The Leiden Coat

section of a painting by Lucas van Leyden showing a woman wearing a coatI think I have a thing for sleeves with a hole cut in the inner elbow for the arm to go through, because as soon as I saw the coat in Lucas van Leyden’s “The Card Players” I wanted to re-make it.

I originally saw this coat in a black and white copy of this painting, and then spent about 4 months trying to track down a colour copy of it to find out what colour the coat actually was.

This was not an easy task as it had been hanging in the same private collection since the 1700s. As this process took so long I cut out the pattern pieces in black wool as this seemed the most appropriate colour based on other research at the time. The light blue was a pleasant surprise. For a copy of the entire painting go to this page.


The details of this coat are easier to see on the black and white copy I originally had. It has a standing collar cut in one piece with the back of the coat, in contrast to a coat worn by one of the men in the painting which has a separate collar. There are two lines of trim around the elbow hole in a fabric which is darker than the coat, as well as along the collar and front of the coat. The coat is open down the front.

photo of coat being worn

The Leiden coat, perfect for a chilly morning

To construct this coat I looked at some of the coats patterns in Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion”. Although the coats in this book are from the end of the 16th century , 60 years after this coat was made, it was usefual to get an idead of where gathers may have been placed, sleeves and use of bias. With the help of Marguerite we decided on the amount of fabric that would be needed in the hem of the coat for it to drape properly and the length that I wanted it to be. I decided on a 3/4 length coat as this would be easire to wear and thre are some engravings by van Leyden that show women in 3/4 over skirts. I then adapted a coat pattern that Marguerite had already developed, rotating it slightly through the centre back to give more drape throught this area, and emulating the drape that can be seen through the back of the coat in the painting.

The finished product is made of a medium weight black wool, lined with some rose coloured cotton that was in Marguerite’s stash. The trim is made from the same cotton, made into bias strips and then handsewn to the coat. The arms should ideally have another line of trim on them, but I ran out of time and patience.The collar probably needs some stiffening in it, as it is not as structured as the collar in the painting.

The picture of me wearing the coat to the left was taken on a frosty morning in winter when I was wearing it over a 15th century kirtle for extra warmth, normally you would not be able to see the chemise sleeves and I would have a more appropriate hat on, however those without cameras have to take whatever opportunities arise for documentation of their work.


Arnold, Janet, “Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women C1560-1620”, Drama Publishers, 1985. ISBN: 0896760839

Ludovico Guicciardini on the Low Countries’ Textiles

From Ludovico Guicciardini, The Low Countries Seen by an Italian, published 1567:

“The woolens of the country are somewhat coarse, inferior in quality to those of Spain and even more to those of England. One reason for this besides the climate is that the pastures here are so nourishing that the animals grow coats which are too think, long and rough.” The Low Countries in Early Modern Times: a Documentary History, p 6.

Ludovico contradicts himself in a later paragraph (reproduced below) stating that wool cloth produced in Holland is of high quality. This could be a result of two things: 1. Wool, i.e spun wool from the sheep’s back, may have been of poor quality, which is why it was imported from other regions. 2. Ludovico is a Florentine, well known for their wool trade, and so may be displaying some form of wool “snobbery” in judging that Holland’s wool is inferior because is not Florentine wool.

“The country produces such large quantities of madder, which here is called garance, that not only do they supply their own country but a large part of Europe as well. They also prodce excellent woad, although in small amounts, and flax and hemp in great abundance.” The Low Countries in Early Modern Times: a Documentary History, p 5.

“Flax does not grow in this country [Holland] and yet it produces more fine linen than any other region in the world, since it obtains flax from Flanders and a certain quantity from Leige and the Baltic, although this flax is not as fine. Holland does not produce wool and yet an enormous amount of woolen cloth, especially for ornamental purposes, is woven here from wool which it gets from England, Scotland and Spain and a little from Brabant.” The Low Countries in Early Modern Times: a Documentary History, p 9.


L. Guicciardini, The Low Countries Seen by an Italian from Rowen, Herbert H. “The Low Countries in Early Modern Times: a Documentary History”, Harper and Row, New York, 1972, 06-139310-x

Site History

Most of these articles were written in 2004-05, and have not been on the internet since my original site was closed down (by me, I no longer had access to a free University server). I hope they are still of use to costumers and people researching the history of clothing in this place and period.

Bodice and Sleeve Seams for the Leiden Style

One of the most interesting aspects of Bruegel’s work and parts of Gerard David’s work, from a costuming perspective, is the depiction of a seam treatment for bodice and sleeves which is different from the common 4 panel bodice with rounded armscrye. One of my friends, Salaberge de Granson, constructed a dress based on these images, which I was able to look at in 2004. Salaberge was kind enough to send me her pattern pieces for further examination. As a result I started to wonder whether the Leiden style bodices that I was constructing at the time were also constructed this way, or was a 4 panel cut used.

The easiest way to determine this is to examine the art.

The Flemish seams are best seen in this picture, the woman on the far right of Bruegel’s “Peasant Dance”

Armed with this information I went searching for evidence of seam lines in van Leyden’s work. Here’s what I found:

shoulder detail from 1500s print shoulder detail from 1500s print cropped image from 1500s print
Woman at her spinning wheel, Lucas van Leyden Samson and Delilah, Lucas van Leyden The Dance of the Magdalen, Lucas van Leyden
shoulder detail from 1500s painting shoulder detail from 1500s print
Portrait of a man and a woman, Joos van Cleve The Dance of the Magdalen, Lucas van Leyden

Lucas van Leyden’s preferred aspect is front or 3/4 view, so it’s very hard to find pictures showing the back of women’s dress. The only one I could find is a small woman in “The Dance of the Magdalen” which is shown above. most of the above pictures are inconclusive, and simply show that sleeves were set into the shoulder, usually with a quite a few gathers. However the shoulder seam from Samson and Delilah is much more useful. This shows a seam which runs across the the shoulder and meets the sleeve, which is used in 4 panel bodices and not the V backed seams in the Bruegel style cut.

