<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today click here

Fashion: Bring up the bodices

PUBLISHED: 11:30 21 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:34 21 April 2015

Megan dressed in her recreation of Lady Kytson's outfit. Photo: David Calvert

Megan dressed in her recreation of Lady Kytson's outfit. Photo: David Calvert


Barnet fashion designer Megan Doyle has a passion for Tudor clothing. Sandra Deeble follows the threads ahead of an exhibition of her recreations at Knebworth House

Megan Doyle in her studio Megan Doyle in her studio

Wednesday nights without Wolf Hall’s Tudor treat of sumptuous costumes, historic houses and Damian Lewis’ imposing presence as Henry VIII has left a wide-shouldered gap in the TV schedule of many a viewer.

So, for a fix of glamorous gowns and dashing doublets, make your way to the equally historic and imposing Knebworth House this month at it hosts a new exhibition of Elizabethan costumes and all things Tudor.

Two of the most intriguing pieces in the exhibition are designed by Barnet’s Megan Doyle, a third-year student at the London College of Fashion, studying for a BA in Costume for Performance.

Two years ago, invited by a family friend who volunteers there, Doyle visited Much Hadham Forge Museum to view its largely-unknown Elizabethan wall paintings. The visit was the beginning of her very own Tudor history adventure.

Lord and Lady Kytson pictured on the wall painting at Much Hadham Lord and Lady Kytson pictured on the wall painting at Much Hadham

‘The Forge Museum is the tiniest building. You wouldn’t think there were these amazing 16th-century paintings there,’ Doyle says. ‘One of them is the Judgement of Solomon where Elizabeth I is King Solomon and she finds who a child’s real mother is by suggesting they cut the baby in half. The painter is unknown, although the building used to be home to the Newse family and the painting may have been commissioned by Clement Newse.’

Learning of Doyle’s skills in costume design, museum curator Cristina Harrison asked her to recreate the costume worn by one of the courtiers in the painting, Lady Kytson. For a first year-student, this was quite an undertaking. But Doyle set off for Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum with her sketchbook and examined how Tudor garments were constructed. She was also inspired by a book called The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing 16th Century Dress by Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhaila.

It was an exciting day when in the Tate gallery she discovered a 1573 portrait of Lady Kytson by George Gower, serjeant-painter to Queen Elizabeth. In the Much Hadham wall painting, the colours of Lady Kytson’s costume are faded but in Gower’s portrait, where she is wearing a similar costume, Doyle could get a better idea of the dress, in particular the intricate pattern and ‘blackwork’ embroidery on the sleeves.

As someone who wants to be a costume designer for film, Doyle is growing used to the gruelling hours and intricate work involved in making such costumes. For the BBC’s six-part dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, costume designer Joanna Eatwell worked 16-hour days. Doyle says she carries her whole life around with her and has learned how to make use of every minute: for example, she worked on Lady Kytson’s sleeves while commuting to college on the tube.

Sketchbook for Lady Kytson's dress Sketchbook for Lady Kytson's dress

With Wolf Hall, the budget for candles alone was reported to be £20,000-plus but for Doyle the Much Hadham museum budget was a bit more limited.

‘With materials I tried to be authentic but you have to think about what’s affordable,’ she explains. ‘The last layer on the lady’s costume probably would have been some amazing silk. I had to buy so many metres of it, which wouldn’t have been budget-friendly. I used polyester but the effect is the same.’

Doyle sourced fabrics from shops on Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush and for other would-be costume designers also recommends the market at St Albans for materials.

Needing to make the costume ‘for someone’, Doyle, a self-confessed lover of dressing-up and admirer of Alexander McQueen, Sandy Powell and John MacFarlane, designed it to fit herself. When the Lady Kytson dress was finished, her mum laced her in and her cousin did her hair. With a postcard of Lady Kytson pinned above her bed, Doyle says the Elizabethan aristocrat ‘became my friend on the project’.

Megan's dad Jim wearing her recreation of Lord Kytson's outfit Megan's dad Jim wearing her recreation of Lord Kytson's outfit

When she put on the costume, Doyle says she underwent something of a transformation: ‘Corsets make you stand up straight. They’re actually not that uncomfortable.’ The corset would have traditionally been made from whalebone or cane. Doyle chose to use steel and a plastic boning called rigilene.

The success of the dress landed Doyle another commission, this time to recreate Lord Kytson’s costume. This time she used her dad Jim Doyle as a model.

Doyle says Hertfordshire is a real source of inspiration to her. ‘There is so much history here. I think it’s fascinating that Queen Elizabeth passed through the Hadhams on her progress.

‘Whenever I drive past the sign that says Welcome to Hertfordshire, County of Opportunity, I think, “Yes! That’s me!”’

'Blackwork' embroidery on the sleeves of Lady Kytson's dress 'Blackwork' embroidery on the sleeves of Lady Kytson's dress


The 16th century wall paintings that inspired Megan can be seen at Much Hadham Forge Musuem. See hadhammuseum.org.uk for visitor times.

Megan’s costumes are on display at Knebworth House, as part of its Tudor exhibition during this year’s open season.

Follow Megan’s blog at http://showtimestitches.blogspot.co.uk


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hertfordshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hertfordshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hertfordshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Yesterday, 16:49

Super bendy Maia Fisher of North Chingford on being a champion gymnast

Read more
Yesterday, 16:06

Want to know more about the Sandbank area? Andy Greeves talks to three locals who have a passion for the Platinum Peninsula and nearby Lilliput and Canford Cliffs

Read more
Yesterday, 16:01

Support from Prince Harry gives mental health campaigners in Leeds a chance to highlight pioneering work.

Read more

The Sussex Downs have been a rich source of inspiration for the renowned artist and illustrator Carol Lawson. As her latest work goes on display in Rottingdean, she talks to Angela Wintle about the fascination of an ever-changing landscape

Read more
Yesterday, 15:10

He’s one of the greatest cinematographers of all time but at home in Devon, Roger Deakins likes to take a break from the limelight. Chrissy Harris met up with him to talk movies, Hollywood and pasties...

Read more
Yesterday, 14:21

To mark the tenth anniversary of its award-winning Sourced Locally initiative which brings local produce to shoppers, the East of England Co-op is celebrating some of the inspiring women who are helping to lead the future of food and drink production here in Essex. Essex Life introduces you to four of them

Read more
Friday, July 21, 2017

How time flies when you’re having fun! It may be a cliché, but for the Guildford Fringe team it rings true as they celebrate their fifth anniversary festival with a bumper year of vibrant theatre, comedy and a sprinkling of magic. Tinx Newton catches up with festival director, Nick Wychsna, to discover what’s in store

Read more
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No stranger to controversy, comedian turned actor Rufus Hound lives something of a double life. Born for the stage, he grew up in Surrey as Robert Simpson. Matthew Williams catches up with the famously facial-haired raconteur to chat school days, showbiz and, well, modern politics

Read more
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Always happy to tackle the issues of the day, it’s no surprise that Andrew Castle’s smooth tones have led him to become a talk radio staple. Tennis, however, is the former British number one’s first love and Wimbledon is his second home

Read more
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

With voting open for the 2017 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, here we catch up with a selection of last year’s award winning foodies to find out what success has meant for them

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Job search in your local area

Local Business Directory

Hertfordshire's trusted business finder

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search