I had plans for this one, and then Challenge #8 and the Laurelling took over my project plans and so those plans didn’t eventuate. This is probably a good thing as how many gowns does one woman need to turn out on a regular basis anyway?

However, as I surveyed my recent work I realised that I built the perfect entry for this category for that ceremony, namely the Formal Black Hood (aka French Hood) that I wore. This was not part of a UFO, it was started after Festival (April 2014) and completed for the event on 17 May, and one of the reasons that I love it is that it looks (almost) exactly like a couple of illuminations from the period that I used as inspiration for it’s overall design and construction.

My construction method for this hood is part of the post on the overall outfit (go and have a read if you’d like to know more about this), so this post will be about this specific style of “French Hood”.

But first a note on the usage “French Hood”. This would be me ascending my soap-box.

Is the term “French Hood” Anachronistic?

Ask most Renaissance costumers what a French Hood is and they will talk about the Tudor Court, they might mention Anne Boleyn bringing it from the French Court and making it popular and it will often be contrasted with the English Gable Hood. All of which is fine and dandy – if you’re recreating English clothing of the early 1500s. (All of this is reflected in the very short article on wikipedia)

What if you’re not? What if we acknowledge that England wasn’t the cultural powerhouse that it became in the 1800s, and so reading European History through the lens of an English viewpoint is problematic? And, what if we acknowledge that the “French Hood” wasn’t actually exclusively French?

This is what I started to do a couple of years ago, as I turned up example after example of this hood as the ubiquitous headwear of well-to-do women across a large part of Western Europe, not just France. It appears in the Low Countries, especially in Bruges. It appears in Spain, with both of the famous Tristamara princesses being painted in it.  It appears in Denmark. It changes over time, and it varies subtly by region/court influence.

Anne van Bruchem wrote a book on clothing in France and the Low Countries during this period. At the end of the book is an extensive glossary of terms with quotes and translations from the original French. At no point does she refer to this item as a French Hood, or even hood, but instead as a coif with some sort of fabric over the top of it.

In the end I think we need to distinguish between the highly stylised and sumptuous item worn at the Tudor Court and the more simple and subtle item worn in France, Spain, Denmark and the Low Countries. While they are related I do not think they are the same and conflating them has muddied the research waters.

After all of this I have decided to call this item the Formal Black Hood, to reduce the anglo-centric nomenclature and to distringuish this item from the item worn in the Tudor Court.

This Formal Black Hood in Art

I surveyed a bunch of images before making this hood, looking at all the variations on shape and colour and drape. In the end the image that inspired me the most was this one:

The Golf Book f. 21v, April

I’ve always loved this image, and once upon a time I had a drop of blue wool in exactly this colour that I was planning to turn into this dress. One day…

Here’s a suite of images of my hood and I am pleased to say that I nailed the shape and drape. There is another image in the Golf Book that shows a gold band in front of the black hood, and the under cap is made of red silk, so I can dress it down for less formal occasions. My choice of a gold braid on the under cap was made based on materials to hand a gift of pearls from another Lochac Laurel with a request to use them in my elevation outfit somehow. I am happy with the effect, especially that back view.

3 views of the hood

3 views of the hood

Just the facts:

The Challenge: #10 Art. Attempt to replicate hoods from the Golf Book painted in the Bruges in the 1520s.

Fabric: Cotton velveteen, linen, dupion silk, printed silk

Pattern: Entirely self-drafted

Year: 1520s

Notions: Fresh water pearls, Faux gold braid, gold spangles, 1mm gauge wire, rayon cord finger-loop braided in a spiral fashion

How historically accurate is it? Quite. Replace the faux gold braid with some crimped cloth of gold and this would be fine. I didn’t have access to cloth of gold at the time, so this was a good compromise.

Hours to complete: 6-ish

First worn: Rowany Baronial Investiture, May 17 2014

Total cost: Most of this was from stash, and I didn’t keep track of the rest. I guesstimate that someone else could make this for around $50AUD, depending on suppliers and availability of materials.