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Tudor Costume and Fashion

Tudor Costume and Fashion

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by Herbert Norris

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Monumental, profusely illustrated study of English fashions from 1485–1603. Highly authentic, detailed survey exuberantly describes clothing, headgear, hairstyles, jewelry, collars, footwear, more worn by royalty, nobility, middle and lower classes. Most illustrations from contemporary sources. 1,000 black-and-white figures. 24 halftones. 22 color plates.


Monumental, profusely illustrated study of English fashions from 1485–1603. Highly authentic, detailed survey exuberantly describes clothing, headgear, hairstyles, jewelry, collars, footwear, more worn by royalty, nobility, middle and lower classes. Most illustrations from contemporary sources. 1,000 black-and-white figures. 24 halftones. 22 color plates.

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Tudor Costume and Fashion


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1997 Richard Martin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14151-0





Accession of Henry VII, 22nd August. Fulgens and Lucres by Henry Medwall. The earliest English printed play, published 1485–90.


Bartolommeo Diaz, Portuguese navigator, led an expedition fitted out by Joam II to the Cape of Good Hope.


Rebellion of Lambert Simnel (son of an organ maker at Oxford). Crushed at Stoke, 15th June.


Thomas Cromwell born, son of a blacksmith at Putney: destroyer of the famous shrines throughout the country. Executed 1540.

John Cabot arrives in England and settles at Bristol. Born during the first half of the fifteenth century at Genoa, he went to Venice in 1461. In 1496 he was granted by Henry VII 'the right to seek islands and countries,' and with his three sons sailed from Bristol in May 1497, reaching the American mainland the 24th June following. Date of death unknown.

Sebastian Cabot, born probably at Venice in 1474, was the second son of John. Accompanied his father in 1496, and eventually they discovered Newfoundland, Labrador, and Cape Florida; was later employed by Henry VIII until 1512. He then entered the service of Spain (with the exception of two years' banishment in Africa 1532) until 1547. Returning to England in that year, he was nominated first Governor of the Merchant Adventurers 1553, and died in London in the last quarter of 1557. His pension was paid in September of that year, but not in December. His portrait may be seen in the Bristol Art Gallery; another, by Lorenzo Lotto, belongs to the Earl of Harewood.


Christopher Columbus discovered America, 12th October. Born about 1436 at Genoa (?), son of a woolcomber. Died at Valladolid, 1506.

Perkin Warbeck's Rebellion, 1492–9.


War between France and Italy, until 1496.


Francois Rabelais born at Chinon. A mendicant friar, author, and one of the most scholarly men of his age. Qualified as a physician. Died 1553.


Cornishmen's Revolt.


Desiderius Erasmus came to England. Born 1466 at Rotterdam. Secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai 1491. Bachelor of Divinity, Cambridge, 1505. Died at Basle 1536.

Vasco da Gama reached India by sea route round the Cape of Good Hope. Born about 1469 at Sines, Portugal. Died at Cochin 1524.

1498 (about).

Edward Hall born, citizen of London, lawyer. Died 1547. His Chronicle extended from 1399 to 1547.


Edward, Earl of Warwick (nephew of Richard III), the last Prince of the House of York, beheaded 24th November. Born in 1474/5 he was the only son of George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel, daughter and coheir of Richard, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.


War between France and Spain. In this campaign the Chevalier Bayard (1476–1524) performed prodigies of valour.

Abuse of Privileges of the Church by ecclesiastics leads to the Pope allowing investigations to be made into various monasteries—the prelude to the political Reformation.


John Colet became Doctor of Divinity. Born about 1467, son of a City knight. Dean of St. Paul's 1505. Founder of St. Paul's School 1510. Died 1519.


Polydore Vergil, an Italian, commissioned by Henry VII to write a history of England. Born about 1470 at Urbino. Returned to Italy 1550. Died 1555.

Martin Luther entered an Augustinian monastery. Born 1483 at Eisleben, son of a miner. Excommunicated 1520. Translated the Bible 1522. Married a nun 1525. Died at Eisleben 1546.


