Friday, August 28, 2015

Costumes in Wolf Hall

Many of us who love historical costume were completely smitten with the production shots we saw before Wolf Hall aired earlier this year. Now the series is available for sale through PBS, BBC, and even national retailers like Target. With the popularity of this series I want to take a moment and give those new to Tudor fashions a few notes before you take everything in the series as gospel. This is one of the most accurately costumed historical dramas that I have seen in years. The color palate, cuts, underwear, and fabrics are impeccable. But don't forget to do your own research into the clothing as you make your own ensembles.

Odd Piece #1: French Hoods

  • I appreciate the costume designer here for acknowledging French hoods need veils. I doubt though that you will find a single portrait from the 1520's or 30's in England or France that uses fine silk chiffon. Typically you will see a solid black veil on the French and English hoods. Medals done in profile from the time period and illuminated manuscripts also suggest these are hats, not pretty head bands. 

Odd Piece #2: Infamous Cod Pieces

  • The internet was a buzz with interviews from the cast and production team about these being a choice. Yes the cod pieces in period were larger, but the designer didn't want to distract from the story. Modern audiences just can't seem to handle a good cod piece. 

Odd Piece #3 Wrinkled bodices.

  • Several of the productions shots on Anne's airy silk gowns that were build for Claire Foy show wrinkles across the front of the bodices. It does create a fun visual with the light playing with the fabric, but is not historically accurate. I have had this happen even with velvet if I don't use enough tension and pins on my placards. Practice makes perfect!

Great thing #1: Men have correct hats!

  • All of the men have beautiful hats. The designers put so much energy into sewing , knitting, or felting these hats from the correct materials they add a new dimension of texture to the screen. check out all of the different shapes which are specific to clergy, scholars, nobility, common people. The range is also stunning.

Great thing #2 Jewelry!

  • Many of these pieces were researched to extremes, and then used appropriately. Jewelry wasn't just thrown on anyone of rank to make them look wealthy. The designer uses it for impact and with class. The jewelry also has the correct styles for the period instead of being modern baroque jewelry from a costume jewelry shop. (Anne Boleyn still shouldn't be wearing earrings based on my research, but at least these are tasteful drop pearls typically.)

Great thing #3 Middle Class Clothing!

  • Very few productions show middle class clothing without disappearing into ren faire stereotypes. Thank you for doing research and even setting the primary styles of clothing on the middling sort back 10 years from the royal court, and in correct fabrics. Elizabeth Cromwell's costumes are actually my favorite of the whole production!

Great thing #4 Table manners

  • The actors and directors added a fun Easter egg into their stage business for well researched individuals. Take a gander at their table manners. Napkins are not in their laps but on shoulders or other easy to reach places and there are very few forks floating around. 

Great thing #5 Pregnancy Clothing

  • Woman of the time did not have clothing they only wore for pregnancy. There are styles that are more comfortable than others women may gravitate to, but most of the accommodations for the growing belly were done by lacing a garment looser, adding placards for modesty, or altering clothing. Anne's coronation scene shows her very pregnant, which is consistent with historical accounts. Rather than wearing a tent to hide the baby bump it is triumphantly displayed and the gown is pinned to the kirtle with a gap. Bravo!

Great thing #6 Pins
  • For ease of use there are so many times small details are over looked. Dressing pins are an essential part of the Tudor wardrobe. Everyone used them and they used them by the pound each year. Rather than stitching turn backed sleeves into place or solely wiring bonnets the wardrobe crew used period appropriate dressing pins. Thank you! I noticed and I appreciate it so much!


I love this mini series and can't wait for season 2 to hit the small screens. The research in the fine details shows through on the costumes and accessories. I will always encourage people to do their own research before hopping in to build one of these ensembles. This is one of the most historically accurate dramas for this period I have seen in many years, so if you need cinematic inspiration please do start here!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Strawberry Hill Kirtle and Foresleeves

Anne Boleyn by Lucas Horenbout
Strawberry Hill ID: sh-000468

My pattern for the kirtle was based on the Henrician kirtle in The Tudor Tailor. I constructed it using 2 layers of linen canvas and on outer layer of white silk. As an experiment I did not stiffen this kirtle with reeds or boning as the Tudor Tailor originally suggested. Now that I have worn the kirtle a few times I may change my mind and add channels for reeds to be inserted and stiffen the bodice front. This bodice does not feel as supportive as my previous kirtles. I will give this style without boning a few more chances though before I stitch in all of the channels required to apply reeds or boning. I hand stitched the side seams of the bodice using white silk and I bound the bottom of the kirtle in scraps of white silk.

