This beautiful ornate jewelled blue gown was inspired by Henry VIII’s glamorous and attractive second wife ‘Anne Boleyn’ who is possibly one of the most famous people in English history.
Her life was steeped in drama, intrigue, romance, passion and ultimately tragedy. I first saw the film’ Anne of the Thousand Days in 1969, starring Genevieve Bujold as Anne and it inspired in her a life long passion for anything associated with her.
The bodice is the typical style of the period with a rigid, flat fronted and stiffened shape. The neckline of the gown is the ‘square’ Tudor shape and been edged with a billiment, this is an ornate edging set with gold plated cabochons, lapis lazuli gemstones and large pearls. The large brooch attached is made of sapphire jewels and drop pearls. It is a copy of a brooch worn by Elizabeth I in a portrait painted in 1547 when she was just 13 years old.
The gown laces at the back to show wealth as a maid was required to lace the dress. Working class and poor women had front lacing dresses. A rectangle of fabric called a placket is inserted at the back of the dress for modesty. A farthingale and underskirt are worn with this gown. The underskirt is made of six cotton panels with an expensive fabric used for the front panel only. This panel is lined with heavy felt so the skirt hangs well and keeps its shape.
It is made of gold damask fabric embroidered in gold thread with gold spangles to add glamour and sparkle. The lower edge is finished with a golden trim.
The sleeves are the typical ‘hanging sleeves’ or ‘Boleyn sleeves ‘of the period. They are said to have been brought to the English court by Anne Boleyn who had recently returned from France.
It was reported she had a sixth nail growing at the end of her little finger. Anne hated what some called ‘a deformity’ .So she created the hanging sleeves to cover her hands. The sleeves are made in two parts. The upper sleeve is cut in blue velvet in a trumpet shape tight at the top flaring out at the elbow. The blue satin lining is cut very long so it can create a very wide cuff. The lower sleeves are a separate garment which matches the underskirt. They are cut from gold damask lined with heavy felt. The fabric is ‘slashed’ to show the fabric of the garment beneath. The edges of the slash and wrist are trimmed with gold/black trim and embellished with elaborate jewelled buttons. White silk has been pulled through the slashes to create an attractive wrist frill and’ puffed effect’. The lower sleeves are detachable and are tied to the upper sleeve by matching velvet ribbons. A girdle and necklace matching the billiment on the neckline are worn and a lavish peacock feather fan is carried.
A French Hood is worn, this is characterized by a rounded shape, contrasted with the angular ‘English’ or gable hood. It was introduced to England primarily by Anne Boleyn, who had been raised in France. It has been created from two pieces of buckram ( heavy canvas stiffened with glue) and edged with heavy millinery wire . The pieces are covered with a light padding fabric first, then covered in black velvet. They are lined with satin are then stitched together. A billiment created from wired pearls and jewels is attached along the edges and a gold, pleated ribbon stitched around the base. A bag of black silk is attached to the back.
All in all a regal dress fit for ‘Queen Anne Boleyn’