Costume gallery

Browse through this gallery to see costume examples from throughout the ages - if you need to think about a costume for your character, you'll find plenty of ideas here.

This gallery will be especially useful if you're taking the Performance Support: Costume Design option for Paper 2.

Don't forget to browse through the Hats, wigs and masks gallery and the Character gallery for more costume inspiration.

Clothes from classical times

An actor wearing a toga

A toga, as worn in Roman times

The toga was a garment worn by the by male citizens of Ancient Rome (625 BC to AD 476 ). Women wore stolas - a type of pleated dress.

The toga was usually worn over an undergarment made from linen. The toga was usually made of wool.

You could wear this type of costume in any classical tragedy.

Clothes from the Middle Ages

A couple wearing plain clothes

The typically plain clothes of ordinary people of the middle ages

a king wearing colourful clothes

The typically colourful costume of a king of the middle ages

a wealthy woman wearing a blue dress

The dress of a wealthy woman of the middle ages

The Middle Ages (350AD - 1450AD), sometimes called Mediaeval times, refers to the period of history in Europe from the 11th to the 13th centuries.

In this period most people wore undergarments made of linen, and outer garments of heavy wool, in natural colours. Only the wealthy could afford brighter colours such as red.

Tudor fashions

actors dressed as henry the eighth and his second wife anne boleyn

The early tudor costumes of actors playing Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

actors from blackadder 2 series in later tudor costumes

Later Tudor Costumes

The Tudor period (1485-1603) was a time in English history that remains strong in the popular imagination to this day. Two of the most famous Tudors, often recreated in drama today, are Queen Elizabeth I and her father Henry VIII.

a crowd dressed in plain tudor clothing

The plain coloured clothes typical of poorer people in tudor times

Rather like today, the wealthy people of the period would wear clothes made from luxurious materials such as silk, and bright colours. The middle-classes would wear clothes of a similar style but usually made from cheaper materials, such as wool and linen. Poorer people would wear simple clothes made from wool - tunic and trousers for men, and a long dress (worn with an apron on top) for women.

Well-to-do Tudor women wore hooped skirts with padded hips, which reached to the floor. Men wore padded breeches with stockings - not trousers. Fur was a popular trim among the wealthy.

One of the most recognised items of clothing from the late Tudor period is the ruff - a collar of lace worn around the neck. Some wealthy people wore enormous ruffs to show off their wealth.

Tudor case study: The Virgin Queen

These images show the clothes worn for the BBC production The Virgin Queen about Queen Elizabeth I. Notice how the clothes from her early life are simpler than those she wore later on.

Elizabeth I and her ladieselizabeth 1 in a plain dress, with two ladies-in-waiting

Elizabeth I with two ladies in waiting

Elizabeth I and her ladieselizabeth 1 in a plain dress and a lady in waiting in a day dress

Elizabeth I and a lady in waiting in plain dresses

Elizabeth I dancing in an evening dresselizabeth I dancing in an elaborate evening dress

Elizabeth I in elaborate dress

Elizabeth I in elaborate dresselizabeth 1 in a fancy evening gown and image of elizabeth 1 in a dress with a huge collar ruff

Elizabeth I in two different types of evening gown

Tudor ladiestwo ladies-in-waiting wearing bright gowns with ruffs

Two Tudor ladies in waiting

Tudor ladieslady in waiting in silk gown and elizabeth 1 in red silk gown

A lady in waiting and Elizabeth I in silk gowns

Tudor gentlementudor gentlemen in evening clothes

Tudor gentlemen

Tudor gentlemena tudor man in day clothes and an older wealthy tudor man in a floor length fur lined cloak

Young Tudor male and older weathier Tudor gentleman

Ordinary people, and maids, of the Tudor period several poor people wearing plain clothes in browns and greays

Poor people of the Tudor period

Ordinary people, and maids, of the Tudor period two maids in plain clothes holding household items

Two maids of the Tudor period

Early 18th-century fashion

Early 18th Century fashion

A wealthy couple in 18th century clothing

Wealthy women of the 18th century still wore corsets to help shape their clothes, and hooped dresses were still popular, but the dresses were more low-cut than previously.

men in eighteenth -century wigs, coats and breeches

Men in 18th century wigs and clothing

Wealthy men continued to wear three-quarter-length coats and breeches. Wigs, high-heeled shoes (worn by men and women) and elaborate embroidery were big trends of the early 18th century, but they disappeared towards the end of the period.

