Monday 31 March 2014

Repurposing an outfit.

This year we have been invited to go and play with the Dutch at Schipluiden near Delft. We are re-creating a battle of 1574. I have neither time nor money to make a wholly new outfit, so it is a matter of repurposing what I already own. Having looked at some 1570s Dutch and Flemish genre paintings, especially by Pieter Aertsen (1508 -1575), Pieter Pietersz  (1540-1603) and Joachim Beuckelaer (1533–1574) I decided on something that would make me look vaguely period. 

I took my 1640s madder red wool waistcoat and petticoat, which were two separate garments, and sewed the bodice to the skirt to hide the tabs. The bodice does not lace, it has hooks and eyes up the front, but some surviving garments of this period hook and eye at the centre front, the underbodice of Eleonora of Toledo (1562) and the gown of the Pfalzgrafin Dorothea Sabina (1598) for example, also the lady in red in Beuckelaer’s Air of 1570 appears to have hooked together her jacket at the top and left the rest of it loose. 

1640s tabs sewn inside skirt to hide them
My 1640s neckline is low and square, and the sleeves gathered at the back. What was needed was a partlet. I had some navy wool left over from an outfit I made for Roger longer ago than I care to think about, just enough for a partlet, and enough linen to line it. I made it to look similar to that in Aertsen’s 1567 Market Woman and in Pietersz’s Pancake Baker.

Head wear also had to be taken into consideration. Many of the coifs in the paintings appear to be quite complex. Women, certainly of my age, wore some form of linen covering on the head. I opted to go with the simple English coif made from one piece of fabric with shaping to the forehead and cheeks - on the grounds that I already own one. In design it is like one of several in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but without the embroidery. Many of the women in the paintings wear a straw hat; Aertsen’s 1567 Market Woman again, the woman in the background of Van Valckenborch’s Summer of 1595 or in his Vegetable Market. So I dug out a simple straw hat in a vaguely similar style.

Next a basket. I usually carry a rush basket for 1640s, but most of those I saw in the paintings were wicker, two in this market scene by Aertsen. So I dug out an out wicker basket I own that looked similiar.

I look vaguely 1570s, though it is probably not what I would have produced if I were starting from scratch.

Friday 21 March 2014

Report on Dressing the little dears – WECS study day 15th March 2014

Had an excellent study day in Bristol, provided by the West of England Costume Society, entitled Dressing the little dears, and covering children’s wear from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Ninya with the Tudor Tailor display
Our first speakers were Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhaila from the Tudor Tailor, ably assisted by their live model, Ninya’s daughter Minnie Perry. Their presentation Counting cuffs and analysing aprons, was subtitled a statistical approach to children’s dress in the sixteenth century. Much of the information was drawn from their recently published book The Tudor Child. They had, in order to get their information, trawled through nearly 16,000 wills with over 30,000 bequests of clothing, only 357 of which were for children, and vast numbers of images, limited to north west Europe. They spoke about swaddling, and once the babes were a little older, half swaddling, where their arms were free. Lacking a real baby, they are notorious uncooperative, they had a baby sized baby doll you could use to practice swaddling. There was much talk of “slavering clouts” that is bibs. They then moved on to small children, and the problems of guessing the gender of the child, with coats for boys and gowns for girls. Minnie was dressed in an outfit copied in part from a child on the Oglander family monument, with a kirtle on top of her smock, and a russet gown over her kirtle. The book is recommended. (Huggett and Mikhaila, 2013)

