08 July 2009
The Tudor period in Britain, from 1485-1603 was one of great changes in politics, religion, education, the arts, trade and of course the lives of the people. ...
PEOPLE'S lives were luxurious; increasing wealth being spent on great houses, new fashions and fabrics as well as ornaments for the home and the person, paintings and leisure.
By the time Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, life was becoming much, much harder for the very poor and the working people, who in rural areas had often relied on the religious houses and monks for support or employment. The monks, now homeless, joined the thousands of vagrants on the roads struggling to survive, who were treated very savagely; often flogged and frequently hanged. Some, though, did find employment in the new industries springing up in the towns, like glass blowing and paper- making and there was increased demand for builders – both house and shipbuilders – miners and weavers.
Goods and people began to be carried by wheeled carts and wagons, although the rivers were still the equivalent of our motorways and moved the bulk of goods around the country. The wealthy were able to indulge in expensive pastimes, such as hunting and hawking, so there was always work for experienced stable hands and falconers and travelling musicians were assured of a warm welcome. Bear and bull baiting, archery, bowls, and Morris dancing were accessible to the ordinary family, especially at holiday time. For the poor especially, changing fashions meant little, except staying dry and warm and there were little changes from the medieval period. Men wore hose of cotton or wool and loose tunics or doublet and jackets; their womenfolk covered their hair in neat caps and their plain bodices topped plain skirt and underskirts, often hitched up out of the mud. Any warm square of wool or broadcloth made a shawl or cloak for both.
In contrast the wealthy, wore and flaunted their wealth; extravagant costumes, beautifully crafted from exquisite materials like silk, velvet, rich damasks and furs and trimmed with lace, ribbons and feathers. Both men and women wore garments that were, quilted, slashed, embroidered and trimmed with pearls and jewels; hats and headdresses were ornate, collars deep or ruffled and corsets very stiff. Shoes were particularly fine. Neither clothing, nor people were washed very often, so sweet smelling nosegays and pomanders were much in evidence and floors were strewn with sweet smelling plants like meadowsweet.
From our point of view, illustrating aspects of this time in 1/24th scale is fun, if a little more challenging.