Over Easter I was asked to join the Order of the Laurel, and made a decision to be elevated at Rowany Baronial change-over four weekends later, i.e. last night. This decision was made easier by the fact I had a dress close to completion which I didn’t finish for Yule Feast last year. With 4 weekends I knew I had time to do the dress justice and to build a new hat to go with it.
I finished the dress in time for the Historical sew Fortnightly’s Challenge #8 Unfinished Objects and Projects Half-Done, but didn’t post it within the 2 weeks of the challenge due date. I’ll be including it as a late entry, as I didn’t want to reveal until the event.
I also had time to build a new Formal Hood in the Franco-Flemish style. Whilst the image that I used as the inspiration for the dress showed the figure wearing a haube and a tellerbarrett in the German style, I felt this wasn’t a good reflection of the work I was being recognised for.
The dress is based on a figure in the foreground of the a tapestry from the 1520s: David Sees Bathsheba washing. This figure has that lovely cultural cross-over that is one of the things that attracts me to Netherlandish clothing of this time period: A Franco-Flemish gown with German slashed sleeves laced in a Spanish style.
I made the dress from a gift of teal velvet from a dear friend. It is fully lined in a navy jacquard that gave it a lovely weight, especially through the skirt. The bodice is interlined with canvas, and a layer of batting to soften the front. It is edged with a bias strip of black satin. The skirt is open at the sides, and edged in a bias strip of gold twill-woven silk which was the perfect colour and so wonderfully soft.
The edge of the skirt is caught closed at 3 points with some large buttons, and then there is a cluster of semi-precious stones sewn on every 2 inches: 4 faux pearls and a garnet. The inspiration for this arrangement came from this close-up of a decorated hem in a painting by Jan van Eyck. I am not as rich as this figure, nor am I a saint (I suspect the detail is from a hem of a saint), so I chose to simply lift the flower motif from along the bottom edge. I was really happy with the result – elegant, a little surprising and it fit just right with the overall dress.
The skirt is cut with a foot long train – nowhere near as long as the dress in the tapestry, but a train as long as the one in the tapestry would not have been functional in terms of not being trodden on by everyone else at the event. Also, I am not portraying royalty, nor am I waiting upon them, nor am I a Royal Peer, so a train that long is inappropriate for my station. The pleats are stuffed with rolls of batting, as per an idea from The Queen’s Servants. I’m very happy with how those pleats worked as a result.
Underneath I am wearing a burnt orange linen skirt, paired with my general purpose lightly boned stays which provide support and the gentle curve through the bust that you see on dresses of this era. Ideally I’d have worn a full kirtle under the dress, but decided years ago that life is too short to make a boned kirtle to go with every gown and instead made a boned bodice in white that does me for all gowns, and I make a skirt to go with each dress.
The hood is the result of one of the those Eureka! moments that occurs every so often. I gave a class at Rowany Festival on Women’s headwear of this era and so spent a few weeks cataloging various images and ideas that I had access to. Then it all came together when I realised that this extant linen cap from Italy in the early 1500s plus this extant wire oorijzer from the 1530s equals something similar to the caps on these ladies which I think are worn under the formal hoods of this era.
Here’s my first quick test of that theory:
Which was successful, and so I proceeded to build a formal hood based on this idea. It has 4 parts to it
- An oorijzer
- A red silk cap lined in linen, and edged with a woven gold lace and some pearls gifted to me at Rowany Festival. This has two triangle pockets on teh inside front corners, which the oorijzer is tucked into.
- A strip of bronze foil printed silk backed with interfacing, lined with linen. One edge was finished with a 4 loop fingerlooped braid. This was pinned to the undercap to emulate the 3 layers that I see in images without bulking out the hood
- A velvet hood with a flattened liripipe, lined in linen, with gold spangles along the front edge, and this same edge was also finished in a 4 loop fingerlooped braid.
It is all held together with 3 pins (plus those used to secure the bronze band to the undercap), one at each corner of the velvet hood to attach this to the undercap, and one at the Crown of the head for extra stability, although this is only for extra security as the tension of the pieces, plus the friction from the linen keeps it together very well.
The thing I love about it the most is that it is simple, it’s elegant, it is easy to put on, it stays on my head, and it’s based on two extant items and a long visual history of women wearing hoods.
By the time of my ceremony it had slipped back slightly, but still looked fabulous:
I’ll post up dimensions for all these items soon, so you can make one as well if you like. I highly recommend this construction.
I’ll also post up a gallery of the dress as soon as I get some more photos back.