pattern layout diagram

Possible pattern layout for a V-backed Breugel bodice

However to make sure I had completely explored every possiblility I sketched out an idea for a pattern based on a V seamed back with these shoulder seams built in (previous image). The problem with this layout is that I can think of no logical reason why there would be this strange V shaped insert in the back, however it is needed to create the high-neck that is a feature of dutch clothing. I think unless I see evidence to the contrary that this would not have been a common pattern style for the high-necked dresses of the Leiden style.

pic of two women with different seamlinesAn interesting clue can be found in an illumination from Flanders in the early 1500s. This illumination shows two women watching a show, one more wealthy than the other. The wealthier woman’s bodice is a 4 panelled construction while that of the other woman is follows the V-shaped patterning of the Bruegel dress. As the Ledien style that I am re-constructing is most similar to the first style, I am satisfied that the Leiden dresses were patterned with a 4 panel bodice.

The evolution of the pattern pieces I have used to construct the curtain dress, the pink dress and the green dress are in order:

pattern pieces for Gerard Davide dress

pattern pieces for my first Low Countries dress, dubbed “The Curtain Dress”

This was the first pattern, based on a very simple 4 panel bodice cut, with the front rounded to mirror the rounded fronts of the early sixteenth century Flemish dresses. The sleeve was cut on the fold as per the enclosed pattern piece shown here, it was then unfolded and the lower half of the armscrye was cut into it. This is shown by the extended armscrye line on the pattern.

Pink dress pattern layout

pattern pieces for my first Leiden style dress, dubbed “the pink dress”

This pattern was developed to emulate the high neck that is a feature of the Leiden style. It is slightly strange in that the shoulder piece meets the back piece at a right angle, but this seems to fit together fine. To achieve the overlap that is seen in Engelbrechtsz.’ painting one edge of the bodice was extended 1 inch. I then found the straightest line possible through this new curve and cut along that line. The sleeve length shoudl come to at least the end of your hand, so that it can be turned back properly. If you are unsure of the length and fullness requried start draping witha length of cloth.

pattern pieces for my second Leiden dress, dubbed “The Green Dress”

This last pattern developed as I was not happy with the height and line of the previous pattern through the neck. The curve at the shoulder fixes this problem and creates a very comfortable fit. You can see the finished version at the end of its dress diary

Many thanks to Mistress Marguerite de Rada y Sylva for her help in developing these patterns.

If you are interested in the Flemish square cut sleeve you can find out more information at these sites:


“Stand with Quack Holding a Urine Sample” illumination from the Songbook of Zegere van Male, Bruges, 1542. Cambrai Bibliotheque municipale, ms. 125-128, fol.53. Smeyers, Maurits. “Flemish Miniatures: From the 8th to the mid-16th century”. Uitgeverij Davidsfonds, Leuven. 1999. ISBN: 2 503 50966 5

The Life of Lucas van Leyden, b. 1494, Leiden, d. 1533, Leiden

self-portrait painting of Lucas van Leyden

Lucas van Leyden, self-portrait

Lucas van Leyden was born and spent most of his life in the town of Leiden in South Holland. He was the son of Huygh Jacobsz. and Marie Heynricdr. He had four siblings, Katrijn, Marie, Griet and Barber. He studied as an artist first under the direction of his father (none of his works remain) and then was taught by Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. He had one child, an illegitimate daughter named Marijtgen, who was the mother of the artists Lucas Dammesz. and Joan de Hooy, who became court painter to the King of France. Lucas was married to Elysabeth van Boschuysen, a member of the wealthy noble house of van Boschuysen in 1526. He died in 1533 after a lengthy illness.

The best source that exists for the life of Lucas van Leyden is the Schilderboeck by Karel van Mander. This book was first published in 1604 and is a compilation of the lives and works of Dutch and Flemish artists. In the English translation 12 pages are devoted to van Leyden’s life, where van Mander usually gives an artist 1-2 pages. Van Mander praises van Leyden as a gifted artist and a prodigy, declaring him to be a genius. “Among the many geniuses in the fine art of painting, I do not know of one who reached excellence in the prime of life, except Lucas van Leyden”. Mander makes this claim as van Leyden began engraving at the age of 8, producing some excellent engravings when he was 15, and continued producing works of art until his death. He is best known for this engravings, praised as the master of Netherlandish print. However, as van Mander claims, van Leyden was “at home in all branches of painting as well as in oil and water-colour.”.

Unlike many painters of the Northern Renaissance van Leyden did not travel to Italy for training. As far as we know he did not actually travel until 1521 when he visited Antwerp where he met Albrecht Durer. According to Durer’s diary from this period the two artists exchanged engravings, and Durer made a portrait of van Leyden (probably the picture at the bottom of the page titled “The painter Lucas van Leyden”). His trip to Antwerp influenced his art, with works produced in 1521 and 1522 reflecting this influence. In 1527 he visited painters of Zeeland, Flanders and Brabant, spending much time with Jan de Mabuse.

However the most important question for this site is: To what extent can the works of Lucas van Leyden be used as source material for the reconstruction of the clothes of Leiden and the Netherlands? This relates to his accurancy in detail, and his travels and influences. We have already establshed that he probably did not travel out side of Holland until 1521, and then only to other parts of the Low Countries. Therefore his works are most probably accurate with respect to Netherlandish fashions. This is corroborated by the works of Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. and Albrect Durer‘s drawings from his trip to Aachen in 1521. But what of van Leyden’s accuracy? Van Mander has two things to say about van Leyden’s work : “there are so many varieties of faces and costumes, hats, caps, draperies. All this has been doen so well that, at present, great Italian artists…base their work on these very engravings by Lucas” “He observed the aspect of objects most accurately and rendered them more accurately according to the rules of art than Albrecht Durer.” Van Mander is perhaps a little effusive in his praise, but the point is made that van Leyden was observant and accurate and therefore his art can be used as a source for costume in Holland in the early 16th century.


