Peasant Wedding by Martin Van Cleve

A few years ago, this painting started making the rounds of online costuming circles. It’s part of a series of six paintings in the Koninklijk Museum Voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp of a Peasant Wedding by Marten Van Cleve, sadly only on Flickr.  This is the last in the sequence, and this is the bride. Why the groom(?) is ducking out the window, I can’t say. Unfortunately, in every other image the bride is wearing an overgrown. So there are no images of what this dress would look like laced up. It does, however, propose an interesting potential construction method for the wide laced “Flemish market girl” outfits painted by Aertsen and Beuckelaer. (I have a Pinterest board for this style.) So I gave it a try.

Open Laced Van Cleve side by side

Since this was a proof of concept outfit, I made it by disassembling the over-gown from my original market girl outfit. (I no longer have any pictures of it, but it was made per the instructions on the Elizabethan Costuming Page.) The top is made of olive flannel because I was only able to salvage the skirt and the back of the bodice from the original dress. The skirt kept its original burgundy lining. I cut two slits into the skirt, tacked on the placket to extend the flap, and pleated the skirt back on to the new bodice. To wear it, the flap is simply lifted and held into place while the bodice is laced over it. It is not pinned.

My version is not meant to be a faithful reconstruction of the Van Cleve outfit, but rather an attempt to use this concept to achieve the look of the Aertsen and Buckelear paintings. The Van Cleve dress appears to have no waist seam, and once laced it is probably entirely red. The market girl paintings have a clear waist with pleated on skirts. The skirt and bodice are occasionally different fabrics, and the placket behind the laces is almost always a different color than the bodice. The flap-placket and the bodice opening in the Van Cleve painting appears to be squared off. My placket is a trapezoid and the bodice opening is somewhat V-shaped.

Van Cleve front and side

The bodice is supportive, although less so than my usual front laced dresses. The placket stays in place once it is all laced up, but keeping it from buckling while it’s being laced is a bit of a pain. I am not particularly happy that the seam at the bottom of the placket and the waist seam do not match up. Still, it is a possible construction method for anyone attempting to make a “market girl” outfit in a single layer. When the apron and partlet are worn, the issues with the waist are covered up, and the result is a recognizably “Flemish” outfit.

Van Cleve Comparisan