The Queen's Servants

A Tudor Tailor Case Study by Caroline Johnson

Editors: Jane Malcolm-Davies & Ninya Mikhaila


  • 56 pages with colour illustrations throughout
  • Detailed line drawings and diagrams by Michael Perry
  • Sumptuous full-colour photographs by Henrietta Clare
  • Patterns for smocks, kirtles, gowns and headwear with advice on appropriate fabrics and comprehensive making instructions
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New Improved Expanded Second Edition

Printing a Second Edition has allowed us to correct mistakes that escaped notice in the first edition, and to make improvements in response to comments by readers. The most significant change is the expansion of the index of key terms into a comprehensive glossary. In addition, ambiguities have been clarified, typographical errors have been corrected and instructions have been streamlined.


Fat Goose Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new book offering a detailed insight into women’s dress at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Queen’s Servants paints a vivid picture of the styles of dress worn at Henry VII’s and Henry VIII’s courts, using evidence from royal warrants and account books in The National Archive. Purchases by the Great Wardrobe for the ladies of gentle birth who attended the queens and their children are clues to the appropriate appearance of a woman in close contact with the royal family.

Based on Caroline Johnson’s transcriptions and translations of more than 200 hand-written pages of the original Latin and English documents dating from 1485 to 1520, the book reveals a wealth of fascinating facts about expenditure on garments for gentlewomen serving at the Tudor court. The documents provide precise evidence of the fabrics and yardages, pinpointing features of cut and construction, such as the presence of padded pleats at the back of a gown in 1498 and the extravagant size of wide sleeves. The clothes demonstrate a transition in English style between the flowing lines of the late medieval period and those toward the end the reign of Henry VIII when French gowns and hoods became the characteristic wear of the elite. Typical furs, fabrics and colours are identified with their conventional uses for specific garments and indications as to how these changed over the 35 years of the survey period.

Ninya Mikhaila’s patterns provide guidance on the reconstruction of a complete set of clothes for a gentlewoman at the turn of the century including several styles of smock, a typical kirtle and two styles of gown with a range of sleeve variations. Bonnets, pastes and frontlets are the usual items of headwear issued to gentlewomen during the era. Suggestions for recreating these are also provided. The patterns are based on the evidence from the royal accounts together with an extensive pictorial survey of portraits, brasses and stained glass and detailed examination of three-dimensional sources such as church effigies. The patterns are complemented by helpful diagrams dealing with practical techniques and useful tips for making the garments.

The range of original images, previously unpublished material from documentary sources, and the artist’s impressions of clothing based on them make this book an essential text for students of sixteenth century dress and an asset to anyone interested in accurately reproducing clothing of the era.


This companion volume to The King’s Servants (reviewed in Costume, 44, 2010) provides a wealth of detail about gentlewomen’s clothing at court between 1485 and 1520 – more than the title suggests. It will appeal to a wide audience, from costume specialists and social historians to the general reader interested in the period … As an archivist, I appreciate how this book transforms apparently dull financial records into an exciting and inspirational format. This should prompt readers to engage directly with original records and re-interpret them to illuminate their subject.

— Judith Phillips The Bowes Museum, Co Durham, UK in Costume, 47, 1, 2013

The book deals with the earlier Tudor age, whose dress is generally less well-known and well studied than the later Tudor and Elizabethan periods. Johnson has used the surviving accounts and warrants to be found in the Great Wardrobe to gain information on what royal, noble and gentle women in the king’s household wore in the years 1485–1520 … The Queen’s Servants is a valuable source of information for anyone interested in the dress of the early Tudor age, and provides a detailed grounding for both the historian and the costumer in what women of the royal household wore in this thirty-five year period.

— Rebecca Unsworth Royal College of Art/V&A Museum, UK, in Textile History, May 2013

If you are a fan of The Tudor Tailor, you must buy this companion book! The patterns are the same wonderful quality as those in The Tudor Tailor and the text is amazing. My visual image of the early 16th century English court is forever altered by the information in this book. Now, in my mind’s eye, I see ladies dressed in tawney and violet. I understand Henry the Eighth’s “extravagance” when he dressed his household in silk gowns instead of the woolen gowns that had been good enough in his father’s court in a way that an ordinary history book could never make me understand. This book enlightens the reader about the pace of the changes between the late medieval period and the beginnings of the “Northern Renaissance” of the sixteenth century in a way that no history of costume I have ever read has done. In short I believe it to be an invaluable companion to the Tudor Tailor, but a book that can stand on its own for the student of the early Tudor period.

— Costuming Junkie Scottsdale, Arizona

An absolutely splendid book, beautifully organized and designed. I think your series a perfect model of how to treat a narrow subject in depth and in an attractive professional way.

— Gerry Embleton artist and figure maker, Time Machine, Switzerland