Van Mander, Carel, Constant van de Wall (trans.), “Dutch and Flemish Painters” (Dutch: Schilderboeck) Arno Press, New York, 1969. Reprint of a 1936 edition.

Smith, Elise Lawton, The Paintings of Lucas van Leyden: a new appraisal, with Catalogue Raisonne University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1992. ISBN:0-8262-0824-X

The web gallery of art’s biography of Lucas van Leyden

Spaightwood gallery’s biography of Lucas van Leyden

The Green Dress

Started May 2004, Finished May 2004

One of the things I love the most about the Leiden style is that I get the best parts of my two favourite styles: Tudor and German. I like the square necked bodices and turn back sleeves of the Tudors and the puff and slash sleeves of the Saxon princesses painted by Cranach. This dress had been on my list of dresses to make for a while. It was referred to as the “dress-in-a week” dress for a while, as I made it in a week as a result of deciding to go to a Kingdom event at the last minute. Since this name is away too long it has just become “the green dress”

I was able to make the entire dress in a week because luckily the bodice had already been re-patterned. It’s based on the bodice pattern from my pink dress however the neckline at the back has been raised substantially to give a line very similar to the one seen in this print. This is a very comfortable and flattering line. Otherwise the dress is constructed almost exactly the same as the pink dress, with the following differences:

The bodice has a layer of canvas in it, as I was unsure of the stability of the wool that I used for the dress. This was a marked improvement over the pink dress as it gave a lot more support, so I will be using canvas to line all of my bodices of this style in the future. There was no boning used so the unstructured look that I like so much in this style has not been diminished.

The pleats on the skirts are padded. As the wool I used was so fluffy I simply turned the waist edge under 3 times, which gave an appropriate weight to the pleats, and they can also now be used as a pincusion if so desired, as one of my lovely friends has pointed out!!

The sleeves obviously are quite different. These were patterned from some cotehardie sleeves I had made two years previously, with the inner sleeve folowing this pattern exactly. Tthe outer sleeve was made longer so that the slashes would puff out from the sleeve. The wool I was using was felted when I bought it and became even more so after it was put through the wash, so I simply cut the slashes in and didn’t have to edge them in any way. This has made them more unstructured than other slashes I have seen that are lined and edged, and in my opinion are more appropriate to this style than the structured slashes would have been. I created “fake” puffs by cutting strips of voile and inserting them under the slashes and stitching the inner sleeve, viole and outer sleeve together at each corner of the slash.

This dress was finished in a week, it was cut out on a Sunday and finished at 4.30pm of the following Saturday. This was only possible as I worked on it every night, and already had the accessories; the hat and partlet from the pink dress. I wouldn’t recommend making a dress in a week to anyone ever again, after a week of bending over the dress to handsew it, as well as being bent over a computer all day at work my back and neck were stuffed. However it’s good to knwo that when I need to I can produce a finished article in a week. Except the hem; I haven’t yet hemmed this dress as I could get away with cutting it and relying on the felting effect to keep the hemline intact. Curiously the only person who noticed this in the three times I have worn this dress was my Laurel.

The photo was taken in my backyard in the afternoon on a disposable camera, so my apologies for the quality. The strange green arc that cuts across the dress is not part of it, just something that came out in the printing process.There’s another couple of pictures on the Leiden Gollar page.

Image: “Samson and Delilah” 1515, Lucas van Leyden. Sourced from the Department of Art History, College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University Accessed 16 January, 2004.

A Red Leiden Kirtle: Dress Diary

This diary is finished: 28 February 2005

16 July 2004

Last year at Rowany Festival there was a competition held amongst the costuming Laurels of Lochac to make a dress within a year which could be worn during market day at Festival. It was a great competition and it was also great to see our Laurels planning and making a dress in that time frame. This competition became colloquially known as the Laurel Frock-Off, as in frock competition similar to bake-off, rather than suggesting anything indecent about the competition. Caterina Sansorvino, my apprentice sister suggested that next year it should be the apprentice’s turn, so that we can get experience and feedback in this sort of arena and this is the dress that I am making for this competition.

It is going to be a 1520s burgher class dress done in the Leiden style made as accurately as I can based on current research. It will have a red linen kirtle with straight sleeves, probably a black wool overdress, a simple linen partlet, a white cap with redwork embroidery on it, a black silk tablet woven belt, a pouch, linen hose and shoes, and maybe klompen if I can find the time.

The cap is going to be based on the cap worn by the woman in the left of this engraving by van Leyden, “Potiphar’s wife accusing Joseph”. I am interpreting the lines on the back part of the cap to be embroidery and have chosen redwork to match the colour of the kirtle. I have started the redwork for the cap which is on a frame at home. It takes about two hours for each square of the embroidery, so I figure if I do an hour each day after work in front of the television it will probably get done by Easter next year. I am using a pattern from a German pattern book published in 1548. As Leiden is close to Germany I am making an assumption that German patterns would have been available in Leiden and that anything available in 1548 is going to be the same as or similar to patterns available in the 1520s. The reason it takes me two hours to complete a square is that the linen I am working it on is uncounted linen which means I have to spend time working out where each stitch goes so that the pattern remains even. Thank goodness I have 20/20 vision!

I started the kirtle today. It is being made of a rusty red linen cotton blend (40:60), The bodice and sleeve pattern will be the same as that of my green dress, although I am going to put more room in the elbows as currently my green dress is too tight through that area. I have forgotten to wash the canvas I am using to line the kirtle so I haven’t cut that out yet. The kirtle will have two lines of black bias along the neck and front and at the wrists, also a thicker line which will enclose the hem. I know that there is little to no evidence for the use of bias at this time, however I have a reel of lovely black bias that I want to use up and this will save me heaps of time and I don’t have an iron at the moment so I can’t make turned under strips of fabric anyway.

