This webpage is designed to help new participants make clothing suitable for taking part in the Tudor re-creations at Kentwell Hall. It's utterly unofficial: I'm a participant and it's written out of my experience in sewing historic costume. I hope it will be helpful.
So you've just come back from the first open day. You're tired, wet and cold, and have spent what feels like eighteen hours queueing. You've picked up the costume notes but, in your state of exhaustion, they don't seem to mean much. At this stage you have three choices. You can pay Annie the Pedlar lots of money, and she will make you an utterly beautiful costume. You can abandon the whole silly idea and go to Tenerife, which is, apparently, a beautiful place. I wouldn't know; I spend my summers being a Tudor.
Or you can learn to sew.
Don't panic! It is possible to make a perfectly respectable Tudor costume in time for the summer even if, right now, you don't know how to thread a needle. I'm deliberately showing photos of my far from perfect but utterly wearable first costume to prove that. If you are a complete beginner I'd suggest starting here for guidance on material and how to sew it, plus a layer by layer guide to what you should be wearing.
Once you've got an idea what you're aiming for then it's time to start sewing. Eventually this section will have instructions for making all the bits you'll need. There's information on most of the common female garments there now, and I'm gradually putting together information for men. Blokes should find a lot of the general sewing information useful, too. You'll also find diaries - step by step guides to how I actually made individual garments - in this section.
I'm sent into a blind panic by anything resembling a paper pattern and I find the drawings on the costume notes really hard to follow. I'm much better with pictures and so will be putting up lots of photos of Kentwell costume. I'll also link to some of the other Tudor and Renaissance costume sites I find useful and give you an idea of which bits are (or aren't) good for clothing on the manor. Warning: a lot of the costume sites out there are designed for those making outfits for Renn Faire and thus may not be appropriate for Kentwell.
A few words on what this site isn't: it isn't meant to be an exhaustive guide to historical costume. Gentry costume is not extensively covered - there are more knowledgable people than I on that, most notably Bess of My Lady's Wardrobe.
These pages are deliberately light on documentation, particularly when there is debate amongst costuming historians about what they did. I normally can back things up, and I'm always happy to be asked for my sources. But when I was learning to sew, I found debates about the authenticity of A vs B to be confusing rather than helpful. So this is meant to be a very practical illustration of what I did and how it worked.
In making all this lot I relied very heavily on the costume notes, so please don't ignore them. They're the official word on how things have to be. This is just to show what works for me; it isn't the only way to do it. I'm learning all the time and I've mostly figured out to sew by trial and error. This webpage is utterly unofficial and unauthorised, so feel free to take what you need from it and ignore the rest. If you know a better way to do anything then go for it, and please let me know. The most important point is this, though: you can do it. You can turn that flat, intimidating piece of fabric into a costume to be proud of. And you undoubtedly will have a wonderful time on the manor.