Clothing the Low Countries

Researching & Re-creating Flemish and Netherlandish clothing from 1480-1620

A collection of tutorials on drafting a sleeve pattern

One of the elements of clothing from the Low Countries at the turn of the 16th century that I most like is the set-in sleeve. I love the look, but it can be the most tricky part of patterning a gown. Since many people struggle with patterning a sleeve I thought I’d gather together some patterning instructions and tutorials that I have come across.

First is the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant. It has a good set of instructions to draft a sleeve pattern if you are geometrically inclined (pgs 34-38). This has been my go to option for years, although I’ve found that I have a tendency to end up with a large sleeve head.

To combat this I have started to use a tip from Marion McNealey’s article on drafting a basic sleeve from Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. She cuts a piece of string to the length of the sleeve head and uses this to set the curve to the correct length.

Mathilde Girl Genius‘ paper “Farm Boy Fetch me that Pitcher” is a really good set of instructions. Most of my students have preferred this one, although we usually need to re-fit the arm as this pattern creates a larger sleeve than

Isabella d’Angelo has a sleeve patterning tutorial which looks straightforward with plenty of photos to guide you through. I’ve not tested her instructions but certainly I’d give it a try in future.

Finally, Jean Hunisett’s Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Medieval -1500 has patterns for a variety of sleeves. In particular she has a draped sleeve which works perfectly for the draped bell sleeves that we see on Flemish and Netherlandish gowns from this period. If you want to do this style well, then I recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book and having a good look at the pattern on pages 116-117.

Ultimately you should choose the method that suits you best, or a collection of a few of them to give the best results.

A huik (heuk, heuke, hoik or hoyke), the Netherlandish duck-billed cloak

HSF Challenge #7: Tops and Toes

The huik (also spelt heuk, heuke, hoik or hoyke) is a cloak-like garment with a distinctive “duck-bill” which appears in the artistic and written records of the Netherlands from around 1520, gaining in popularity (or perhaps gaining in evidence as interest in documenting foreign clothing increased [Rublack 2011]) through to the late 1500s.

This garment was worn by women in the Low Countries in the 16th century. It is primarily pictured in outdoor scenes, although there is also one image of a room full of women in this garment in a church.

In general it seems to have been worn for warmth and modesty, with a possible benefit of protecting against the elements. Notes on a pattern sketched by Durer also seems to indicate that this item was worn in church as he names it a kirkliche (church cloak).

I’ve been wanting to have an attempt at this pattern and this item since I first found it, and 2014 was the year to give it a go.

Huik montage

3 views of me in my huik

Just the Facts

What is it?: A huik (also spelt heuke, heuk, hoik, hoike, hoyke), a cloak worn by Dutch and Flemish women in the 1500s.
The Challenge: Tops and Toes
Fabric: Wool
Pattern: Based on a pattern sketched in Albrecht Durer’s journal of his visit to the Netherlands in 1521
Year: 1521-1530s
Notions: Boning
How historically accurate is it? Short of having an extant example I’m quite happy
Hours to complete: 6
First worn: unofficially for this photo, officially it will be worn this weekend at Rowany festival, where it will help keep me warm
Total cost: $25 AUD

Want to know more about this strange item?

I’ve produced a research paper on the huik pulling together all the evidence I currently have, as well as a more detailed description of how I made this item.

I also have a pinterest board of images of the huik and images of women outside the Low Countries to chart the uniqueness of this item.

What hats were worn when, and how popular were they?

In preparation for a class on women’s headwear in France and the Low Countries that I am teaching at Rowany Festival I have started a count of the frequency of each hat type as represented in art. I thought I might share the preliminary results.



The chart above represents the number of artworks that show each hat type. I did not count the number of hats in each image

I made the count from anthologies of artwork that I have on my shelves, to reduce bias from a particular author. The first three books were:

I charted each hat type by year, and then grouped them into 5 year periods. This means I can revert back to individual years for future research, including delving into a particular style. I did not count any hennins, although they were well represented in the 1460s, 70s and 80s, as they are outside the scope of this website and I was interested in the growth of transition era style hats.

What does the chart tell us?