Before I start seaming the kirtle I need to decide which method to use. A recent discussion on MedCos has inspired me to try a method which involves sandwiching all the layers together to create a piece then joining these pieces together and finishing the seams internally. However I am unsure how to finish the neck and front edges, and I am unsure as to whether I have left enough seam allowance to enable me to do this. Probably needs some more thought. So much for sewing the outer layer together tonight and starting to sew the bias strips down. Maybe I should cut out the sleeves…

28 July 2004

Well the sleeves are cut out. I have pinned the black bias down to be sewn on tomorrow so that I can get them to handsewing stage for a car trip on the weekend. I’ve been thinking about the new seaming idea and realised how much I hate seam treatments. That’s one of the reasons I love the bag-lining method, it’s quick and easy, designed for machine stitching and I don’t have to treat my seams as they are protected inside the garment. So I think I’ll put the period seam treatment trial on hold for the moment.

16 August 2004

The bias has been sewn onto my sleeves, and I’m halfway through the bias on the bodice, hopefully I’ll have that done by the end of the week. Although after a Calligraphy day on Saturday I must admit I’m a little distracted. I would like to wear this dress to an event in September, so I really must stop being distracted and actually sit down and finish it.

I’m very curious about the Durer sketch I found last week. I’m convinced it’s a skirt, although I’ll happily be persuaded otherwise if I can get a translation for Durer’s scribbles. I would like to make the skirt with the elongated oval shape that you would get if you put all the pieces together as I love full circle skirts. However at this stage it probably depends on the amount of fabric that I have. I Must make sure I get enough fabric to do this for the overskirt.

17 September 2004

It’s amazing what an upcoming event will do to my motivation levels. There is a feast on this Saturday, being run by my old College and so I decided that I wanted to wear the kirtle to this event. Therefore it is now finished apart from stitching the hem in place and a couple of minor adjustments which will be completed tonight.

The black bias strips around the sleeve cuffs and the neckline went on very well, and look very effective against the dark red of the dress. I like having a style where the decoration is so easy.

The assembly of the bodice was fine, except where I cut too close to the fabric in the corner of the front bodice, which I have a tendency to do as I like really sharp corners. Must stop doing that in future, it creates a mess and adds nothing to the sharpness of the corner. The bodice feels a little short, so either I’ve grown through the torso (unlikely!) or I’ve not transferred the pattern properly. That’s OK as this is a kirtle I can cover the waist line with the overdress. However last night when I took it to the Baronial A&S meeting to get help with my hem everyone said it looked fine, so maybe I’m just in that pre-wearing-not-quite-finished paranoid stage. Also the back was cut higher than the front so I pulled the skirt up on the front bodice to compensate. This means there is about an extra inch of fabric in the front bodice which I can use to drop the waist, one of the things I need to do tonight.

The sleeves gave me nightmares, for the first time in a while. They were copied almost directly from the ones I made for my green dress. However as that dress is very constrciting through the elbows and shoulders I loosened the pattern through the upper arm and added a gusset to the back of the shoulder. This is where all the problems came from. For some reason I found it hard to get the curve of the armscrye to match the pull of the gusset. I finally managed to wrestle it into an acceptable arrangement, took it to the sewing maching and promptly created a whole heap of extra pleats in the sleeve, by catching various bits of fabric in the seam that shouldn’t have gone in. All very frustrating. I unpicked the problem areas and ran it under again and the same thing happened. So I ended up whip stitching the area under the arms in by hand. After this was all done I did the mandatory try the bodice on to see how it fits thing and the sleeve head is pulling in a strange way, lots of gathers through the inner shoulder. BUT it fits really well, is quite comfortable AND I can put my arms over my head, so I’m going to leave it. Ultimately it’s not actually unsightly, I am just self-concious of the all the small flaws in my work that no-one else can see. And again last night at the Baronial A&S everyone said it was fine and that they’d seen pictures with the same thing happening. What I think has happened in hindsight is that I have inadvertently rotated the sleeve head when I put the gusset in, which has created a twist in the sleeve. This could be corrected by pulling it apart and untwisting it. Or I could just remember this when I make the overdress.

The skirt is made up of 5 trapeziums, as I didn’t have enough fabric to make a circle skirt. I’m not happy with the fullness in the skirt, but that was before hemming when it was way too long for me. So this should be fixed now that it is hemmed. If not I could pull apart the back and repleat it, which will help with the distibution of the skirt. Hhhmmm many tasks for this evening.

1 December 2004

I have some photos of the finished kirtle, taken on a disposable camera.


full and half views of a red renaissance dress

I’m not very happy with the second photo, but ultimately is anyone ever really happy with a photo by a disposable camera? Also not happy with the way the hovetcleet is sitting on my head in these photos, but that’s the price of throwing it on without pins for a quick photo.

Some comments: The kirtle is pulling through the front, which could be a result of the fabric to be pinned being pulled too far to the right, or that I have recently put on weight. Possibly both, or maybe this is just what happens with this style, as there are creases in the bodices in contemporary art. This kirtle is going to be worn under another dress for the competition so it won’t be obvious. I’ve worn it to a couple of events and it is very comfortable. The skirt probably still needs to be dropped an inch or so at the waist, as it is still too high, and I probably should re-set the sleeve head as it’s twisted strangely, but overall I like the look of the whole dress and am happy with it.

12 January 2005

Diary re-activation time. I cut out my first project for the year last night, the partlet for this dress. It is going to be a very simple lightweight partlet, in the style of the one worn by the woman in Lucas van Leyden’s engraving “Couple with a torch and a fool”, shown above. This is a partlet that is flat across the neck and shoulders as it is not gathered to a band at the neck. It seems to be joined by a button, bead or loop at the top of the neck and is then left open. I cut out the partlet last night from some mystery fabric in my stash, that is probably a cotton. The photo above shows the state it is currently in. The pattern was based on the one used for my partlet for the “curtain dress” although I have lost the front of the pattern, so the front two pieces are repeats of the back. Once I have all the seams sewn up I’ll do some shaping through the neck and front.

