tudor ensemble 1

Kimiko Sews

A Gentlewoman's Creative Blog

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Book review, The Queen's Servants
book research
For those who don't normally read my personal LJ, I had posted there that I had been involved in the proofing of the new book, The Queen's Servants by Caroline Johnson (55 pgs). Now that the book is out and as of today in my hands, I feel I can now share my thoughts in a book review.

First off what will hit you is the number of wonderful color photos and images that are in the book. The first half has images from all over the place, tapestries, effigies, portraits, stained glass windows, even snippets of the written documents they researched and more. The second half where the garments are described and patterns are given has more color images and photos, color drawings of the people mentioned in the documents, photos of the models wearing the garments made from Ninya's patterns, and sketches to help show hand stitches and other details for making up the garments.

The book has the following headers
Sources for the illustrations and patterns
Index of key terms

They really focused most of their work from the written documents of the time period, which is from Henry VII into the early years of Henry VIII (1485 to 1520). These documents are not included in the book, but the information was carefully gone over and sample garments drawn from the info. The garments were mostly livery given to the women involved in the Queen's court, from baby "rokkers" to the ladies who served the Queen. This does mean that in some ways the info is limited to that which is specifically covered in these documents, but it is interesting as well to find out what IS in the documents.

The author really gets into the furs and fabrics that were used by the court ladies, from the finest reserved for the royals, to the lowest. And they get very specific, as in what sort of fur was used where, the types of wool, linen & silks, and what sorts of colors were given in livery or used by the ladies.

You want to know the widths and length of the fabric used? They tell you. They tell you the price, the colors it came in, and a description of the different types of each fiber or fur used. If it isn't in here, it was not mentioned in the documents.

Then it gets into describing the various garments and how much yardage of what type of fabric was given in the accounts. They start with the gowns, from both Henry VII & early Henry VIII's styles. They describe the differences between the two styles, and how H8 was more generous to his women than H7 was which ends up reflected in both style and fabrics given.

There is discussion of what H7's daughters, Margaret & Mary, were provided with, including lining materials, and how the pleats were lined & stuffed. There are images to help fill out the details, since written documents can only provide so much info. Kirtles, Linens and headwear are also discussed in detail. I personally learned quite a lot on the headwear, as some of it you only find out when you read the documentation and not just look at pretty pictures. I'll leave the surprises for those who get the book.

This is where they get into the various women of differing ranks to give examples of what was given to them from the king's wardrobe accounts. Not all of the court ladies were given items, but for those that did receive something, they describe it here including having an image of the woman, wearing what she's given with extra items shown with her. It was interesting for me to see that a Scottish woman, for example, was given a simple but costly outfit in black velvet (and not a sign of any tartan around her ;-p ). They really go into details, from the fabrics, to amount of yardage, and prices for everything. They also show a possible cutting guide to show how the garments were cut from the given fabric amounts. I think a person could take a sample woman and go about recreating their whole given wardrobe from this info.

They also talk about a few young girls who were involved in the court, along with what the royal children received and wore. And if you have children, you have to have pregnant women from time to time, and they do briefly discuss pregnancy and clothing as well.

This is where the patterns and their construction are discussed. They based their pattern information from 3 types of sources as already discussed,
documentary – the wardrobe accounts and warrants detailed in the previous chapters;
archaeological – the few original garments, or fragments of garments which survive; and
visual – paintings, portraits, woodcuts, brasses, stained glass, effigies, tapestries and carvings.*

The patterns are shown clearly, and the instructions are written out well enough that I could follow along. They've given sketches of certain hand stitches or instruction areas that might be tricky, which I think will help those like me who need visual clues to help their sewing. There are also photos of the models wearing the kirtle & gown layers, one above the other, which helps as well. And one of the models is not a slender woman, which I think will be helpful for those of us who are not thin and have wondered if these outfits would look decent on us larger women. I have to say she looked great.

There is a part that is new to this series of books, and that is the little pie charts with info on both color, and on the fabric type that was found in the written records. This is going to be helpful for those who want a more accurate representation outfit.

There are two different gowns being offered, one styled from H7's era, the other with more fabric and different style of H8's early years. They discuss how to pad pleats in a method that is new to me, and how to work with fur. There are many choices to make with the gowns, train, no train, puddle length, and four different sleeve types.

Then there is the headwear. I'll admit it took a little bit to wrap my mind around what they are doing here and why, but it is all good. And I won't give it away as to how they make them, but I will say that this time it is in various parts in the (what I believe to be) more historical multi-part method, which makes it easier to mix and match to suit your whim of the day.

After all this is the Sources for the illustrations and patterns, Footnotes, and Index of key terms, which is exactly what they say they are. Lots of sources and notes, in very small print to get them within the allotted space. I think the index of key terms will be helpful to folks who come across an unknown word and want to know where it is fully discussed in the book.

So are there any Cons to this?
* Well, it doesn't list the various written account entries, which was not the point of this book. I think that would be a book unto itself, or a future online database project.
* They didn't describe most accessories in the pattern section. Most of those are simple pieces for girdle or the rails, but I know some people want all those simple pieces.
* It does not discuss anyone outside of the English Queen's court and her servants. This means that there is more out there that remains to be found, discussed and shared. And not all the headwear discussed ends up as a pattern.
* I can't think of anything else right now. If I do, I'll update this, but really that tells me it was very minor if I can't remember it.

So, if you haven't ordered and received it by now, I hope with the above review you seriously consider purchasing the book, especially if this is a time period of interest to you.

*While there are several images in the book, they plan on putting up a list of the 200 images they used in their research on their web site. I was informed by Ninya that some of those images came from my own web site, which I am glad was of help.

  • 1
(Deleted comment)
:-) Enjoy your reading.

  • 1

Log in

No account? Create an account