Wednesday, 18 January 2017

17th Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630 – book review

This is the third book in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s series of patterns from seventeenth century clothing in their collection, and the first to deal with men’s wear. (1) The book has 12 chapters covers 13 items in the V&A collection, 7 can be considered as accessories and 6 as main garments.
The book begins with a short summary of what a man’s wardrobe would consist of at this time, based on surviving wills and inventories from all levels of society. There is also an explanation of clothing terms used at the time, much of it based on Randal Holmes Academy of Armoury. 

There are almost 150 pages of patterns and construction details. Two thirds of these relate to the six main garments, which are three doublets (c1600-10, c.1620 and c1625-30), a suit comprising doublet and breeches (c1618) and a cloak (c1560-1600). Most of these have not had patterns published before, however the suit is that of Sir Richard Cotton, and patterns for that have appeared in Arnold (2) and Waugh (3), but not in such detail.  For each garment there are portraits of men wearing similar garments, masses of photographic details of both the exterior and interior of the garment and x-rays. These are followed by pages of patterns and finally by details of the construction. 

The seven accessories comprise a sword girdle and hangers, a felt hat, a picadil, an embroidered nightcap, a linen nightcap liner, a pair of mittens and a linen stocking. Again these have not appeared before and, although this is a book of men’s patterns, the hat, mittens and stockings could be worn by either sex. 

The detailed examinations that the authors have done are incredible, and show us both what can and cannot be ascertained though detailed examination, for example even though fibres from the hat were examined microscopically it was not possible to determine the type of felt used. Where possible details are given which will allow for reconstruction. The buttons on the first doublet are described as “woven in a chevron pattern using green silk floss and silver-gilt filé threads”.  The pattern for the bobbin lace on the nightcap is detailed enough for anyone who knows how to make bobbin lace to produce a copy. There are step by step instructions on how to produce the finger looped lace on the linen stocking.

At £35 (you can get it for less) well worth purchasing.

1. Braun, M, et al. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
2. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London : Macmillan, 1985.
3. Waugh, N. The cut of men's clothes 1600-1900. London : Faber, 1964.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Women of 1640s Western Europe – Theatrum Mulierum and Aula Veneris.

Dutch Sailor's Wife
Those who study English clothing of the mid 17th century are very aware of Hollar’s Ornatus Muliebris the Habits [clothing] of Englishwomen, published in 1640. Perhaps less well known are his engravings of women from across the whole of Europe, and parts of North Africa, which he published in two series Theatrum Mulierum and Aula Veneris. The Latin subtitle of the Theatrum can be translated as, “the variety and differences of the female habits of the nations of Europe.” The publication history of these two is incredibly complex, and the plates come in various states, not least because they were being reprinted until well into the eighteenth century. For those wishing to untangle the publication, the place to go is Pennington. (1) The links given above are to the University of Toronto, Hollar Digital Collection, which has most, but not all, the prints.

Hollar was well travelled in Europe. He was born in Prague in 1607, by the late 1620s he was studying in Frankfurt, by 1630 he had travelled through Strasbourg, Mainz and Koblenz.  His first book was published in Cologne in 1635 and by 1637, under the patronage of the Earl of Arundel, he was living in London. Sometime after the Civil War started in 1642, he moved to Antwerp. He returned to London in 1652 and died there in 1677. 

Woman of Cologne
Some of his engravings are of upper class women, but many are of “ordinary” women, tradesmen and merchants’ wives and daughters, and sometimes countrywomen. They show regional diversity in the use of garments like huiks, they show how long ruffs continued to be worn by the middle and lower classes, long after they had gone out of fashion, and also the ubiquity of other garments, such as the waistcoat.

