Friday 30 May 2014

1630: Three suits, one coat and a wedding

1630 suit in the V&A Museum
Lady Alice Le Strange, wife of Sir Harmon Le Strange of Hunstanton, Norfolk kept the family’s accounts from 1610 to 1653, and these have now been analysed by Whittle and Griffiths (2012) Any unattributed information that follows come from this source.

On 26 August 1630 Alice’s son, Nicholas Le Strange (1604-51) was married in Norwich to Anne Lewkenor of Denham, Suffolk. The previous year his father, Sir Harmon Le Strange, had purchased one of the new baronetcies for him at a total cost of £400. (Kyle, 2004) In preparation for his wedding Nicholas was bought a range of clothes and accessories spending an astonishing total of £161 12s 1d, which includes £16 12s 6d for a diamond ring and earring. The annual expenditure of the Le Strange family in the 1620s was around £2,000 a year, and after his marriage Nicholas received from his father an annual allowance of £200 a year. To place this in context the average day wage for a farm worker in the 1630s was just over 8 and a half pence.(Clark 2007). This figure is reflected in payments made by the Le Stranges to their day labourers. Those who worked for them frequently could gain an annual income of between £6 and £10 a year. So these clothes are definitely the haut couture of the seventeenth century.

The suits and coat

The three suits were made by a tailor who charged, “for making the pearl coloured suit, the scarlet suit, the cloth suit and the camlet coat - £18 16s -0d.” The three suits were:-

A pearl coloured suit of satin, lined with carnation satin, and with a cloak lined with carnation plush. The suit was trimmed with silver bobbin lace edging and chain plate lace, the weight of the lace is given as 21 ounces. A white satin doublet and breeches of a similar date survives in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The fabric, lining fabric and lace for the suit cost a total of £36 17s 2d. This would put the cost of the suit at nearly the same level as some of those made for the King, as is shown in an analysis of the King’s wardrobe accounts for the period 1633-35 (Strong, 1980), where “everyday” suits cost between £45 and £60, while expensive suits cost upward of £200. A suit of c.1630 comprising doublet, breeches and cloak, which is in the Victoria and Albert collection is shown above right.

The scarlet suit may well be red as it is edged and lined with crimson satin, but this is not necessarily the case. The term scarlet was used in the medieval period to indicate a cloth dyed with expensive kermes, the term then became used for any expensive cloth, so that by the sixteenth century you have references to black scarlets. (Munro, 1983) The cloak for the suit is lined with pearl coloured plush.

The cloth suit is made from “fine Spanish cloth for doublet and hose”. The colour isn’t given but the doublet is lined with crimson satin. The 35 ozs of gold and silver lace is spilt across the suit and coat, so we don’t know how much was used on each.

The coat was made from Turkish camlet. What camlet was is a little difficult to pin down. As Beck said of it in his 1900 Draper’s Dictionary, “‘In production the changes have been rung with all materials in nearly every possible combination; sometimes of wool, sometimes of silk, sometimes of hair, sometimes of hair with wool or silk, at others of silk and wool warp and hair woof..” The cloth was 5s 8d a yard so nowhere near as expensive as the other cloths.

The Accessories

As well as the suits themselves all the accessories necessary to complete the outfits were purchased.

Points: There were three sets of points each containing 20 points, for attaching the breeches to the doublet. The sets came in gold and silver, crimson and silver, and scarlet and silver. The total cost for the points was £4 1s 8d.
Lace collar c.1635, Bowes Museum

Waistcoat: Nicholas also paid £5 13s for a silver and gold waistcoat. This is very expensive and it is speculative to say that it might be a knit waistcoat, of which several survive including one purportedly worn by King Charles and now in the Museum of London

Neckwear consisted of 3 falling bands, 2 cloth work laced bands and a ruff, there is listed separately 6 pair of Flanders strings, presumably to go with these 6 items. In addition a falling band is listed with band strings. The 2 cloth work laced bands mentioned are far more expensive, £5 17s 6d, than the others because of the lace, and also because the cost of starching them is included. A superb example of this type of lace collar, dating from c.1635 is in the Bowes Museum. The ruff came with a pair of cuffs.