John Leland, the first English antiquary, born in London. He was at St. Paul's School and Christ's College, Cambridge. Appointed King's Antiquary 1533, and made his antiquarian tour 1534 to 1543. Rector of Haseley, Oxon, 1542. Died 1552. Author of Itinerary and Collectanea.

Nicholas Udall born. Wrote the first true English comedy, Ralph Roister Doister, 1553-4. Head master of Eton 1534. Head master of Westminster 1554. Died 1556.


The League of Cambrai: France, Spain, and the emperor unite with many Italian powers against Venice.

Ferdinand Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba or Alva, born. Present at the Battle of Pavia 1525. Sent to subdue the Netherlands 1567; recalled after six years. Called upon to suppress Portugal 1581. Died 1582.


John Calvin, the Protestant Reformer, born at Noyon. Died 1564.

Death of Henry VII, and accession of Henry VIII.

THE ARTS, 1485–1509


Sculptured monumental effigies continue to afford valuable sources of information on costume throughout the period covered by volume iii.

As previously, the Gothic style prevailed: the figures were recumbent, i.e. lying on their backs, with their hands clasped; the heads of knights rested upon their helmets, while ladies had embroidered cushions to support them. At the feet were animals, usually from their heraldic achievements. Cushions were also used under the heads of civilians.

Weepers appear on many monuments at this time, and were in use sparingly almost to the end of the sixteenth century.

Men of rank were nearly always shown wearing full armour, sometimes with their mantles of office over it. Effigies of women are the most useful, because they are usually wearing their best dresses. What is so helpful about effigies is, that one can walk round them and examine details at close quarters.


Memorial brasses in England have been grouped broadly, by the eminent historian, Herbert Haines, into three main periods. The first covers the earliest examples, and finishes at the end of the fourteenth century; the second closes with the death of Henry VII; and the third surveys the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The first period, and the major part of the second, have been dealt with briefly in volume ii of this work.

More brasses were laid down towards the end of the fifteenth century than during the periods previously described. They were used by all classes of the community, and great numbers commemorative of civilians are still in existence.

The artistic deterioration of memorial brasses continued. Over-abundance of shading and too much detail were introduced, which spoilt the composition; and conventionality of treatment became more noticeable. The metal used was thinner than before, and the engraving necessarily shallower.

To effigies of man and wife were frequently added groups of their children —the sons under the figure of their father, and the daughters under that of their mother. About the same time, figures of the deceased in the attitude of prayer were substituted for the older recumbent effigies.

The method of showing women with their heads in profile, or three-quarter, in order to display the headdress to better advantage, was still continued.

Lettering of the inscriptions was somewhat crowded: the older use of the Norman-French language and Lombardic capitals was superseded by Latin (and occasionally English), with Gothic letters.

The second period of the classification of brasses ends in 1509.


Tapestries of the period comprised in this volume are divided into two classes:

Gothic, fifteenth century to 1515. Renaissance, 1515 to 1615.

Tapestry characteristic of the period 1485–1509 is known as late Gothic, and was for the most part woven in French Flanders. After the fall of Arras in 1477 tapissers from that town settled in Bruges, Brussels, and Tournai. The following are some of these master-craftsmen: Stephen of Brumberghe, who worked thirty years on 'The Acts of the Apostles'; John Roubronck, Perquid d'Ervine, Peter van Oppenom, and John van der Brugghe. The men who were responsible for these masterpieces were artists as well as master-weavers, collaborating with the designer, and at their discretion altering the detail of a cartoon, choosing the colouring, and even introducing new figures into the composition, if, in their judgment, they considered the cartoon unsuitable for translating into tapestry.

In workmanship, colour, and design, tapestries of this period are second only in excellence to the earlier Gothic tapestries executed before 1480. Those made in Brussels during the period dealt with in this chapter, interwoven with gold and silver, are considered by some equal in beauty to those of an earlier date.

