Monday, 6 March 2017

Avis Clarke: a female pedlar or chapman, 1624

Analysis of the Stratford upon Avon inventories for the Stuart Tailor has turned up a rare female pedlar or chapman.(Jones, 2002) When Avis Clarke was buried in Stratford in 1624 she was described as a “stranger”, however her executor Robert Johnson, a furrier, appears to be one of the three Robert Johnsons living in the parish in the early seventeenth century. 

There are only two female pedlar/chapmen trading in their own right, as opposed to with a husband, in Margaret Spufford’s (1984) work. Joan Dant, a widowed Quaker of London, was worth over £9,000 at her death in 1714. The other chapman in Spufford was also named Clark, Ann Clark of Donnington, Lincolnshire, who died in 1692. She also appears to have been a much richer woman than Avis, her sale goods were worth about £40, and her tilt cloth probably means she was more likely to have been a market stallholder. 

Avis describes herself as a spinster in her will, and her inventory consists solely of her wearing apparel (16s), an old pair of sheets and a blanket (2s), and her box and its contents. The total of this inventory £3 3s 7d, would seem to indicate that she was not a rich woman. In her will however she leaves 5s and all her wearing apparel to her servant, Mary Beddson, who presumably lived
wherever Avis was based. Mary Beddson’s family came from Wootton Wawen about seven miles to the north, north west of Stratford. Avis also left 5s, a band, a handkerchief and a pair of garters, “that I have in my box”, to Peter Woodhouse, who is described as a chapman of small wares. There is no indication of the size of her box, but one can speculate that she may have sold from it, like Laroon's 1687 London seller of socks. (right)
None of Avis’s goods were expensive.

So what did Avis have in her box:

Coifs and Cross Cloths
Avis stoked four types of coif, she had 9 coifs at 3d each, 6 “playne” coifs at 4d each, 9 coifs of black and tawny also at 4d each, and eleven “drawne work” coifs valued at 3s, which does not divide evenly, but would be about 3 ¼d each.

Avis has six “crest clothes” for 12d, so 2d each. Cross cloths, are sometimes called forehead cloths, as referred to by Fynes Morison in 1617 “Many weare such crosse-clothes or forehead clothes as our women use when they are sicke.” They are often listed with coifs, and the Victoria and Albert Museum show matching sets that survive. Full details and a pattern for the set linked here can be found in North and Tiramani (2011)

Handkerchiefs and handkerchief buttons.
As mention above Avis left Peter Woodhouse a handkerchief, one of six she had in stock worth 4d each. She also had “on papear of hancharves buttones xviiid” The fashion for putting buttons on handkerchiefs started towards the end of the 16th century and lasted into the middle of the 17th century. A 1659 satirical account quoted in Cunnington (1972) has “for six dozen of large fine holland handkerchiefs with great French buttons, for Lord Fleetwood, to wipe away the tears from his Excellence’s cheeks.”

Bands and bandstrings
Again Avis left Peter Woodhouse a band in her will. She had 13 bands in stock, valued in total at 3s, again this does not divide equally, but would make them worth about 2¾d each. She also had a dozen bandstrings valued at 18d, so 1½d each. These would have been very simple and would probably have borne little resemblance to the ornate bandstrings in the Platt Hall Collection, shown left.

Avis has an unspecified amount of coarse gartering for 20d, and “sixe peare of garters 3s”, equalling 6d a pair. She also has five other garters, it is not specified whether these are in pairs or not, for 12d. Several garters survive in museum collections bearing the word Jerusalem, as in this example, dated 1649, in the Colonial Williamsburg collections. The V&A Museum has two of these Jerusalem garters dating from 1677 and 1678. 

Points were used to hold breeches to doublets, few survive. Braun et al (2016) has a close up photograph of the Sir Rowland Cotton trunk hose with canions, showing a single plain table woven silk point still attached to the right hand side of the waistband, unfortunately the photograph is not on the V&A webpage for the outfit.   Avis has in her box “sevein dison of poyntes” so 84 points for 1s, these were probably linen as she also has a mere nine silk points for 1s.

Avis has 6 pairs of gloves for 10d, these are very cheap gloves, though in 1612 John Fleming of Marlborough had gloves at 2d a pair. (Williams and Thompson 2007) 

Lace, laces and inkle
These are three actually quite different things. Laces were used to lace together garments, shoes, and so on, as shown in Laroon’s drawing of ragamuffin London lace sellers (right). Avis had “Seven dusson of lasses 2s 4d”

Lace could also mean any form of tape or braid. The word inkle also refers to narrow woven tapes. These could be used decoratively, as for example at a much higher social level, King Charles I’s “suite of deere cullor silke moheire with two gold and silver laces ten times sowed on.” (Strong 1980) Avis has four and a half dozen of loom work lace for 4s, 6 yards of loom work for 1s, and two dozen of white inkle for 1s, she also has “other shreds of lase and calleco 1s”

Avis also has lace in the sense of bobbin made lace, listed as forty two yards of “bonlase” for 4s, which is less than a penny a yard. Elizabeth Isham’s letter to her father, with samples of lace attached, has a cheap, very simple 2d lace.(Levey 1983)

Sewing and miscellaneous items
Avis’s box contains 2d worth of pins, an ounce of thread for 8d, thimbles and “to bound graseies” for 4d. It is unclear what graseies are.