As I now have a digital camera I thought I’d share some photos of the progress of other parts of this project. The first is the redwork embroidery which I am doing for the cap to go with this outfit.

This is one of the 5 lines I will need to do to complete the embroidery for the cap. As you can see it’s quite effective, but rather time-consuming. Considering it is only “two sleeps till Festival” i.e there’s not much time left to complete this project, and it took me three months to get this far I think this embroidery will have to wait for another time, and I will need to plan another hat. I am currently deciding between a plainly decorated cap, a beguin or my hovetcleet.

2 February 2005

I’ve been thinking a lot about this kirtle and I decided that I really was not happy with it. The major problem was the skirt. There was not enough fabric in it. So I went back to the shop I originally bought it from and luckily enough they had 1m of fabric in that colour left. I’m glad I hadn’t made the decision 3 weeks later! The picture to the left shows the remade kirtle. After pulling the skirt off I put two 50cm wide drops into the back of the dress, around the trapezoidal piece that sits at centre back. This meant I could now afford to put more pleats into the front of the dress. The skirt was then pleated to a waist band. This is not my normal practice, I prefer to attach the skirt directly to the bodice so that the weight of the skirt keeps some tension through the bodice. However the other problem I had with this kirtle was the length of the bodice, so by attaching the skirt to a waist band I could use the smallest hem possible for the bodice edge which gave me a little more length in it. It’s still a little high, but I can live with it. I then stab stitched the bodice to the waistband to keep it together.

One other thing that I did was to loosen the bodice through the waist. This was easily achieved by removing the lacing strip on the fold-over and resetting it just a little further in. This has reduced some of the lines that were forming across my stomach, and I think the rest will be removed when I put hooks and eyes along the edge of the fold-over to hold it together. This is an idea I got from E House, who has been recreating transition styles for a number of years now. Realistically I can’t find any evidence for pins holding the front of the dress together (except the Jane Seymour image from England, which is a related but different style of dress) so perhaps hooks and eyes were used. I’m going to give it a try.

I’m also wearing my new partlet in this photo, which will need a little more work. The neck is too loose with a dress on and needs to the drawn together another 1.5cm. I was a little worried about the way that it disappears into the back of the neckline, however an examination of images shows that this is what they did. For instance see the images on the Dutch Clothing page. Those partlets are a little higher as they have a neckband, but you get the idea. After the 1.5cm is removed from the centre it should sit closer to the base of my neck.

I have the fabric for the overdress, it’s lovely bright blue wool. However I am concerned that I have over committed myself yet again and won’t get that dress finished. I have promised to make a waffenrock for Fitz and a basic middle class Tudor for myself as livery for duties we currently have and I think they might take over my priorities list, after all it is only 7 weeks till Festival.

28 February

I am going to close this diary. The kirtle has been finished, and I am not going to complete a tabbaert in time for the competition in 3 weeks. I’ve learnt a lot through making this kirtle and I am going to re-draft my bodice pattern before making my next Leiden dress. It’s too small through the shoulders, too short at the waist and I am seeing more images of bodices edges butting together rather than over-lapping. I also need to play with sleeves a bit more, to get a better fit in a tight sleeve.

Here are some photos from a recent event. After looking at these to get them web-ready I’m not quite as unhappy with the dress as I was. It has a nice line through the waist and the pulling across the bodice should be fixed with the hooks and bars I am going to sew on before Festival. However, the hat and partlet need a little bit of work. A button, or hook and eyes to close the partlet and less fullness in the padding under the hat, which will stop it weighing my head down.

The Dutch “Tudor”: Dress Diary

16 June 2004

 I am starting to get the sewing itch again so this is going to be my new project. While I am enjoying the middle class Dutch stuff that I am doing, and there is still plenty of research to do there, I am also feeling the need for another court frock. Rowany has a Baronial changeover at the end of the year and I would like a new frock for the event, so I may as well start planning it now. I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a Tudor from the 1530s, as I like the style and want to try out a few theories discussed on MedCos and was still considering various paintings for inspiration when I re-discovered this painting.

The painting is “Triptych of the Micault family” by Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen. A copy of the full painting can be found at the Web Gallery of Art.

The Web Gallery of Art’s description of this painting states that Jean Micault was the collector-general of Charles V and he is shown wearing the mantle of the treasurer of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Hence the family would have been members of the Hapsburg court in the Low Countries, thus fulfilling my desire for a court frock.

The figures in the back, of the daughters of the Micault family are the ones that interest me the most. The mother is wearing a fairly typical Dutch dress of the time, while the daughters are wearing dresses that are very similar to Tudor dresses of the same era. The bodices are structured and straight, the partlets are high necked with a small ruff, the sleeves are turned back with a white undersleeve showing, the skirts are open at the front showing an underskirt and they appear to be wearing French Hoods.

Further analysis of the painting raises some questions about the difference between English and Dutch fashions. The bodice of the second daughter appears to be a little curved through the bust area, is this because the corsets were not stiff? Or were they not wearing corsets, but perhaps a fitted kirtle or a corded corset? Are they wearing farthingales, it’s very hard to tell from the painting. How are the partlets constructed? Are they one layer or two?

For the moment I am going to construct based on “traditional” Tudor lines, i.e wear a corset and a farthingale. Mostly because I already have a corset that needs adjusting and I won’t do this unless I have a reason to, and I’ve never worn a farthingale, so would like to try it out. If I don’t like it I can always (unless further evidence is produced!) claim that the dresses don’t have farthingales-although would this need a different cut in the skirt?

Tasks: Make farthingale, based on Hunnisett’s pattern, fix corset, start saving for the fabric, make black hat (I’m going to do this style rather than the French Hood), restring my pearls, think about partlet construction.

