Andrew Boorde: Low Countries Renaissance Tourist

Andrew Boorde, physician to Henry VIII, travelled across Europe in the 1500s and then wrote an ‘itinerary’ to help other travellers understand the people of the countries they’d be visiting. His book includes sections on the Low Countries and Low German speaking parts of Europe, specifically Flanders, Zealand & Holland, Brabant & Hainault, Guelders & Cleves, Julich & Liege, and Cologne & Bonn. I’ve taken these sections and compiled them into the one document for easy reading for us Low Countries researchers.

Here’s the file: Andrew Boorde’s guide to the Low Countries. This file is an easy to read version of his book – a typeset version of the entire book on I’ve highlighted any section which refers to clothing, and written two pages on the context of his itinerary and how much faith we can place in his observations.

It’s useful for anyone looking at food, coinage, language and comparisons of general culture of these counties. There are a couple of references to clothing, most notably for our purposes one of the only textual references in English to the huik, as well as frequent commentary that certain counties don’t change their clothes [style].

Recreating the Noord Holland Market Woman look

Margaret in Noord Holland market woman dress at the Antwerpan market.

Trying to sell cheese and bread at the Antwerpan market display

Avercamp Market Dress Collage - 6 images, details from 16th century paintings

Avercamp details from the top left: 1, 2, 3, 4&6, and 5

As I was researching my outfit based on Hendrick Avercamp’s ice skating paintings, I found myself looking at the women in the background. Many of them were dressed in a regional style from North Holland. 1

Kaasmuseum Collage - 3 portraits of working women from north holland

3 “cheese ladies” from a set of paintings formerly available on the Kaasmuseum’s website.

I had previously only seen this style represented in a series of paintings in the Kaasmuseum in Alkaar. Check out this Flickr photo set to see the whole series and museum replicas of the outfits. This style is occasionally referred to as the “cheese girl” after the central portrait. However, once I was looking for them, I found a number of other examples of the style. I’ve made a Pinterest board for them, of course.I had intended to get around to exploring this style at some point. But then I found out that our fellow Dutch enthusiast Aliet was planning to run an Antwerpan market at the West Kingdom’s Golden Beltane event. (Have a look at her blog post about the market, it’s great.) So now I had a deadline.

I wanted to represent this style, not just copy a single portrait, so I poured over all of my paintings to determine the most common elements. The palette, unsurprisingly, is mostly black and red. The outfit generally consists of a red underdress, with or without sleeves. Over it is a darker, open laced bodice, with or without sleeves, and with or without a skirt. Aprons are either black or white. The partlet is black and pointed in the back. Additional sleeves are pinned to the lower arms. The skirts are fairly full and often quite short to modern eyes, with plenty of dark leg showing. The partlet and lower sleeves are often decorated with metal findings. The hair is dressed in wrapped braids and often covered with elaborately folded and starched white veils.

Margaret in her Noord Holland outfit, standing beside a cooking box in a field

Contemplating lunch

As I was under some time constraints, I took a few shortcuts. I attached a burgundy wool skirt to an existing front laced bodice, and added a placket pinned over the lacing. I reused the back pointed partlet from my Brueghel outfit and my standard, good for everything white partlet. I made a black linen apron and a linen open laced jacket. Finally, I cut down a pair of burgundy velveteen sleeves so that they would pin on at the upper arm. (That pair of sleeves has always been too short to pin to the shoulder. Pro tip: the sleeve cap of a pin-on sleeve needs to be much taller than the sleeve cap of a set in sleeve. Be sure to adjust your pattern and save yourself the irritation.)

Noord Holland Hairdressing - a montage of 3 images

Kaasmuseum maiden, selfie, and this Gabriel Metsu

The hair is worn in a rather goofy style. 2 All the variations appear to start with two braids coming from the top of the head. Then the braids can be crossed and brought down on either side of the face, as seen in some of the Kaasmuseum portraits. I tried it, but it was itchy. Or the braids can be crossed and wrapped with a red band further back on the head. This was the version I chose to go with. It was very secure and created a good, square base for the hat. Unfortunately, neither of these styles created the little U shaped braids over the forehead seen in some versions. Next time I will create an additional braid to form the “U”.

