U3A Tudor Talk

On Thursday 4 April 2024 we presented our Tudor Talk with costume display for the University of the Third Age in Washington Tyne and Wear.

The University of the Third Age (U3A) is an international movement whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community — those in their third ‘age’ of life.. There is no universally accepted model for the U3A – apprently its original conception was in France. Over 150 members of the U3a joined us for my popular talk.

We presented a number of my costumes including Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and also a personal appearance of King Henry VIII in full regalia.


I  included a mannequin dressed as Mary Queen of Scots wearing a gown inspired by clothing worn by her for her execution at Fothergay Castle in 1587. I also created Mary’s gold rosary with cross which is currently on display at Jedburgh in the Queens House. As the U3a recently visited this 16th century tower house they were well acquainted with items of Mary Queen of Scots mentioned during my talk!

My mannequin wearing reproduction Tudor Underwear was important to show what “went on underneath the clothes” to give the correct body shape for period clothing. My items included a 16th century corset,chemise, bum roll and farthingale.

After my talk I included a question and answer session and received a number of interesting questions and my answers which I am happy to share  :-


What are the Washing Instructions for Tudor Costumes?

Linen and cotton used for underwear can be washed however the outer garments such as the silk gowns and doublets embroidered and decorated with jewels or expensive trimmings cannot be washed at all as they would be ruined. The chemise or shirt worn next to the skin would save the outer garments as they absorbed persperation and other body oils and are regularly washed.


How long does it take me to dress King Henry VIII for the talk?

Apprently it took two hours for servants to dress King Henry VIII as there are numerous small puffs of fabric from his shirt to be pulled through the slashing on his gold damask padded doublet.  To dress my  Henry VIII probably about 15 – 20 minutes as the silk puffs are sewn in to save time as the costume was used for Fashion Shows!

Cost in the 16th Century for a Doublet – equivalent value now

Fabrics and clothes for royalty were very expensive in the 16th Century  – no mass production or cheap machine made fabrics.  The King’s gold doublet embroidered and embellished with expensive jewels and it would cost in the 16th Century the equivalent of a small Tudor house.

I chatted to members afterwards who had seen my period fashions shows presented at Belsay Hall during a Bank Holiday weekend and one remembered an apperance by my late husband as the older King Henry VIII at Crook Hall in Durham a number of years ago!

I  received interest from a number of members about my other talks – including my Regency talk which includes an apperance by Mr Darcy!

We enjoyed presenting our talk and the members of the U3a who joined us enjoyed it too. A number of the U3a members told me it was the best talk they had ever had!


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