A woman's gown from Lyon 1565

Made in 2008

Like my Uvdal outfit this costume was made as a part of my Master's test in the medieval society Nordrike's Tailor's Guild (neither society nor Tailor's Guild exist anymore). In this test the applicant must make three complete costumes and one of the things tested is the knowledge about and skill to make clothing from more than one historic period. Both sexes also had to be represented and one of the costumes had to be totally hand sewn. That was covered with the Uvdal gown, which also ticked off he requirement that in one of the costumes the body-covering garment: cotte, kirtle, whatever you call it, must be based on a preserved garment.

This gown is more typically made through the research of a combination of period sources: paintings and other images, preserved garments and written sources of various kinds.
The gown is based on the pink gown seen on the painting below.

It is a detail from a painting from 1565 showing the calvinistic Temple de Paradis in Lyon. Unfortunately you can only see the back of the dress, but if you look at the whole painting you can see women to the left wearing black dresses which appear to be of the type.

 It is a very common type of gown; seen in pictorial sources from France, Flanders and England. Here's an example from the contemporary Abraham de Bruyns costume book, showing a Belgian woman.

I have previously made another gown of this type and on its page (and accompanying Dress Diary) you can find more info about this type of gown, which is what was called a "Flanders gown" in 16th century England, and which appears to have its origin there.

The costume includes the following garments: 
1. Smock
2. Stays
3. Farthingale
4. Kirtle
5. Gown
6. Headwear. Though the woman with the pink gown doesn't have anything on her head I am both older and married and thus should have something on my head.

The Smock 

The smock is made after one of the so-called Sture shirts, the shirts worn by three men from the swedish nobility who where murdered by the Swedish king in 1567. It is actually made according to the same measurements, despite it being a man's shirt. The shirt is, as can be seen in the photo both very long and very wide for a man, indicating that the known 18th century habit of folding the shirt around the lower body instead of wearing braies had begun already in the 16th century.

It is made from thin linen and hand sewn with waxed lace making linen thread - I sew all my period underwear by hand, because it is stronger and since underwear are washed more frequently this is a desired feature.

The most common way of making 16th century ruffs among re-enactors when I made this costume was with stacked box pleats, as on these instructions from the Elizabethan Costuming page. Even if the method works there are however, as far as I know, no period examples of this technique being used. Both preserved ruffs and preserved shirts show that the ruffles were gathered with small stitches and got their shape with a poking iron heated over fire. This tool looks much like old fashioned curling tongs and a modern alternative is a modern curling iron. Those are unfortunately a little too large in the diameter, but with a little practice they work tolerably well.

I used spray starch since that's the only type that can be bought in Sweden nowadays - it took many sprayings.

The Stays 
The stays were made from hand woven linen tabby; either made by my paternal grandmother or by her mother, and is also wholly hand sewn with waxed linen thread. The pattern is made after Queen Elizabeth's effigy stays.

Just like the original my stays are fully boned, but instead of baleen I used reeds, which is mentioned as boning material in period sources (Arnold, Janet: Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, London 1988, p 147).

Just like Queen Elizabeth's stays they're bound in chamois leather; cheap chamois leather intended for polishing cars and the like. It is very stretchy and easy to sew - and also washable if the need should arise; I definitely recommend it.

 Here you can see the shape of the different pieces.

The front/side pieces are almost straight and it's the angled back piece that makes the stays narrower in the waist than at the top.  And this is how it turned out: The stays are very comfortable and give ample support to my 36 F bust, despite most of the boning just being one piece of reed. The exception is that the front, all the way to the first tab is boned with synthetic whalebone. After wearing the stays several times I noticed that the reeds there were broken due to the extreme difference between my waist and hips (28 cm, and it's a very sharp bend: from 84 to 112 cm in 6-7 cm).

You can see this difference in the photos - I'm not wearing a bum roll, it's a combination of high hip bones and natural fat.

The Farthingale
The farthingale is made from silk dupioni and lined with a thin wool tabby. Taffeta would have been the obvious material choice, but lower grade silks were also were used in the 16th century, so I felt justified in using a less costly material for a garment that would not be seen.
I stiffened it with rope, a method known from period accounts (Arnold 1988, p 195).I chose 6 mm wide hemp rope.

The channels were made in this way: The first seam was sewn (by hand) through both layers of fabric, then the rope was laid close to the seam, between the fabric layers and the second seams was sewn. This is much easier than sewing a channel and threading the rope through it and also makes the channel tighter so that the rope has less space to move around.
Rope is of course less stiff than if I had used baleen or cane, but if you don't want your skirts to stand out extremely it works very well.

 The pattern I used is taken from the book The Tudor Tailor, ( Mikhaila, Ninya och Jane Malcolm-Davies:"The Tudor Tailor", London 2006), who in their turn got it from Juan Alcega's book of patterns from 1589 (Alcega, Juan: "Tailor's pattern book", New York 2004, folio 67, s 49).

