My first 16th century loose gown

Made in 2001

This gown, and also the French hood worn in the lower photos, was inspired by this portrait of Bess of Hardwick.

I say inspired by, since there are many things that are different or uncertain. First; her gown is probably made of black velvet and has embroidered black guards. My gown is made of dark green wool twill and has no guards and whilst hers is most probably fully lined with white fur, mine has rabbit fur only over the chest area. 

She also has be hanging "sleeves", i e strips of fabric which is what remains of the hanging sleeves of the 15th century when you reach the 16th ,  with aiglets under her right elbow and I chose to make my gown without those. I do have them on my mid 16th century Swedish gown however.

We do not know how Bess' gown was constructed so inspiration had to come from somewhere else. I used all the loose gowns in Patterns of fashion as inspiration and the gown is cut with two shaped front pieces and a back piece that is pleated to the shoulders of the front pieces. The pleats are held by a stay tape on the inside and only after stitching the stay tape did I cut the armscyes on the back. 

The sleeves are supported with stiff cotton fabric, but is still both bigger and softer than Bess' sleeves. But as I said, "inspired by" is the word. 
I like think of it as a more middle class gown, or something used in more informal situations. 

Under her gown, Bess is wearing scarletworked sleeves and partlet and my plan is to make those too. For now, however, I wear my blackworked sleeves and partlet. This is somewhat inaccurate, since this kind of free embroidery became more popular later in the 16th century. I also haven't gotten around to make a pair of wrist ruffs. 

The French hood was my first and is made after Drea Leed's instructions and as you can see it differs from the original in several aspects. It's made of black velvet instead of red silk and the upper billiments are reaching to far down on the cheeks. The original seems to be made of one piece of goldsmith's work and naturally that was out of the question. Instead it is a padded roll covered with a wide ribbon made of "gold" thread and with green glass stones sewn on to it. 
The lower billiments are pearls thread on metal wire and resembles the original closely. The black veil hanging back is made of silk satin and should have been ironed before I put it on. 

 The crescent shaped part of the hood is made of a combination of stiff fusible interlining and a plastic covered table cloth. Metal wire is sewn to this before the velvet snd silk is sewn on top of it. All the wires, both in the crescent and in the billiments ( a wire hanger in the upper billiment) makes the hood very easy to wear. I just put my braids on top of my head and secure them with pins. Then I put on the french hood and shape it until it stays put. It also makes it very easy to transport since you can bend it back after it's been put (carefully, but still) in your backpack. Still, I'm not totally happy with it and I think I'll do it differently next time. There are some very interesting pictures both in Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe Unlock'd (page 203-204) and Patterns of Fashion. The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620 (page 45) that show hoods from unusual angles. 

Here are two more photos of this gown, worn with a loose kirtle based closely on a preserved German one, which can be studied in Patterns of fashion. The gown was originally made ankle-length, to make it easier to wear when outdoors, but that didn't work with the loose kirtle, so I added a strip of velvet very quickly (I had nothing left of the green wool). Suddenly I look very German.

This gown is one of the most useful 16th cnetury garments that I have: Firstly, it keeps you warm during winter events in less-than-adequately-heated castles. Secondly, when you come late to an event and don't want to get in the whole kit just for maybe an hour of chatting, or when you need to go to the bathroom in the night and the bathroom is 400 metres away, you can just put it on on top of your smock and pretend that you're dressed. As long as your hair's put up and you have proper headwear (an embroidreed coif is sufficient for informal wear), sleeves, stockings and shoes, who is to know?

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