Drawings of the Hollytrees Collection. No. 1

In the late 1980’s I worked as a volunteer collating the costume collection of the Hollytrees Museum in Colchester. I drew each of the costumes in detail for their information cards (this was in the days before digital cameras and digital data gathering)! So I thought I would occasionally share one of these drawings with you. Sadly, I didn’t make a note of the accession numbers of the gowns, but here is the first:

No 1: A Titanic Era Gown: 1908-12

Original drawing by Pauline Loven

The dress consists of an oyster satin under-bodice and petticoat with overdress made from vertical panels of embroidered lace, net pin-tucked into a herringbone pattern and georgette.

The construction of the dress is complicated!

It begins with a boned silk under-bodice which closes at the centre back with hooks and eyes and extends below the waist. This is covered with fine silk. A yoke of radiating pin-tucked net, lined with fine silk, is attached to the under-bodice and closes at the centre back with five hooks and eyes. The yoke and under-bodice together form the armhole into which the under-sleeve, made of embroidered lace edged with satin ribbon, is set.

The tunic overdress has a low square neckline and Magyar sleeves which finish shorter than the under-sleeve and are edged with satin ribbon. The tunic is attached to the bodice around the neckline and from the shoulder down either side of the centre front and centre back panels.

Original drawing by Pauline Loven

The tunic overdress and lining is gathered in at the waist and is attached to the under-bodice waistline. The tunic top closes at the back left of centre with six hooks and eyes. A further three, horizontally placed, hooks and eyes attach the top of the tunic to the yoke (see above). Two hooks and eyes secure the sash at the waist and poppers concealed in the placket close the skirt.

The front and back are much alike, although the neckline is slightly lower at the back. The centre front and centre back georgette panels are each decorated with a vertical line of satin-covered ball-shaped buttons. The tunic hem is six inches shorter than the satin petticoat which is slightly trained. The hem of the tunic is decorated with satin covered bobbles. The narrow sash (made from a tube of silk satin) is knotted around the waist and two streamers hang down the front left side. Half way down, both streamers are fed through a ball decorated with satin cord. The shorter streamer finishes in a single ball, from which hangs three bobble, while the longer one finishes with a double ball with five bobbles.

© Pauline Loven

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His ‘Rose without a Thorn’

Replicating a gown for Queen Catherine Howard

Queen Catherine Howard JB

Queen Catherine Howard. Photograph © John Bennett.

In 2009 I was asked to re-create a Tudor gown fit for Queen Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, for display at Gainsborough Old Hall to commemorate Henry and Catherine’s visit made as part of Henry’s Northern Progress in 1541.

Cloth of Silver Tudor Gown

Queen Catherine Howard’s apparel consisted of a French gown in silver silk damask, with a French hood, kirtle and foresleeves of cloth of silver. They are decorated with pearls and black diamond ouches. Although the costume was to be on permanent display on a static model, I was keen that it could also be taken off the stand and worn and so all the layers, including chemise, stays, petticoat and even the linen under-cap, were created as well. However, Catherine Howard was by reputation petite and possibly under five foot in height, so I made the gown to reflect that.

Her apparel was recreated from a number of contemporary sources, including portrait and documentary, but principally the following:

· A miniature portrait thought to be of Queen Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein the Younger. The sitter is wearing jewels similar to those worn by both Jane Seymour and later Katherine Parr, and the neckline of her gown is decorated with an unusually wide band of pearls and jewels.


· In 1541, when King Henry and Queen Catherine visited Lincoln the Queen is described as wearing cloth of silver:

‘The King and Queen came riding into their tent, which was pitched at the furthest end of the liberty of Lincoln and there shifted their apparrel from green and crimson velvet respectively to cloth of gold and silver.  Behind that tent was one for the ladies, and some distance off, a “hayle” where the six children of honour dressed in cloth of gold and crimson velvet and the horses of estate were prepared’.*

In spring 2010, the filmmaking group WAG Screen (that I belong to) was asked to make a film for Gainsborough Old Hall. As this is a building of many dates and with multiple histories – many of which have a national dimension, it required an individual approach. It was to meet this challenge that the director of WAG Screen films and Crow’s Eye Productions, Nick Loven, came up with the device of having a visitor to the Hall with the gift of seeing the past.

Bryony Roberts as Catherine Howard PK

Bryony Roberts as Catherine Howard followed by Su Toogood as her Lady in Waiting and Violet, the visitor gifted with the ability to witness the past (Abigail Griffin). Photograph © Patrick Kay.