Late 18th-century - early 19th-century fashion

The following images are from the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice The book was first published in 1813.

two women in muslin day dresses

Muslin day dresses

man and women in wedding attire

Wedding attire

three women in high-waist dresses

High waist dresses

man in regimental uniform

Regimental uniform

two wealthy women in evening gowns

Wealthy women in evening gowns

man and women in daywear

Couple in daywear

In the later 18th century women adopted a more loosely fitting dress, known as the chemise, which was inspired by the fashions of ancient Greece and Rome. The dresses were often made of muslin, in plain colours, with a high waistline. This trend continued throughout the early 19th century.

For men, knee-length breeches were replaced by ankle-length trousers, and suits became more fashionable.

Clothing among the wealthy classes during this period became far less flamboyant in style and colour than they had been previously.

Mid-19th-century costumeBustle evening dress

Mid 19th Century costume

Woman wearing dress with a large bustle

Mid 19th Century costume

Man in daywear

Mid 19th Century costume

Couple in formal evening attire

Mid 19th Century costume

Bustle evening dress

For women, corsets and hooped skirts reappeared early in the 19th century. A new invention, called the crinoline, offered women an alternative to stiffened petticoats for holding out their skirts.

Suits continued popular with men, and fine tailoring became important for those in the higher classes.

Late-19th-century costume

Late 19th Century costume

Small hat, as worn in the late 19th century

Late 19th Centure costume

Decorated hat, as worn in the late 19th century

Late 19th Century costumes

Bonnet as worn in the early 19th-century

Late 19th Century costume

Top hat as worn in the 19th-century

In the 1860s, bowler hats became popular among men.

In the 1870s, the fashion for women's dresses was to be flatter than before at the front, and to be padded out at the back - the 'bustle' was invented to help create this effect.

1920s fashion

four women in 1920s evening wear

Women's evening wear

two women wearing winter coats and cloche hats

Winter coats and cloche hats

two men and two women in formal evening wear

Couples in formal evening wear

working class men in woollen suits and flat caps

Working men

middle class man wearing a suit and holding a bowler hat

Suited middle class man

The most radical change in style for women's clothing happened throughout the 1920s. Hems rose, waistlines dropped, corsets disappeared and elaborate bead work became popular on dresses.

Middle-class men still wore suits, ties and waistcoats during the day, and the better-off would often change into a formal suit for dinner in the evening. Working men would wear suits on high days and holidays.

The 1940s war era

man wearing woollen suit and flat cap with woman in matching tweed suit wearing a head scarf

Man in woollen suit and woman in tweed suit

two women in outdoor clothing - one is wearing a three-quarter length coat and the other is wearing a matching skirt and jacket

Woman in outdoor clothing

business man in suit wearing a mac

Business man

women in skirt and blouse and heavy overcoat

Woman in heavy overcoat

man and woman with two children with gas mask boxes

Family, with children wearing gas mask boxes

woman in simple shirt dress

Simple shirt dress

group photograph showing fashions of children through to elderly people

Fashions of varying age groups

Clothing through the war era was practical, and affected by the rationing system. New clothes were often just re-fashioned from old clothes, and there were shortages of luxurious materials such as silk.

Women would often wear a simple knee-length dress or blouse and skirt. Mackintosh coats were popular outdoor items, and some women would wear a matching tailored suit jacket outdoors.

Men continued to wear jackets and ties as a matter of routine, although sometimes with casual trousers, not necessarily matching suit trousers. Jumpers, vests and polo-neck shirts were popular for less formal wear.

