Flexible fashion : a precious girdle book at the Tudor Court

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Farkas, Sarah Emily

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This thesis attempts to construct an understanding of a sixteenth-century girdle book now held at the British Museum in London. With the exception of a few articles and catalog entries, primarily written by the British scholar Hugh Tait, the Tudor Girdle Book has received very little attention by art historians. It is one of a handful of examples of sixteenth-century precious girdle books, a unique decorative object used exclusively by European noblewomen during the Renaissance. Despite its relative obscurity, I argue that the Tudor Girdle Book offers insights into life at the Tudor court in the 1540s, particularly the role of women in the English Reformation. Furthermore, the replacement interior text, a set of prayers written by Elizabeth Tyrwhit and inserted in the 1570s, indicates a revival interest during the reign of Elizabeth I in the reformist women who surrounded Henry VIII’s last queen, Katherine Parr. Using existing scholarship on the history of the book and women's fashion, along with portraits, inventories, letters, and other extant bindings, I examine how this girdle book, like a court lady, was designed to navigate the precarious experience of Henry's court. The Tudor Girdle Book was a fashionable item, but flexible enough to withstand the whims of the changing English state



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