Thursday, October 25, 2007

Early Tudor Project Part 1 -- the set-up

Okay. Today I got inspired. It's not the first time I was planning on doing something completely different and got sidetracked. The slow season is coming up, and a friend of mine suggested that I do something I've always wanted to do -- make up full outfits from each one of my patterns and photograph them for the website.

So knowing that I work better under a deadline, I took up my autumn and winter event schedule and started matching up events with possible outfits. I got as far as early January and then I stopped.

You see, for two years now, I've planned to make a Tudor oufit like this 1537 portait of Jane Seymour. When I did the research and development for the Tudor patterns (the RH600-series), I made only mockups to test the pattern. I never made a full-blown, ornamented Tudor ensemble before.

The Maryland Ren Fest is a Tudor Faire, but I dislike making full noble outfits for outdoor events. Too much potential for all your hard work to get ruined. Add to that the fact that we've had high temperatures and humidity until the end of October, and you can see why I want to avoid that. I'm just not the kind of girl to wear fewer layers than was done.

So I started thinking. What event during the year is more appropriate for fabulous clothing than 12th Night? So I looked to see if the date and location of 12th Night had been announced. And lo and behold, it says this:
The Year is 1504. The Great house of Aragon celebrates 12th Night, Dia de los Tres Reyes, across Europe in their various Kingdoms. In Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella reign, having at last made Spain a Christian Kingdom. After the defeat of France, Ferdinand also controls the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. In Austria, daughter Juana (soon to be La Loca) rules with her husband, Arch Duke Felipe. In England, daughter Catherine has married an English Prince, Arthur, only to have him die and be newly betrothed to the Prince Henry. She hopes to be Queen soon.

Well, bugger Jane Seymour! I'll do Katherine of Aragon in her early days!

My first step was to find a picture of Katherine of Aragon and find out what she was wearing in 1504. Well, it's actually 1502 by Henry VII's court painter Michel Sittow. It hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna today.

Interestingly she's not wearing the stereotypical gable headdress we come to expect to see on her. Instead she appears to be wearing what may be an early incarnation of what would become the French hood -- less structured and more veil-like, but still a similar shape.

We also notice that she's wearing multiple layers. The top edge of her smock is embroidered with small designs in alternating black and yellow. Over this she wears a yellow undergown that may be laced center front with gold thread of clasps. Over this is a black unclosed kirtle adorned with gold shells along its edge. And on top of it all, she wears a velvet gown. She wears a gold choker that repeats the initial "K" and a long chain. A pendant on a black cord may hide inside her smock.

But it's rather dark and hard to make out details. And because her hands don't show in the portrait, we can't tell what the sleeves look like at all.

It is not entirely unlike a portrait by Joos van Cleve of Agniete van den Rijne. Much more detail is visible in this painting owing to the light colour of the overgown. The sleeves are fur-lined and from the volume of fabric in folds over her arms, they appear to be the large triangular sleeves seen on French gowns in this time period. Additionally, the design of the fabric allows us to see that the sleeves are not set-in. The folds around the shoulder indicate that the sleeves are cut in one piece with the bodice of the gown. This is a strange sleeve treatment to see this late in history since set-in sleeves came into use almost 200 years earlier.

Unlike Katherine, Agniete wears a pleated smock more typical of the Low Countries, but she wears the same three layers visible in the painting of Katherine. Agniete's underdress is light red and appears to not open in front like Katherine's yellow one. Agniete's neckline is decorated with gold and we may be seeing the sleeve of this dress on her right wrist. Agniete also wears a black undergown, hers decorated with gold embroidery or braid trim. Her brocade gown is fur-lined and overlaps at center front.

Like Katherine, Agniete wears a gold chain, a small pendant with a cross and perhaps another pendant inside her undergown as indicated by the black cord that disappears into her cleavage. A brooch is pined to the center front of her red underdress.

For more information on the overgown, we can look at a great deal of pictures from the turn of the 16th century, a representative example of which is at left. This is a detail shot from Gerard David's 1509 painting Virgin Among Virgins.

The green velvet gown in this close-up is of a similar type to those in the previous two portraits. Even her headdress is similar. Her square-necked, front-overlapping gown is lined with brown fur just like that of Aigniete, above. The cuffs are large and turned back to show the fur. However, the seam of the set-in sleeve is visible on the left shoulder. That is not to say, of course, that all gowns had set-in sleeves or that none did. Both options may have existed contemporaneously.

Another difference exists in this painting: The black undergown is not square-necked like the previous examples and the smock is not visible at all. This may have been the style in a different part of Europe, among less noble fashionistas, or simply another variation of the style. If anything is apparent, it is evokative of the Burgundian gowns of the previous decades.

Another similar gown is seen on this 1491 portait of Margaret of Austria by the Master of the Moulins. Margaret's sleeves are far tighter than the portraits above, but her portrait is also earlier. It is lined with ermine fur rather than the brown we've seen thusfar, but all other elements of the gown appear similar.

As I embark upon the construction of this outfit, I'll update this blog.

© 2007 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.