Last year I started a long contemplated project to make myself an outfit appropriate to a Dutch lady of C 1565. I had become enamoured of this somewhat stern look of black on black with the deep red undersleeves and the crisp white lawn caps and veils.
There are two variations of this style – a fitted overgown with short puffed sleeves or a loose gown style with the same sleeves – its really the sleeves that set it apart. After much toing and froing I opted for the loose gown style, although a fitted gown may follow as I only used about half of the silk taffeta that I had in my stash.
I started with the kirtle (undergown). I intended to wear this as my support layer, without a corset, however I still made it quite soft. You can only really see the kirtle when worn under a loose gown so my inferences are based on those images. There are a few things that differentiate this kirtle from similar ones of the period. First of all the neckline is quite high, pretty much right up to the collar bone, I assume for warmth. Secondly while the main part of the dress is black the sleeves are of a separate material, mostly red (velvet or wool), sometimes brown (a more middle-class option?), and in one case white satin (the English ambassador’s wife so maybe that doesn’t count). Lastly none of them appear to do up the front – so probably back or side back lace (based on other gowns of the period).
I opted for the followed:
- a black velveteen kirtle with slightly gored skirts and all the fullness at the back
- a curved front cut in two parts and strengthened with a layer of heavy cotton canvas.
- the front bodice seam is hidden under a wide satin ribbon that stops at the waist point.
- back-side lacing running down from the back curve of the arm.
- crimson silk velvet sleeves – these were basted into the arm about 2/3rds around but I will eventually make lacing points for them.
I actually completely cocked up the velvet sleeves and have order more velvet to remake them.
The loose gown is made of black silk taffeta and lined with black silk. The bodice area has a light linen interlining but the rest of the gown does not. I hope to be able to wear it year round as most of our events are held in fairly warm weather and my old gold loose gown is very heavy.
Because time was short I didn’t deviate from my pattern for the previous gold loose gown, which is based on the German loose gown in Patterns of Fashion. The gown body a very simple cut and easy to execute – the sleeves on the other hand are very complex, but do result in a great poofy sleeve with a lot more structure than the simpler style I see being used. As this is a formal gown I have given it a small train.
The gown is trimmed down the front and around the base with two rows of a really nice black gimp braid. Down the front of the gown the rows are separated with a live of wide velvet ribbon. Velvet ribbon and gimp braid also decorate the sleeves and two rows of velvet ribbon adorn the collar. As always sewing the trim took the longest amount of time, although the sleeve construction was not insignificant.
The velvet ribbons either side of the central panel of the sleeve conceal a strip of narrow boning to help the sleeve keep its shape and another strip runs conversely to them, tacked into place. The whole top part of the sleeve is stiffened with horsehair cloth and then lined with more silk. The top edge of the sleeve is cartridge pleated to make it fit into the arm which also adds to the size and shape of it.
This gown has no front closure, although I am going to put a small hook and eye in so that it doesn’t fall off the coat hanger.
It is the headdress that often differentiates an outfit and this is certainly the case here. These gowns are always worn with a small, lace trimmed cap and a fine veil which is shaped over the face similar to the French attifet.
My Dutch cap is made of a fine linen in two parts – a flat band which is trimmed with lace at the front and a gathered circle which is joined to it for the back part. Examination of images of the caps show that there is almost always lace between the front and back parts. I used a fine antique lace that I bought for both sections. I have found that the best way to wear this cap is to braid and coil my hair in a very flat bun at the top back of my head, place the cap over and then pull the laces tight at the nape of my neck. Thus affixed the cap stayed comfortably in place all day without requiring rearranging.
The veil is made of silk organza 45-50 cm wide and about 115cm long (the actual width of the cloth). By using the width of the cloth as the length of the veil I avoided having to finish those two ends of the veil. The face end was tightly wrapped and sewn around a 45cm length of hatters wire, leaving two small flaps at each end which many paintings show sticking out or tucked against the face. The veil was then sewn up its length until about 25cm or so from the face end to form a tube. Finally I took two tucks in the veil to shape it around my head – this made a real difference in how it sat when I tried it on.
All the girdles pictured are heavy gold chain so I bought a 2m length of chain from the local craft store – its nice and heavy and Nick made a hook for the closure (around the back), out of some heavy brass wire. I hung a small fancy mirror off the end with a bright red ribbon to echo the red in the sleeves.
I also intend at some point to make a new chemise to wear with this outfit but for now I settled for adding a new high collar and cuffs onto my old high necked chemise. As it was the new collar still isn’t quite high enough but it will do for now.