As a preliminary analysis I can make the following statements:

  1. That a formal black hood (eventually known as a French Hood) is the most common item throughout the period surveyed.
  2. That there is a spike in the wearing of frontlets (the only time I did count hennins was where a frontlet was worn over a hennin as I wanted to chart the rise and fall of this item) but they virtually disappear after 1485, which co-incides with the sharp rise as the (usually) black veil and cap combo appears on the scene.
  3. That the books I looked at focussed on the first half of the period this survey covered, and so I will need to get more sources to fill in the period after 1510.

Future of the Project

There’s still a couple of books on my shelves to go through, and I may also chart my Clothing of the Low Countries Pinterest Board, as that is likewise a varied sample. Consider this the hypothesis stage, based on a small data sample.

When I’m satisfied with the project I’ll give it a page on this site and update it every so often.


4 weeks to Rowany Festival

The biggest event of my SCA calendar, and of Lochac in general, is Rowany Festival held every Easter long weekend and hosted by my Barony. It starts Easter Thursday and goes through until Easter Tuesday. Not surprisingly it brings with it a lot of prep work and some hard deadlines.

So that’s been my focus for the last month – ensuring my partner and my kit is up to scratch, that my newly formed household is equipped to get through 6 days of camping together, and that the new people in my Barony have had a chance to be clothed. Hence the lack of posting (oh, and a new job. Feb/March has been busy!).

In the list of items that relate to the types of things I blog about on Clothing the Low Countries I have done the following:

  • Built a black cotton bonnet based on a pattern in the Queen’s Servants, mostly to test the pattern for a class I am running at Festival, as well as to be an item of headwear for my gold linen gown.
  • Helped my partner finished his first ever piece of garb – a doublet suitable for wear in the early 1500s. This was my (serendipitous, not planned) entry for HSF#4: Bodices as I mentored him through the making of it via a class I ran at Sydney University last year.
  • Mended stuff so it could be worn. The red kirtle needed a bar re-attached and placket opening mended. The gold gown needed it’s placket opening mended (detecting a theme here), my partner’s watchcoat needed its closures changed and the back waist seam mended.
  • Started work on the Heuke (hoik, huik, heuk) based on Durer’s pattern that I plan to enter in the Laurel Prize Tourney. And by “started work” I mean I put a 2 metre length of light black wool on my head to see what it did (promptly slid off my head), then gathered a bunch of it in front of my forehead and secured it with an elastic band to check the difference in drape and ability to stay on my head. It’s looking promising, so this weekend will be the time of cutting and hemming.

Left to do (in 4 weeks…):

  • 1-2 new smocks for me, and lengthening the arms on one of my existing smocks.
  • A pair of hose or shorts for my partner from the remainder of the brown wool used in the wrap  gown, length will depend on how much fabric I have left – I have the Tudor tailor pattern, so will be starting there.
  • Pattern and cut out knee length hose for me, probably as a hand stitching project during Festival (and then a late entry to HSF#6: Tops and Toes)
  • Finish my research paper on the Heuke.
  • Finish my class notes for the hats class I am running, and make sure I have the various items available for people to look at and play with. (come along if you’re at Festival)

Not insurmountable, but will take steady work and planning.

I’ll let you know how I go!

Transition era wrap gown – HSF#3 Pink

20140224_191252Every year at Rowany Festival I have the same problem on day 2 – I want something I can throw on quickly to go about camp to get coffee and make breakfast. Often I don’t want to be fussed with lacings or tight closures. Thankfully this era had a solution: the wrap gown.

General description of the style

There seem to be two styles for this comfortable gown. A true wrap style akin to a traditional Chinese wrapped garment (here’s one that Sarah from Mode Historique has made), and one with a soft V shaped neckline which either butts in the centre or has a small overlap. They are probably a hangover from the houpelandes of the mid 1400s. One thing that both styles have in common is their minimal depiction in the visual record and the sense that these were dresses worn from comfort.

The sleeves all seem to have a bell cuff of some description. They can be a small cuff at the end of a tight-ish sleeve, or a medium sized bell sleeve as seen on many gowns at the turn of the 16th century.

I have, of course, created a Pinterest board for this style of gown.

This Project

I had three images in mind for inspiration and guidance on design details:

Detail of Virgin Amongst Virgins, Gerard David.

