***So after a 2 year hiatus I'm returning to my 1590s gown, and if you've read the early posts it should come as no surprise that I've waffled again and resurrected my original plan for a loose gown.
However, this time I've decided to (temporarily) put the Esther Inglis gown to one side and focus on the similarly styled Elizabeth Field instead.
Esther Inglis, 1595
John Dunch and his nurse, Elizabeth Field, 1588-89
Is it some sort of stomacher? Is it attached at the neck like a partlet? Or is it just the smock?
Some have suggested that based on the size of the ruff the Elizabeth Field/John Dunch portait may be slightly later in date, which would be in keeping with many images I've found of a similar short-lived style which was popular in the mid 1590s through the very early 1600s (especially on tomb brasses).
The most similar image I've been able to find is this 1590s miniature by Issac Olivier.
Unknown Lady, 1590s
Unfortunately both the neckline and waist are obscured so this doesn't tell us much...apart from the fact that the opening is fairly wide and the fabric seems very full (which is why I've taken to calling this the "Pigeon Breast" style).
This leads me to suspect that this is not simply an exposed smock. Another image (also by Oliver) seems to confirm this, since in shows two ladies in similar gowns with pleated white fronts which extend well past the waistline.
Detail: A Party in the Open Air (Allegory on Conjugal Love) 1590-95
To me the structured silhouette of these gowns suggests some sort of front piece worn over a foundation garment.
But is it just a stomacher or is it attached to a collar?
This is a difficult question to answer since necklines are often hidden by ruffs, though there are some images which suggest a separate stomacher.
Print from "Royal, millinery and court costumes during the reign of James I, 1603-1625"
Wife of Arthur Pennyng, 1593
Unknown Lady, 1590
Margeri Browne, 1594
John Brudenell and wife Elizabeth, 1606 & an Unknown Lady, 1590s
Thomas Gage and wife Elizabeth, 1595
John Gage and his wives (Elizabeth & Margaret), 1595
Sylvester Browne, 1593
Then there is the portrait and subsequent tomb monument of Elizabeth Cooke, Lady Russel (died
I'm not sure when the original painting dates to, but as she's wearing widow's white we can assume it's after the death of Lord Russel in 1584 (though the styling probably pushes it at least into the 1590s).
While the details in the portrait are a bit harder to make out, the effigy is interesting in that it clearly shows a pleated front with some sort of structural elements (based on the detailing around the bodice point) and a front detail which continues past a pleated collar...suggesting the two might be a single garment.
This image got be thinking about about White Mourning in general and Barbes in particular, and whether this may be an evolution of the white chin veil (barbe literally translates to "beard").
Margaret of Austria, 1520s
Eleanor of Austria, 1550s
Mary Queen of Scots by François Clouet (1559-1560)
Print by Lucas De Heere, 1570s
Maria Gonzaga, post 1630
This begs another question, is this style a popular one for Tomb Brasses because it is related to mourning? (as in Lady Russel images)
Or is was it simply a very short lived but popular style? (as the Issac Oliver images suggest)
Or could it be both? (That the later barbes are falling into line with contemporary fashion)
Regardless, lets leave the barbes to one side since I'm not convinced the styling in the Dunch image relates to mourning (despite the suggestion that it may be a posthumous portrait). At the very least the apron --which is more evident in this copy-- suggests a more everyday, practical outfit.
Outside the context or funerary images, there are a few other images I've come across which may or may not be related to this style but as they are often cropped it's difficult to tell.
Unknown Lady, 1595
Judith de Valera, 1590
There also some backwork examples which seem to show a more puffed and gathered look (rather than a rigid stomacher).
Anne Carew, Lady Throckmorton by Hieronymus Custodis, 1590
Lady Throckmorton, 1590
Then there are earlier styles from the 1570s which might be a precursor...
Katherine, Wife of Nicholas Eiffler, 1577
Lady with Puppy by Nicolas Neufchatel, 1550-75
Portrait of an Unknown Woman, 1568
Alice Brandon by Nicholas Hilliard, 1578
In comparison, the Nurse portrait shows a high (un-pleated) collar to which the front piece appears to be gathered.
There is no visible front opening. However, I don't know of many examples of back fastening collars for this period...so assuming the collar is integral odds are good it's also front opening.
Which got me thinking about long Venetian partlets:
Camilla Gonzaga by Parmigianino, 1523
Eleonora Averoldi Moretto da Brescia by Alessandro Bonvicino, 1530
Pegasus and the Muses (Detail) by Girolamo Romani, 1540s
Abbess Lucrezia Gagliardi Vertova by Giovanni Battista Moroni, 1556
Veronese Woman with a Skull by Paolo Cagliari, 1574
Despite predating the 1590s English version (sometimes by quite a lot) they may provide a good starting point for reproducing the style.
The one major difference appears to be the presence of a shoulder seam, with the fabric running vertically down the front and back. Whereas the in the English style the folds seem to radiate out from the collar.
So long story short, I'm still not sure what's going on here but for the sake of a passable reproduction I think the construction could be approached in a couple of different ways.
All of these may be theatrical cheats, but I think they will get me close to what I'm aiming for...
Version one is essentially an elongated partlet which closes at the back. The front section is gathered at the neck to create a puffed out look. This wouldn't achieve the front point shown in the Isaac Oliver images, but since the Nurse wears an apron this wouldn't be seen anyway. This is probably the biggest cheat of the three but the construction would be simple.
Version two and three are essentially the same except for the location of the neck closure. An un-pleated base would probably be made up first and then second pleated or gathered layer added on top (and then the edges bound all the way around).
In this case the question would be how to achieve the gathers? Should they be loose and unstructured? Sharply pleated? Or perhaps even smocked?
I've also been looking at later examples for possible inspiration, including 18th riding costumes...
...and the Victorian/Edwardian inspired nightgown from "Crimson Peak".
Mostly because it reminds me of other (slightly later) tomb monuments.
Sir Toby Chauncy and his two wives (detail), 1607
Still lots of things to think about, but with any luck I'll have something to show before the end of this year's Faire Season!