The costumes and accessories depicted in late Gothic tapestries are of the greatest value for study, particularly as the artist-cartoonist at this time designed his own figures, whether biblical, classical, historical, or 'up to date,' wearing fashionable contemporary dress.

The 'sets' are too numerous to mention here, but 'The Story of David' in the Musée Cluny contains ten panels rich with gold. They afford excellent material for the study of costume, etc., of this period, especially in some panels which depict Court scenes.

The 'Salvation Series' of tapestries consists of many sets, of which some were called 'The Story of the Seven Deadly Sins.' One set of the latter woven at Brussels about 1500 was purchased in 1531 by Cardinal Wolsey, to hang in the Legates' Chamber of his palace at Hampton Court, where some of them still remain. Reproductions of this set of tapestries are excellent illustrations of the dressing of morality characters during the last ten years of the fifteenth century.

'The Trojan War' series is an interesting set to be seen at Zamora Cathedral in Spain, of which there are several replicas by the same makers in public and private collections.

The tapestry in St Mary's Hall, Coventry, is said to depict Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, but it is obviously dated about the year 1490 (see vol. ii, p. 355, and Figs. 6, 7, 69, and 145 of this volume).

Mention is made in vol. ii, p. 355, footnote, of the wonderful tapestries now at the Musée Historique Lorraine at Nancy, and described by Viollet-le-Duc as having been taken as loot by the Swiss from the camp equipment of Charles le Téméraire after the Battle of Granson in 1476. The authorities of the Musée have been kind enough to furnish minute details of the tapestries in their possession, from which it is certain that they were wrongly ascribed by Violletle-Duc. They were, in fact, not in existence at the time of Charles le Téméraire's death. The series represents 'The Condemnation of Banquet and Supper,' and was woven at Tournai in 1510. It is particularly useful for the study of costume, etc.

The tapestries actually taken by the Swiss in 1476 are now preserved in the Berne Museum. They are of the kind known as 'Gothic Verdure Armorial.' In such tapestries the whole surface is covered with flowering plants growing, as it were, in grass. Armorial bearings and initials are frequently set in the midst of this verdure, but they are useless to the student of costume.

The most wonderful collection of Flemish or late Gothic tapestries in existence belonged to ex-King Alphonso XIII of Spain. They are most interesting and informative for the study of costume and other details.

A fine set of four panels was made in the Netherlands for Philippe le Beau and his wife, Joanna, the sister of Henry VIII's first queen. The subject is 'The Story of the Holy Virgin,' and the set was designed, it is said, by Jan van Eyck. They are woven in silk, wool, gold, and silver, with the figures garbed in contemporary fashions. They adorned the private apartments in the Castle of Tordesillas on the Douro occupied by the unfortunate mad Queen Joanna during her detention of forty-seven years. On this account, perhaps, they were affectionately cherished by her descendants.

Tapestries depicting the hunt were much in favour during the period under discussion, and examples can be found in many collections. The 'Chasse au Faucon' set in the Musée Cluny shows wonderful costumes of the time of Charles VIII.

Some subjects are working men and others peasants. A useful set showing the former, woven in the last decade of the fifteenth century, is to be found in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.


As stated on p. 356, vol. ii, the best illuminated manuscripts of this later period were produced in Flanders, where the art reached its highest point of excellence at the end of the fifteenth century and during the early years of the sixteenth. These were greatly prized by collectors of the period.

The figures are well proportioned, their clothes well defined, and the draperies arranged in very beautiful folds, though perhaps a little formal. Furniture and all kinds of useful everyday objects executed with neat draughtsmanship are to be found in the folios of these valuable works of art. Landscapes and architecture are treated in a very delightful manner, and full justice is done to atmosphere in depicting really lovely scenery. These pictures with their borders occupy, as a rule, a full page.

Borders consisted of a rather wide monochrome band decorated with naturalistic flowers—single blossoms of roses (seeFig. 54), carnations, cornflowers, pansies, daisies, etc. Often short sprays of these flowers were painted with their shadows to give the effect of their being laid on the background.