15 July 2004

Well it’s been a busy month, but unfortunately I’ve done little work on this dress. My corset now has straps mostly sewn to it, and that’s about it. I’ve been busy reading and researching for the Elizabethan man’s garb that I am making for my partner. I’ve also been reading about Renaissance seam treatments and discussing them at MedCos. While it’s been an interesting and useful discussion I think I’ll make this dress in the way I am accustomed to, i.e by bag-lining it, and try out the new seam treatment ideas on the Elizabethan man’s garb, and my Apprentice Frock-off project. Next step: Clean up my sewing room, so I can get the blasted dress started, then read Hunnisett and Alcega and make a farthingale.

5 October 2004

I think this must be the world’s most procrastinated over farthingale. It was cut out over a month ago and stitched together. It then sat on the floor of my sewing room while I got bents (10mm cane) and fabric to create the channels and generally just ignored it in favour of other things. I started all the channels three weeks ago, then had to unpick them, take 10cm out of the front and back of the skirt as it was too big, restitch the channels and cut the bents to size. On Sunday I put it on for comment by my Laurel and the other members of our sewing group. It is mostly OK, and so should be finished this week. Yay! I just need to splice the bents so they form a circle rather than a pointy egg, which is its current unattractive look, and then stitch the channels closed and gather to a waist band. Easy! Or so it seems at the moment.

I have bought the fabric for the undersleeves and the forepart of the underskirt, a white brocade with small diamonds spaced regularly throughout it. From a distance the fabric will look white, but this suits me as I don’t want this dress to be busy, I want it to be something that is admired for its simplicity. The brocade has a very soft hand, so I will need to back it with something to create the stiffness for the undersleeves. Although as the sleeves are not very bulky this could probably be achieved with a stiff lining rather than a canvas interlining.

7 October 2004

I’m contemplating the various layers of this dress at the moment, specifically the skirts. The farthingale is almost made-first hoop finished last night, two to go. So now I need to think about petticoats and the kirtle/underskirt. The shape I want to achieve with the skirts is like this dress or this one both made by Ninya Mikhaila for Hampton Court Palace. This looks to me like a lot of cartridge pleating through the back and a flat front, but what goes underneath it? The layers I am going to need are: the farthingale, a petticoat, the kirtle skirt and the over dress’s skirt. The kirtle skirt and the overdress’s skirt will be pleated in this fashion, but what about the petticoat? Should it be an simple A-line skirt, a tube cartridge pleated into a waist band, or something completely different? The fronts look quite flat so it probably isn’t entirely cartridge pleated, now I need to decide whether it is pleated in the back or not.

At least after tonight I’ll have a dress dummy to put these skirts on to try out the different effects.

18 October 2004

I have underwear! Corset-finished, farthingale-finished, petticoat-finished. It was cold and rainy in Sydney yesterday so I sat in the lounge room with my dress dummy and finished stitching in the bends on my farthingale and then used the dress dummy to pull the petticoat through the waist band to the correct height.

Synopsis of the two items:

The Farthingale: Fitz and I spliced the cane bends between us. He was in charge of cutting and holding them together while I was in charge of wrapping many layers of sticky tape around them until they held. Probably not the most authentic treatment, but it was what we had to hand and it works-at least in the short term. We averaged about one bend every 5 days. In the midst of this I had to re-sew the waist band. In case you ever want to machine sew something onto a farthingale after the bends have been put in-don’t. The neighbours must have thought I was very strange (my sewing room is at the front of the house) with my sewing machine as close to the edge of the table as possible and a great white thing being propped up by my shoulder. It’s amazing that it didn’t all go haywire! Just a little more tension than normal pulling the fabric away from the foot. The channels that the bends were going into also needed to be unpicked so that we could get enough grip to pull them together, hence the hand sewing on the floor yesterday afternoon. I managed to get a free dress dummy from a friend last week which was very useful for hand finishing the channels. After pinning the farthingale to the dress dummy it took all the weight and need to manouver the large stiff circles out of the operation and left me with some simple stitching at eye height when sitting on the floor.

As the ABC’s Sunday afternoon arts program was on I sat, stitched and listened to enjoyable TV. I’m mostly happy with the final result. The hem of the farthingale wasn’t set properly so it is higher in the back than at the front. After trying on the petticoat over the top of the farthingale I don’t think this is a major problem. It can be easily fixed if it is. The top two bends have a definite join in them which is visible as a lump in the bare farthingale. This concerned me. However the petticoat again fixed this problem as they are not visible once the farthingale is turned inside out and the petticoat is worn on top. Hhhmmm, good cotton hides a multitude of sins.

The Petticoat: After the deliberation which began with my last diary entry I finally decided to do a simple tube shaped petticoat knife pleated to a waist band. This decision was again made with reference to Hunnisett, although ultimately it is a very simple design. The fabric for the petticoats came from some old cotton sheets. My Grandfather recently passed away and my Grandmother had already pre-deceased him, so as my Mother and Aunt were cleaning up their house they decided that all the good white cotton sheets that Nana had owned were to be given to me to make chemises from. These are really good thick cotton sheets, and so were too stiff for chemises, and I wasn’t really comfortable accepting them for this purpose, but it is sometimes easier just to agree to the ideas of my Mother and Aunt and work from there. They would have made bad chemises, however they are perfect for petticoats. This petticoat has enough strength and body to stand away from the farthingale, rather than limply clinging to it. I’m planning on using one more sheet (I inherited a total of 8) as the base for the false kirtle skirt.

Actually these two items are not yet completely finished, I still need to add hooks and bars so that they will stay closed-but that’s a minor thing. Right now I’m celebrating the fact that the procrastination period is over and my underwear has been made on schedule. Yay!!

