Miniature of the Month
Archbishop’s Clothes by Susan Parris
When viewing Savage Manor visitors are always amazed at the tiny textiles that inspire them to imagine the people wearing them and what they may have been doing. The clothes peeking out of an aging trunk in the Great Hall, however, imply pieces not being worn, but being cherished, as they represent the 16th century clerical attire of the home’s previous inhabitant, Thomas Savage the Archbishop of York. Appointed by Henry VII in 1500, he was the inspiration for Savage Manor and one of my ancestors.
His clothing, which consists of the mitre (headdress), chasuble (robe) and slippers, is depicted as if family descendants were caring for the treasured heirlooms by changing the linens and herbs within the trunk. According to Susan Parris, historian and miniaturist who created all the clothing, shoes and hats in Savage Manor, this was practice at the time for preserving such items.
Susan’s research on the clothing’s history was extensive, ultimately leading her to the archbishop’s effigy at York Minster. An image of a sculpture of the diplomat’s body lying in honor was her basis for the design of the ceremonial garb. She created the historical re-creations with heavy, mid-19th century silk and silver bullion brocade which perfectly replicates in miniature the expensive richly woven brocades favored by the church. She then embellished the fabric with thick metallic embroidery and antique pearls. The acclaimed artisan only uses textiles and trims from before 1900, saying “Nothing compares to the patina and quality of these old handmade materials.” Her choice for the archbishop’s apparel was antique silk she acquired in 2006, saving it for just the right project. In keeping with the intent to present the clothing as cherished family heirlooms some 150 years after the archbishop’s passing, she also delicately aged the items to fulfill the story’s realism.
Susan’s detailed interpretation of historical clothing relates strongly to her former job on Capitol Hill as a researcher and writer with unlimited access to the Library of Congress. That experience moved her to work as a living historian, which she continues to do to this day. Whether she’s preparing for a performance or a 1/12th-scale commission of rare antique clothing, her approach is the same. She examines everything relating to how a person may have lived during a particular time frame—what they wore, the foods they ate, how they earned a living, what they spent their wages on and, most importantly, the “whys” behind their decisions. “Everything has to have a purpose,” she says. Finding and portraying that purpose is her specialty.
Susan also created the lady’s silk gown seen in the master bedchamber, a night robe draped over a chair in the Winter Parlour, linen items hanging on a drying rack in the attic and various hats and slippers seen throughout Savage Manor. The exhibit will be on display as part of KSB Miniatures Collection’s latest exhibition Scaled to Perfection: Encore! running thru December 31st, 2021.