Monday, 6 August 2018

The Rebato

Figure 1: Underside of rebato in Metropolitan Museum, New York. CC

For the purposes of this blogpost a rebato is a wired collar, which can best be described as looking as though you have stuck your head on a plate. The term rebato may originally have related to any wire support that kept up the great ruffs and collars of the late sixteenth century. As Dent described them; “These great ruffes, which are borne up with supporters, and rebatoes, as it were with poste and raile.” (1)
Some of these supports for ruffs and collars were known as supportasse and picadils, these were more likely to be pasteboard and whalebone, but sometimes they were wire. Cotgrave defined a picadil as “a Pickadill, or supporter, of Pasteboord covered with linnen.” (2) Stubbes referred to a supportasse as “A certain device made of wyers... calleth a supportasse or vnderpropper. This is to be supplyed round about their necks under the ruffe, beare up the whole frame & body of the ruffe, from falling and hanging down.” (3)  Patterns have been made from the surviving picadils and supportasse that are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. (4) (5)
The fashion for the head on a plate style of rebato, in England at least,  dates almost exclusively from the first two decades of the seventeenth century. However the fashion appears to have continued later in other parts of Europe, particularly Germany and Austria, as can be seen in some of Hollar’s 1640s engravings, for example his Noblewoman of Bohemia, a Viennese gentlewoman, and a German merchant’s wife. In London in 1611 the Grocers’ Company made an effort to limit the use of such supports among their apprentices, stating that they should not wear, “any piccadilly or other support in, with, about the collar of his doublet.” (6 p. 91)

Patterns from six surviving rebatos, two in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, two in the Musee nationale de Renaissance, France, and one each in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nurnberg and the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, can be found in Patterns of Fashion, vol 4. (7) Links to some of the museum records are in the survivals list below.

Fig. 2. Detail from Anne of Denmark by Paul van Somer
The surviving rebatos have a, sometimes very complex, wire frame, usually in iron, see figure 1, which shows the underside of a rebato in Metropolitan Museum, New York. The frame is then wrapped in a silver, silver-gilt or gilt thread. They very occasionally appear in accounts, as in A rebatoe wyer for Mrs Mary,” in 1612. (8 p. 10)  The neck edges tend to be bound with linen and/or silk, presumably to prevent rubbing. Over the frame is stretched a fine fabric, (silk, gauze, etc.) and this decorated with lace and/or embroidery, and edged with more lace. At least two of the survivals close with a hook and eye, in one case these are formed from a continuation of the neck wire. Another method of closure is the use of band strings, as can be seen in figure 2 a detail from Paul van Somer’s portrait of Anne of Denmark.

1. Dent, Arthur. The plaine mans path-way to heaven. London : Robert Dexter, to be sold at the signe of the brazen serpent in Powles Church-yard, 1601.
2. Cotgrave, Randle. A Dictionarie of the French and English tongues . London : Islip, 1611.
3. Stubbes, P. The anatomie of abuses. 1583.
4. Braun, M, et al. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
5. North, S. and Tiramani, J. Seventeenth century women's dress patterns, book 2. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012.
6. Heaht, J. B. Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London. London : Chiswick Press, 1869.
7. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion 4 : the cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women . London : Macmillan, 2008.
8. Ornsby, G. ed. Selections from the Household Books of the Lord William Howard of Naworth Castle. s.l. : Publications of the Surtees Society, 68, 1878.

List of Survivals
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nurnberg  PofF4, 29, p.92
Musée de la Renaissance, château d'Ecouen PofF4,  31, p.92
Met Museum - with matching cuffs. No image on the museum’s website. PofF4, 32. p.93
Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. PofF4, 33, p.93

Links to English Paintings and Prints
Below are links to some of the English paintings and engravings showing both men and women wearing the rebato.
1614 Isabella Rich, by William Larkin, Kenwood House
1617 Anne of Denmark by Paul van Somer, Royal Collection

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Baby clothes: common and elite, written sources and survivals

Written Sources
Detail from the Saltonshall Family, Tate Gallery

In Thomas Deloney’s 1597 work The Gentle Craft, a list is given of clothing needed to prepare for the birth of a child, it includes, “beds, shirts, biggins, wastecoats, head bands, swaddlebands, cross cloths, bibs, tailclouts, mantles, hose, shooes, coats, petticoats...” The table below lists the clothing of three mid to late seventeenth century babies, and shows that little had changed, although obviously the richer you were the more you had. These three babies reflect three levels of society; the poor, the working class and the well to do.