Jean Hey, known as the Master of Moulins (active Lyon and Moulins, c. 1480-c. 1505). Madeleine of Burgundy Presented by Saint Mary Magdalene, c. 1490

And here’s the finished result:

Wrap Dress Montage

But where’s the ‘Pink’?? It’s fully lined in a dusky rose pink cotton:


Just the Facts:

The Challenge: Pink

Fabric: Outer – 100% fulled wool in a gorgeous chocolate brown, Lining – Dusky rose pink cotton, Interlining – bamboo quilting batting

Pattern: Self drafted, as an amalgamation of a pattern from Hunnisett which worked in the black on black on black gown, and a pattern taken from a corded bodice that I have which has been used for this UFO (coming soon to a HSF challenge near you).

The skirt is cut in 4 panels which sweep around 60 degrees from centre front or centre back. The skirt is self drafted, but the idea was taken from The Queen’s Servants. Sleeve pattern is also self-drafted but is based on a sketch in The Queen’s Servants (not one of the patterns in the sleeve grid at the back). It’s a simple trapezoid with a sleeve head.

Year: late 1400s

Notions: metal hooks

New techniques tried: hand worked bars that the hooks catch on. So dainty and lots of fun to make.

How historically accurate is it? Cut and pattern: I think so, to the best of our knowledge; Fabrics: lining and interlining are not; Construction: major seams are machine sewn, everything else is handsewn. So a 7/10 feels about right to me

Hours to complete: Too many to count. Rough estimate is 20 hours so far.

First worn: To take some photos, but I’m sure sure that really counts 🙂 First official wearing will be Rowany Festival over Easter.

Total cost: Outer Fabric ~ $75AUD. Interlining ~ $10AUD, Pink cotton was a gift, hooks were bought years ago.

The Quest for the perfect Hovetcleet (HSF#2: Innovation)

This is part 2 of the Hovetcleet Challenge, and my entry in the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s 2nd challenge: InnovationPart 1: Hovetcleets and Oorijzers covers the history of this piece of headwear and some of my theories and assumptions on its construction. This post is about testing some of those theories.

Part 3 will be a longer research paper, with lots of images.

Version 1

hovetcleet-small I made version 1 in 2004, to go with my first square-necked gown. This is a very early style, similar to the two images above.

It was made of a heavy, opaque linen with a wired front over  a long truncated hennin. I loved at the time (and wish I still had it) but I also know it can be improved. The wired front in particular is incorrect as it created concave gaps behind the wire rather than the flat line that is seen in the images.

There’s a more extensive discussion of this version, including photos of the inside of the hovetcleet in my (forthcoming) research paper.

Version 2

The Plan

After looking at lots of portraits and doing some research into material culture, I wanted to build Mark II do the following:

  1. Build a shorter hennin, or a small cap OR
  2. Use a white headband and a fake bun and plaits combo
  3. Use a lighter-weight linen for the veil
  4. See if I can create the heart-shape through starching
  5. Make ooijsters to get the sharp points at the cheeks
  6. Play with folding the back of the veil to achieve a variety of styles

What I accomplished

Starch creates heart- shape: CHECK!

Light weight veil, band and fake bun work really well to give the correct shape: CHECK!

I started to make some oorijzers, but realised l didn’t need them with this starching method. I’ll be building Mark III to play with this item later this year. I also need to nail the folds in the back of the veil. Perhaps in time for Rowany Festival. Still, this drape looks very pretty.

Just the facts

The Challenge: #2 Innovation 

What’s the innovation? Structured white headwear that is a break from previous draped veils and caps. By the 1550s this item becomes the structured and decorated attifet and eventually becomes part of the highly varied Dutch folk costumes of the 1700s +1800s. – interesting article link here, and/or photo montage-

Fabric: White linen, medium weave

Pattern: None – it’s a rectangle and a headband

Year: Worn 1490-1540. This version closest to the style of the 1520s

Notions: Pins, hook and bar. Does a fake bun count as a notion?

How historically accurate is it? This is a working theory, so it’s difficult to tell, but I think I’m most of the way there. Could be improved with a better headband (making sure it doesn’t slide off my head), and proper folds in the back of the veil.

Hours to complete: I stopped counting, probably around 4-5. Most of this time was taken up with hemming and using  a pulled thread method to ensure my veil was square to the warp and weft of the linen fabric before I cut it.

First worn: For this photo shoot. First formal wear will probably be for an event in March.