In the first example we have a Dutch sailor’s wife, wearing one of those hats that are often teamed with a huik in Dutch paintings, as seen in this late 16th century painting by Lucas van Valckenborch. The huik was worn widely in north western Europe, and Du Mortier has suggested that it may have its origins in Spanish fashions.(2)  In the second image, a woman of Cologne you again have huik. As Fynes Morison described them, “all women, in generall, when they goe out of the house, put on a hoyke or vaile which covers their heads and hangs downe upon their backs to their legges; and this vaile in Holland is of a light stuffe or kersie, and hath a kind of horne rising over the forehead, not much unlike to old pummels of our women’s saddles. ... but the women of Brabant and Flanders wear vailes altogether of some fine light stuffe, and fasten then about the hinder part and sides of their cap, so as they hang loosely not close to the body....and these caps are large round and flat to the our potlids, used to cover pots in the kitchin.” (3) This last is an excellent description of the sailor’s wife’s hat.
Woman of Franconia

The third image is a woman of Franconia. She wears not a starched ruff, as in the two previous images, but a ruff which falls to the shoulders. Descriptions of the construction of surviving ruffs of all types are given in Arnold. (4) The garment (waistcoat/jacket) she is wearing is buttoned like a male doublet, much like the garment worn in the monument to Lady Elizabeth Finch, now in the V&A.  Similar buttoned garments can be seen in Hollar’s Woman of Vienna, and several of his women from Augsburg.

In the fourth image is a woman from Antwerp. She wears a falling collar and, since it appears to be summer, a straw hat. Her top is patterned, while her skirt is plain.

As a final example let’s add in Hollar’s English countrywoman. There are lots of differences between the Englishwoman and the other examples, but some things do carry across. All five women wear aprons and, as four appear to be marketing, they carry some form of basket, be it split wood, wicker or rush. All wear some form of headwear, and in three of the five you can see a coif under the hat. Discarding the lady from Cologne, whose huik covers too much of her garments, all wear some type of bodice/waistcoat/jacket which finishes at the hips, and skirts that finish short of the ground at the ankle bone.
Woman of Antwerp

If you go through the links to explore the collection you will find women from France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The further afield the subjects of Hollar’s drawings are, the less likely he is to have seen, or known, what was actually being worn. His Irish woman, for example, is copied from John Speed’s map of Ireland , and his “Virginian” is copied from a Theodor de Bry’s drawing in Thomas Hariot’s A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. De Bry's drawing is itself based on John White’s originals made when he was with the Roanoke colony.

English Countrywoman

1. Pennington, Richard. A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar. . Cambridge : CUP , 2002.
2. Du Mortier, B. In search of the origins of the huik. Arte Nuevo : Revista de estudios áureos . 2014, Vol. 1.
3. Moryson, Fynes. An Itinerary: Containing His Ten Years Travel Through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, Netherland, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Turkey, France, England, Scotland and Ireland. London : John Beale, 1617.
4. 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.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Musée du Costume – Chateau Chinon

For those travelling to the east of France this year, I recommend a visit to the Musée du Costume at Chateau Chinon, in the Nièvre departement of France. It is usually closed from Christmas to sometime in February, and it does have its own website where you can get further information.

The museum was based originally on the collections of Jules Dardy, though it has grown since then, and has been open to the public in the mansion house of the Buteau-Ravizy family, since 1992.

The collection consists of over 5,000 items ranging in date from the late 17th century to the 1970s. The two photographs shown here are from the guide Voyage au Coeur des Collections, by Francoise Tetart-Vittu and others, published in 2011 (ISBN 978 2 914003 05 6; €15). The guide is recommended and well worth the money. It is well written and extremely well illustrated in colour,  but is not unfortunately available in English. 

The top photograph shows three men’s nightcaps or “bonnets d’interieur”, the top example is c.1690, the middle example is from the the first quarter of the 18th century, and the bootom example has just been dated generally to the 18th century.

The lower photograph is of a robe a l’anglaise of about 1785, in linen embroidered with silk.

An article on the museum, again in French, is available here.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Exhibition – French portrait drawings: Clouet to Courbet

Currently there is a temporary exhibition at the British Museum in Room 90, on the 4th floor, of some beautiful drawings dating from the sixteenth century through to the nineteenth century, some have not been exhibited before.  The exhibition, French portrait drawings from Clouet to Courbet,  is on until the 29th January 2017. 

As well as the drawings themselves there is also a case of medals and enamels, so that the earliest item in the exhibition is a medal by Jean Lepère, showing King Louis XII of France and his wife Anne of Brittany, 1499.

