Book Review: Inside the Wardrobe of Anne Boleyn by Barbara Parker Bell

20572357Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 11.52.57 AMIn this book, we examine Anne Boleyn’s wardrobe in relation to the chronology of her lifetime because—luckily for us—we have records of Anne’s clothes at every stage of her life. From her glittering debut in the Chateau Vert pageant to her final walk to the scaffold, everything is right there in the historical record. We may never know what Anne Boleyn truly looked like, but we can peek into her coffers and chests to admire her furs, velvets, satins and damasks, her headdresses, girdles, and slippers—even her nightgowns—allowing us to effectively re-imagine the clothes worn by this fascinating queen, and to re-imagine the woman herself. Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 11.53.01 AMThe cover says it all.


The chunky B necklace for Boleyn and the whimsical fairy princess motifs on the cover are almost as a bad as Bell’s research.

On the surface, Barbara Parker’s book seems to provide readers with a fill in the gaps of Boleyn research. She tackled the complex world of Anne’s wardrobe in relation to the chronology of her life. Considering that little has been written on Anne Boleyn’s her clothes, it was exciting to find research done on the subject. 

Bell mainly writes about events in Anne’s life and briefly says what she wore during them, never birding the two. I was altogether disappointed by Bell’s book which had so much to offer. Her novel had a clever idea but in execution was just terrible. I would not consider her book to be an exploration of dress history but rather, another, mediocre biography of Anne Boleyn. She touches upon Anne Boleyn’s wardrobe but not in an analytical or critical way. She mainly discusses the timeline of Anne’s life which can found in other, more successful novels.

I was hoping for an interpretive novel that dove into how Anne used her clothes to express power, lust, royalty, and morality. Bell’s book barely discusses any of these important subjects nor does it do any of the heavy lifting work of critical and interpretive thinking.

I do applaud Parker Bell for attempting at researching something no has focused on before but was overall disappointed by her book. If you are going to research Anne’s life please provide something new, not a copy of something that has already been written.

Star Rating: 2/5 5_Star_Rating_System_2_starsScreen Shot 2018-03-08 at 1.53.38 PMIf you are interested in the life of Anne Boleyn, I recommend Eric Ive’s classic Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. His book is rightfully seen as the definitive biography of her life. He tells a compelling, convincing and expertly researched tale of her life. Although Ive’s writing style can be heavy and his biography on Anne long, it is worth dedicating the energy and time to Life and Death for the information.

If you want to read about Tudor fashion, not just in the context of Anne Boleyn, Eleri Lynn’s greatly anticipated book Tudor Fashion: Dress at Court is definitely the most recent and relevant source on the subject. I have not yet read Lynn’s latest book but I am hoping to soon as I was practically counting down the days until its release!

If you are a music geek, Alamire, a group of British choral singers focusing the Medieval and early modern periods recently did some meticulous research to recreate Anne Boleyn’s songbook. I love to hear the sounds of past, it just makes everything feel so much more tangible and real. Anne Boleyn’s songbook was also nominated for a BBC Music Award! Listen to music from the album hereAB_mock.previewThe cover of Anne Boleyn’s Songbook

That’s all for today, I’ll see you all soon!Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 1.54.05 PM


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