Amongst the many histories we wanted to include was that of Queen Catherine Howard. However, finding an actress to fit that petite-sized gown was going to be a challenge. We opened up auditions at Gainsborough Old Hall for an afternoon in order to find some extras and in walked a petite red-haired girl who had power-walked from school at the end of the day to try and catch us. She, Bryony Roberts, was just perfect and we couldn’t believe our luck. The gown was an almost perfect fit, the only problem being the shift which was a bit small across the shoulders, so we couldn’t tuck it away under the gown completely. We have now filmed the scenes with Bryony and her Lady in Waiting, played by Su Toogood, and they look superb.

Queen Catherine Howard and Lady in Waiting JB

Bryony Roberts as Catherine Howard with Su Toogood as her Lady in Waiting. Photograph © John Bennett.

For more on the making of this short film head to this BBC article

The film is being made by Crow’s Eye Productions and WAG Screen. You can follow Crow’s Eye Productions on Facebook: Crow’s Eye Productions Facebook Fan Page or click here for Crow’s Eye Productions web page

* I am indebted to my friend Claire Malyon who did the following research in the British Library for me :

Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, British Library.

Volume 16, Document 1088.

‘On the King’s entry into Lincoln on Tuesday the 9th Day of August’
” When it was known that the king was to come to Temple Brewer 7 miles off, to dinner, the mayor, burgesses and commoners prepared themselves towards the height as also did the gentlemen and yeomen of Lynsey, near to the King’s tents, the gentlemen and their servants on one side on horseback, and the mayor and citizens on foot. The archdeacon, dean and clergy rode a mile beyond the city liberties to the King’s tent and there made a proposition in Latin, presented a gift of victuals and then passed the nearest way to the Minister.  The King and Queen came riding into their tent, which was pitched at the furthest end of the liberty of Lincoln and there shifted their apparrel from green and crimson velvet respectively to cloth of gold and silver.  Behind that tent was one for the ladies, and some distance off, a “hayle” where the six children of honour dressed in cloth of gold and crimson velvet and the horses of estate were prepared.
On Friday the King and Queen departed for Gainsborough in like order that they arrived save that the mayor, henchmen and horses of estate were not there and the earl of Derby bare the sword.”

12th August, 1541.  French Ambassador Marillac writes to Francis I.
‘The King’s fashion of proceeding in this progress is, wherever there are deer numerous, to enclose two to three hundred and then send in many greyhounds to kill them, that he may share them among the gentlemen of the country and of his court.  When he passes any town in which he as not been during his reign, without any other solemnity other than having the streets decorated and the inhabitants going before him on their little geldings in their ordinary clothes, he himself (mounted on a great horse with all the notable lords of England in front two and two, and sixty to eighty archers with drawn bows behind) goes, with the Queen, Lady Mary his daughter and some other ladies to the lodging prepared for them.’

The Privy Council sat at Gainsborough on the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th of August.   Present were the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Great Chamberlain, the Great Admiral, the Treasurer and the Comptroller of the Household, Lord Durham, the Master of Horse, the Vice-Chamberlain, Lord Wrothesley and the Chancellor of Augmentations.

In addition to various academic references and portraiture I consulted the following books in the making of these dresses:

Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen 1500-1800 by Jean Hunnisett and The Tudor Tailor by Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhaila

Post Script 10/08/2010

On Saturday 7th August 2010, a group of re-enactors spent the night at Gainsborough Old Hall. One of the re-enactors spent the night in the Tower Bedroom where Catherine Howard was reputed to have slept and where the above gown was on display. During the night the re-enactor ran downstairs complaining that he couldn’t sleep because ‘the gown was glowing’ and refused to go back into the room until daylight!

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Girl with a Pearl Earring

The making of The Girl with a Pearl Earring and Samuel Pepys’ costumes:

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) - The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665)

Click here for the full story

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Coming soon…

The story behind this small production set in the 1670’s:


From left to right actors Tiffany Haynes and Kate Newton

Clips from this short film (by Crow’s Eye Productions) form part of the actress Tiffany Haynes showreel:  Tiffany Haynes.  The showreel, which was also edited by Crow’s Eye Productions, includes clips from ‘Lady of the Butterflies’, ‘The Blue Book’ and ‘Cinders’; some of the productions that Tiffany has appeared in.

