Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Keeping Up with the Tudor's Stylists

Does anyone not want their own stylist?
Somebody to lay out your fabulous ensemble, after they pulled it off the hangers in your closet that looks like a cross between Cher's closet in Clueless and Carrie's closet in the Sex and the City movie?

Trip back in time with me to the sixteenth century - that's the 1500's, NOT the 1600's, btw - and consider how the Tudors used clothes to make a statement, send a warning, stick it in the face of a lover who's scorned one, or on an average, just-like-any-other-day, to parade the fact that as a Tudor, your clothes are the best in the country. (And they signed laws to ensure it; no one was going to legally outshine the royals!)

Henry VIII was a notorious clothes-horse; just like any other full-of-himself man who never heard the word 'no' applied to himself. We've all seen 'The Tudors,' so we're all aware that Henry VIII ("H8") wasn't always an overweight, smelly mess. When his father, Henry VII ("H7") died, H8 was seventeen years old. He'd spent his childhood like all noble children; engaged in pursuits guaranteed to give him a strong physique, quick off the mark, able to leap tall king-things in a single bound.

Naturally, when one has a crown on one's head and a chiseled, protein-fed body, one does like to splash out with a touch a colour. And H8 was no exception. His privy purse expenses list, in excruciating detail, the measurement of and cost of every thing the King owned.

Any one 'outfit' worn by nobility or royalty was the collaboration of the work of tailors, cappers (knitters), embroiderers (all that fancy work didn't roll off a production line in a factory; it was nimble fingers with a fine needle and embroidery floss), farthingale makers for the ladies (farthingales were a sort of forerunner to the hoopskirt rig), and the geniuses who sewed hosiery in an era when lycra and nylon didn't exist (they sewed knit cloth on a bias to 'column' it up each leg.)

The outfit was literally built from the undies out. Shoes were flat, rather slipper-like in appearance, and there are a couple of 1500's-era shoes that are still around today. This one, for instance:
Built for function, not fashion, shoes protected their wearer from icy castle floors and the odd horse apple or mud that would have squished up most unpleasantly between the toes of a barefoot courtier. 
Men wore hose on their legs, with an opening for a codpiece (lol! Google image that word if you're not familiar) and H8 is well-known for his. It proclaimed his masculinity and virility to all. These junk-enhancers were taken seriously back in the Tudor day, and nobody would have thought to have laughed at seeing one.

Little-known fact I learned in an instructional video about clothing amongst royalty and narrated by Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces: men kept little odds and ends in their codpieces; money, trinkets, items stowed in pockets nowadays.
Imagine the poor till-minder at some *actual* Renaissance Fair, having to wait while a customer dug around 'down there' to come up with a pence to ride the merry-go-round with his girl.

 Over his hose, H8 and all men in the day, wore long shirts of linen (royalty) that when wrapped between the legs and tucked into their hose, dispensed with the need for underwear. H8's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, sewed shirts for her husband even after he'd ditched her for Anne Boleyn and shut her away in the coldest, draftiest castles in the kingdom. That's a devoted wife. . . and she set up a standard for expected Wife Behavior that H8's next wife, the smart-mouthed (but sartorially excellent) Anne Boleyn, failed to achieve.

On top of the shirt, H8 wore a doublet or sort of vest/jacket thing. This laced to the hose to keep the hose from drifting down leg; it was a multi-purpose garment. Often the sleeves of the over-garments, like doublets for men, (or kirtles for women) were slashed in patterns to show the colors of the under-garments, or to create visual depth and add interest.
The Tudor dress code matches that of contemporary Northern California: dress in layers. On top of the doublet, a man might add a jacket (or jerkin). Other 'toppers' might be a long gown if the man were a doctor, or elderly, or a cassock or cloak to keep out the wind and the chill.

But wait, there's more.
Next came the jewelry. Rings, chains, necklaces - the Tudors loved all of it and as they were all about appearance, when jewelry was left behind by a divorced, beheaded, or dead queen, it was usually re-purposed into something used by her successor. That explains why Tudor-era jewelry didn't survive intact very often. There are a few, highly treasured bits and bobs, but most were re-fashioned and not recognizable unless there were a particularly unique stone or pearl. 

Finally, the hat. Hats for men in the early 1500's were flat caps with perhaps a plume or buttons to decorate them. Women were stuck with 'hoods' that looked like an architectural experiment gone wrong and shoved onto women's heads. Imagine wearing this:
Jane Seymour, Wife #3 to H8, wearing a hood.  

 Not only is it odd-looking to our twenty-first century sensibilities, but it was (yep) a rig that was built up in layers. If you're the kind of girl who gets 'headband headache' or 'too-tight-ponytail pain,' imagine wearing that. Pass the Tylenol.

There are so many facets of Tudor style left to explore. If you're interested in hearing more about it, leave a comment and I'll delve into children's clothes, peasant clothes, whatever floats your boat. Till next time . . . . xoxo


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