Noord Holland Veil Collage - 6 images, all details from various 16th century paintings

Veil details from the top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

The veil also varies widely.  3  Some are rather limp, and others appear to be heavily starched. Most of them are pretty flat across the top. Some stick out at chin level, others at the temple, and some not at all. So with that much variety, I figured I could achieve the look as long as I kept the top squared off. I started with a plain rectangle of fabric and starched it with commercial Stay-Flo starch, rather than the stiff wheat starch I usually cook up at home. I thought that would keep it flexible enough to work with. I was wrong, but I did eventually beat the uncooperative kite into submission. In the future I will water the Stay-Flo down. Still, it looked enough like the pictures that I was fairly happy with it. It also maintained shape through a light mist of rain.

montage photo of the N. Holland Veil - Front and Back

Noord Holland Veil Front and Back

Many thanks again to Aleit having the vision to create the Antwerpan Marketplace and allowing me to crash in from Noord Holland. I had a ton of fun pretending to sell vegetables, and it provided a gorgeous setting for photos. 4

Hands Under the Apron

I’m “standing” back to back with this Avercamp sketch

A photo of 7 people in 16th century clothing assembled around baskets of vegetables

Antwerpan Market Crew

  1. Avercamp details from the top left: 1, 2, 3, 4&6, and 5
  2. Kaasmuseum maiden, selfie, and this Gabriel Metsu
  3. Veil details from the top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6
  4. I’m “standing” back to back with this Avercamp sketch.

Apparently I hate trains, and other adventures in remaking dresses

Next weekend I’m off to Melbourne to attend one of our Kingdom events, and I’ve been dreaming of making a court version of the wrap dress I made two years ago. Alas, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve just tried on the made up bodice… and the sleeves don’t work – I will not be able to fetch any pitchers. Thankfully I am now skilled enough in sleeves to know what’s wrong, but an afternoon of unpicking and re-patterning the sleeve section, and then cutting the skirt and attaching just isn’t going to get me a dress for next weekend.

Instead I’m going to remove the train from my gaudete dress (click link for explanation of why ‘gaudete’), and wear it with renewed pride. If I get inspired/time I might line the cuffs with (fake) fur.

me in the Green French Gown with a Dutch twist

The Gaudete dress on its first outing in 2007. Perfect for a Tasmanian winter – not so helpful for anyone climate/time of year.

This dress is generally lovely – well cut, the right colour, AMAZING wool, but the train is heavy and cumbersome and doesn’t fit how I think about this dress anymore. Also, I tend to wear this dress to tournaments and other outside-and-cold events, so an exposed white train isn’t the best design feature. Finally that green seam line bugs me and I’d rather not feel like people can see it.

This will be the second dress with a tucked up train that I’m removing.

Completely re-making a gown

In mid-2014 a friend asked me what I was working on, my reply was: “I’m completely unpicking one of my dresses as I need to remove the lining, and change most of its style”. She looked at me like I was mad (who unpicks an entire dress!?), but the outer fabric was gorgeous, most of the cut but was fine, but the sleeves, tucked up train and front opening weren’t working for me. Also it was interlined with flannelette to keep me warm 1

Version 1:

At some point in my costuming career I fell in love with this image:

1490-1500 - A lover addressing three ladies, from Poems of Charles of Orleans and other works by Master of the Prayer Books; Image from Alliette's site:

1490-1500 – A lover addressing three ladies, from Poems of Charles of Orleans and other works by Master of the Prayer Books; Image from Alliette’s site:

And proceeded to make two dresses with tucked up trains, to emulate the lush style. The first one is above, the second was this one, the dress I pulled apart in 2014, two years after I made it:


Version 2:

The remake kept the smooth front, but I removed the lacing rings and sewed up the front panel. I put in a small amount of boning to keep my chest in approximately the right place, and added eyelets on one side. It also kept the back waist seam and stacked box pleats, but lost the long train, instead being cut to ground level. I added a band of fabric on the bottom for weight and to add a bit of interest (the un-relieved gold on version 1 was a bit boring).

The removal of the train allowed me to do a complete overhaul of the sleeves. I needed this dress to survive an event at the height of a Sydney summer, so something that allowed me to walk around in a layer of linen if I needed to was necessary. A look through various books turned up the Spanish inspired sleeves seen in the picture below. It’s a standard sleeve which fits smoothly into the armscrye, except the seam runs through the front of the sleeve and has been left open. I’ve caught the final cm of each sleeve with some whip stitches to keep it closed, so it looks like a sleeve, not a dangling rectangle. The source image I took it from didn’t do this, so this is a design decision I made, albeit in keeping with other open sleeve styles from a generation previous to this gown (e.g. some of the 1460s houppelandes have a similar style).

Gold Dress - photo by Phillip Preston

All-in-all it’s a dress I now really enjoy wearing, and has been broadly admired (which was not so true of the previous version). Whilst completely unpicking a dress and remaking it might seem daunting, if you love most of the style, including the fabric but need to do some serious tweaks, then in my experience it’s worth it. I’m hoping this is also the case with the gaudete gown, which currently doesn’t get worn enough.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a serious amount of hemming to do.

  1. don’t ever, ever, ever interline your dress with flannelette, it doesn’t keep you warm in the cold, but does make you over-heat in the warmth