Clothing in the 1950s

singer cliff richard in teddy boy gear

Cliff richard wearing a 1950s teddy boy outfit

a woman in full 50s style skirt

A full-skirted dress, with netting underneath, as worn in the 1950s

seventies pop group showaddywaddy

The 70s pop group Showaddywaddy were famous for wearing Teddy Boy outfits

Clothing did not change a great deal through the 1950s, although there were two major trends. For women, a full skirt with netting became fashionable, while the Teddy Boy look became popular with young men.

The look consisted of tight fitting jeans/trousers (sometimes called drainpipes), a long smart jacket and a thin tie. These young men often wore their hair in a quiff (in homage to Elvis Presley).

Clothing in the 1960s

Two hippies dressed in bright clothing and a man in a white suit

The bright clothes of typical 1960s hippies

1960s mini-skirt, as worn by many women of that time

A woman in a mini-skirt

The 1960s saw the introduction of the mini-skirt - a very short thigh-length skirt. Patterns and bold colours became popular for fabric.

This period also saw the introduction of the hippy - often a young middle-class person in favour of colourful flowing clothes, peace and free love.

Clothing in the 1970s

full length dress as worn in the seventies

A maxi-dress, as worn by women in the 1970s

man wearing brightly coloured outfit with flares and platform shoes

Flares and platform shoes, as worn in the 1970s

In the 1970s men and women wore trousers (called flares) that were wide at the ankle, shirts with wide collars and platform shoes. Women often wore full-length skirts (maxi-skirts).


Here are some military costumes from throughout the ages.

Roman soldiersten men wearing traditional Roman soldier costume - red tunic and metal body armour and helment

The costume of Roman soldiers

World War Onemen dressed in the green army uniform from the First World War

Army uniforms, as worn by soldiers from the First World War

Officers from Second World Warmen dressed in green army uniforms and blue RAF costumes

The costume of commanding officers, as worn in the Second World War

Second World War soldiera man dressed in green combat army uniform from the Second World War

Army uniform, as worn in the Second World War


Camouflage uniform, as worn by modern-day soldiers

Futuristic, sci-fi and fantasy

costume sketch from dr who

Costume sketch from Dr. Who series

costume sketch from dr who

Costume sketch from Dr. Who series

characters in long robed costumes from 'dr who'

Characters from Dr. Who

man wearing a long white robed costume

Character from Dr. Who

man in fantasy dress cloak and hood

Man in cloak and hood

man and women in fairy costumes

Woodland fairy costumes

Futuristic and sci-fi costumes give you a lot of scope for design. You could create a costume which is highly unusual by today's standards, or just exaggerate a popular style of today's fashion.

Fantasy costumes tend to be based on period clothing - witches, for example, often wear the sort of clothes women might have worn in mediaeval times.

Clothes from different cultures

a head and shoulders photo of a geisha

Costume of a geisha, close-up

a full length photo of a geisha

Costume of a geisha, full-length

If your play is based in Japan, you might want a costume for a traditional geisha - a female Japanese entertainer. They wear white make-up on their face, with bright red lips. A geisha always wears a kimono (a traditional full-length robe).

man and woman in traditional indian wedding outfits

Clothes as worn at a traditional indian wedding

woman in sari and men in traditional indian costumes

Traditional Indian dress

The traditional dress for an Indian woman is a sari- a large piece of cloth that can be wrapped around the body in various styles. The most common style of wearing a sari is wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder. Most women wear a short-sleeved blouse underneath.

Traditional clothing for Indian men includes a knee-length (or longer) shirt (note women may also wear these). It's usually worn over loose trousers.

man with feather in hair holding a drum

The colourful dress of African street perfomers

woman in traditional african costume

Dress of a traditional african woman

man and women in various colourful african dress

Traditional african dress, worn in a variety of ways

Traditional African costume varies widely across the continent, although there are some similarities. Tunics or kaftans (long shirts, usually to the floor) are popular clothing for men, worn with loose trousers. Women may wear toga-inspired garments, wrapped around their bodies. Bright coloured fabrics and beaded jewellery are popular.

African warriors sometimes wear fantastically decorated costumes, and paint their bodies.

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