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.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1590s Gown...More Thoughts on Historical Sources

So...I'm waffling a bit.

Not on a loose gown.
No...the pattern is scaled up, the mockup is made (more or less), and the fabric is purchased.  I'm definitely making a loose gown. But after re-examining some of the images, I'm not as sure as I was that it actually is a loose gown that I'm seeing in my inspiration portraits.

Certainly there are loose gowns which seem to be in keeping with the style I've chosen (more on that below), but I don't know if that's the case in the Inglis and Woodward/Alleyn portraits.
The Inglis image is just too stylized to tell for sure. I still think the lines on the side might indicate folds, but it could go either way.
But having found an even higher resolution photo of the Woodward portrait I'm starting to have my doubts. I based my original assumption primarily on the fact that she was wearing a belt...but as other portraits clearly show, that doesn't preclude her wearing a bodice and skirt (which I'm starting to think might be the case).

Here is the original portrait and another version adjusted for high contrast.

My problem is with the dark lines on on the "skirt".  Some of them clearly indicate shadows and folds, but there seem to be two parallel lines (one fat and one narrow) that appear on either side of the "skirt" opening. I think it's likely that these lines represent trim.
If this was a loose gown the trim lines should continue through to the body section as well...but in this case at least one of the lines appears to stop at the belt.

So if that second narrow line is in fact trim, than there is a good argument for this not being be a loose gown after all.  It may actually be a fitted gown (ie. a fitted bodice with integral/attached skirt). If I was still intent on doing a direct reproduction this would probably send me back to the drawing board. 
Since I'm hoping that this outfit can double for what I'm calling the "Pigeon Breast" style from the previous post, I'm going to continue with my plan for a loose gown. 

And going back to my trusty tomb brasses at least some of them do seem to indicate a loose gown was worn with an embroidered stomacher (granted there are much less of them).

This brass of is probably the best example, since it also shows the decorated forepart present in the Woodward portrait.  

In a somewhat different style there is this full effigy of Constance Lucy, which has loose gown worn open over a stomacher and a petticoat.

But my favourite brass is still this one.  Granted, this is the gathered front style...but it's a really nice example of different trims on the bottom versus the turned back rever (and close enough the Woodward portrait in terms of overall silhouette and aesthetic).

So given the historical sources I'm still happy about moving forward with the loose gown, both as an analog for the initial inspiration and as a style in itself.
Now all I have to do is decide on accessories and trim placement!
But this post as gotten a little long so I think I'll hold off on the final design until next time...

(which I guess means this was just one long rant to basically get back to where I started and to justify a decision I had already made. Ah, well...)