The new PBS mini-series Secrets of the Six Wives, which premiered Sunday, follows the lives of six women who married King Henry VIII in 16th-century England. The monarch was famous for his numerous marriages: Some ended in divorce, others because of death, execution, or his affairs. Other times he devised plans to get rid of them, plotting their beheadings so he could remarry. As revealed in the show, while the king presided over political movements like the English Reformation, each woman staked her own claim on British history during her reign — strengthening diplomatic ties, refining the country’s education system, and presiding over the royal family.
Each woman became known for a distinct style, differentiating herself via clothing: Catherine of Aragon for her gold gowns, Anne Boleyn for French fashions, and Katherine Howard for her expensive jewels. King Henry VIII was an extravagant spender and didn’t hesitate funding his wives’ lavish wardrobes, as their ornate outfits were meant to showcase the royal family’s wealth.
In costume notes from the show, costume designer Emma Fryer shared the stories behind each character’s style on the show. Click ahead to see their signature looks alongside Fryer’s commentary.
Secrets of the Six Wives airs Sundays at 10 p.m. through February 5 on PBS.