Red Silk Coif

(completed 7 June 2013)

An important step in developing a dress based on Flemish tapestries of the period 1500-1520 is getting the headgear right. A survey of Flemish tapestries shows the women wore a decorated coif under another decorated hood. Specifically I looked at the Honors Tapestries purchased by Charles V in the 1520s

Not the best example for this article, but the best one I could find online

So stage 1 of this outfit and over all challenge was to made a decorated coif.

After chatting with a friend I warped some red silk I had in stash onto an embroidery frame, using some white linen also from stash to stabilise the silk. I sketched a circle with a 14 inch diameter onto this and then drew a diamond pattern onto this. Then, over a couple of months, usually while at a friend’s place on Wednesday nights I couched two strands of gold wrapped cord onto this circle.


This was then attached to a shaped brim, based a little on a pattern from The Tudor Tailor, but shaped with a square edge and a deep cut through the crown of the head. It was also informed by the work of Genoveva, who had recently built and published her reasoning and pattern for a German goldhaube.

Cutting out the brim. The top, where there's no seam allowance is cut on the fold.

In the end I didn’t need the entire circle. I wanted a smooth fit through the crown, as seen in the tapestry images, and a tucked in look, like the caps seen in some of Lucas van Leyden’s sketchesthis one in particular. After playing with fitting and the pleating I attained a shape that felt right. Similar to Genoveva’s work it is more of an ovoid than a pure circle, so I am glad that I couched such a large amount of silk, so I had enough to play with.

In the end it was a spectacular, simple and elegant piece of headwear. It’s also lightweight and stays on my head easily with hair pins caught through two bits of cord attached to the edge of the brim, or by two hair combs sewn into the crown.

Karinne - SCA - DressingUp - 20130705_182249

The completed red coif, worn with the black gown

Walking out of a portrait – A dress for Midwinter Coronation

I’ve decided to take on the challenge of building a full ensemble based on those found in Flemish tapestries around 1500-1520. My mentor carefully suggested that the best way to do this was to build an initial outfit to test fitting ideas, and some decoration theories, and then work up to a full, amazing decorated ensemble a year after that. Lochac’s midwinter coronation was happening a 2 hour drive from our house, so I set that as the deadline for stage 1 of the challenge: an outstanding court dress based on the transition style for the event.

I wanted to explore some of the styles seen in tapestries of the era, as well as try out layering theories that I think are evident from some portraits. This was one of my inspiration images, although the neckline is a bit lower that the style of 10 years previously:

Oostsanen-Isabelle of Denmark 1524

In order to achieve this I needed to build a decorated coif and an under dress with a black satin neckline with applied gold bezants.

In the end this is what I produced for the event.

At Midwinter Coronation Feast. Image by Alex Trewes.

At Midwinter Coronation Feast. Image by Alex Trewes.

Some of you may recognise the outer layer. It’s the “curtain frock” from 2003. What’s new is the black layer underneath, the hood and the chains. For me, this is the curtain dress all grown up, and looking like it’s stepped out of a painting. The hood is my Transition era hood in two hours, variant II, which I continued to refine –  this time it is pinned to the red silk coif, not a white cap. Maybe that makes it variant III?

I made two new items for this event:

  1. a black under-gown (the black on black on black gown – since everything needs a name)
  2. a red silk coif

Both of which were my outfit during the day, and both of which I am very happy with.


My completed outfit for Lochac’s Mindwinter event

Karinne - SCA - DressingUp - 20130705_182249

The completed red coif and black undergown from the back

Blinging it up

Initially I wanted to build 2 gowns for this event, to be worn as an ensemble, based on my theory that this style is comprised of two visible layers, An outer, and undergown with a visible decorated neckline. However the outer gown didn’t happen due to other commitments, and my goal to build one good frock rather than two average ones. The week before the event I realised that I the green wool Gaudete gown might work over the top. A quick check showed that it would be OK and so it was sent off to be dry-cleaned.

The day before the event I remembered the Curtain Dress, and realised it might also work. And my, did it work! I had one of those moments where you put on a dress and realise you’ve achieved the look of primary source  that you’ve used as the basis of the work you’ve been doing.

Combined with the french hood variant, and some chains, that I’ve developed it looked perfect. Here’s an image taken at the feast:


It’s was also lovely to have finally nailed that early 1500s style the night that I was called up in court to receive the Lochac Order of the Star and Lilies, an award for Arts and Sciences in Lochac, for my work in costuming this style.

A transition era hood in 2 hours

The vision...

The vision…

(I’m catching up on some projects that I’ve not yet documented. This item was completed in June 2012)

Somehow or other Lochac’s 30th anniversary feast snuck up on me, and I realised that I had nothing wonderful to wear on my head. I’d given away my first hood which went with the gaudete dress. While a friend very kindly returned the gown when I moved back to Australia, as she remembered it was mine, she didn’t have the hood, and didn’t remember receiving the hood when she acquired the dress. It seems people don’t remember which hats belong to which dress, which is frustrating, but I can also understand why.

So I was presented with an opportunity to attempt the style again, and make it less heavy than my original. While I love the look of that hood, there were, of course, elements I’d change. There always are. For starters I over-heated with so many layers – a wool undercap, with a silk and proper cotton velvet hood on top (surprise!). Secondly it was quite heavy, kept slipping back on my head and gave me a headache by the end of the night. Finally the first variety was one of the earlier un-constructed beguin hoods from the late 1490s-early 1500s, whereas I want to play around with the slightly more constructed styles appropriate to the 1520s.

On the day of the feast, after ruminating over my options at breakfast I raided my fabric stash and found the following materials:

  • Black cotton velveteen
  • Gold silk
  • Red cotton
  • Black linen
  • Two types of gold gauze ribbon

Here’s what I came up with:

A photo of me wearing the hood I created

Beguin Hood, mark II

The Construction

This hood has three layers:

  1. A white cotton biggins cap
  2. A semicircle of black linen lined with red cotton, edged with the two gauze ribbons
  3. An elongated semicircle of black velveteen lined with gold silk

It’s constructed by first pinning the white cap to my head to form a strong base for my smooth, fine and slippery hair. Plaited hair ‘sewn’ to the head, or a black velvet band would be more correct, but this is what I had to hand.

Then the semicircle of black linen is placed on this cap, the front is pulled forward to it is level with the front of my forehead and the two sides are balanced out to be even. A pin is placed in the centre of the crown of the head to keep it on, and a second pin is placed at the nape of the neck to start to form the shape.

Finally the black velveteen layer is pinned in a similar fashion, with the addition of a pin on each side, just in front of the ears, once the velveteen front layer is pulled back to line up with the back edge of the gold braid. These pins prevent the velvet layer obsuring the gold braid on the linen layer. The middle of the front edge is then gently turned back and shaped to show the silk lining, and give that kick of colour you see in many images of hoods/bonnets at this time.

How did it go?

Pretty well. It stayed on my head and was fun and flattering. While it didn’t achieve the early “French hood” style I was going for (although the second version, which added an extra pin to fold the hood into a roll did) it is reminiscent of this painting of St Cecelia and her Fiance by Cornelis Engebrechtsz