Everybody loves a good period drama. And even more so when it’s inspired by true events! No other dynasty has resulted in so many television shows, movies, and documentaries quite like the Tudor dynasty. And no other king has been the target of so much speculation and curiosity as King Henry VIII and his six wives. The television series The Tudors might have come to an end almost a decade ago, but it still remains in our memories as one of the best and most intriguing depictions of Henry VIII’s life.
A lot of factors came into play in the show’s success. The political intrigue, the stunning scenery, and, of course, all the good-looking characters. But there’s one thing that almost outshines them all – the costumes. So much so that costume designer Joan Bergin walked away with three Primetime Emmy Awards for her work on the show! Have you ever wondered just how many details you might have missed in all the beautiful clothes from the show? Let’s take a look!
10 No Wigs For Men
It’s pretty obvious that fashion in 16th century England was far from being what it is today. A quick glance through ancient portraits and movies or television series that take place in that era is enough to realize this. Custome designers often go above and beyond to ensure that they stay as true as possible to the time period they are depicting.
However, some liberties will always be taken in order to make the characters resonate with the audiences. In the case of The Tudors, Joan Bergin made the decision to not give men hairpieces and wigs, as they wore in the 16th century, in very ridiculous fashion. Henry’s credibility would significantly decrease if he wore a curly white wig, right?
9 The Rockstar Of His Time
Joan Bergin has been very vocal about how she perceived Henry VIII, and what she wanted actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers to embody. In her eyes, Henry was a rockstar, the all-powerful King of one of the greatest nations in the world. All the choices made in terms of costumes for Henry were made keeping this in mind.
Which is exactly why the King is often seen using pieces made out of leather and modern fabrics, tight enough to make his figure the star of any room, and extremely flattering. The kind of clothes you would expect a brave, handsome, and attention-grabbing man to be using on an everyday basis.
8 The Thin Sleeves
One of the most striking features out of all the gorgeous costumes we’ve seen on The Tudors were undoubtedly the gowns. Queens, princesses, and ladies of the court alike were all highborn and often seen rocking the kind of dresses most of us can only dream of wearing. Not to mention, of course, all the opulent jewelry.
There was, however, slight creative liberty taken by the designer. While at the time, fur sleeves with very large apertures tended to be the norm, the sleeves we see on the show are thin and dainty. This is something more likely to be witnessed during the Elizabethan era – curiously enough, when Henry VIII’s second daughter, Elizabeth, ruled.
7 The Clothes Speak For The Character
Careful inspection of the costumes a second time around might give you a little more insight than you would expect into who the characters are, and what their lives are going to look like. One of Joan Bergin’s favorite parts of working on the show was the freedom to design clothes that gave away something about the characters’ moods and fate.
A great example of this is Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Throughout her run on the show, Anne’s character goes through a very complex journey. We get to see her evolve from a highborn lady to the woman who conquered the King’s affection and, eventually, his wife. All of this development is interpreted through her clothes, particularly when she peaks as Queen.
6 The Masquerade
Back in the first season of the show, audiences were eager to follow the forbidden love story between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Even though everyone who knows a little bit about history knew exactly what was going to happen, the show was so good it managed to keep fans hooked – a lot of it due to the chemistry between the two actors.
There is a particular scene during which Anne catches the King’s eye for the first time, during a masquerade party of sorts. The costumes are angelic and beautiful. And, as it turns out, they were inspired by Degas & Balenciaga’s corsets. Curiously enough, the inspiration for the corsets was the Elizabethan era.
5 Real-Life Inspiration
We can’t even begin to imagine the work that goes into costume designing in general. But especially when we’re talking about a period piece, where everything is so beautiful, opulent, big, and particular. Add the need to dress dozens of main characters and hundreds of extras, and you’ve got your work cut out for you!
Before the costumes for The Tudors began being designed, a lot of research was conducted into the time period in question. Joan Bergin read many journals that were written by people at Henry’s court in order to get a better grasp of how things looked, and how she could translate that onto the screen.
4 The War Wish
Particularly at the beginning of the show, Henry is introduced to audiences as a man who is still young, vigorous, and thirsty for power. By all accounts, this sounds like a very accurate depiction of the real Henry VIII. And what young, vigorous King who wishes to bring glory to his name and country doesn’t dream of war?
The costume designer was very much aware of this and made sure the clothes had a very particular nod to Henry’s wish of going to war. If you look closely, the King’s clothes are filled with tiny military details, including leather and moleskin.
3 Coronation Fit For A Queen
Anne Boleyn’s coronation was the event she waited a lifetime for. And unlike Henry’s next Queen, Jane Seymour, who was forced to wait until both money and proof that could bear an heir materialized to be crowned, Anne was awarded an expensive, lavish, opulent coronation truly fit for a Queen.
And of course, her costume had to be all of these things. The dress worn by Natalie Dormer is almost two centuries old, made almost entirely of silver. Plus, the stunning jewels that covered Anne Boleyn during her coronation are worth a whopping $65,000 – not something you would casually wear to the store!
2 European Influences
England wasn’t exactly well known for being the most stylish country out there. When one thinks fashion and elegance, your mind inevitably wanders to places like France, Italy, or Spain. Even though things have changed and fashion is now a completely spread-out phenomenon without defined borders, at the time, English fashion was harsher and gloomier than the rest of Europe.
In order to somewhat counteract this, the costume designer slowly started to bring more European influences into the clothes worn by the characters, creating a softer and more exquisite overall look for everyone.
1 Hinting At Mary’s Fate
Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s first daughter, had a tough life. She saw her mother cast away from her place as Queen, she was relegated to the role of a bastard, and her father never truly cared for her. Even though for a time she seems to become close with her father, things slowly begin to shift.
A time finally arrives when Mary realizes she will never be Queen (even though she eventually did), and this transition between happier times with Henry and this tragic realization are all present in her costumes. She slowly moves from wearing more colorful pieces and low necklines to much darker clothes and accessories, hinting at the inner pain she’s feeling.
NEXT: Handmaid’s Tale: 10 Hidden Details About The Costumes You Didn’t Notice