The other thing that I started and completed in the last week were the white undersleeves. As this dress will be worn in the middle of December in Sydney I was never going to make a kirtle to be worn under it, although this would be the correct thing to do. Wearing velvet in Sydney in summer is madness enough without adding another three layers of fabric for the fun of it. Hence the undersleeves were going to need to be false ones. After looking through Holbein’s portraits of Tudor women, and referring to the orginal picture, I chose to again refer to Hunisett for the pattern. Three hours worth of work later they were finished. Nice and easy! The off cuts of the cotton sheets from my petticoat were used as the lining and as patterning fabric, and the outer is the white brocade mentioned previously. I used three flat pearl buttons with a gold rim to keep them closed. I’m not yet sure about the buttons as I think white on white may be too easily lost, but they are buttons and can be easily replaced when the dress is coming together. I’m going to put false puffs into the sleeve as I find it tedious to be continually pulling chemise fabric through each sleeve puff. Then attach cords to the top of the each sleeve and lace to points in the finished dress. Voila!

I have declared this weekend to be “mad frock making weekend” so the plan is to have the forepart skirt finished by next weekend, and Fitz’s doublet mostly finished as well. As well as this I am going to buy a disposable camera and take pictures of my work, so look out for some long entries and new photos next week.

26 October 2004

The “mad frock making weekend” was not as productive as I had envisaged, although I don’t think that they ever are. Personally I blame all those friends who tempted me out of the house with offers of coffee and cocktails. Well maybe I really enjoyed spending time with friends and don’t blame anyone at all.

I got most of the forepart skirt done, except for hand finishing the side of the forepart where it attaches to the petticoat, and stab stitching the hem to keep it flat. The doublet is nowhere near as finished as I was hoping, but you can read about that in the Elizabethan men’s diary.

Overall the creation of the forepart petticoat went very well. It is a tube of cotton, I cut up some more of my Grandmother’s sheets, 3.2m in diameter which is pleated to a waistband. A rectangle of white brocade fabric, 108cm by 91 cm, was sewn onto the petticoat before it was pleated, and a band of brocade, one handspan wide was also sewn around the bottom of the skirt so that if ever my overdress lifted away from the ground it would look like the entire skirt was made of the brocade. This also allowed me to easily finish the hem, as I machine stitched the right side of the brocade to the wrong side of the petticoat and then turned it through to secure the border. This was then turned over at the top and machine stitched again, as no-one is likely to see this part of the petticoat.

Pleating the skirt onto the band was the most problematic part of the construction. I wanted to keep the front of it flat and pleat the rest in towards the back, but 3.2m of fabric was not going to be easily pleated into a 70cm waistband. On Saturday night I tried four different ways and was eventually told to put it down by the friend I was sewing with as it was late and obviously I wasn’t thinking properly. The next morning it was all OK, I pleated 6cm to every cm and then foled each pleat over the over the other in a direction away from the front and sewed it down twice. It seems to work and I am happy.

This evening I’ll have an underwear parade. My sewing friends, including my Laurel who’s expert in Tudor clothes, are coming over and so we’ll make sure that the entire ensemble is working and take some photos. Then perhaps pattern the bodice. Depends how much time we have.

Now for the stocktake:


  • Corset
  • Farthingale except for fastening and bias tape around edge
  • Petticoat except for fastening and bias tape around edge
  • Forpart except for handstitching an edge of the brocade to the skirt, fastening, bias tape around edge, plackett finishing and stay stitching the hem.
  • Undersleeves, except for stitching ties onto them and stitching in false puffs
  • String of pearls

Still to be completed:

  • Overdress, decide on fabric to line sleeves with, pattern and construct bodice and sleeves, line hem of skirt and pleat it.
  • Ruff
  • Partlet
  • False plaits for hair
  • Put feathers onto flat cap

3 November 2004

The results of the fitting last week:

My farthingale is OK, once I put a fastening on it will be finished. The petticoat needs to come up one more hem length, so I might re-sew the cord channel, albeit slightly smaller and go with the original corded petticoat idea. The forepart petticoat needs some work. It was too short; one really should not set hems on a leaning dummy! And the forepart was bagging in a strange way. To fix this we unpicked the entire forepart and I will re-pleat the petticoat to the waistband and add 2-3cm to the waist band to drop the petticoat to the floor. The forepart will then be sewn over the top of this to reduce the bagginess, as for some reason I had enough fabric in the forepart but not in the petticoat, despite the fact that Ii’m sure they were the same length when I cut them. Oh well, it’s not a real frock unless a major seam has been unpicked- at least I don’t have to bleed on my dresses to make them real, contrary to popular costuming belief. Also my friend Helen has offered to be my dress dummy for this part, as we are the same height at the waist which means I won’t have to deal with the issue of the leaning dress dummy just yet.

I also removed the ties from my bum roll and replaced them with petersham tape and a skirt fastening. Previously the ties had a habit of loosening through the day and they just felt wrong. This will fix it. And it’s something I’ve been meaning to do since July last year.

26 November 2004

I think I have had a sewer’s block all month (similar to a writer’s block, rather than a patterning term) I’ve not been able to muster the interest to do much sewing and what I have done has been problematic. This dress has not progressed much since the 3rd. I unpicked the forepart and added a waist band of three inches to see if the skirt would drop. Then it sat around my house for a few weeks. I was finally has able to try it on in company last weekend and it’s still too short. This means that I have had to unpick the entire forepart and hem guard and I will need to add 2 inches to the hem, and then re-sew the forepart at the hem in preparation for shaping. All with 2 weekends to go before the event, and I’m spending this weekend in Yass, away from my sewing machine. Eeek, I’m doomed!! Actually it’s probably OK, I’ll just need to put in a lot of work over the next two weeks. The bodice should be patterned early next week and I’ll purchase the fabric on Monday. As I have taken a week off work I probably have enough time to make a simple non-decorated Tudor, as it’s mostly machine sewing. Luckily that’s what had always been planned.