Huggett, J. and Mikhaila. N., 2013. The Tudor Child. Lightwater: Fat Goose. £25

Second speaker was Noreen Marshall, who was previously a curator at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. Her talk, What will baby wear, covered the history of baby clothes and started with the sixteenth century. She too spoke about swaddling, noting that the bands were quite deep 2-4 inches, and she had a photograph of a 1575-1600 band from the collection. Noreen talked about chrisoms, the cloth that was used when the child was christened, and how these do not survive. Chrisom children were those who died within the first month. Noreen stated that the ppins used for swaddling were normal open ended pins, and layette pincushions with the pinheads spelling out mottos such as “welcome sweet babe” were common presents for new mothers. Noreen showed a christening set dating to 1650-1700 which consisted of a cap, forehead cloth, bib and mittens, heavily decorated with lace, and a bearing cloth of about the same date, which she described as small tablecloth size. We moved on through 18th and 19th century christening robes to the revolutions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Terry for nappies appeared at the end of the 19th century, and we were shown a pilcher (nappy cover) of circa 1909 in oiled silk, creating an early waterproof.  Liberty bodices were introduced in 1908, with a wrapover style by the 1920s. Barracoats made their appearance as open garments in the 19th century but a closed style by the 20th century. Romper suits appear for older children from around 1900, but were being used for babies by 1925.

Examples from Alasdair Peebles collection
After lunch collector Alasdair Peebles talked about Suitable dress for boys, examining the boy’s suit not only with illustrations, but with examples from his collection and covering from 1770 to the 1940s. He started with photographs of a 1770s suit he had purchased when Brooklyn Museum deaccessioned some of their collection. He then looked at the nankeen skeleton suit of unbleached cotton (far left in the photograph). This style was worn from the 1780s to the 1820s. The breeches button to the jacket. Next a tunic suit (second from left in the photo), these were popular in the 1830s. Next came a suit based on the pattern of the French Zouave uniforms, an original survives in the Chicago History Museum. The outfit Alasdair owns (second from right in the photo), is not as flamboyant as the Chicago example, but is of similar cut. The boy’s sailor suit needs no introduction. The young Prince Albert Edward was famously painted wearing this style in 1848, the original is in the National Maritime Museum.  Alasdair explained how those that have survived are mainly from the 1920s and are of cotton jean, wool versions having succumbed to moth. Alasdair then produced a little kilt suit, which unfortunately I did not photograph. These were popular in the 1880s and 1890s. He wondered why it had little black rosettes on the kilt, but no one was able to offer an explanation. He then moved on to the Norfolk suit, which by 1900 was ubiquitous, but survivals of children’s versions are now incredibly rare. Finally Alasdair looked at the Eton suit, worn in private schools until the 1930s or later, and comprising black coat and waistcoat, striped trousers, stiffened collar and top hat. 

A Ladybird dressing, which someone gave to our speaker.
Our final speaker was social anthropologist Dr. Kaori O’Connor, who some people may have seen recently on the Great British Sewing Bee talking about how Lycra changed fashion. Her talk was entitled The Ladybird, the dressing gown and a golden age of British childhood. Kaori spoke about how the comfortable, safe, secure image of the child’s dressing gown was formed in the inter war years by things like images of listening to radio stories with Uncle Mac, and the Ovaltineys. In 1932 Eric Pasold, whose family had a long running textile manufacturing business on the continent, established the British base in Langley. The firm specialised in machine knit garments and at the beginning was mostly producing underwear. During the war the factory went over to producing parachutes. Kaori pointed out that during the Second World War dressing gowns were an item of clothing that was not produced. After the war Eric decided on a new label for children, Ladybird, and he started with the underwear and with the dressing gown. Eric also produced a book about his family’s story The Legend of the Scarlet Ladybird, and a strip for the comic Swift entitled  The Sign of the Scarlet Ladybird. In the stories Ladybird clothes, such as tee shirts, help to get the children out of trouble or scrapes. When fashions for children stared to change in the 1960s Pasold sold out to Coats Patons, who continued to market the Ladybird range.

Monday 10 March 2014

Portrait of a “puritan” – Dutch Mennonite

Catrina Hooghsaet by Rembrandt. 1657

The portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet (1607–1685) by Rembrandt van Rijn was painted in 1657 when the subject was fifty. It is often considered one of the finest Dutch portraits of the seventeenth century, and at the moment it is on loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. (Brown, 2014) The portrait belongs to the Penrhyn Estates, and is usually on display at Penrhyn Castle, which is now owned by the National Trust.

