Dabbling in Costuming

(Jane Seymour, 3rd wife, died)

I used to be a costumer.  In fact, that’s why and how I learned to sew.  Sometimes I see period events posted by Dreamstress or Wearing History Lauren’s blogs and turn absolutely green.   Duchess Lauren’s Revolutionary gown series sent me over the edge.  I can’t stand it anymore!  I need to costume!  I need an event!  I started searching and it turns out Brisbane has a flourishing SCA barony- St. Florian de la Riviere.

(Anne of Cleaves, 4th wife, annulled)

And- dear me– they’re holding a Tudor Feast in honor of Anne of Cleaves, Henry VIII’s *ahem* overlooked wife, come mid-August.  Apparently Henry thought the court painter, Holbein, was too generous about her looks and couldn’t stand to consummate the marriage.  Or so says the gossip.  At any rate, she will be feted here and soon.  In my excitement, I wrote to my husband at work with the message “I’d cut off my right arm to go to this, can we please? Please please please??” and no link.  He rather feared I wanted to go somewhere in Scotland; when he discovered it was local he readily agreed. 

 (Young Elizabeth Tudor)

Squeee!  I haven’t done any serious costuming for nearly 10 years, I’m out of practice with my research so I’m using Simplicity patterns and not going for a careful copy of a gown in a portrait.  The steward of the event informs me that while they are not complete sticklers for accuracy, if I wear crush panne velvet they will giggle behind my back.  I think I already like them.  A large shelf on my bookcase groans with books on this era, from Phillipa Gregory novels to more serious works.  My first era-love was Elizabethan, but this is a close second.

I like this general look, though it is Italian rather than English or German.  We won’t fuss much over it.

I’m not striving for 100% accuracy.  I thought to make the doublet with sleeves, without the skirt, and with buttons.  I already scouted the fabric, but won’t buy before I run it by the person who will wear it.  My lovely, sweet husband not only agreed to wear Tudor garb, but will go to the dance lessons beforehand.  I can’t wait to see him all dressed up, he’s never done an event.  He already has a rad beard.

(Catherine Parr, 6th wife, survived)

I rather like the red/ecru/gold color schemes repeated in so many Tudor portraits, though I’m fond of blue.  In the next few day the right colors and fabrics will come together in my mind, I have no doubt.

I think this will be a great starting place, though I’m thinking I may be lazy and inaccurate and build a corset into the bodice rather than make one.

I do want hoops and a bumroll, however.  There’s no faking hoops, the finished gown would look diminished without them, and it will be lovely for dancing.  I haven’t made hoops in ages!  I like that the model has “Tudor” red hair.

It’s a large undertaking for 6 weeks, but I already started on my husband’s clothes, I sew fast, and I’m not lovingly constructing a piece of art.  Not this time, not yet.

Where do I find hoop boning (or something that will work for hoop boning) in the Antipodes?  Any words of wisdom for joining a re-enactment society?  I don’t want to embarrass myself.  How do you ladies wear your French hoods?  What keeps them in place?  Did Tudor ladies wear something very pretty beneath their hoops, in case they flashed a little in the dance?  Does anyone else love this period?

Thank you, ladies of the costume blogs, for your inspiration!  I haven’t been this pleased about something in a long time.

(I’m working through my pile of work clothes UFOs; more on that when my photographer has time….)


  1. I not only love the period, but have all the patterns you've shown. If you're going to do the sleeves on the doublet, drop the Cavalier-style cuffs and Cavalier-period yoke shirt. Tudor period mens' shirts were more boxy, with underarm square gusset (similar in construction to the S2621 smock).I don't do a farthingale, mostly because of porta-potty logistics at Ren Faire. The farthingale would not be shown, but over the farthingale most Tudor period women wore a red petticoat with welts and guards at the bottom in contrasting colors. Farthingales of the period were often "hooped" with rope or rolls of scrap fabric for those who didn't use a form of cane.While I haven't tackled a French hood, I have read they were often wired into shape during the period, and pins were used not only for hoods but to keep a gown's shoulders where they should be.I *HIGHLY* recommend the book The Tudor Tailor for patterns and construction notes.

  2. Hmmmm…. Thank you so much for the advice! Please don't watch the process too closely, I fear I may disappoint you. I might take that much care with my next gown, but for this one I have a close deadline…. Rope! Of course! Perfect! It's cheap and readily available. Fantastic.

