Mary Queen of Scots pippins

Mary Queen of Scots

In the days of bodices and doublets the upper classes could use dolls to get an idea of how a particular outfit would look at life size. They’re the only known evidence for the use of “pippins” (from the French poupée) in Renaissance Scotland, and were used by the European glitterati in the 16th and 17th century as a way of keeping up with the latest trends. Research undertaken by Dr Michael Pearce on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland shows that after the battle of Carberry (which led inexorably to her downfall) “pippens, fantasies, and feathers” belonging to Mary Queen of Scots were packed away and locked up in Edinburgh Castle. Dr Pearce comments: “The inventory also reveals how Mary dressed these pippins in the best silks to fashion her European court, as it records a payment in 1563 to Jacques, her tailor, to make grey and silver clothes for a set of dolls. “Much more useful than diplomatic accounts or portraits, these dolls’ outfits would have been exquisitely crafted to display the latest trends in materials, accessories and dress styles. Hello Dollies … Stuart era fashionistas used these 16th century Barbies as guides to the latest style “The miniature versions could then be exchanged and replicated by tailors elsewhere”. Rachel Pickering, Senior Cultural Resources Advisor at HES, said: “While fashion dolls such as these became common in the 17th century, evidence for their earlier use is poorly documented – making this new interpretation of Mary’s inventories so significant. “There is evidence of use of these dolls in 16th century France, with records showing Francois I requested a set from Isabella d’Este, one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance, for the women of his court. “Mary Queen of Scots was raised at the court of Francois’ son Henry II, and his wife, Catherine de Medici also had a set of dolls among her personal belongings”.

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