To the right is the first drawing that appears in the exhibition. It is  by Jean Clouet  (c.1485/90–1540) of an unknown man of c.1535 inscribed, the uncle of the Seigneur de Tavannes, but no longer identified as Jean de Tavanenes. You can just see sketched the gatherings around the top of his shirt and the ties to it. 

Here to the left is another unknown, this time a young girl c.1615 by Daniel Dumonstier (1574-1646). Lovely details are how the collar lays, the bows on her sleeves, and that lovely and unusual necklace. 

For each drawing in the exhibition if you go to the museum’s illustrated handlist, available here, you get the drawing with its description and a link to the Museum’s catalogue record for further information. Do click through, the museum's images are of far better quality than my photographs

Finally below, just to prove it is not all nobility, though most of it is, here is an old man in working dress, attributed to Pierre Biard II (1592–1661).

Friday, 26 August 2016

Rachel, Countess of Bath: Accessories for a “super-rich” lady of the 1640s.

1870s photo of the Van Dyck portrait
Everyone is aware of the modern idea of the super-rich woman being someone who thinks nothing of spending on a handbag, what for most people is a year’s income. As part of my researches for The Stuart Tailor I have been looking at the General Account Book of Rachel, Countess of Bath, for 1639-54, and she counts as mid seventeenth century super-rich, hubby is Charles I’s Lord Privy Seal. She was also one of the last people to have her portrait painted by Van Dyck, he returned to England in May of 1641, and was already ill. In her June 1641 accounts are two payments, “to Sir Anthony Vandick in part for my picture £10” and “to Sir Anthony Vandick for my picture £10, for the frame £4, to his man £1.” (1)  Van Dyck died in November 1641. The whereabouts of this painting are unknown, meaning that it is probably in a private collection somewhere. The picture on the right is from a 1870s photograph of the painting. 

In some respects it is difficult to compare what Rachel is spending with the income of an ordinary woman of the time. A 1645 list of the servants at the Baths’ Tawstock estate shows three female servants being paid £2 a year. Women who were employed on an annual basis by the gentry Le Strange family of Hunstanton received between £1 10s and £2 a year, while the two female servants listed in the 1642 memorandum book of yeoman farmer Henry Best were paid £1 4s and £1 8s.  However as has been pointed out servants were provided with board, lodging and clothing in addition to this money. Day labourers also received food and drink as part of their remuneration and there was a statutory equivalent of the “minimum wage”. In Suffolk in 1630, for female reapers and binders of corn, this was 4d a day. (2)

Hollar's Winter 1644
So what, for Rachel, was the mid 17th century equivalent of a modern Hermes Birkin handbag? Here left is Hollar’s Winter from his 1644 seasons, and this lady is wearing examples of several items that Rachel buys, a muff, a fur stole, a hood, and shoes roses. 

Apart from jewellery, which is discussed at the end, furs are among her most expensive purchases. In 1650 she pays for “a rich sable muff” £22, while in 1640 she had purchased “a sable for my neck” for £8 10s 0s. 

She buys a large number of hoods ranging in price from 3s for a black hood in 1639, to 12s in 1640 for a tiffany hood laced. In 1644 she buys three hoods for a total of 13s, of love, described by the OED as a thin crape or gauze material, of ducape, described by the OED as a plain-wove stout silk fabric of softer texture than Gros de Naples, and of sarcenet, which is a fine, soft silk fabric.

Looking at Winter’s feet the front of her shoe is covered by a shoe rose. In 1643 Rachel purchases “a pair of roses and 3 yards of pink coloured ribbon for your Ladyship bought at Mr Gumbletons 5s” The ribbon is probably for gartering, in 1644 she buys “gartering ribbons 7s”, and in 1650 “3 yards of blue gartering for my Lady 5s.” The shoes on the other hand are a lot less expensive, in 1644 “for a pair of shoes for your Ladyship 3s 6d”, even decorated shoes as in 1646 “for a pair of laced shoes for your Ladyship 4s” and in 1646 her slippers were 2s 6d. 