All of the eyelets were worked by hand using an awl and metal rings. I chose to use the button hole stitch for working the eyelets, in cotton embroidery floss. These rings can be purchased through sites selling historical costume notions, but some drapery shops may have something similar as well. You will be looking for a solid metal ring the size you wish to make your eyelets.The button hole stitch makes they look very even and pretty.  I used white cotton embroidery floss because I already had enough to finish the eyelets.Patterns of Fashion. They were spaced in for spiral lacing to make it easier to use shorter laces. In period these would have been sewing using linen or silk. Janet Arnold discusses this technique for Eleanora de Toledo's dress in

Queen Jane Seymour
Has Holbein the Younger
The neckline of the kirtle appears to be decorated with gold pieces and pearls. I recreated the look with freshwater pearls and brass beads sewing to a removable band of white silk.  The size of the painting limits my ability to know exactly what these gold pieces look like. Some of them seem round and others have squared edges. After more research I believe these may be quatrefoil like pieces called ouches. Ouches were popular among many of the Tudor nobility.Here are the ouchs worn by Jane Seymour in the famous painting done by Has Holbein the Younger. When funds allow I will replace these beads with ouches. Most retailers selling these jewelry pieces ask for$5-10 USD. Given the time it took them to research and reproduce the pieces I  feel that is fair, just not something I can jump into today. I have had it suggested I make ouches from fimo clay, so I may explore the idea further and post a separate entry about my results.

Cutting in progress and finished bodice
The kirtle skirt has a decorative front panel made of light blue and yellow upholstery fabric, I then cut out the matching foresleeves. I was free to use any fabric I wished because the miniature does not go any lower than the rib cage on Anne Boleyn. the piece I selected reminds me of damask and velvet pieces from the period I have seen online. I built the kirtle in this order so I could use all of the scrap from the dress to build bands of fabric around the back hem of the kirtle. When I finished all of my piecing there was only a small pile of scrap that I had not used. Based on the readings I have done on period tailoring techniques, I believe this was keeping with the wish not to waste any fabric if possible. I didn't feel it was necessary to create a train on the kirtle as well. The gown worn over this kirtle will have a train and when the train is hooked up using skirt hooks the lower decorative edge of the kirtle will be visible. I used a cotton twill for the non-fashion fabric. It is sturdy and gave the skirt a better drape than muslin alone.
Small pile of scrap left from cutting decorative kirtle forepart and foresleeves. 
The foresleeves are lined in linen. with false puffs made of handkerchief linen. the edges of the sleeves are connected using some gold plated points made in the same fashion as the buttons I have made previously. These half sleeves will tie into the gown using hand made laces. This pattern was inspired by The Tudor Tailor, but based on some of my own research into different styles of foresleeves popular in the Tudor court. I do not attach my decorative cuffs to my foresleeves. Based on my research into undergarments from the time, I believe it is more likely that the decorative cuffs seen in paintings are attached to the woman's smock. I have been known to drip things onto my cuffs and keeping these attached to my smock gives them a chance to be regularly cleaned.

Handmade aglets using gold plated beads and wire. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Strawberry Hill Miniature of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn by Lucas Horenbout
Strawberry Hill ID: sh-000468
My newest Tudor project has been researching this portrait to reproduce it the image. Scholars have identified this as Anne Boleyn, from her time serving in the household of Catherine of Aragon. The gold frame now around the miniature identifying this miniature as Catherine was added in the 19th, century. This miniature also bares a good resemblance to Anne's commemorative medal which was struck in 1534, with a more fashion forward version of the English hood. This medal is now housed in the British Museum. Anne is known to have used her clothing to make political statements. During this period of history, people used their clothing to show alliances. Fashion was very political. Anne is famous today for her preferences for French fashions, manners, and politics. What is commonly overlooked or forgotten is that she was English first. Anne wanted to be seen as a virtuous, English Queen. To better fit this role for state appearances she could be seen in English fashions, unless she was trying to make a statement or flatter a foreign dignitary. I will be blogging about the progress on this gown as it is finished.

Lead Medal of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England, 1534
British Museum # M.9010
Links about the portrait:

Strawberry Hill Official Website
Miniature Online Through Yale University
Art History News Anne Boleyn Medal
British Museum Collections: Anne Boleyn Medal

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Silhouettes of History 2015

The costume department at Phoenix Comic Con hosted its second Silhouettes of History fashion show. The show was even larger this year than last year. I chose to model my red and gold Venetian gown. These photos were all taken by Patti Jo Collum, a member of the Costume Department staff. Thank you to the staff for another beautiful show.