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RH604 - Early Tudor Noble Man's Outfit

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Be Henry VIII with our easy-to-use pattern.

The perfect gentleman's gown for the Northern Renaissance period of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn,  and "Bloody" Mary Tudor. Full size paper patterns for Early Tudor nobleman's gown and jerkin.

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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:

Early Tudor Noblemen


The clothing of noblemen in the Early to Mid-16th century was more ornate and luxurious than it had been in the previous century.  At the end of the 15th century, men had begun wearing long, fur-lined gowns, but they were very simply cut and function.  By the heyday of Henry VIII, clothing had become decidedly a symbol of wealth and power.

The typical clothing of noblemen in this period consisted of a number of layers.  A linen shirt and braies provided the foundation.  The braies were not seen.  The shirt could be glimpsed at the neck and cuffs, and sometimes also on the chest.  Following German fashions, shirts were typically heavily pleated and often embroidered with coloured silk thread or even gold.  Small widths of fabric at the top of the collar or the bottom of the cuffs was left unpleated, creating a ruffle that would evolve into the ruffs so popular in the reign of Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth.

Over the shirt and braies, the nobleman of the time wore a doublet and hosen.  The doublet and hosen evolved from the cloth hose and their support garment as far back as the 14th century.  In the second half of the fifteenth century, as noblemen’s hems rose, the legs of the hose had to be joined together.  By the sixteenth century, noblemen and commoners were wearing joined hosen pointed (laced) to doublets.  

Doublets could be simple sleeveless vests that did nothing more than support the hosen.  Or they could be elaborately decorated.  In Henry VIII’s time, we have evidence both of decorated doublets and plain, functional doublets to which were pinned or tied what the Germans called “Brustfleck”, a bejeweled and richly executed square of expensive material designed to show.  It could also be pinked, a form of decorative abuse that is thought to be inspired by the slashed clothing of Landsknecht soldiers.

There is probably no picture more indicative of the Early Tudor Noble style of dress than Holbein’s 1537 portrait of Henry VIII, reproduced at right and on the cover of this pattern.  Henry wears white hosen, gartered at the knee 

and we can see small ruffles of linen at his neck and sleeve ends.  There are also poufs of linen emerging from the pinking on his doublet, the sides of his codpiece, and between the jewels on his sleeves.  Assuming his shirt is of the same heavily-pleated variety he wears in other portraits, it is possible this is his shirt pulled through the openings.  

But it is also possible that these poufs were added for effect.

The fabric and decoration of his long sleeves and the garment on his chest are similar and it may be assumed that they are a complete doublet.  However it is possible that they are a set of matching sleeves and Brustfleck that pin or tie on.  It is impossible to know for sure.

Over the doublet, Henry wears a jerkin, the typical upper layer of men all across Europe at this time.  Noble versions were made from yards of elegant brocade and heavily pleated in the skirts.  Common versions used much less fabric.  The front of the jerkin closed at the waist, with either a scoop or slanted front opening.

Over all these layers was worn the heavy and rich gown.  This gown was often made of velvet and lined with fur.  It could be decorated with gold braid as is Henry’s in this portrait.  The short sleeves were typically very large and may have been bolstered with cane so they stood out to a great breadth.

An alternate treatment of the sleeves of the gown can be scene in a sketch of Thomas Boleyn by Holbein in 1535.  Thomas’ sleeves are not contiguous fabric as were Henry’s on the previous page.  They are constructed of strips of fabric, much like the sleeves of Landsknect soldiers.

Another interesting detail can be seen in the sketch of Thomas Boleyn.  The slashed front garment, which is only of the only coloured elements in the sketch, must be a Brustfleck, not a full doublet.  There is a layer under it that was not coloured by Holbein.  The top of the Brustfleck appears to have a row of pinked piping along it and this disappears under the jerkin front.  The jerkin front is much straighter than that of Henry.

An interesting variation on the shape and cut of the jerkin can be seen in Holbein’s portrait of two of Henry’s ambassadors.  Oversimplified in our reproduction of the ambassador on the left (Jean de Dinteville at left), the skirts of his jerkin are much less pleated than those of Henry or Thomas Boleyn.  This could be an indication of lesser wealth.  However his jerkin appears to be made from black velvet and his doublet red satin.  His black satin gown is lined with white fur.  It is not likely that he was poor.  The opening of Jean’s jerkin is much more angular than that of Henry VIII or Thomas Boleyn, indicating a variation in style.

His fellow, Georges de Selve (not pictured), wears a floor-length fur-lined cut velvet gown that he holds closed.  We cannot see much else of his clothing except a ruffled-collared white shirt and a black upper body garment.

To show the pan-European appeal of this fashion, François I, King of France, wears a version of it in a late 1520s portrait by Jean Clouet.  The first obvious difference between the French King and the other men surveyed here is his lack of a high-necked shirt.  His shirt appears to be heavily pleated with a blackworked ruffled, but it sits below his collarbones.  This, however, is a style we see in German and Italian portraiture of the time and should not be thought a specifically French style.  François’ doublet appears to close center front at wide intervals with toggles.  His shirt poufs through in the intervals.

The front of François’ jerkin is markedly different than those of the previous gentlemen.  At first glance the opening appears to be diagonal, like that of the ambassador, Jean de Dintville.  However on closer examination it is evident that the edges of the jerkin are turned under and tucked inside.  The true front closure of the jerkin may have closed center front or been an entirely different shape.  It is impossible to tell.

Another variation is the sleeves of the gown François wears.  We cannot see much of the garment, but the ends of the sleeves are decorated with a band of gold with black decoration.  These bands are hitched up on François’ shoulders, revealing the plain faun silk lining of the sleeves.  Obviously these are not the stiff, boned and bolstered short pleated or paned sleeves of the previous portraits.  François’ sleeves have to be soft to fold them in this way.  They also must be wide from shoulder to end.  We cannot tell the true shape of the sleeves without further portraits to examine, but the variations of the Early Tudor style can be clearly seen.

In any case, it is clear that the early Tudor style, as typified by Henry VIII, was an international phenomenon, worn by German, French, and other European noblemen as well as the English.


Arnold, Janet.  “Elizabethan and Jacobean Smocks and Shirts” in Waffen-und Kostumkunde, Pt. 2 (1977), pgs 89-110

Arnold, Janet.  Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620.  1985:  Macmillan, London.

Arnold, Janet.  Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d.  1988:  W.S. Maney & Son, Ltd., Leeds.

Boucher, François.  20,000 Years of Fashion.  1987:  Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.

Mikhaila, Ninya and Jane Malcolm-Davies.  The Tudor Tailor.  2006:  BT Batsford Ltd., London. 

Payne, Blanche.  History of Costume.  1965:  Harper Collins, New York.

Tudor Portraits - http://www.tudor-portraits.com

The Web Gallery of Art - http://www.wga.hu



For more, purchase this pattern.

This information © 2007 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History


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