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Welcome to Episode #169 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

Portraits of ladies and gentlemen from the late 16th century show men and women adorned in all manner of finery, including everything from flowing gowns, to magnificent swords, and even those infamous Tudor ruff collars,but what exactly did it take to get into all those fine outfits? When Shakespeare surveyed his closet in the morning before he got dressed for the day, were there certain items he needed like an undershirt or socks? This week, we are diving into the world of early modern clothing to look at what Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and his female counterparts would have worn under their clothes. Our guest this week is Tudor clothier and historical costumer, Bess Chilver, who joins us to answer questions (some of which have been submitted by our members here at That Shakespeare Life), about what kind of underwear there would have been for people in turn of the 17th century England, including underwear, support garments, apparati needed for wigs, socks, and more. 

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Bess Chilver is a professional costumer and historical tailor, specializing in 16th century Tudor clothing. Bess has attended the award winning Great Recreations of Tudor Life at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk England, where she created her own gentry gown for the year 1593 along with several other creations specific to the 16th century. She frequently partners with other historical costumers to test period patterns and  has been published extensively on the history of Tudor dress and costume.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Bess Chilver about :

  • When Shakespeare was at home, would he have had a closet or dresser that he kept his clothes in?
  • What was the standard underclothing for a man of Shakespeare’s station to use for daily wear?
  • One of the items most depictions of Shakespeare himself are known to include are what’s affectionately called “those poofy shorts.” What is that item of clothing called and what was used to make them poof out? 
  • … and more!

The video version of today’s show (complete with the period costumes Bess brings into the studio and shows on camera) is available just for patrons! Find it inside That Shakespeare Film Library on Patreon.

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Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • Woodcut illustration of 16th century gardeners
  • “Portrait of a Lady,” c.1600, demonstrates what a farthingale looks like when worn
  • Image of an English chest, dating back to the Medieval Renaissance period
Sign up now for just $5/mo (or login here) and all the bonus content will immediately expand right on this page. (You will also get access to all our other patrons-only content, too!)

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