She also has “On boxe of bruches [brushes] 6d” and eight boxes for 2d


Braun, M. et al. 2016. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London: Thames & Hudson
Cunnington, C. W. & P. 1973. Handbook of English Costume in the 17th Century. 3rd ed. London: Faber & Faber.
Jones, J. ed. 2002. Stratford-Upon-Avon Inventories, 1538-1699 Volume I (1538-1625). Dugdale Society, vol 39, 329-330.
Levey, S. 1983. Lace: a history. London Victoria and Albert Museum.
North, S. and Tiramani, J. 2011. Seventeenth century Women’s Dress Patterns, book 1. London: V&A Publishing.  p.124-128.
Spufford, M. 1984. The Great Reclothing of Rural England: Petty Chapmen and their Wares in the Seventeenth Century. London: Hambledon Press.
Strong, R. 1984. Charles I’s clothes for the years 1633-1635. Costume 14, 73-89
Williams, L. and Thompson, S. eds. (2007) Marlborough probate inventories 1591-1775. Wiltshire Record Society, vol 59, 30

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Lace in Fashion – exhibition review

The 1580s smock in the first case
On Friday night I was lucky enough to go to a reception for the Bath Fashion Museum’s new exhibition Lace in Fashion. The exhibition will be open from 4th February 2017 to 1st January 2018, and on the first day of the exhibition I heard a fascinating talk by its curator, Elly Summers, about how the exhibition came about and the thinking behind it.

In April 2014 the Museum was given a grant by Arts Council England, to help catalogue its large lace collection. Fifty trays of lace, some with very little information, were sorted with the help of several people from the Lace Guild. Around 4000 items were examined. The majority received a very basic catalogue entry, but 400 exceptional pieces were catalogued in depth and photographed. These photographs will be made available via the Bridgman Art Library . While it was possible to photograph some lace flat, others were photographed over mannequins that were mocked up in black to the basic period outline.
The 1860s wedding veil

The exhibition itself takes up the large central area of the museum. The earliest item on display is a 1580s smock with plaited lace insertion down the sides of the sleeves.  Please note that my photographs were taken in low light in a very crowded exhibition, you really need to go to see the items for yourself. The most recent item in the exhibition is a 2016 laser printed dress,  which was bought online for £1.

The 1805 bobbin lace dress
Among the highlights for me were, the stunning 1660s silver tissue dress with parchment lace, the 1860s cream silk wedding veil that is a mixed of bobbin and needle lace applied to a machine net, the 1805 bobbin lace dress that may once have belonged to Queen Charlotte, there was an article about this in the Guardian, and I suppose if I have to chose something modern the red lace dress worn by Dame Helen Mirren.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

17th Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630 – book review

This is the third book in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s series of patterns from seventeenth century clothing in their collection, and the first to deal with men’s wear. (1) The book has 12 chapters covers 13 items in the V&A collection, 7 can be considered as accessories and 6 as main garments.
The book begins with a short summary of what a man’s wardrobe would consist of at this time, based on surviving wills and inventories from all levels of society. There is also an explanation of clothing terms used at the time, much of it based on Randal Holmes Academy of Armoury. 

There are almost 150 pages of patterns and construction details. Two thirds of these relate to the six main garments, which are three doublets (c1600-10, c.1620 and c1625-30), a suit comprising doublet and breeches (c1618) and a cloak (c1560-1600). Most of these have not had patterns published before, however the suit is that of Sir Richard Cotton, and patterns for that have appeared in Arnold (2) and Waugh (3), but not in such detail.  For each garment there are portraits of men wearing similar garments, masses of photographic details of both the exterior and interior of the garment and x-rays. These are followed by pages of patterns and finally by details of the construction. 

The seven accessories comprise a sword girdle and hangers, a felt hat, a picadil, an embroidered nightcap, a linen nightcap liner, a pair of mittens and a linen stocking. Again these have not appeared before and, although this is a book of men’s patterns, the hat, mittens and stockings could be worn by either sex. 

The detailed examinations that the authors have done are incredible, and show us both what can and cannot be ascertained though detailed examination, for example even though fibres from the hat were examined microscopically it was not possible to determine the type of felt used. Where possible details are given which will allow for reconstruction. The buttons on the first doublet are described as “woven in a chevron pattern using green silk floss and silver-gilt filé threads”.  The pattern for the bobbin lace on the nightcap is detailed enough for anyone who knows how to make bobbin lace to produce a copy. There are step by step instructions on how to produce the finger looped lace on the linen stocking.

