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