1691 poor – These are the items provided for Reeve’s girl by the overseers of the poor at Aylesford in Kent in 1691. (1)

1668 working class - On the 22nd April 1668 Richard and Joyce Bamford of Great Paxton, Huntingdonshire discovered a baby abandoned under a bush. The baby was taken to a woman called Mary Corbet who undressed the child. Four days later a widow, Mary Chambers, of St Mary’s parish Bedford, admitted that the child was hers. Both Mary Corbet and Mary Chambers list the clothes the child was wearing, they are different. As Anne Buck states in her article, “the lists show the difficulty of interpreting garments from their names alone.” The two women, living only a few miles apart have different names for what are obviously the same items. (2)

1698 well to do - Mary Thresher in Billericay had her first child in 1698 and wrote down a list of “my small child bed linning”. She also produced a second listing, which may be for a different child, however as the first list does not include any clouts, I have included the clouts from the second list in the table below.(3)

1691 poor
1668 working class
1698 well to do
Overseer’s account for Reeve’s girl
Mary Corbet
Mary Thresher

a holland shift
a shirt
6 fine shirts
2 pure fine holland half shift lacet att neck and hands
2 barrows

2 beds
a linen bed and blanket
a linen bed
2 holland beds in white
2 pure fine holland bed
2 clouts
a double clout
and one double cloth under it [the bed]

4 dozen and 4 diaper clouts
24 fine holland clouts
18 small flowered damask clouts
12 large figur’d damask clouts
one undercoat
one uppercoat
a red sweather
a red wascoat
6 fine calico dimity wascoats

a holland neckcloth
a neckcloth
6 fine neckcloths
2 fine neckcloths lacet

a holland biggen
one biggen
6 pure fine bigons

a linen hood
a white calico hood
6 head sutes of fine stript cambrick lacet

6 pure fine night caps lacet
2 stitched caps

double cross cloth
one double cloth pinned over the face
6 pure fine forehead cloth double lacet
6 double lacet forehead cloths to the [head] sutes
one blanket
two blew blankets
two blew lincey woollsey blankets, cast over with brown thread

two red blanketts
two red blankets

a bib

2 pr of pure fine holland little linen pillow

6 fine bellibands

8 fine long stays

4 pr of pure fine holland glove
2 pr of pure fine holland glove lace

Most of these types of linen and garments continue through the eighteenth century. The pre printed list of possible garments that was annotated when a child was taken in by the Foundling Hospital in London on their Billet of Description has: “cap, biggin, forehead cloth, head cloth, long stay, bib, frock, upper coat, petticoat, bodice coat, barrow, mantle, sleeves, blanket, neckcloth, roller, bed, waistcoat, shirt, clout, pilch, stockings, shoes.”


The National Museum of Childhood is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and has an extensive collection of baby clothes. Below are links to the 17th century items in the V&A collections. Other surviving baby clothes can be found in the Museum of London, the Museum of Fashion Bath, Nottinghamshire Museums and others. 
V&A Item O319493, link on left

V&A – 1650-1675 - Mittens, cap, forehead cloth and bib
V&A – 1650-1699 - bib, cap, mitten only
V&A – 1650-1699 - mittens and two pieces of lace only
V&A 1680-1710 - cap & forehead cloth only


Barrow – by the 19th century this is being described as “A long sleeveless flannel garment for infants.”
Bed  - according to Buck this was, “a cloth extending from the breast to the feet, wrapped round the body and folded up over the feet.”(4)
Biggin – a close fitting cap
Clout - nappies for the English, diapers for the Americans, as Jane Sharp puts it, “Shift the child’s clouts often for the piss and dung.” (5) There is a good general article on nappies here
Sweather – swathes are swaddling bands, but here the word sweather appears to be being used for a waistcoat. Thomas Cooper’s 1565 Thesaurus gives, “the first apparayle of children, as, swathes,..and such lyke.”


1. Spufford, Margaret and Mee, Susan (2017) The clothing of the common sort 1570-1700. Oxford: OUP, p.60
1. Buck, Ann (1977) The baby under the bush. Costume, vol.11, pp98-99
2. Clabburn, Pamela (1979) “My small child bed linning.” Costume, vol. 13. pp38-40
4. Buck, Anne (1996) Clothes and the child. Bedford: Ruth Bean
5. Sharp, Jane (1671) The midwives book, or the whole art of midwifery.