Total cost: ~$45AUD. Linen at $22AUD a metre, but this is less than a metre. A few cents for the cotton tape, and for the hook and bar. $25AUD for the fake bun.

Construction notes below the jump
read more…

Hovetcleets and Oorijzers


Detail of Triptych of Jan des Trompes, 1505, Gerard David.

The iconic and most easily identifiable item of female Netherlandish clothing is the heart shaped structured veil, or hovetcleet, seen in many paintings of the time. Most especially in the works of Gerard David and Joos van Cleve.

I’ve been looking at these for years. I made a version back in 2004, and I am in the process of making taking photos of a better version (for the second challenge in the Historical Sew Fortnightly-HSF).

This article is a short introduction to hovetcleets and oorijzers ahead of my HSF#2:Innovation post. I have a pinterest board dedicated to this style of headwear, and will post a much longer research paper with a number of images later this week.

read more…

A Variety of Research Articles

I read widely, and over time I amass a variety of articles relating to the history and clothing of the Low Countries. Here’s some that you may find interesting:

A biography of Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. Daughter of Charles the Bold, she ushered in the era that this blog focusses on, through shifting the focus of the culture of the Low Countries away from the French court and fashions towards the German court and fashions through her marriage to Maximilian, Holy Roman Emperor.

An article by An Moonen, a Dutch textiles historian and conservator on antique Dutch samplers (there’s also one in Dutch on antique household linens). She states that the earliest example we have of a sampler is a painting by Joos van Cleve in the 1520s (may need to keep an eye out for it). The earliest extant sampler is Friesian from 1572 (held in a private collection). The oldest dated sampler in a Museum is a whitework sampler from 1623 (held in the Open-Air Museum in Arnhem). She found that many of the recognisable region motifs still seen today came from pattern books printed in the early part of the 16th century, a useful piece of information when deciphering designs on clothing

Other interesting information from the article includes:

In 1540 the Dutch laundries requested that all linen and clothing to be washed had to be properly marked with the mark of the owner by means of initials, a number or even a date. Sometimes important items like sheets, pillowcases and shirts, of families of standing, had further decorations around the initials.

Also, on the subject of women’s domestic skills (not sure how relevant this is to the 1500s, but it seems intuitively related):

This linen, for trousseau and interior, was made by girls and women themselves at home or done by professional seamstresses. The possibility to be able to make the trousseau, was in the first instance learned and practised on a sampler, which was the first piece of work of a girl aged between 7 and 14 years.

When the child had finished the sampler, and at the same time had developed good skills in sewing and knitting, she would start on a darning sampler. By then she would have been in her teens. Technically a darning sampler is very difficult to make.

One had to have understanding of interweaving techniques to be able to make the plain weave, and several variations on twill weave. Satin darning hardly occurs in darning samplers.

The ability to sew and repair was then thought to be absolutely necessary for the development of a woman and for becoming a good housewife and mother.

Finally she has a page with links to textile museums around the world with, of course, a great list of Dutch textile museums.

Last, but certainly not least, a list of all of John Munro’s academic articles on the economic history of the Low Countries’ textile industries. This includes freely available articles on the shift from red to black as the colour of urban patriciate clothing in Flanders, articles on shifts in luxury woolen textiles consumption specifically Worsteds and Broadcloths, an article on Spanish Merino wool and its effect on the Flemish Nouvelle Draperies, and an article on the changing nature of textile manufacturing and towns in the Low Countries and England.

Sadly John passed away on 23rd December. That long list of articles above is a testament to the amazing and pioneering research he did in this space.

A week of mending (HSF14 #1)

The Historical Sew Fortnightly’s first challenge was a very gentle ease into the year: Mend and Make Do. I chose to mend, as there are always things to mend, and it gives me a headstart on my Festival preparation.

My initial plan was to mend the following items over my 2.5 week break from work:

  1. Add ties to my black partlet that goes with my brocaded transition gown and my 1480-90s green kirtle, to stop it gapping and riding up under kirtles (seen best in this image of my brocaded transition gown)
  2. Fix G’s waffenrock closures, fingerloop braid a tie with aglets on the end, and re-hem the sleeves in a thread that matches the garment
  3. Take the ruffle off my green kirtle, add in WAY more fabric, hem and re-attach
  4. Lengthen my chemise sleeves
  5. Take the sleeves off my 1490s mustard gown, re-cut the sleeve head as it’s too large and re-sew in
  6. Add buttons to the fly on G’s Venetians that I built last year and finish internal lining seams

Then I got sick. So sick that I spent a week glancing at the partlet, which just needed ties sewn into the edge, willing myself to pick it up and sew and I just… couldn’t. I knew I was on the mend when I happily picked it up and got it finished in 2 hours, then moved straight onto item 2.

Item 1: a partlet with ties added to hopefully reduce its desire to ride up when worn under a dress.  If this doesn't work I'm switching to hooks and eyes.

Item 1: a partlet with ties added to hopefully reduce its desire to ride up when worn under a dress. If this doesn’t work I’m switching to hooks and eyes.

A mended waffenrock. New eyelets made in the closure so it can be adjusted, new points braided with aglets.

A mended waffenrock. New eyelets made in the closure so it can be adjusted, new points braided with aglets.

So items 1 and 2 are done. I’m halfway through item 3, which needs to be done for an event on 2 February. Items 4 & 6 I will do before Festival in April, and item 5 can wait till later in the year as it’s not urgent.

Item 3 in its current state. 5m of hem done, 1.5m to go, and then needs to be gathered and re-attached to the skirt.

Item 3 in its current state. 5m of hem done, 1.5m to go, and then needs to be gathered and re-attached to the skirt.

The challenge information

The Challenge: #1 Mend and Make Do

Fabric: linen ‘cabbage’ from the original dress to increase the size of the ruffle. I added in 5 widths of fabric to the original 2.5 lengths. This will be a full ruffle with tiny pleats as per the pictures.

Pattern: N/A

Year: 1490 & early 1500s

Notions: Cotton tape and cotton bias binding, crochet thread for the tie, and four metal aglets (our first attempt was too large for the holes I made)

How historically accurate is it? Overall 7/10. The shapes are right, and the seams are hand finished, but major seams are done with machine, and some closures on the waffenrock are blatantly modern (press studs! shock, horror!)

Hours to complete: 3 hours for items 1 and 2. Item 3 has already taken my more than 4 hours, with another 3ish hours to go I think

First worn: Not yet. Next event is 2 February so both items will likely get an outing there.

Total cost: mostly stash/items I had around the house. I needed to buy in more bias binding at $3.80AUD each = $7.20AUD. Aglets were 20c each, cabbage was probably a metre’s worth and I think I bought it for $14/metre, and I bought a kilometre of cotton tape last year, so that tape cost is negligible.

$22.00 in total.

Joining the Historical Sew Fortnightly in 2014

Last year Leimomi Oakes, aka The Dreamstress, created the Historical Sew Fortnightly (HSF). I thought about joining in last year, but being honest with myself (following some frank discussion with a costuming mentor) I decided I had other priorities. This year I’m in – for most of the challenges.

Leimomi posted all the challenges for the year yesterday, which really, really helps with planning items and fitting them into events that I know are coming up this year and that I already had sewing goals for. In particular:

  • Rowany Festival, 17-22 April
  • Rowany Baronial changeover, 3 May
  • Midwinter Coronation, 5-6 July
  • Cold War, end August
  • November Crown/ Fields of Gold, November
  • Yule Feast, early December

Some rules I’m setting myself for participating the HSF.

  1. Preparing for events is more important than participating in a challenge, making them work together is excellent.
  2. Life trumps sewing
  3. If I can’t make it work for within the framework of this blog and my specific research interests then I’m not participating in that challenge.
  4. Using a challenge as impetus to make something that’s been knocking around in my head for a few years is a good thing. I’m looking at “Tops and Toes” and “The Great Outdoors” here.

With this in mind I made a template for planning the challenges, which I printed out single-sided and will blue tack to a wall at home. Feel free to use the template if it will help you too.

Looking through the challenges, and keeping in mind the rules above I immediately knocked out the following challenges either because of competing event deadlines, or rule 3: #5-Bodice (Rule 1, 1 month to Festival); #6-Fairytale (Rule 3, also Rule 1); #14-Paisley & Plaid (Rule 3); #20-Alternative Universe (Rule 3).

I have ideas drafted for challenges 1-4, 7-9 as they fit with plans I already had for my Festival kit, and plans to finish the transition gown I was making for Yule Feast last year. First challenge results will be posted later this week.

Here’s to a creative and productive year!

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