Jane Makolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhala, Editors of “The Tudor Child”

QAB Interview:
Jane Makolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhala, Editors of “The Tudor Child”


The Tudor Child, Clothing and Culture 1485 to 1625, written by Jane Huggett and edited by Jane Makolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhala, provides an absolutely fascinating look at the social history of children and infants of the 16th century, detailing through extensive research how children during the Tudor Era of English history were raised, educated and dressed. Exquisitely illustrated, the book details through paintings, sculpture, line drawings and photographs of reconstructed costumes, the clothing children of the period wore in beautiful detail. For those interested in sewing period costume, the book also contains forty patterns with instructions. Although The Tudor Child, Clothing and Culture 1485 to 1625 would most interest those who enjoy recreating period clothing, the book is so beautifully illustrated, richly researched and interesting, all Tudor history enthusiasts will certainly find this a highly welcome addition to their book collections.

Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers (QAB) is pleased to share our recent online interview with Jane Makolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhala, both experts in the reconstruction of Tudor Era clothing. Jane, who holds a doctorate in historical interpretation from the University of Surrey, is the director of JMD & Co, a live interpretation consultant business. She managed costumed interpretation at Hampton Court Palace from 1992 to 2004 and currently trains staff working at several historic properties, such as Buckingham Palace. Ninya, who holds a Higher National Diploma in Costume Interpretation at the London College of Fashion, has been making reconstructions of historic period clothing for 25 years for JMD & Co, Historic Royal Palaces, The Royal Armouries, The National Trust, English Heritage, The National Archives and Gainsborough’s House.

1. The Tudor Child  is a delightful follow-up to your previous books The Tudor Tailor, The King’s Servants  and The Queen’s Servants. The book’s first chapter includes a comprehensively researched social history of children and babies in the 16th century. Ninya and Jane, how did you complete your research? What types of sources did you use?

We approached our co-author Jane Huggett to write the text for the first part of the book as we knew that she had already carried out a great deal of research on the subject. She had already gathered a rich collection of reference material from reading contemporary childcare manuals, letters and other documents as well as from studying the visual sources and extant examples of children’s clothes. Once she had agreed to work with us we gave her our findings from our own study of sixteenth century wills to add to the mix. In addition, the three of us together complied a searchable database of more than 1,000 images, including paintings, effigies and sculpture. From this, we could draw data regarding trends in colour and style relating to different age groups and genders.

2. The children’s clothing illustrated and painstakingly recreated is highly detailed and historically intriguing. Portraits, patterns and illustrated drawings area available for readers to review. To follow-up on my previous question, can you enlighten us how you completed your obviously painstaking research?
The reconstructions are all the result of extensive detective work! There is rarely one individual source that can be used to provide all of the necessary information to reproduce a set of clothes. We have to use a combination of all of the three main sources (documentary, pictorial and archaeological) must be consulted in order to build as complete a picture as possible. For example, we have included a reconstruction of a 1560s gown for a ten-year-old which is based on that worn by a girl in the painting of the Aldersey family in the Weiss Gallery, London. The overall colour and design can be copied from the painting but details of the construction are provided by extant garments, such as the clothes worn by Eleanora of Toledo which are illustrated in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion. Information about materials and hidden layers are provided by documentary accounts such as the household papers containing descriptions of materials bought for clothes for the 12-year-old Margaret Willoughby of Wollaton Hall in Nottingham.

3. Ninya and Jane, what motivated your initial interest in creating such exquisite reconstructions of historical costume? When and how did you develop your partnership?

Jane Malcolm-Davies worked at Hampton Court Palace from 1992-2004 where she introduced and ran the team of costumed guides. Ninya set up her costume making business in 1994 after graduating from The London College of Fashion and quickly became the principal maker for Jane’s company. The Tudor Tailorwas written as a result of the research carried out in making and wearing the costumes for Hampton Court Palace.

4. To those interested in recreating their own period clothing, where may they purchase your patterns, materials and other supplies? Do you ever sell completed reproduction historical costumes to the general public?

All of our patterns, materials and costuming supplied can be purchased from the website www.tudortailor.com. Ninya still makes costumes for private clients, as well as for museums and heritage sites, although there is less time for this than there used to be since we started writing and publishing books. The waiting list is now rather long! Some of the costumes made for Jane’s team at Hampton Court can be purchased on our Etsy site.

5. On your website, people throughout Great Britain and Europe can purchase your outstanding books. Where can they be secured by people living in the United States, Canada and Australia?

We send our books and products all around the world! Simply select the relevant UK, Europe or RoW (rest of world) ‘add to cart’ buttons. 

6. Beginning March 8 through March 21, 2013, The Weiss Gallery in London will be hosting an exhibit, “The Tudor Child: Clothing and Culture 1485 – 1625, ” highlighting your research, reconstructed children’s costumes and accompanying portraits used as source material. Will there be other events highlighting “The Tudor Child” upcoming?

We are currently in conversation with two other UK heritage sites which are considering hosting The Tudor Child exhibition later in the year. Keep an eye on the talks and events page of our website, as well as our Facebook page, for news. We came over to the States back in 2006 to promote the publication of The Tudor Tailor and had a really wonderful time meeting many of our US readers. We hope to arrange another trip over the pond in the not-to-distant future!


*****For those interested in learning more about Jane Makolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhala’s fascinating work or who wish to purchase The Tudor Child, Clothing and Culture 1485 to 1625 or one of their other fascinating books, QAB encourages you to visit their website “The Tudor Tailor, Reconstructing 16th Century Dress” at www.tudortailor.com.*****


Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. Blogger of "The Tudor Thomases", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.