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April Love and The Lady of Shalott

Making April Love’s clothes:

Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) (who was a second-generation member of the Pre Raphaelite brotherhood) exhibited his painting April Love (below) at the Royal Academy in 1856. The painting was inspired by another of Tennyson’s poems, The Miller’s Daughter, and was accompanied by the text:

april_love_hughesLove is hurt with jar and fret,
Love is made a vague regret,
Eyes with idle tears are set,
Idle habit links us yet;
What is Love? For we forget.
Ah no, no.

As we were staging a fictitious event where Tennyson would read his poem, The Lady of Shalott, to an after dinner audience  1856, we could not resist the temptation to include Tryphena Foord (the young model from the painting and Arthur Hughes’ future wife) wearing the dress she posed in – and wondered how many people would notice!

April Love, Tate Gallery, London

By chance I happened to have in stock a blue and purple shot silk taffeta that was a very good match for the painting. A Study of the dress in the painting suggested that the style was contemporary with the painting. The bodice had a round neckline and was fitted to the waist. It had short puffed sleeves in white organdie trimmed with lace and purple silk ribbon. I created a hook and eye fastening for the back. It was worn over a chemise and corset with drawers and petticoat.


We also found a gold heart shaped locket (on eBay) and put it on a narrow purple ribbon to match the painting. However, the shawl was much more of a problem and we did not find a good match in time for the film shoot. I have however found one since and we plan to stage a photograph of the painting next April.

The young model we found to play the part was Natasha Rigby, the sister of Victoria Rigby who played the Lady of Shalott. Natasha was a natural and did some lovely posing for us in the grounds of our film location when we were taking a break from the set. It was very cold though. Hopefully Natasha will not have outgrown the dress before we have a chance to do a proper photo shoot in a few months.


Above: a screen grab from the film. From left, Mikaela Olovson, Natasha Rigby (as April Love, Tryphena Foord) and Kate Loven.

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Four Famous Paintings

Which famous painting would you like to see come to life?

We are making a series of four comic (but affectionate) sketches based on a series of famous paintings. We have so far completed Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci), American Gothic (Grant Wood) and we are just casting A Girl with a Pearl Earring (Johannes Vermeer). We are, however undecided as to the fourth. We are very tempted to choose a Pre-Raphaelite painting and the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood are running a story for us to see which paintings their readers would like to see brought to life.

Any ideas?


Leonardo da Vinci – Jack Greene, Mona Lisa – Lydia Staniaszek

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The Lady of Shalott

The making of the costume for The Lady of Shalott.

See menu above!

Above: the music video trailer to The Lady of Shalott film.

In May 2008 we had just completed the Luttrell Psalter film and were planning to take some time off to recover from the two year project when someone observed that 2009 would be the bicentenary of Tennyson’s birth here in Lincolnshire and shouldn’t we do something to celebrate it. It took us about two minutes to decide to make a filmed dramatisation of his poem The Lady of Shalott – though I have to admit that I had not at that stage read it, I was much more familiar with the works it inspired, most particularly the paintings of John William Waterhouse.

We also knew that one of Waterhouse’s versions of the Lady of Shalott was going to be part of The Collection’s ‘Tennyson Transformed’ exhibition, and that confirmed our choice. Our film would be made to be shown at The Collection and we had less than a year in which to make it. We also planned two versions; one where Tennyson would read the entire poem to a contemporary audience and the other a full dramatisation of the words of the poem. Each of the two filmed versions would require its own set of costumes and each was to require a very different approach…




The Lady of Shalott is available on DVD from WAG Screen

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Letters from America 1699-1757

I have just put some research of mine up as a blog so it is more accessible: Hyrne Family Letters 1699-1757

The story that unfolded in these letters is one of elopement, fraud, betrayal, love, loss and courage and they reveal the attempt and ultimate success of a Lincolnshire family in establishing plantations in South Carolina in the first half of the 18th century.


For costumiers, the list of goods Elizabeth Hyrne sent from South Carolina back to her brother, Burrell Hyrne, in England, which she says ‘will sell well here’ might be of interest.

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The Orchard House Wardrobe

I have spent my time over the Christmas and New Year break rebuilding my web site.  Its still a work in progress, but I’m getting there!


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Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!

The cast of  The Lady of Shalott film sing a Victorian Christmas carol.

I will write up the costume blog for this film very soon…

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