At £35 (you can get it for less) well worth purchasing.

1. Braun, M, et al. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
2. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London : Macmillan, 1985.
3. Waugh, N. The cut of men's clothes 1600-1900. London : Faber, 1964.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Women of 1640s Western Europe – Theatrum Mulierum and Aula Veneris.

Dutch Sailor's Wife
Those who study English clothing of the mid 17th century are very aware of Hollar’s Ornatus Muliebris the Habits [clothing] of Englishwomen, published in 1640. Perhaps less well known are his engravings of women from across the whole of Europe, and parts of North Africa, which he published in two series Theatrum Mulierum and Aula Veneris. The Latin subtitle of the Theatrum can be translated as, “the variety and differences of the female habits of the nations of Europe.” The publication history of these two is incredibly complex, and the plates come in various states, not least because they were being reprinted until well into the eighteenth century. For those wishing to untangle the publication, the place to go is Pennington. (1) The links given above are to the University of Toronto, Hollar Digital Collection, which has most, but not all, the prints.

Hollar was well travelled in Europe. He was born in Prague in 1607, by the late 1620s he was studying in Frankfurt, by 1630 he had travelled through Strasbourg, Mainz and Koblenz.  His first book was published in Cologne in 1635 and by 1637, under the patronage of the Earl of Arundel, he was living in London. Sometime after the Civil War started in 1642, he moved to Antwerp. He returned to London in 1652 and died there in 1677. 

Woman of Cologne
Some of his engravings are of upper class women, but many are of “ordinary” women, tradesmen and merchants’ wives and daughters, and sometimes countrywomen. They show regional diversity in the use of garments like huiks, they show how long ruffs continued to be worn by the middle and lower classes, long after they had gone out of fashion, and also the ubiquity of other garments, such as the waistcoat.

In the first example we have a Dutch sailor’s wife, wearing one of those hats that are often teamed with a huik in Dutch paintings, as seen in this late 16th century painting by Lucas van Valckenborch. The huik was worn widely in north western Europe, and Du Mortier has suggested that it may have its origins in Spanish fashions.(2)  In the second image, a woman of Cologne you again have huik. As Fynes Morison described them, “all women, in generall, when they goe out of the house, put on a hoyke or vaile which covers their heads and hangs downe upon their backs to their legges; and this vaile in Holland is of a light stuffe or kersie, and hath a kind of horne rising over the forehead, not much unlike to old pummels of our women’s saddles. ... but the women of Brabant and Flanders wear vailes altogether of some fine light stuffe, and fasten then about the hinder part and sides of their cap, so as they hang loosely not close to the body....and these caps are large round and flat to the our potlids, used to cover pots in the kitchin.” (3) This last is an excellent description of the sailor’s wife’s hat.
Woman of Franconia

The third image is a woman of Franconia. She wears not a starched ruff, as in the two previous images, but a ruff which falls to the shoulders. Descriptions of the construction of surviving ruffs of all types are given in Arnold. (4) The garment (waistcoat/jacket) she is wearing is buttoned like a male doublet, much like the garment worn in the monument to Lady Elizabeth Finch, now in the V&A.  Similar buttoned garments can be seen in Hollar’s Woman of Vienna, and several of his women from Augsburg.

In the fourth image is a woman from Antwerp. She wears a falling collar and, since it appears to be summer, a straw hat. Her top is patterned, while her skirt is plain.

As a final example let’s add in Hollar’s English countrywoman. There are lots of differences between the Englishwoman and the other examples, but some things do carry across. All five women wear aprons and, as four appear to be marketing, they carry some form of basket, be it split wood, wicker or rush. All wear some form of headwear, and in three of the five you can see a coif under the hat. Discarding the lady from Cologne, whose huik covers too much of her garments, all wear some type of bodice/waistcoat/jacket which finishes at the hips, and skirts that finish short of the ground at the ankle bone.
Woman of Antwerp

If you go through the links to explore the collection you will find women from France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The further afield the subjects of Hollar’s drawings are, the less likely he is to have seen, or known, what was actually being worn. His Irish woman, for example, is copied from John Speed’s map of Ireland , and his “Virginian” is copied from a Theodor de Bry’s drawing in Thomas Hariot’s A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. De Bry's drawing is itself based on John White’s originals made when he was with the Roanoke colony.

English Countrywoman

1. Pennington, Richard. A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar. . Cambridge : CUP , 2002.
2. Du Mortier, B. In search of the origins of the huik. Arte Nuevo : Revista de estudios áureos . 2014, Vol. 1.
3. Moryson, Fynes. An Itinerary: Containing His Ten Years Travel Through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, Netherland, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Turkey, France, England, Scotland and Ireland. London : John Beale, 1617.
4. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion 4 : the cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women . London : Macmillan, 2008.