Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

The famed extravagance of Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn was alleged to have only worn her gowns once before tossing them to a lucky lady-in-waiting. While I’m not sure that is historically true, there is much to suggest that the court of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was extravagant.

Henry VIII’s father, Henry VII was a frugal man and his son inherited a prosperous economy and a considerable fortune, but by the the mid-1520s of Henry VIII’s reign the English throne had to turn to parliament for to fund his wars. Much of this amassed wealth had been spent on the maintaining his lavish court and household.

William Lok’s bill for January to April 1536 tells of Anne buying gowns in tawny velvet with black lambs’ fur, in velvet without fur, in damask, and in satin furred with miniver; a russet gown in caffa (heavy silk), two in black velvet, one in black damask, one in white satin and a second with crimson sleeves; a gown in purple cloth of gold lined with silver, and new carnation satin from Bruges to insert into the sleeves of a gown of tissue. There were eight nightgowns, two embroidered and another in russet trimmed with miniver; and three cloaks – of black Bruges satin, of embroidered tawny satin and of black cloth lined with black sarcenet – while Arnold the shoemaker had eight lots of black velvet to make shoes and slippers. Thirteen kirtles included white satin and white damask, black velvet embroidered and crimson satin ‘printed’, with matching sleeves. This summary is taken from The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.

Perhaps wearing a gown only once, is not such a far-fetched story! That is some wardrobe!

Mary and Anne Boleyn

Anyway, this got me thinking about how many times I actually wear a particular item in my wardrobe. While I don’t think I am much like Anne Wear-Only-Once Boleyn, I don’t think I’m Miss Havisham either, the jilted bride in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, wearing her wedding gown for the rest of her life. We are all in between the two extremes. Rather, perhaps I could classify my clothes into “Anne Boleyns” that are worn very infrequently and “Miss Havishams” that I would happily wear everyday. More importantly perhaps the Anne Boleyns could be brought back into favour and worn a bit more.

So here’s my first Anne Boleyn – a red skirt, bought many years ago. It was slightly too big for me and at the time I altered it by taking the bottom section off, cutting away the surplus inches and stitching the bottom section back on again. You really wouldn’t know I’d tampered with it. It had sat neglected in the wardrobe for a while and with the warmer weather this year I wore it quite frequently. Definitely, a skirt saved from the chop!

Red Skirt

Perhaps I’m just rambling and this post doesn’t make much sense. I have clearly been reading too much Phillipa Gregory lately. I’ve been quite fascinated by the cousin’s war and Tudor series of books she’s written. The photos are from the 2008 film “The Other Boleyn Girl“, starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, which is based on Phillipa Gregory’s book of the same name.

Anne Boleyn


Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

3 thoughts on “The famed extravagance of Anne Boleyn

  1. The Other Boleyn Girl is one of my favourite books. I really, really enjoyed it. Phillipa Gregory is an amazing writer. I wasn’t a big fan of the film though. Great informative post 🙂

  2. Well, I’ve learnt something new today!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s