  3. Steph, the research part is so much easier than trying to actually sew something that ends up looking at what I envision. I am approaching my 2nd anniversary of learning to sew for the purpose of having a Ren Faire costume, so you will probably execute the ideas much better than I do right now!The red petticoats are one of the easiest pieces in the ensemble. The corset ("pair of bodies" as the people of the time called them) will be the most difficult, especially with the fitting part. Which reminds me … I still have to put eyelets on my newest version.

  4. Your costumes always look so awesome! Having something come out the way you want it is part luck, part practice I think.I'm liking the idea of the red petticoats… I think I read boxy gusset shirt and panicked a little bit. hehe. I do think I'll stick to the pattern's shirt for the sake of expediency, but you're so so right about the cuffs. For the bodice, I'll just make a quick and filthy muslin, if the fit is horrific I'll use my sloper/block. It really smooths out the fitting process.

  5. I just checked out your version of the doublet. Nice, very nice. My husby would never go for yellow damask, though. I'm pushing him enough.

  6. That doublet is one of the few pieces that turned out as envisioned. The actual construction part is pretty easy, and goes together quickly. The trick is getting all the trim on the outer layer before putting it together.The shirt in that pattern for some strange reason has a LOT of fabric around the body, and may not be comfortable under a close-fitting doublet. If you do use it, you might want to take out some of the excess fabric around the torso (will also make gathering much less frustrating). If you can get your hands on The Tudor Tailor to see the Tudor-era shirt pattern, you'll see it is actually much MUCH easier. Rectangles and squares.As for the petticoat … it's a tube 3x my waist measurement box-pleated into a simple waistband. I made them over a year ago, and they were the only items I didn't feel need to be remade. Simple, quick, period-accurate … and yes, I am in my "undergarments" in my avatar pics as I still have not gotten a proper gown done. LOL You'd be surprised just how many mistakes unclear amateur photography can hide.;)

  7. ooohh! SO MUCH FUN! I am so excited for you…I will live vicariously through your costuming :) I love the email you sent to your husband..I gotta try that exact phrasing sometime! this is going to be smashing!

  8. Ohhhhhh!!!!! I loooooooovvvvvvvveeee it!!! I am huge into costuming. I made 3 versions of that doublet and all of them turned out great. THe link is for the one I made my husband. Instead of lacing I put buttons and used elastic hairties for the loops. I know the elastic is not period but no one sees them. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_8433-uM66v4/StAh4_7CA9I/AAAAAAAAATQ/DiQxZLSVszY/s1600-h/Ohio+09+139.jpghttp://store.corsetmaking.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=BONING&Store_Code=CMS&AFFIL=CM This is a great corset supply shop. I have bought spiral steel hoop boning a couple of times now and it works great. Get yourself a good pair of wire cutters though!

  9. I don't know much about Anne of Cleves but I do like those bands across her chest in the painting. (I never would have thought Henry the Eighth would turn down any willing woman. One wonders if things weren't the other way around with Anne getting one gander at Henry and saying that there was a limit to what one woman can be asked to do for God and country. :-0 )

  10. Ooooh, this sounds like fun! I can't wait to see you guys all dressed up. Was I the only one who thought Kate Middleton's wedding dress was Tudor in silhouette?

  11. I JUST bought these three patterns plus an Elizabethan dress pattern! My hubby is getting the left male ensemble (he didn't want anything "fro-fro"). And I've already bought some red and gold fabric for me! Of course, My event is not until September, but I figure I best start early! Can't wait to see your version!

  12. I used to use a comb, attached to the front inside of the hennin, to attach the thing to my head. A current commercial pattern — I think it is the Simplicity one in your post — has a crescent-shaped bit of fabric attached to the inside of the standy-up bit, that rests on your forehead to take the weight of the cap. It then ties, either under your chin or around back at the nape of your neck. They stood up well enough for two madrigal feasts at church.

  13. Oh Steph! Don't make innaccurate and cut corners! It never works! Those Simplicitity patterns take more time than using historically accurate ones! With that said, I'm super excited that you are taking up costuming and have every intention of making you dress up when you come to visit. And I loooooove all your inspiration pieces. Tudor is not my favourite period, but those are really attractive Tudor outfits.An easy and cheap option for farthingale hooping (totally inaccurate of course) is the very narrow black poly piping that they use for garden irrigating. They should have it at any home and garden store.

  14. I love your hypocrisy. This is very much a "let's get it done and go Tudor dancing already" type of project, I promise to do more research next time. That said, I'm in thrall to the research.

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