Bess Chilver, a costumer and Tudor dress expert, spoke to us about Tudor clothes on our recent Anne Boleyn Experience Tour and now she has written an excellent article on women’s dress at the court of King Henry VIII. Here is an extract of it and you can read the full article at our “Tudor Clothes” page.
Women’s Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII
It is without doubt, that the clothing for noble men and women in the reign of King Henry VIII were exquisite. Portraits show a woman’s silhouette is conical in shape whereas the men’s silhouette is wide and square. For both men and women, fabrics are rich and luxurious using sumptuous silks and satins, the finest linens and velvets with abandon.
The fabrics and decorations used are only part of the story. Each garment worn adds to the complete ensemble. To modern eyes, the number of layers worn seem excessive, yet each layer is necessary to the whole.
So what are the garments and layers that are worn by women in the Tudor Period? The minimum number of layers actually worn would be four: Smock; Petticoat; Kirtle and Gown. Depending on where within Henry VIII’s reign one was, other layers such as the farthingale, forepart and partlet would also be worn. Headwear would be the finishing touch.