portrait of Isabella of Denmark

Portrait of Isabella of Denmark

The two most common head coverings seen on Dutch women of the period 1500-1530 is the white hood (the hovetcleet) and the béguin hood, as seen in the picture of Isabella of Denmark to the left. This hood appears to have developed from the hoods worn in the 14th century, although this particular shape is seen in Flemish and French tapestries and illuminations in the mid to late 15th century. Its precursors are probably most commonly recognised as the style worn by Anne of Brittany (image to right).

portrait of Anne of Brittany

Portrait of Anne of Brittany

Why “béguin”? The Oxford English Dictionary states that the béguin cap is named after the beguine communities. The beguines lived in religious communities which were exclusively female and were founded in Brabant in the late 12th century. For a history of the movement this site is very good. They are commonly depicted wearing black hoods similar in style to the one worn by Anne of Brittany, without the decoration that is seen on her hood. The painting of Anne of Brittany to the left was painted in the late 1400s. By the 1520s the sides of the beguin had raised off the shoulders, the front was turned over further and it was sitting further back on the head.

8 October 2004, Initial Construction Theory

After surveying all the pictures of Béguins that I have for the decade of the 1520s I have established that:

  • The hoods probably have a seam at the centre back of the head
  • They don’t appear to have any structure under them, in contrast to the white hoods of the same era. However there is probably some form of coif or biggins under them.
  • Some of them are constructed of two layers
  • They are probably made of black velvet, and the only decoration is beading around the face edge
  • They have a “liripipe” in the back, ie. a draped section at the back that is part of the hood, but comes off the top of the head.

Based on these observations my first pattern mockup is going to look like this:

hood pattern

initial pattern for a beguin style hood

However work on this is going to have to wait until after December as there are not enough sleeps till Yule as it is.

7 March 2005

standing woman in the Fortuneteller

From “the Fortuneteller” by Lucas van Leyden

I’ve actually done something! Béguin mark I has been made, and as a first prototype/attempt I am very happy with it. The impetus came from remaking my hovetcleet and realising that all my headgear for the coming Rowany Festival hung off the back of my head and I had no back up headgear in case of headache caused by my neck being out of alignment. One of the variations of bCguin has the veil part folded on top of the head which means that the weight of the hat is centred through the skull rather that at the back of the skull. The image at left from van Leyden’s “The fortuneteller” show this style (as well as a very cute gollar).

It is made from black cotton velvet with a red linen lining. the lining is made from a rectangle 60cm x 30cm. This was folded in half to form a square and one side was sewn up half way from the open edge. The remaining “pouch”, formed from the fold and the gap in the seam was folded at right angles to the seam and they stitched down, forming a flat plane across the top of the head.

The velvet out is a rectangle 60cm x 80 cm. I folded it along the 60cm side and made a cut at 31.5cm, half the height of the folded piece, to mirror the lining that I had just made. This was then sewn along that cut, right sides together. I folded the remaing length in half, and separated the fold on either side of the length. This was then sewn together to create a tube. I’ll put up a pattern & diagram for this later this week.

I sewed the lining inside the hood and tried it on.

It worked quite well. I need to take out a triangle at the back, 6cm x 6cm so that a slight curve is created through the face, and to allow room for my hair. The tube was too long and I cut off approx 20cm of it.

The characteristic curve of the béguin through the face is quite simply achieved. The front section is folded back, and then the hood is tipped slightly back on the head. The corners are smoothed into shape and voila! the shape emerges. All quite exciting and simple really. My béguin is a little flat and blowy, which I think is the result of the fabric used. Most béguins seem to be lined with fur with would change the bulk of the turnback and the rigidity of the section next to the face, something I will be testing on mark II.

Overall a simple project, easily finished in an afternoon, if you’re not considering decorating it. Although looking at images, this seems almost mandatory.

10 March 2005

hood pattern

final pattern for beguin hood

The finished shape. The blue lines are the seams and the black lines are the edge or the fold of the fabric. The blue section in the fold right corner is my attempt to show how the inside folds together. Please contact me if this doesn’t make sense and you would like some clarification. In hindsight there is no particular reason why you need to fold the fabric inside the liripipe, it just means less cutting.

13 April 2005

Béguin mark I was a success! It achieved its purpose of giving me a lightweight head covering which co-ordinated with my Dutch clothing. A few comments about wearing it. I ended up wearing it over a white cap I made to go with a livery outfit for our current King and Queen. This was because the cap had hair combs on it to secure it to my head, which then allowed me to pin the béguin to this cap. I used three pin, one at the crown and one at each temple. The one at the crown was hidden by the fold while the other two were visible. I’ve seen no evidence for pins on these hats, but the site was windy and it kept it on my head. The pin under the fold is plausible and useful.