Catrina Hooghsaet was a Mennonite, as the Anabaptist denominations that followed the preachings of Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland were called. Catrina belonged to the Waterland congregation in Amsterdam. Rembrandt’s relationship with the Waterland congregation has been discussed and summarised by several historians. (Edmonds, 2009). As well as Catrina, Rembrandt had already painted other members of the congregation, in 1632 Aeltje Uylenburgh (his wife Saskia’s aunt), and in 1641 Cornelius Anslo and his wife.

The copy of the portrait I have used here is from Wikimedia Commons and is not as good, or as detailed as that available on the National Museum of Wales website. So looking at the clothing in the portrait, what effect does her being Mennonite have? The Mennonites, like the Quakers in England about the same time, talked about plain dress, but plain did not mean poor quality. Catrina was a rich woman and can be seen dressed in the finest silk and linen, but with little embellishment. The cut is very fashionably for 1657, Interestingly at this point in time Catrina was separated from her second husband, Hendrick Jacobsz, who was a crimson dyer and clothier, and also a preacher. (Anon., 2014) (van Gelder, 2014)

So her clothing follows the cut and style of fashionable dress, but it is plain. Compare this portrait with that of an unknown woman of the same decade by Jan Victors, which is in the Milwalkee Art Museum. The dress is the same cut and style, but the collar and cuffs in the Victors portrait have wide lace trim, and the centre front of the skirt has gold braid, while the bodice also shows a gold colour of the garment underneath at the centre front. Catrina has the same black bands across her bodice, but they are difficult to discern as the undergarment is also black.

 Catrina’s only jewellery is a ring on the little finger of her left hand. While the unknown woman, as well as a ring on her left hand, has a gold necklace with matching bracelets on both wrists, a large broach holds her collar together at the front, and she has pearl earrings. Both women are wearing black silk with white linen, but then black and white had been both fashionable and common in the Netherlands for the previous sixty years. Fynes Morison stated when he travelled there in 1592-3, “Women ... cover their heads with a coyfe of fine holland linnen cloth, and they weare gowns commonly of some slight stuffe, and for the most part of black colour.”

Catrina’s coif, a close up can be seen here, appears to be more elaborate and has a greater degree of decoration than that of the unknown woman, though in both cases it can be seen that the headdresses are held in position by hooftijsertgen or oorijzer (ear irons).  An example of the sort of coif worn by the woman painted by Victors survives in the Platt Hall collection.
Feyntje van Steenkiste by Hals. 1632

Catrina holds in her right hand a handkerchief decorated with akertjes (tassels of knotted linen cords), this is an item that was permitted by the Mennonites. Catrina could have had lace on her handkerchiefs as the 1640 inventory of another Mennonite, Feyntje van Steenkiste (painted by Hals in 1632), shows that eight of her handkerchiefs had bobbin lace edgings and nine were of silk. (Dumortier, 1989)Tassels also decorate Catrina’s collar, these were quite common. Another Dutch lady from the 1650’s, painted by Abraham Liedts and now in Manchester City Galleries, has similar tassels on her collar.

So Mennonite dress plain, unadorned, but of the best quality you could afford.

Anon., 2014. Caterina Hoogsaet. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 8 March 2014].

Brown, C., 2014. For art's sake. In: The Oxford Times.. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 8th March 2014].

Dumortier, B. M., 1989. Costume in Frans Hals. In: S. Slive, ed. Frans Hals: catalogue of the exhibition. London: Royal Academy of Arts, pp. 45-60.

Edmonds, K., 2009. Rembrandt and the Waterlander Mennonites. In: Study and Research Commission on Baptist Heritage and Identity Baptist World Alliance Gathering, Ede, Netherlands - July 29, 2009.. s.l.:s.n.

van Gelder, M., 2014. Catrina Hoogsaet. In: Online Dictionary of Netherlands.. [Online]
Available at: / Hoogsaet
[Accessed 8 March 2014].