Stockings and boot hose, etc: The 2 pair of boot hose Nicholas purchased were listed with the falling bands, but apart from these only one pair of silk stockings were bought, at a cost of £1 12s. There was a great increase in the availability of knitted silk stockings in the seventeenth century as has been described by Thirsk (1973), though as early as 1585 Stubbes was complaining about the cost of them, saying that, “The time hath beene when one might have clothed all his body well for less than a pair of these.” The price is not unreasonable as Lord William Howard paid £2 for pair (Cunnington & Cunnington, 1972). In fact Nicholas purchased 2 pair of boots, 1 pair of pumps and 1 pair of white shoes, for less than the cost of the stockings. To keep the stockings up a pair of garters were purchased for £4.

Boots and Shoes: The 2 pair of boots cost Nicholas £1 3s 6d, and a pair of spurs to go with them a further 2s 6d. The pumps and shoes together were 5s 6d. A pair of white shoes from the early 17th century survives and is in the Ashmolean Museum. Although they have been described as women’s shoes there are portraits of men wearing similar heels, such as Richard Sackville. A pair of roses were purchased to go with the shoes, and although at £1 2s these cost more than the shoes, they might be considered cheap as Peacham (1618) spoke of, “shoo-tyes that goe under the name of Roses, from thirty shillings, to three, foure and five pounds the pair.” Pumps are described by Holme (1688) as “shooes with single soles and no heels” and are often associated with dancing.

Hats: Nicholas purchased two hats both of beaver. Beaver felt made the best quality and most expensive hats. The felt was originally supplied mainly by the Russians using European beavers, however by the mid seventeenth century North American beaver wool had taken over, and the process of making the beaver wool felt is described by Carlos and Lewis. (2010) One beaver hat came with a band for £3 14s, the other was described as black and dressed and lined for £2 18s, for this there was a silver hat band for 7s 6d. A beaver of c.1650 is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Gloves: Eight pairs of gloves were purchased: 3 white, 3 cordovan, and 2 unspecified, the total bill was 15s 6d. Gloves were incredibly popular at this time, the Marquis of Hertford’s accounts shows that family purchasing at least 150 pairs in the course of one year (Morgan, 1945). There are many survivals of the gloves of the rich from this period in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers. Cordovan leather is a Spanish leather as first appears as a description in English in the last decade of the sixteenth century (Minsheu, 1599).

Girdles: Two girdles were purchased, one silver and one gold and silver for a total £2 4s. In this sense they are belts to go around the waist.


Carlos, A. M. & Lewis, F. D., 2010. The economic history of the fur trade 1670-1870. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 28 December 2010].

Clark, Gregory. The long march of history: Farm wages, population, and economic growth, England 1209–1869. Economic History Review. 2007, Vol. 60 Issue 1, p97-135.

Cunnington, C. W. & Cunnington, P., 1972. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed.. London: Faber.

Holme, R., 1688. Academie of Armourie. s.l.:s.n.

Kyle, C. R., 2004. L'Estrange, Sir Nicholas, first baronet (bap. 1604, d. 1655). In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. online edn, Oct 2005. [, accessed 19 May 2014]

Minsheu, J., 1599. Pleasant dialogues in Spanish and English.. s.l.:s.n.

Morgan, F. C., 1945. Private purse accounts of the Marquis of Hertford, Michaelmas 1641-2. Antiquaries Journal, 25(12-42).

Munro, J., 1983. The Medieval Scarlet and the Economics of Sartorial Splendour.. In: E. Carus-Wilson, N. Harte & K. Ponting, eds. Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe. London: Heinemann.

Peacham, H., 1618. The truth of our times.. London: s.n.

Strong, R., 1980. Charles I's clothes for the years 1633 to 1635.. Costume, Volume 14.

Thirsk, J., 1973. The fantasical folly of fashion: the English stocking knitting industry 1500-1700. In: Textile History and Economic History: essays in honour of Julia de Lacey Mann,. Manchester: Manchester University Press, .

Whittle, J. & Griffiths, E., 2012. Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth century household: the world of Alice Le Strange.. Oxford: O.U.P..

