Sunday, September 14, 2014

1590s Gown: The Design

Design time!

Even though this style was short-lived and very distinctive there's still some wiggle room in terms of design.
The ruffs and headwear offer the most obvious points of departure (as some of the images --even the later one-- show hoods). However, even though I'm probably going to have to scale back my ambition for the hat I think I'm still going to try for the tall hat ruff combo that are in so many of the portraits.
So my big decision now is trim...primarily where the sleeves are concerned.
There are several different sleeve treatments in the historical sources, but primarily they fall into two categories: Plain or striped (either horizontal or vertical). There are a couple of exceptions, but for my own sanity I think it's best to stick to one of these 5 options:


By a wide margin plain sleeves seem to be the most pervasive in the historical sources...however that's only if you include funeral monuments.  Though there are fewer portraits of this style, most of them show some sort of sleeve embellishment. But putting that to one side, let's look at plain sleeves!

Of course this lady (John Dunch's nurse) has to be first on the list! As this was the image that kicked off the research for the secondary plain (white) front style.  

Nice, clean simple...and let's not forget: easy! I'm not going to lie, that's a strong argument in its favour.

Other examples of plain sleeves include (but are by no mean's limited to):

Jane Compton, d.1586
Wife of Arthur Pennyng, 1593
Silvester Browne, 1593

Elizabeth St.John, 1592
Anne Perry, 1585
Constance Lucy, 1601


Here's where things start to get interesting...

a) Vertical

Where else would we start, but with the lovely Esther Inglis! 

Since this is the inspiration image there is a good reason to favour these closely spaced, medium stripes. 
Lots of visual interest, without being too complicated. 

There are also examples of more widely spaces stripes... or at the opposite end of the spectrum very narrow stripes (again, spaced more widely or close together).

Joan Popley, 1580s-90s
Unknown Lady, 1590s
Unknown Lady, 1580-90s

However, I've come across almost no examples of vertical stripes in effigies or funeral brasses.  It may be because they are just too difficult to convey in that medium, but if stripes do appear they are almost always...

b) Horizontal/Angled

I bet you thought I would use the Woodward portrait here? A fair assumption since it's been my go-to image in every other instance...but as much as I love those accordian-like armour sleeves I have to admit that I haven't the faintest idea of how to reproduce them!

So in the meanwhile let's look at this much more reasonable example of horizontal trim on the lovely Mrs. Jennyngs.
The shapes are nice and rounded, and while this style isn't often represented in portraits it makes up for it by regularly appearing in tomb monuments. 

Elizabeth Death, 1590
Alice Boggis, 1599
Mary Hinton, 1594

So there are the sleeve options!
I have to admit that I like the angled sleeves, but I suspect I'll end up leaning towards a vertical option since it's a bit more straightforward and easier (hopefully!) to lay out.  


  1. Ok, so of course I'm going to pick the most pain-in-the-ass option because I'm ridiculous like that. My vote (for what little it counts) is for the fanciest version but with horizontal stripes. If you at all think you're going to want a fancier version, I would just go ahead and do that first so that you're not disappointed or bored with the idea after you finish the first one. On the other hand that does mean that it will take longer before you can wear it though.

    1. Thanks, Scarlett!
      I was going to canvas your opinion on this one...
      I think I could figure it out on two piece sleeves, but the pattern I ended up settling on is a one piece sleeve and I'm not sure how to get it to look angled rather than horizontal. Hmmm, I'm going too have to try and lay the trim out and see what happens. But I like the horizontal look best...and for the forepart I've salvaged some lovey embroidered sari fabric!

  2. Well I always have an opinion to offer! I'd say it's definitely worth a shot to attempt the horizontal/angled stripes, but of course as backup fall back on some vertical stripes of some sort. Oooo, that sounds lovely!! I'm not usually huge on brocades/patterns but they seem really essential for a fancy middling look given how often they show up as foreparts on the brasses and effigies.

    1. Yah...given all the evidence I don't see how I can avoid at least a removable forepart. That's why I'm a big fan of the saris! I've bought two vintage ones on the cheap (at way less than a 1/2 yard of silk brocade) and they have the added benefit of being hand done, and so look more period.
      Still debating whether the foundation layer is going to be a new kirtle or just my petticoat and I'm not sure what I'll be pinning the forepart to yet.