 In the winter engraving you can’t see the stockings, but Rachel’s are usually of silk at around £1 2s to £1 5s a pair. In 1639 we have “for 3 pair silk stockings £3 15s” and in 1649 “2 pair of silk stockings 46s,” there are other stockings listed. These silk stockings are in the Livrustkammeren in Stockholm and date from 1654.  

 You can’t tell if Hollar’s winter is wearing gloves but Rachel buys lots, “paid my glover 6th May 1641 £4 10 0,” and a 1646 bill has “paid for 12 pair of white and 11 pair of brown gloves Mrs Everatt 19s.”  These are probably the plain elbow length gloves that can be seen in this Van Dyck portrait of Anne Carr where the glove is shown carried. A slightly later (c1685-1700) pair, with a little decoration, survives in the Glovers’ Collection.

She buys fans. In 1647 she buys one for 2s and another for 3s. She also buys them with other things, for example “for gloves & a fan £1 0s 6d,” and in 1647 in a small spending spree, “for a fair laced scarf and hood & 2 pair of pearl pendants & a screen fan £3.” The assumption is that a screen fan is a solid fan, as opposed to a folding fan. This folding brise fan in the collection of the V&A dates to the 1620s.

For her neckwear she has gorgets, these are deep, usually circular, cape like collars, as can be seen in this rear view from another Hollar engraving right. In 1640 she pays for a tiffany gorget 10s, in 1641 for making 2 gorgets & tiffany to one of them Miss Antony £1. Tiffany is a kind of thin transparent silk. Her neckwear wasn’t always of silk, in 1649 we have “for 2 handkerchiefs, cuffs and a gorget of plain Holland £2”  

Rachel also purchases a sweet bag in 1640 for the sum of £6 10s. Sweet bags are small purses often given as gifts, and sometimes containing a scented “sweet powder,” enabling them to be put with clothing in the same way as lavender bags are used today.  Shortly after buying her sweet bag she spends £1 6s 8d on “silver and gold lace for my best sweet bag.” The Victoria and Albert Museum has an excellent collection of examples from the first half of the 17th century. Jacqui Carey has written a book on the whole subject of sweet bags. (3)
Finally we have Rachel’s jewellery. Her largest expense is in 1652 for “for one fair diamond £40,” but she buys a fair number of small, cheaper items. Some of these items must have been similar to what was found in the Cheapside Hoard. She buys pendants together with a mask for 10s in 1640, and in 1642 she spends 14s on “a cornelian ring & crystal pendants.” The Cheapside Hoard contains several pendants, for example in amethyst and emerald, plus a much cruder crystal pendant.  Two pair of pearl pendants where mentioned above in her 1647 shopping spree, and there is a pearl and wirework pendant in the Cheapside Hoard. (4)  In 1649 she spends £2 5s for “3 great pearls.” In 1652 she buys “two lockets £4 1s 6d”, and one can speculate as to whether the lockets might have been of the type circulating among royalist supporters after Charles’s death. The final entry for jewellery actually mention her jeweller, and goes into some detail as to what he is making for her, “£30 to Mr Grumbleton for 4 diamonds and making two pair of lockets the one 18 diamonds and the other 25 and 17 & a little ring 5s with 5 diamonds.”

Rachel often mentions where she purchases her items, the Exchange and Paternoster Row in London are mentioned. This engraving of the Royal Exchange, and with more detail Abraham Bosse’s engraving of one of the shops in the Galerie du Palais, show the sort of shop involved. However looking at some of her purchases, if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t realise, that most of the time there is a civil war going on.  Oh and the Hermes Birkin equivalent? I think it has to be the sable muff. 

1. Gray, Todd. Devon Household Accounts 1627-59. Part 2. Devon and Cornwall Record Society, new series, vol. 39. 1996.
2. Whittle, J. and Griffiths, E. Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth century household: the world of Alice Le Strange. Oxford : O.U.P., 2012.
3. Carey, Jacqui. Sweet bags: an investigation into 16th and 17th century needlework. Ottery St Mary : Carey Company, 2009.
4. Forsyth, Hazel. The Cheapside Hoard: London's lost jewels. London : Philip Wilson , 2013.