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Costume Book Review: The Tudor Tailor

Cover: The Tudor Tailor, by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies. Paperback.

Cover: The Tudor Tailor, by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies. Paperback. Image for review purpose only. Do Not Copy.

The Tudor Tailor: Techniques and patterns for making historically accurate period clothing, by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies with additional research by Caroline Johnson and illustrations by Michael Perry. First published 2006, reprinted 2008. From Quite Specific Media Group. Ltd.  9 by 11 inches, 160 pages.

It includes Tudor clothing for all social classes, from the reigns of Henry VIII through Elizabeth I.

Photos of Elizabethan Man's clothing, from The Tudor Tailor. Image for revies purposes only; please do not copy.

Photos of Elizabethan Man’s clothing, from The Tudor Tailor. Image for revies purposes only; please do not copy.

I found this book at the library and took it home on impulse. I haven’t used it to make garments, but I would have been happy to have it when I was making 16th century costumes twenty years ago! I am very impressed with its organization, its content, and the authors’ generosity. Mikhaila and Malcolm-Davies  (JMD&Co.) are in the business of supplying historically accurate clothing and docent training to places like Hampton Court Palace, the National Trust, and other Historic Royal Palaces.

The fact that they are eager to share their research, their suppliers, their patterns, and their construction techniques with the rest of us makes this book extraordinary. (They also realize that not everyone can — or would want to — work to the standards demanded of them; their instructions will make sense to home stitchers.)  The book has patterns for men and women, including undergarments and headdresses: ruffs, a supportasse, French and Spanish farthingales, “bodies” (corsets), hose, trunkhose and Venetians, kirtles, partlets, jerkins, doublets, gowns, shirts and smocks.

Part of a typical pattern illustration. Image fore review purpose only; do not copy.

Part of a typical pattern illustration from The Tudor Tailor. Image for review purpose only; do not copy.

The patterns are gridded, so you can enlarge them. (Add your own seam allowances….) The women’s patterns are sized for bust 36, waist 28, and hip 38″ — “a modern size 12-14.” The men’s patterns are sized for chest 38″, waist 34″, height 5′ 7″ to 5′ 10″. The chapter on Using the Patterns includes photos & instructions how to make them larger or smaller.

The pattern instructions are detailed and step-by-step. They are illustrated with clear drawings and photos, including interiors. This book also shows how to put the clothes on, layer-by-layer and step-by-step:

Typical page on dressing in period clothing, form The Tudor Tailor. Please do not copy this image.

Typical page about dressing in period clothing, from The Tudor Tailor. Please do not copy this image.

On the page above, you see the steps for putting on this many-layered Elizabethan outfit; on the left, below the photos, are numbered construction directions continued from the previous page. On the right is this explanation of the steps photographed above: [“Effigy bodies” is the name of a specific corset pattern.]eliz woman stages text

The first section of the book, Making a Start, reminds readers that Tudor society included workers as well as aristocrats. Chapter 2, Clothing the People, and Chapter 3, Looking the Part, share a great deal of period research and photos of primary sources. Chapter 4, Choosing the Materials, includes a chart that defines Tudor fabrics, dyes, colors, and where they usually fit on the social scale. In case your local fabric store doesn’t carry stammel, lockram, or frizado,  Chapter 5, Constructing the Garments,  suggests appropriate modern fabrics. The next 99 pages are patterns.

Part of back cover, The Tudor Tailor.

Part of back cover, The Tudor Tailor.

This book is really very well done. The authors have made every effort to share their knowledge and experience. Available from Quite Specific Media for $35.

This publisher also lists several other widely used “costume shop” books, plus fashion histories. I have already recommended Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women c. 1560-1620, which has gridded patterns taken from historic garments in museum collections. It also contains a great deal of research, black & white photos, etc. It is also published by the same company: Quite Specific Media, which includes Drama Publishers and Costume & Fashion Press.

Note: News about the conflict between Amazon and Hachette made me realize that I should diversify my book links instead of taking the easy route by usually linking to Amazon. I’m trying to direct readers to a variety of online sources for new and used books, including their publishers. I’m an Amazon seller myself, so I hope it’s settled fairly and soon. (I’ve tried to give both sides in these links.) Personally, I think if Hachette wants to take the chance of losing sales by holding to higher prices, that’s Hachette’s business. Literally.

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Filed under A Costumers' Bookshelf, Accessory Patterns, Costumes for the 16th century, Hats, Menswear, Resources for Costumers, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing