Author: Margaret

Noord Holland Again, or Partlet Magic

Last year I got interested in a the regional costumes of Noord Holland, affectionately known as the “Cheese Girls”. I recreated that outfit and wrote about it here. Because I was under some time constraints, I cobbled that outfit together from pieces I’d made over the years. Now I’ve finally had a chance to revisit the look and make the outfit some dedicated accessories. A Smocked Partlet Smocking, or embroidery done over pleated fabric, has become quite popular amongst my re-enactment community. It seems like everyone wants a pleated apron or a smocked shirt, and I was given the opportunity to make a piece for a friend’s Laureling outfit. Unfortunately, this style tends to be more German than Dutch, and the few examples from the Low Countries are all from the early part of the 1500s. Since I rarely do anything earlier than 1560, I didn’t think I would have an opportunity to get in on this trend. Then it occurred to me that the black geometric embroidery seen on some of the Cheese Girl paintings might be smocking, so I had an excuse to make some for myself. Genoveva, from The German Renaissance of Genoveva, has written a good smocking tutorial, so I will just tell you about the mistakes I made so you don’t have make them yourself. First, definitely use a grid to mark out the draw threads...

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Clothing the Low Countries Goes to the Movies!

It’s not very often that English language movies are made about our favorite time and place, but this year’s Tulip Fever is a rare exception. (It’s set in 1636, so close enough.) Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel of the same name, the movie follows the tangled love lives of a young wife of Amsterdam and her maid against the backdrop of tulip mania, one of the world’s first speculative investment bubbles. I’m going to attempt to avoid discussing the plot as much as possible, except to say that it did have a fair bit more tulips in it than you might have expected of a romantic movie. I was mostly there for the costumes. Costume designer Michael O’Connor really does deserve and A+ for his efforts. There’s very little that beats the pleasure of seeing a costume on the screen and knowing exactly which extant example served as its inspiration. The entire production is lovely, and I spent a great deal of the movie being charmed by the open weave baskets for carrying chickens, the carpets on the tables, the box style beds, and the scales used for weighing tulip bulbs. For the majority of the movie, the main character, Sophia, wears outfits in this style. Slight variations on this look were in style from the 1610s though the early 1630s. By 1636, this might be a little out...

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Recreating “Flemish” Caps and Veils: Part Three- Ear Irons (Oorijzer)

  First of all, what is an ear iron? An ear iron is a metal frame that passes behind the nape and drops over the ears, ending at or slightly below the level of the ear lobe. It is held in place with ribbons which are tied on top of the head in front of the braids. It’s purpose is to help hold the under cap into place, and/or to give shape to the outer cap and veil. The earliest examples are simple wires with some sort of balls on the end of the “legs”. They have a loop at the top of the leg which the ribbon passes through. Occasionally there is a twist of smaller wire at the bottom of the leg which helps keep pins from sliding up. As the style progresses, the legs becomes wider and more decorative. Many have pin holes which allow the pin to go through, rather than around, the ear iron. By the 1620s, some even have pendants dangling, earring-like, from the end of the leg. When in use, ear irons are often obscured by the hat or veil, so it is difficult to be sure when they were first worn. Using the ear iron with a veil creates some distinctive folds, and those folds can be seen at least as early as the 1550s. Obvious use of ear irons shows...

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Recreating “Flemish” Caps and Veils: Part Two- Hairdressing

Recreating a “Flemish” headdress starts with the hair. There seem to be very few formal portraits of upper class woman painted with their hair down, and even fewer in the act of hairdressing. Luckily, the Dutch have a rich tradition of market genre paintings, and a number of market girls are depicted bareheaded. The hair is put up into coils and then wrapped around the head with ribbons which are usually white, though occasionally red. This creates a style that is attractive on its own, but it also helps create the right shape for the under cap. So it is reasonable to assume that the this, or something very like it, is the way the hair is dressed under the caps and veils that I’m interested in recreating. First, for full disclosure, I should show you what I’m working with. I have waist-length, fairly thick and curly hair. So this is what my methods have been field tested on. However, any hair long enough to braid is long enough to add to. There are a number of excellent tutorials for using Indian braid extensions, called paranda, on line, and they can be quickly made up from yarn. Second, a note on braids: In the Aertsen pictures at the top of the article, the hair appears to be wrapped in rope-like coils with the ribbon rather than braided. This painting...

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Recreating “Flemish” Caps and Veils: Part One – Style Overview

One of the most distinctive aspects of Netherlandish clothing are the hats. It’s probably the whole reason that I’m drawn to the style. While the ladies of England and France were wearing the ubiquitous “French” hood, woman of all classes in the Low Countries adorned their heads with linen veils and caps. The exciting thing about that for me is that it means that I can wear some crazy hats without actually having to learn traditional millinery skills. Very little special equipment is involved. The patterns for the caps are very simple, and the veil is just a rectangle. It’s all pleasantly straightforward. That said, getting the cap or veil into the shape you want requires a few other tools. The first of those is your own hair. It needs to be braided and put up securely because everything hangs off of it. Next is the oorijzer, or “ear iron”. This is a metal wire which runs around the back of your head and over your ears and provides a secure base to pin the cap to. Finally, the cap or veil has to be starched stiff and then pinned into place. This series of articles will cover how I have made caps and veils, and how I dress my hair and wear the oorijzers to achieve the styles seen in artworks of the time. First of all, though, it’s a...

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