Corsets, codpieces and going commando — dressing as a Tudor is quite the costume drama. We pile on the velvet and pull up our tights for a big Wolf ball
There is no requirement to read the book first. Political intrigue combined with the triumvirate of Damian Lewis, Mark Rylance and Claire Foy in a study of a court ruled by ambition and desire make the television adaptation of Wolf Hall an instant Wednesday night watch. But what really grabs us is the costumes. In last night’s episode we saw Mary Boleyn stroking Thomas Cromwell’s Italian grey velvet jacket admiringly. This sumptuous fabric was enough — apparently — to make her forget Cromwell is old enough to be her father.
Meanwhile codpieces and corsets trended on Twitter and Pinterest is humming with mood boards about 16th-century apparel. Even Valentino gave a nod to the era in his Paris couture show yesterday. Everyone wants a Wolf Ball. The prize venue is Hampton Court Palace — which celebrates its 500th anniversary this year with the reopening of the wine fountain and roaring fires designed to roast an entire cow.
With all that in mind, we visited the National Theatre Costume Hire Department, where they are dusting off the bustles in anticipation of a Wolf Hall inspired renaissance for 16th-century themed parties (Downton and Gatsby saw similar boosts in Edwardian and flapper garb).
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall’s author, says our fascination with the Tudors comes from our ability to recognise ourselves in them. That includes the appeal of getting trussed up in velvet hats and corsets. Jessica Proudman, who dressed us, says no one is immune. “We get corporate clients interested in dressing up — people from Glencore [the commodities giant], investment bankers, people in oil — more often than not it is the men who are dragged in against their will but end up staying here for ages trying on different hats. Some go for the codpieces, although many are scared.” Prices start at £120 for a consultation and rental.
Henry VIII was a powerful man — the look is not to be taken lightly. Wolf Hall costume designer Joanna Eatwell describes the outfits as walking furniture, and Proudman says costumes are made from upholstery fabric. No central heating meant velvet layers were essential and the corridors of power were wide enough for three-dimensional outfits. Whether or not you follow the example of the Tudors and dispense with underwear is up to you. Proudman says knickers were not necessary until the 1920s — when shorter hemlines came in. Continue reading Wolf Hall: Bring up the bodices … how Tudor costumes of Damian Lewis, Claire Foy and Mark Rylance measure up