Fruit, especially the strawberry, was frequently introduced, and it was quite usual for insects of all kinds to be dotted about amongst the flowers and fruit.

The work of the French manuscript artists approached in excellence the finished style of the Flemish, in fact they were very close rivals; and their work shows strong affinities with Flemish art. Illuminated manuscripts produced in south-east France display Italian influences in the technique.

Long after the introduction of painting, Illum. MSS. continued to be produced in France, but very few Illum. MSS. were done in England at this period; most of those that were made here were the work of resident Flemish artists who had been invited over by those interested in their art.


A very useful supplement to other authorities on costume is the study of portrait painting, an art which made considerable strides during the fifteenth century, and, towards the end of it, had attained a notable distinction.

Full-length portraiture was not attempted by the artists in this country, the head and shoulders only being depicted. Portraits were usually painted in oil upon wood, oak panels often being used, sometimes with semicircular tops (Fig. 2). Backgrounds were in gold, or a pattern was painted to represent a rich brocade. In front of the figure a parapet was often shown, covered with tapestry or brocade, on which the hands rested (see Fig. 226).

Since the time of Henry III no English sovereign took so much interest in art, or was so generously its patron, as Henry VII. His privy purse expenses abound with items relating to payments to artists: 'Thomas Paynter for paynting,' and 'Maynard the King's Payntour,' are two among the names recorded.

There is some doubt as to the existence of any creative school of English portrait painters at this period; but there is sufficient evidence that a few English painters, other than those already mentioned as being remunerated by Henry VII, were at work, many as copyists from Flemish original works. The portraits at Windsor of the kings from Henry V to Henry VII (see vol. ii, p. 356), and those of many other personages in various collections, were probably painted by Flemish artists. By command of Henry VII many copies of the portraits in the royal collection were probably made by English artists, chiefly for display at the Palaces of Westminster, Greenwich, and Sheen. They are now scattered throughout the land; some are still in the possession of private persons, and a number of them now belong to the Society of Antiquaries. These portraits are most valuable for the details of head attire, and especially of jewellery. The limited portions of the costumes they depict are those fashionable in western Europe during the reign of Henry VII.

Before the dawn of the sixteenth century, when HANS MEMLINC (1430—94) was at his prime, and JEROME BOSCH (1460—1516) was about to make his name, no Flemish artists of any repute considered it worth their while to give up their connections on the Continent and seek their fortunes in England. It has been suggested that JENIN GOSSART DE MAUBEUGE (1470—1534), better known as JAN VAN MABUSE, made short visits to this country to execute commissions before the year 1503, and some portraits of the reign of Henry VII are attributed to this artist.

The family of HOORENBAULT, established at Ghent from 1414 until 1544, were responsible for many portraits of continental notabilities, and, most likely, of some of their English contemporaries.

JEHAN BOURDICHON (1478–1516) was an artist of the Franco-Flemish school and became Court painter to Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany about 1495. He was also valet de chambre to the King.

Another artist of the same school, JEHAN PERRÉAL, known as JEHAN DE PARIS, was born at Lyons, where he painted as early as 1483. In 1497 he was appointed Court painter to Charles VIII and toured Germany and Italy, painting portraits of many distinguished people. He entered the service of the Archduchess Marguerite of Austria in 1504. In 1507 he painted several members of the French Court, under Louis XII, to whom he had been appointed Court painter.


Excerpted from Tudor Costume and Fashion by HERBERT NORRIS. Copyright © 1997 Richard Martin. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Tudor Costume and Fashions 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book on tudor clothing. It includes not only the noble, but styles from just about every walk of life (including sailors!) It has hundreds of wonderful pictures, but I was disappointed that only a very few were in color and of the entire outfit. This book is very technical, more for someone who really likes the research aspect of historical fashion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. This is one of the best ever published on Tudor fashion. It spans over 120 years of some of the richest times in fashion history in its 832 fantastic pages. The color plates are a joy to behold (the one of Elizabeth of York is my fave) and this is a remarkable book for all.