Thursday, February 14, 2008

Question from Rhonda - Colors of Tudor clothing

Greetings! I am directing a production of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" this summer, and I wanted to find out what colors the Tudors wore during Henry VIII's time. I know that green and white are the "official" colors, but it seems like most of the Tudor clothes follow a autumn color palette (russet, gold, olive, etc).

Any help is appreciated. Thank you very much!

Take care and God bless.



Anonymous said...

Tradition has it that Henry VIII wore brightest yellow on the day Anne Boleyn was executed, so you can go well beyond the autumnal shades. But your color palette will depend in part on how meticulously accurate you want to be. During the Tudor period, all dyes were "organic" or vegetable dyes. Most dyes today are aniline synthetic dyes. So for absolute accuracy, you would want to determine what precise shades the organic dyes were so that you can match them with modern aniline dyed fabrics, as well as figure out the color spectrum of traditional organic dyes. Some colors (I believe orange was one) were difficult to achieve using organic dyes and thus did not appear in clothing until the middle of the nineteenth century when anilines dyes were discovered. That's about the extent of my knowledge. But I would suggest looking at some full-color books on portraiture or some museum catalogues from your local library to see what colors appear in painted portraits from the period.

Lara said...

I would suggest taking a look at Drea Leed's Elizabethan costuming site:

If you look down the left hand side there is a "Colors and Fabrics" link that will pull up links to articles that you will probably find helpful. And if you REALLY want to get authentic, she even has historical dye recipes!

Foose said...

phd historian and lara (and other commentators), can you tell me: I have heard that Henry VIII and Anne wore yellow on the day that the death of Catherine of Aragon was announced ("Thanks be to God, the old harridan is dead," Chapuys, etc.) but I have read two different accounts of the significance of the yellow. One said that the yellow indicated joy; but another said that yellow was a funereal color for the Spanish, indicating formal mourning for death,(like white for the French). Which is correct? Were Henry and Anne blatantly rejoicing, or adhering to the proper etiquette or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof?

Lara said...

I've heard both as well, and I have no idea which is "correct". It could be one of those things more in the "eye of the beholder".

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure both are actually correct. By wearing yellow they were laughing at their enemies but in a clever way. It was a festive color in England but by choosing it that day they were mocking the Spanish.