Spanish Tudor Costume

Catherine de Arc


Isabel de Portugal Portrait

This is based on the portraits of Isabel of Portugal. The style is Spanish but some of the details are a little unusual for Spain but very popular in England at the same time.

Hair Net

Hairnets were worn. The mesh was square with pearls at each join. Square mesh with pearls at joins. 334, 335


Earrings were not generally seen in England at this time but were popular with the different hairstyles of Spain. They were often simple drop pearls. 313, 389, 393
The beaded girdle was very popular in England at this time JS, 37, 39. It also features in the portraits of Isabel of Portugal 313, 393
Long pearl strands were popular in both countries 16, 346, 370. Isabel wore hers as I do.
Pendants were often worn at the throat. JS, 16, 39
They were de rigour on the chest. They were in several cases round with three drop pearls. JS, 39, 385.
Rings were also popular, the more the better.


The farthingale is made of undyed calico, a fabric available in Spain from the 13th century. Linen would be more appropriate for England in particular and perhaps also in Spain but you don’t see it so I can’t justify the extra cost. It is stiffened with plastic tubing because this is far more practical then natural materials and probably just as authentic as the types of natural materials available here.

The pattern is from Juan de Alcequa’s pattern book. This is from 1589 but the shape and size are correct for this period and the cutting leaves no waste at all so I think it is appropriate to use it here.

Spanish Tudor Outfit


I am no longer convinced that corsets were always worn at this time though I am not convinced they were never worn. The corset is made of canvas stiffened with metal boning and lined with silk. The pattern is the same as that of the bodice. Next time I would probably reinforce the bodice with canvas or buckram rather than wear a corset. The look is correct however.


The underskirt is made of gold brocade. Gold was one of the more popular colours for brocade. In England the highest rank wore almost exclusively red and gold at this time. In Spain the colour choice seems bit wider but gold brocade was still very popular. Brocade of similar pattern size and type to this were common. 39, 334, 393 The underskirt is cut to a similar pattern to the farthingale. No matching undersleeves can be seen in the Isabel portraits suggesting that it was just a skirt rather than a full gown as appears to have been more usual in England, though even there wardrobe accounts from this period list separate foreparts and sleeves.


The chemise is made from fine bleached cotton because I cannot get linen of appropriate quality. Cotton was also available at this time. It is knee length as chemises have been throughout Europe from at least the 14th century. The sleeves are gathered into regular puffs as seen in 393, 394 The neck is gathered into a band with a frill on top and buttoned in the front. 313, 393, 389, 402

Isabel de Portugal 393

Colour version of 393 Isabel de Portugal, 1526-39


The upper classes at this time seem to have used almost exclusively velvet and brocade for their portrait outfits. This gown is made from very heavy, lined velvet bought as a remnant. The colour is unusual for a court gown but was used. 310, 311, 312

The seam placement of the bodice is the same as that in both pictures of Isabel. 313, 393 The neckline is square at the front (37, 39, 313, 334, 370, 393) and V shaped at the back (16, 316). The waist is V shaped (37, 39, 313, 393 The skirt has the usual opening in centre front of the skirt to show the underskirt. 37, 39, 313, 393
The sleeves are triangular and fastened along the top at intervals. 313, 391, 393, 442 The sleeves of Isabel’s gowns appear to be lined with toning taffeta or similar and I have copied this. The skirt is gathered into the waist at the back 16

This gown is embroidered with a pattern similar to that on Isabel’s gowns in gold thread augmented with pearls. The embroidery was badly damaged by the dry cleaner (they actually lost this gown for a week) after I wore it for the first time.



Drysdale, Rosemary (1975) The Art of Blackwork Embroidery, Mills & Boon, London
JS – Jane Seymour, 1537
Aschelford, J (1983) A Visual History of Costume in the Sixteenth Century, BT Batsford, London
16 – Unknown English Lady, 1536
37 – Mary I, 1544
39 – Lady Jane Dudley, 1545
Anderson, Ruth Matilda (1979) Hispanic Costume, Hispanic Society of America, New York
310 – Banquet of Herod, 1470-80
311 – Virgin of the Catholic Kings, 1490
312 – Saint Felix Preaching, 1520
313 – Isabel de Portugal, 1526 – 1539
316 – The Beheading of John the Baptist, 1500
334 – Eleonore d’Autriche 1530
345 – Three Saints, 1520-30
346 – Maria de Portugal, 1535
370 – Eleonore d’Autriche, 1530
385 – Leonor de Austria, 1518 or 25
389 – Maria de Austria, 1551
391 – Juana la Loca, 1519-20
393 – Isabel de Portugal, 1526-39
394 – Castilian Lady, 1520-30
402 – St Ursula, 1530
442 – Eleonore d’Autriche, 1530