As some of you know, I do love a challenge. I also LOVE Medieval, Tudor and Elizabethan costume. Having made many Anne Boleyn style miniature dolls, I thought it was time to challenge myself with the creation of an Anne Boleyn style Tudor costume to fit the popular sized 16 inch fashion dolls.
A while ago, I bought a lovely ‘Nu Mood Breathless’ doll by Robert Tonner of the USA. The Nu Mood dolls are very good, in that they don’t have rooted hair and wear wigs that can be changed. So, they can suit many different styles and costumes.
I had my Nu Mood doll repainted by the very talented doll re-painter, Melissa Mehan and after the re-paint, I felt that this doll (now called Isabelle Rose) would suit a Tudor ensemble very well.
I had looked at several Tudor doll costumes on the internet (all of them no longer available) and I wanted to see if it would be possible to achieve a more authentic shape for my doll.
Having researched Tudor costume thoroughly over many years with my miniature dolls, I knew the pattern shapes I needed to design to achieve the right look and so I spent about two weeks making and ‘tweaking’ the patterns for this costume.
The first big design decision came with the underpinnings….what would give the skirts the shape required?
I had the choice of a wired farthingale or a stiff net petticoat.
I knew that it was possible to make a real farthingale as I had made something very similar years ago, but I also realised that, bearing in mind the costume was to be offered for sale, I had to consider the cost of such a complicated and time-consuming piece.
Sure, it would be totally authentic…..but it would also take a very long time to construct and therefore would add a huge amount to the cost of the costume.
So I decided to make a stiff net petticoat that would do the job just as well and be more economical financially.
After all, it would be hidden under the top clothes and it was the top clothing that was supposed to be the star attraction.
Next to consider was the under-skirt. The centre panel is designed to be revealed by the opening in the front of the main gown skirts. I chose a beautiful pure silk two-tone dupion, with a woven fleur-de-lys pattern. I stitched the panel onto a plain petticoat of very fine lining. So far, so good…..it was all going to plan.
I decided to tackle the main gown bodice next, as I knew the fit might prove to be a bit problematic. So, part of my pattern ‘tweaking’ was to make the bodice up in kitchen roll to check the fit on the doll. (You can just see a piece of the white kitchen paper in the picture above).
The entire top gown would need to be lined in pale coloured lining, as dark fabrics can stain a doll’s ‘skin’, so I made up the bodice in lining fabric just to double check the fit… and all was fine.
The over-sleeves needed to be made in two sections: an upper and lower section, so I made these up in lining too, just to check the length and fit. All worked well first time (phew!) so I cut the bodice and sleeves in the main fabric, a beautiful dark green two-tone taffeta that I had kept in my stash for many years…….I knew it would be perfect for something!
Once the main bodice was almost complete, I added a frill of soft white lace to the neckline, to replicate the frill from a shift that would have been worn underneath by a real person. Whilst it is possible for a doll to wear all this extra underwear, it is better to keep any bulk to an absolute minimum to preserve a good shape….after all, dolls can’t be pulled in with corsets like real people can!
The main gown skirts were quite easy to make and I was glad I had decided to add a slight train to the centre back length. For ease of dressing, I attached the bodice to the main skirt. (On a real person, these would have all been separate pieces (even the sleeves) and all would have been pinned into place).
I found a lovely necklace in a sale that I was able to take apart and re-fashion into a jewelled hanging belt, which I then attached to the over-gown.
Now that the main part of this costume was completed, I then worked on the false under-sleeves which I decided to match with the centre front skirt panel. These too had to be lined so that there was no chance of the doll being stained by the fabric.
I also matched the lace frills at the wrist edge to the frills at the neckline, to preserve continuity within the costume.
The little puffs on the lower edges were hand-stitched using wide silk ribbon. On a real person, these would have been the sleeves of an under-gown or shift, pulled through the openings of the false sleeves.
The headdress, known as a French Hood, caused more than a few headaches for me as the shaping was quite complicated. Made in two parts, it took an awful lot of ‘tweaking’ to get the right fit, size and shape….but I got there in the end.
The only change I made was to add snap fasteners to the centre back of the hood as I felt that this would make it easier to dress onto a doll and fasten under her hair. I also added clear elastic under the chin, to help keep the headdress firmly in place.
Once again, I chose to line the headdress with pale coloured fabric, just to be on the safe side. I also chose to leave out the back section, usually a black silk tube, as I wanted the doll to show off her lovely hair. (It is entirely possible that young women did sometimes wear their hair loose with these headdresses, and they are certainly depicted this way in many films and dramas. Of course, short of actually travelling back in time, we can’t be certain….but it does look very pretty!)
The final part of the ensemble was a necklace and I chose to make the Anne Boleyn ‘B’ necklace. I searched high and low for a suitably sized ‘B’ and eventually found one in silver….which I painted gold with metallic paint. The rest of the necklace was made by stringing pearl beads onto thread and attaching a pearl bead drop to the ‘B’.
The costume was finally complete and I was very pleased with the result…..but what shall I challenge myself with next? Any ideas?
Although this perticular costume is now sold, it can still be ordered from me in similar colours or in a colour scheme to suit your own taste. Just contact me and ask for details.