Monday 12 May 2014

Hollar's Spring

Having previously done a blog post on Hollar’s Winter I thought to do one on his Spring. There are several series that Hollar did of the seasons, only two are covered here. The first are the three quarter length engravings done in 1641, and these were published by Robert Peake who was a lieutenant colonel at Basing House during the siege, and had according to John Evelyn, ‘the most choice’ of prints in London. (Griffiths, 2004) The second series of Seasons, the full length ones, date from 1643-4, and were published by Peter Stent. (Nevinson, 1979)
The three quarter length Spring is shown indoors and in front of a window through which you can see an unknown house. (Pennington, 2002) She has the following ditty below her:
               “Fur fare you well the winter is quite gone
               and beauty’s quarter now is coming on
When nature striveth most to show her pride
our beauty being the chief we must not hide.”

In case you hadn’t taken the point her muff is shown in an open box ready to be locked away, and she points with one hand to a vase of spring flowers, while the other hand holds a bunch of tulips. This is just after the supposed “tulipmania” in Holland which reached its apogee in 1637. (Goldgar, 2007)
The full length Spring is shown outdoors in front of an unidentified house and gardens. The ditty below her reads:
               Welcom sweet lady you doe bring
               Rich presents of a hopeful Spring
That maketh earth to look so greene
As when she first began to teeme

The clothing of the two women is very similar, but different.

Both have a two layer neck-kerchief edged with bobbin lace, fastened high at the neck, and obviously shaped to it. A linen band of this type, though not as fine or transparent survives in the V&A collection, and a pattern has been produced by North and Tiramani (2012). A second collar is underneath and follows the neckline of the bodice, these usually consist of two pieces of fabric. One piece tucks into the neckline and holds the collar in place, though it may also be pinned. The second piece is the bit that shows and is darted to shape and edged with a broad bobbin lace. Again the Victoria and Albert Museum has a survival, with matching cuffs, and it has been described and a pattern produced in the first North and Tiramani (2011) book. The cuffs on the three quarter length spring do not appear to match the collar, although on the full length spring they may be a scaled down version.

The stomacher fronted bodice on both is long and pointed, very different from the higher more rounded styles that appears in Hollar’s slightly earlier Ornatus Muliebris Anglinicanus, published in 1640, however the long pointed front is very similar in style to the 1642 portrait of Elizabeth of Bohemia by Gerrit van Honthorst. On the full length spring it has what may be a fake cross lacing, however the 1660-1680 pink stays in the V&A have similar lacing and produce a similar effect.  The three quarter length has what appears to be a stomacher front with what could be lines of braiding across it and a central line of braid up the middle, but there would appear to be something on the centre front whenever the cross braids cover the braid going up, though this is difficult to see clearly. Both bodices have some form of peplum, which is a sort of short skirt, ruffle or tabs attached to the bodice at the waist. On the full length spring this appears to be continuous or made up of several sections joined together, as it is on two extant examples in the Museum of London, patterns for which are given in Waugh (1968). Neither of these garments, a cream damask and a blue watered silk, appear to be on the Museum of London website. The peplum of the three quarter length may be of individual tabs, it is difficult to see as her arm covers most of them, however there appears to be a braid trim which goes around the edge of each tab. The sleeves on both outfits are double sleeves. The inner sleeve is three quarter length, and the outer sleeve comes just above the elbow. An extant example of this is in the V&A Museum, but unfortunately there is no photograph on the website, Waugh (1968) gives a pattern.

The skirt on the three quarter length is open to show a striped or braided petticoat underneath. The skirt on the full length goes all the way around.

Both women wear their hair uncovered, with side ringlets and the centre hair pulled back, presumably into a bun. Both have some type of decorative ornament in their hair. In addition both appear to be carrying a small feathered fan, or feather edged mirror, suspended from the waist.

Goldgar, A., 2007. Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Griffiths, A., 2004. Peake, Sir Robert (c.1605–1667), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 10th May 2014].
Nevinson, J. L., 1979. The four seasons of Wenceslaus Hollar, with an introduction by J. L. Nevinson and topographical notes by Ann Saunders. London: The Costume Society.
North, S. and Tiramani, J. eds., 2011. Seventeenth century women's dress patterns, book 1. London: Victoria and Albert Museum.
North, S. and Tiramani, J. eds., 2012. Seventeenth century women's dress patterns, book 2. London: Victoria and Albert Museum.
Pennington, R., 2002. A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar.. Cambridge: CUP .
Waugh, N., 1968. The cut of women's clothes 1600-1930. London: Faber.