Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Question from Joan - Necklace-wearing practices

I have a question about the jewelery (specifically the necklaces) worn by Henry's queens and other women of the Tudor era. Quite often you see the "chain" part of the necklace but whatever pendant might be at the end of the chain seems to be tucked inside the bodice of the gown. Would that have some significance-perhaps a locket or cross being worn "close to the heart"? Also, sometimes on the outside of the bodice at the level where you would expect the pendant to be there is a broach. Is this actually a broach or is there an opening in the gown where the pendant of the necklace is passed through?


  1. Brooches were very popoular in the Tudor period and were frequently worn by women pinned at the neckline of the bodice of their dresses. Brooches appear in almost every surviving jewelry inventory of the period, often in large quantities. They were usually pictorial, and religious figures and Biblical stories were by far the most common subjects, with mythological figures and stories running a close second.

  2. Chains were frequently worn without pendants and sometimes brooches were attached to the chains as a pendant or accent piece. I know of no reference for chains being tucked within the bodice in order to place an object closer to the heart - but that does not mean that the custom did not exist.

    However, there are no records of any type indicating that holes were cut into bodices to pull a pendant or necklace through. It would be very uncomfortable and impractical given the construction of the clothes worn by people rich enough for these types of jewels.

    I suspect the option of wearing a necklace tucked into the bodice was the result of two things - either a stone was missing from the necklace or it was damaged in some way and tucking the bad bit in was an artful method of compensating - or it was thought a bit sexy and alluring.

  3. It's so funny that this should come up... just a couple of days ago I was looking at the poster I have of the NPG Anne Boleyn and noticed the way the gold chain and the pearl necklace disappear into the top of her bodice.

  4. LAra--where did you get your poster? I would love one!!!!!!!

  5. I bought it on one of my trips to the gallery. I'm still amazed I managed to get it back to the States without totally crushing it!

  6. I have never seen a pendant hanging from a Tudor lady's necklace tucked in or put behind her bodice.I have seen the long necklaces that they sometimes wore half tucked in the bodice.Also it was common for a Tudor lady when wearing a brooch to have it pinned below the square neckline of the dress placed in the centre.The brooches also could picture something of nature.I.E A bird or a flower.In jewellery of the Tudor period it was popular for the jewellery to represent a creature of nature or a thing of nature,religious,biblical,floral shapes,pearl,personalization or another common method was doubling up of their chains.

  7. Thank you to everyone for your responses. I'm new to this site and think it's excellent. Thank you Lara for maintaining it.

    My thought with the necklaces is that Tudor dress and jewels were so extravagant that there must be something very beautiful hanging from the chain. But if that was the case why would it be hidden away? Perhaps there was nothing. On the other hand, with the end of the chain hidden from view it at least afforded the opportunity to wear something of personal significance to the wearer- maybe something with religious or romantic meaning-just my imagination of course.

    Also, in some portraits I've seen, the placement of the chain and broach give the illusion (to me) of being a necklace with a pendant. If a chain had a pendant as large as some of the broaches and was worn outside the dress it could flop around in an unattractive and probably annoying manner. So, I guess a chain and a securely fastened broach made more sense.

    kb I think you are right about the hole in the bodice and I think the comments in your final paragraph make a lot of sense.Tudor


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