February 11, 2020

Bring up the bodies!

The Missing Persons team discuss plans for the garment autopsy with Dr Susan North (centre)

A previously unpublished 16th century garment will take centre stage at Nottingham’s historic courtroom as part of the Missing Persons conference in early April. Dr Susan North, Curator of Fashion at the V&A Museum, dons the lab coat of a forensic pathologist to undertake an autopsy on this new “body of evidence”. Her live investigation will examine the materials and construction techniques of an extremely rare surviving example of 16th century dress.

The Tudor Tailor has secured a loan from a private collection to provide Susan with the “body” she will encounter for the first time during the courtroom proceedings. Her investiagation will demonstrate how to study original artefacts by systematically interrogating the item’s overall appearance, its constituent parts, clues to its construction, the quality of craftsmanship, evidence of repair and wear, and other telling details.

Susan’s experience of up-close and personal work with bodies and garments has contributed to her new book, Sweet and clean? Bodies and clothes in Early Modern England. It explores the relationship between cleanliness and clothing among ordinary people as well as the elite. Copies will be on sale during the conference. More details are available from Oxford University Press.

Nottingham’s Shire Hall not only plays host to The Tudor Tailor’s Missing Persons conference in early April. It also offers an exhibition devoted to “the father of forensics”, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, who was one of the first pathologists to recognise the potential for autopsies to provide evidence for the prosecution in murder cases. The conference programme includes an opportunity to explore the exhibition and learn about Spilsbury’s contribution to the birth of CSI-style approaches to crime.

There are still a few tickets available for the conference (price £299), which includes an evening reception on Friday 3 April, the courtroom hearings on Saturday 4 April followed by a gala dinner at the Council Chamber, and a packed programme of Sunday activities in Nottingham. Each conference attendee will also receive a copy of Jane and Ninya’s new book The Typical Tudor. There is also an optional visit to the Framework Knitters Museum on Monday 6 April. Full details are available here, where tickets may also be purchased.

The Tudor Tailor has teamed up with Perry Miniatures to offer an exclusive visit to Michael Perry’s war games room in Wollaton, Nottingham on Sunday 5 April as an extra treat in the conference programme. Michael, whose drawings of reconstructed 16th century garments are a signature part of The Tudor Tailor’s publications, will show his work in progress on new military figures, host a tour of his games room, which houses an impressive collection of miniatures, buildings and terrain. Tickets for this visit are £15 with refreshments provided and transport by minibus from the Society of Artists’ Gallery - leaving at 3.30pm and returning at 5.30pm. There are 16 places available, which may be booked by conference ticket holders for their accompanying “Plus Ones”. Sign up at the event posting on the conference Facebook page to secure a place for this exclusive visit.

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