I cut out the ruff and collar for the partlet last night, and will be stitching it in the car on the way to Yass, while at our friend’s house (they are also in the SCA and one member of the house is a costuming apprentice, so it’s not as rude as it sounds) and on the way back. Luckily I don’t get car-sick so there’s 6 hours when Iwould otherwise doing nothing. The ruff and partlet is going to be made from some organza that had previously been the veil for my hennin. The partlet will also be made of this, with concertina pleats around the chest as per the painting. I’m not entirely sure on dimensions for this yet, but I’ll work it out. The ruff pattern and construction is taken directly from Drea Leed’s Easy 1560s Ruff which seems to achieve the look I am want for Fitz’s ruff, and probably for mine too as mine will be quite small. I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

1 December 2004

Photos!! Not as many as I’d hoped to show you. The disposable camera project worked well as long as I remembered one thing-to use the flash at all times, no matter what the light. Unfortunately I know that now I’ve have the photos back, a total of 10 from a roll of 27. The ones I lost were the pictures of my current two projects. So I have only two photos for each, rather than six or seven.

Here’s two photos of my underpinnings taken on the night when we first checked the hem length etc. As you can see the forepart of the kirtle is bagging in a strange fashion, and the hem is too short. This is in the process of being fixed. Otherwise I like these pictures, the silhouette is good, which is the most important thing. apologies on the quality, it’s a result of the disposable camera.


Durer’s Netherlandish Cloak Pattern

My University’s library has a copy of the diary that Albrecht Durer wrote during his trip to the Netherlands in 1521.

While it is an interesting read, one of the most interesting things in the book for me are some of the images that he drew in his diary at the time. The diary has since been pulled apart and the book that I borrowed is an attempt to reconstruct it. It claims that the only known extant page from Durer’s diary is the following image showing patterns of Netherlandish dress with annotations:

pattern from Durer's diary


I am guessing that this is either the pattern for a skirt or a cloak, which has been the consensus from other people I have shown this image to.

Unfortunately I cannot read German and can’t actually make out any words in Durer’s scrawl. If there is anyone that can translate this page, or even a few words for me I would be very grateful.

Update: 17 September 2004: Katherine Barich (who translated the Textilier Hausrat) has been kind enough to attempt to translate the writing. Here’s what she wrote me:

“On the top piece, the writing on the two edges are measurements. I think this is a layout of half of the garment – otherwise it doesn’t make sense. The right hand side might say 1 pfuss (?) lang and the top edge 3 pfuss (?) 3 so lang. The words in the circle may say: das hoike ligt man knopf(?) janober(?) the hoik lays over the top of one’s head. The verbage below may read in part: Das ist ______ ein hoik kirchliches (?) frauen mantel This is pattern (? from context) of a hoik, a church worn lady’s cloak. It appears that the cloak set back further on the head, and that the front edge flipped back over. I deduce this from the straightish edge at the bottom of the front part of the cloak.”

“I can’t tell if the circles are meant to be cut out or are just a representation of where the head sits. Perhaps I can make out more on the second semi-circular pattern. “

“All translations are really tentative until I can convince myself that I really see these things, or believe I am :-)”

For the moment this is enough for me, at least I have an idea of what the pattern is. This also suggests that after the current spate of projects and research I’ll need to look into these hoiks that were worn by Netherlandish women.

Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528, “Sketchbook of his journey to the Netherlands, 1520-21 : with extracts from his Diary”. Commentary by Phillip Troutman. Elek Publishers, London 1971. ISBN: 0 236 154 281


The Blue Dress in “The Card Players”: Why it is not a dress of this period

painting The Card Players

Card Players, after Lucas van Leyden

For a year or so this was my favourite painting depicting the Dutch styles of the 1520s. I had it as my wall-paper at work, and through looking at daily would notice new details about the dresses in the painting. I especially liked the black and red dress and also had plans to make the blue one. At the same time I was also in the process of making a coat based on the picture to the right by van Leyden. A picture which was also apparently called “the Card Players”

Originally I had only a black and white image of the second painting and I desperately wanted to know the colour of the coat in the bottom left hand corner of the painting. While endlessly searching for a colour image of the painting on the right I came across an article which contested the dating of the painting that I had come to know as the “Card Players” by Lucas van Leyden. This essay, which can be found here explains that particular picture was probably painted by a follower of van Leyden sometime during the period 1550-1559. It’s listing in the National Gallery or Art, Washingtonalso lists the painting as “after Lucas van Leyden”, 1550/1599.

painting Card Players Lucas van Leyden

"Card Players" by Lucas van Leyden

Once I realised that the first painting was not attributed to Lucas van Leyden it was easy to see the difference in style. If you look at the paintings of van Leyden (there are many scattered through this site, as well as listed in the resources page) then you will see that the “Card Players” is not of the same style. The colours are much clearer and contain more white than the colours that van Leyden typically uses. The face and body shapes are different, van Leyden’s faces are more oval, and his female bodies are slimmer. If you look at the shoulder of the woman in blue at the back of the first painting then you will notice that the line of the shoulder is very different, more rounded and horizontal than the shoulders that van Leyden paints. The composition of the paintings are different, there is more space in the background of the painting and the figures are not a squashed together. There is also more distance between the viewer and the subject.

According to Smith there is a general problem with the attribution of van Leyden’s paintings (Smith: ix). Until recently many works were attributed to van Leyden that werer either poorer copies of his paintings, paintings done in a similar style to van Leyden, or paintings by other artists based on his prints. This was the result of van Leyden’s fame as a Netherlandish painter, so much so that any unknown Netherlandish work was attributed to him. It was not until the late 19th century that the re-examination of van Leyden’s work began. This resulted in the reattribution of some works previously believed to have been painted by van Leyden, one of which was the painting above.

From this I have drawn the following conclusions: the blue dress that is shown in this picture is not accurate. I have seen nothing like it in anything from this period. Instead it appears that the person who painted this picture took the styles of the 1520s (wide square necks)and then added the styles of the later burgundians (an example of this is the Donne Triptych with the girl kneeling by Hans Memling) to come up with a style of dress that was “old”.

Smith, Elise Lawton, “The Paintings of Lucas van Leyden: A new appraisal, with Catalogue Raisonne”, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 1992. ISBN:0-8262-0824-X”