came out in the year 1998 and 2006




 The oldest version of the movie starring Francis Barber clearly is not a completely accepted of attire according to the usual rules in which they were supposed to dress up. Hey costume has royality and a touch of the working class tinge in it. This can be seen in the way in which Viola is seen as a resourceful person who could make good use of the little things she had. Similarly, inspite the little options she had to chose shr could expand her choices and wear something more perfect.




 In the latest  version of the play in which Imogen Stubbs played the role of Viola, the attire probably caters to the same explanation as the earlier version for explaining Viola ‘s way of being resourceful. However let’s not forget that Viola as Cesario actually worked as a servant in a kingdom and the people who worked in the royal palace dressed in a particular way. Their costumes were usually a step ahead of the normal people yet not as good as royalty. This version of the costume has also got it’s own modern touch especially for the belt and and the white buttons that look right on place. Not to forget the way the court looks perfectly fitted on the character


Rosalind (Ganymede) in As you like it.

In this play in which Rosalind disguises as Ganymede to live in the Forest of Ardenne, she is seen as someone who is really smart and she is always seen as a character with more shades of perfection than the others in the play. Unlike Twelfth night, this play was not pretty well known. So there were like 3 movie adaptations and I will be looking only at the latest 2 adaptations.




If I had to show a picture to a class of people to give them an example of the way the working class people dressed in the Elizabethan era, this probably would be a picture I carry as my saviour. Starting from the muffin hat to the material that is chosen for the costume. Usually they wore cloths made out of wool and this attire is completely is made by wool. Above all the colour is definitely at its best choice for its mildness in it. The way her costume is perfectly matching with the way she is expected to dress as the person she is in disguise can be seen as the way her character is seen as someone who is perfect and has the capacity to anything with the answer to any question




In this version of the play in which Bryce Dalbas Howard played an exceptional role of Rosalind (Ganymede) the costume is similar to that of the old version with a greater modern influence. While the older version of the costume was more like a rug, this one is more nice. Despite following the proper colour code and choice of material, the attire still has its own touch of modernity especially for its openly fitted collar and perfectly stitched court that goes hand in hand with the way Rosalind is seen as a person who is well fitted in any place of the society that she is placed in. Adding on to it, her muffin cap gives in a more significant touch of a non-noble men.



3 thoughts on “Costumes of the heroines of Shakespeare (part 2: Cross dressed)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s