The exaggerated profile of Henry VIII is instantly recognisable from Hans Holbein’s portrait – the colossal shoulders and chest counterbalanced by the broad stance that highlights his bulging calves. It is an image that has been reproduced countless times in paintings and prints, and subsequently on stage and screen. However, as Tudor Fashion seeks to demonstrate, it is perhaps not only Holbein who should be credited with the presentation of the English king as the embodiment of magnificence. What of the merchants, tailors and grooms of the chamber who supplied the textiles, cut the cloth and dressed the king? Furthermore, if ‘the apparel oft proclaims the man’, as Polonius declares in Hamlet, what insight can this image offer to our understanding of Henry’s interaction with his courtiers and household?
Interest in the Tudor court is seemingly inexhaustible and Eleri Lynn has been inspired to join a crowded publishing field by the regular enquiries that she fields as curator of the dress collection at Historic Royal Palaces. Tudor Fashion is a beautifully illustrated book that presents an overview of the creation and function of clothing at the Tudor court. Polonius’s advice was offered as guidance for navigating a path to the ‘best rank and station’ of France; Lynn similarly seeks to guide the reader through the rivalries of the royal household, going beyond the sumptuous surfaces to examine everything from linen to laundresses.
Few fragments survive. This is partly owing to changes in fashion, and partly to the fact that the intrinsic value of some of the materials – such as meticulously detailed embroidery or the threads of silver and gold that made up the warp and weft of the most