With all the publicity about the reburial of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral this year, it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the urge to make a miniature doll of this English monarch.
I have always felt that this particular era was one of elegance regarding costume. It is the very end of the typical medieval fashions yet one can definitely see the beginnings of the more well-known Tudor styles.
King Richard III died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 so, with several historical costume books open at the mid 1480s, I made my decision regarding what exactly my Richard was going to wear. I had made a young King Henry VIII a few years ago, based on the fashions from the very early 1500s and it was quite noticeable that men’s fashions hadn’t really changed that much during those few years. Any changes that had taken place were very subtle so I was able to use the patterns I had made for young Henry to make those I needed for Richard.
I wanted a complete change in colour scheme from Henry’s light, fresh palette so I decided to go with a richer, darker look, partly to reflect the darker mood of the times but without overpowering a miniature doll of only six inches tall. Eventually (it always takes me ages!) I settled on deep wine red and gold silks along with accents in black.
First to be made were his black hosen (similar to tights). These are extremely difficult and time-consuming to do on a miniature doll but are worth the effort once finished. The cod piece is always a bit of a challenge, but having successfully mastered this with the young Henry doll, fore-warned was definitely fore-armed. The contents of the codpiece were in place and looking fine (and not ridiculous!) in just a few minutes…..unlike young Henry. (Click here if you would like to see what happened with Henry).
Richard’s footwear was quite different to Henry’s square-toed shoes, being more like an ankle boot than a true shoe. Although the fashion had been for very pointy-toed footwear, by 1485 the look was more rounded than it had been. There was also a flap or lip at the back and front of the ankle that could be worn turned up or turned down.
Shirts of this time were fairly low necked and as always with a miniature doll, my Richard’s shirt is simply a false panel of very fine silk secured in place to look like a shirt.
The doublet of this time was short and not always worn with the skirted vest so I chose to show off my Richard’s legs by omitting the vest. This also helped reduce bulk in such a small doll. You may have noticed that behind the gold thread lacing on his doublet, there is a small panel of dark red and gold fabric. This is known as a stomacher and was a stiff section that was inserted into the centre front of a corset or other garment to help shape the top clothing and also aid good posture. Most people have heard of this in female costume but it is not so well known that men also wore them at this time…… although they had disappeared in men’s costume by the mid 1500s……wonder why! (In female costume they lasted right into the 19th century).
Once Richard’s doublet was in place, the robe could be dressed onto him. At this time, the robe could be worn long or short. It had long lined sleeves that were slashed at the front to allow the lower part of the sleeve to hang down freely. In a miniature doll, the main body of the robe is dressed onto the doll first, then the long robe sleeves are added. The last part was to add the doublet sleeves. These were often slashed to reveal the shirt and with a miniature doll, false slashing is made using silk ribbon carefully hand stitched in place. Since Richard was a king, I decided to add a decorative heavily jewelled chain around his shoulders. This fashion lasted into the early 1600s for nobles and royalty.
The last part of my Richard’s costume was his hair and his hat. Much has been made about the possible colour of this king’s hair. I decided to stick with a darker colour, since in all probability (and we will never really know for certain anyway) his hair was more than likely fair as a child but darkened as he became an adult. Men’s hair at this time was often on the long side and worn in a page boy style with a hat that became known as a ‘pork pie’ hat. This was simply a close-fitting hat with a round turned up brim, often notched and decorated with lacing and a brooch.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the making of my King Richard III doll. He is available for sale. So if you are interested in buying him please do contact me either through this blog, Twitter, Face Book or my main website
Next time, I will be talking about the making of Richard’s beloved wife, Anne Neville.