The Kirtle
The kirtle is made from silk taffeta, a finer type of silk fabric than the dupioni used for the farthingale. It's changeable in navy and forest green; changeable taffeta is known at least from the 14th century ( Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard och Kay Staniland: Textiles and clothing 1150-1450. Medieval finds from excavations in London:4, Woodbridge, Suffolk 1992 & 2001, s 90).

It is laced on the side-back, like the preserved gown from the 1560s belonging to Eleonora di Toledo, and also on several paintings from the period. The skirt is cut from straight pieces and gores, so that it is wider at the bottom than at the top, and pleated to the waist, with most of the pleats in the back; something that is also seen on Eleonora's gown. Skirts made from straight pieces sewn into a tube appear to be common only at the very end of the 16th century; though the sources are too few to make any firm conclusions.

 The shoulder straps were wider than I like them to be, but I wanted them to cover the wide shoulders traps of the stays. In 2009 I also made a pair of tie-in-sleeves and trimmed both the kirtle and the sleeves with silver braid and wore the kirtle without the gown - perfect for really hot days.

To make the kirtle skirt stand out a little by itself I chose to reinforce the hem with a strip of felted wool and another strip of silk (this time dupioni, I need my taffeta for the sleeves).

Again the construction is taken from Eleonora di Toledo's preserved gown. Even if the distance between northern France and Eleonora's Florence is big the method of strengthening hems with strips of fabric is well known from northern and western Europe ((Arnold, Janet: "Patterns of fashion. The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620", London 1985, pp 102-107 & 109 -110; Orsi Landini, Roberta och Niccola Bruni: "Moda a Firenze 1540-1580. Lo stile di Eleonora di Toledo e la sua influenza", Florence 2005, p 69-74 ).
 First a ca. 5 cm wide strip of pink wool flannel was sewn to the edge of the skirt (by machine) and then the upper edge of the woollen strip was sewn to the kirtle by hand.

Then an appox. 8 cm wide strip of silk dupioni was sewn to the lower edge (yes, I could have sewn it at the same time as the pink flannel, but I didn't want it to interfere when I sewed the upper edge of the pink strip).

The seam allowances from taffeta, wool and dupioni were then pressed upwards and whipstitched in place. I then folded the strip of dupioni so that the fold was ca. 1cm below the other layers and ironed it.
A row of running stitches at the edge of the other fabrics secured the fold and the upper edge of the strip of dupioni was then turned under and whipstitched in place. Then, finally, small cuts were made in the folded silk dupioni. The seam allowances are whipstitched in place. The upper edge of the wool is sewn with running stitches. The fold is fixed in place with a row of running stitches. Finally small cuts are made in the protruding folded fabric.

The wool and the extra layer of silk gives the skirts a nicer shape and the work you put in the detailing is, for me at least, something that makes them feel more finished and like real clothes.

The Gown 
The gown is made from a half silk satin. In the 16th century it was a common practice when making satin to use cheaper yarns for the bottom weave and silk only for the floating yarn on top. The most common was linen, while mine is made from cotton. Price and availability, as well as the circumstance that the bottom weave won't be visible anywhere on the finished gown made it an easy choice. The bodice is lined with the same sturdy hand woven linen as in the stays and the skirt is lined with amber coloured silk habotai.
The black ribbons are ordinary 2,5 cm rayon velvet ribbon. The gown closes with hooks and eyes.

The puffy sleeves, which are one of the more characteristics parts of this style, were made after a pattern in The Tudor Tailor, who in their turn base their pattern primarily on the sleeves of a preserved German gown from 1570-80 (Mikhaila och Davies 2006, p 81, Arnold 1988, p 109-110).
They have an inner sleeve of coarse linen. On it a is sewn cotton tape which hold strips of plastic boning (due to the lack of baleen).

 The sleeve was pinned, and later sewn, together at the top to fit in the armscye and give a little extra "puff".

Then the sleeves were covered in strips of felted wool, so that the boning wouldn't be visible from the outside (this has to be done by hand of course) and, finally, the silk sleeve was sewn on top of the construction.

Under sleeves
The woman on the painting has black under sleeves. These were probably not sewn to the kirtle but more temporarily attached, either with ties or pins. I chose to pin them in place with large brass pins. The sleeves are made from black and blue thin wool and can be worn with any side out. They are shaped after the arm so that they are curved at the elbow, as seen on several preserved 16th century sleeves (for example Se t ex Arnold 1988, p 115).

The Headwear
My chosen headwear is of a type that is very common in Netherlandish and Flemish art from the period: a white cap with a wired and starched veil pinned on top of it. The women in the Temple de Paradis-painting who wear something on the head seem to have this type of headwear, so it was the logical choice.. You can read much more about this type of headwear here, in my dress dairy for my Anthonis Mor gown. This is a very plain version without decoration.

 The cap is made from a circle approx. 30 cm across which has been gathered around the edges. A part of it is sewn to a brim and the other is hemmed.

The veil is rectangular and has, as previously mentioned, a steel wire sewn to one of the long sides; thus making it possible to shape the front edge in the desired way. The veil is first pinned to the brim in the front. You then make the little folds on top of the head, these may need to be pinned too, and then you pin the edges at the back of the neck:

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