Friday, 27 December 2013

NESAT (North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles)

I started this blog two years ago under the impression that it would probably turn out like diaries. I write in them for about two weeks and then give up, however it’s still going, possibly because it has to do with my abiding interest in costume and textiles. Anyway to NESAT, and to costume and textiles.

The volume of published proceedings of the last NESAT held in 2011 in Esslingen am Neckar in Germany, is now available from: This is a wide ranging volume as the subjects covered go from the Neolithic to the 18th century. For those interested in the early modern period it contains both Beatrix Nutz preliminary report on the 15th century bras from Lengberg Castle, and Carol Christiansen’s group on The Gunnister Man Project: Researching and Reconstructing a Late 17th Century Garment Ensemble. Price €54.80

The next NESAT will be held in 2014 in Hallstatt, Austria The programme can be found at It includes Jane Malcolm-Davies on excavated sixteenth-century knitted caps, and E. Wincott Heckett on 16th and 17th century metal laces.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Hollar's ladies in winter clothing 1639-1649

Figure 1 - Pennington 609
Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) published a large number of costume prints in the middle of the seventeenth century; this looks at those that depict Englishwomen in winter clothing. The images examined are Pennington numbers 609, 613, 617, 1789, 1888, and 1999. Pennington (2002) wrote a full catalogue of Hollar’s engravings and assigned each print a number, the print histories of Hollar’s works are very complicated and some prints have several states, where for example the engravings have been reworked, I am not going to comment on the states of the prints. The link should take you to better images.

 Four of the prints are full length and two are half-length, all are known to have been drawn and printed between 1639 and 1649. I have sourced them in several ways, from my own collection, from Wikimedia Commons and from the Hollar Digital Archive, which I recommend as it has all of the Ornatus, Theatrum and Aula prints, but not Hollar’s Season.

Two items of clothing accessory appear in all of the prints, a hood, and a fur muff, a third a half face mask appears in all except the rear view, where obviously you can’t see her face. Three of the ladies have a fur around their neck, and a fourth has a fur on the table next to her.

Pennington 613
1.         Pennington 609. This is the full length Winter from Hollar’s Seasons, with the date 1643. She is  standing at the junction of Cheapside and Poultry in the City of London. (Hollar, 1979). The lines underneath her read,

“The cold, not cruelty makes her weare

In winter, furs and wild beasts haire

For a smoother skin at night,

Embraceth her with more delight.”

She is wearing a fur collar and muff, a chaperone hood with a second hood/coif underneath, and a half mask. It looks as though she is holding up two skirts, the shirt of her gown and a petticoat, and there is another petticoat with a lace trimming around the hem. Her shoes have high heels and she wears a shoe rose with them. I refer to the fur collar as a collar, but there were several different names in use, though it is sometimes difficult to ascertain what precisely is meant by a palatine, a tippet (Weiss, 1970) or a zibellini (Sherrill, 2006)

Figure 3 Pennington 617

2.         Pennington 613. This is the three quarter length Winter engraved in 1641. The lines underneath her read:

            “Thus against winter wee our selves doe arme

            and think you then the cold can doe us harme

            but though it bee to hard for this attire

            yet wee’ll orecome it not with sword but fire.”

She is wearing a hood and carrying a muff, her half mask and fur collar are on the shelf next to her. She is also wearing gloves, as can been seen by the wrinkles going up her wrist and the lines from her fingers. Gloves were ubiquitous and bought in large quantities, the accounts of the Marquis of Hertford for the year 1641-2 show gloves being bought for his teenage children six pairs at a time, more than 100 pairs of gloves were bought for the six children in the course of one year, at one point “five dozen and ten paire of gloves for the young ladies” were purchased at a cost of £2 9s 8d. (Morgan, 1945) These accounts also show hoods being bought for “the young ladies”, that is the three daughters of the Marquis, “paid for two black taffetie hoods for my ladie Francis 7 shillings”


Figure 4 Pennington 1789
3.         Pennington 617 is another three quarter length issued by Stent in 1644. (Globe, 1986) This lady wears the same four items as the previous two, a muff, hood, fur collar and half mask. A full face mask was discovered in 2010 and a full record for it can be found on the database of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Half masks were tied on as can be seen in the Hollar engraving where the lady is not wearing a hood.


Figure 4a
4.         Pennington 1789, this full length is from Ornatus, and was drawn in 1639. She has the hood, muff and half mask, but she also has what looks to be a waist length cloak or shawl. Interestingly Cunnington (1972) describes this as an ample overcoat, but a closer inspection of the print shows that what they took to be a sleeve is a folded piece of cloth. A similar, but single layer, rectangle of cloth can be seen in another front view from Theatrum  see figure 4a


5.         Pennington 1884 is a rear view with the label Nobilis Mulier Anglica in Vestitu Hiemali (Noble English woman in winter dress), engraved in 1643. This gives a rare rear view of the hood, and she carries a muff, but does not have a fur collar.

Figure 5 - Pennington 1884

6.         Pennington 1999, another full length drawn in 1644 and labelled “The winter habit of ane English gentlewoman”. In both this and Pennington 617 and 1789 there appears to be a line drawn under the mouth, which might indicate that the ladies are wearing chin clouts or mufflers, piece of cloth worn over the chin and the neck, again these appear in the Hereford accounts. “Paid to Fraunces to buy chin cloathes for the young ladies 5s 2d.”


Figure 6 - Pennington 1999
Cunnington, C. W. and P. 1972. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London : Faber, 1972.

Globe, Alexander. 1986. Peter Stent, London Printseller, Circa 1642-1665: Being a Catalogue Raisonné . Vancouver : University of British Columbia Press, 1986.

Hollar, Wenceslaus. 1979. The four seasons, with an introduction by J. L. Nevinson and topographical notes by Ann Saunders. London : The Costume Society, 1979.

Morgan, F. C. 1945. Private purse accounts of the Marquis of Hertford, Michaelmas 1641-2. Antiquaries Journal. 1945, Vol. 25, 12-42.

Pennington, Richard. 2002. A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar. Cambridge : CUP , 2002.

Sherrill, Tawny. 2006. Fleas, fur and fashion: zibellini as luxury accessories of the Renaissance.  Medieval Clothing and Textiles. 2006, Vol. 2, 121-150.

Weiss, F. 1970. Bejewlled fur tippets and the palatine fashion. Costume. 1970, Vol. 4, 37-43.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Elizabeth I & Her People – Exhibition and book review

When we went to see the Cheapside Hoard exhibition we spend the afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery for its Elizabeth I & Her People exhibition. The exhibition is excellent, and contains lots of costume and other materials as well as the portraits.

 I think we went the wrong way round the exhibition and were meant to start with Elizabeth and work our way round to the poor, but I looked to my right and that was it. There was the possibly / probably sailor’s shirt and breeches from the Museum of London. They are displayed in a glass case were you can view from three sides, and get close enough to see the diaper pattern of the  shirt material and the twill weave of the breeches, the website link has several close up photos. There has been much discussion, among re-enactors at least, about whether the outfit is as old as they say, some of which is focused on the shoulder reinforcement. I must admit this type of reinforcement is just what I have done on my son’s shirt where constant wear has thinned the material to tearing point. The outfit is displayed with the print of Vecellio’s sailor of 1598. Also in the working class section of the exhibition is the lovely child’s knitted mitten again borrowed from the Museum of London

Next we have the professional classes, with portraits of lawyers, clergymen and physicians, including a rather gruesome John Banister delivering and anatomy lecture. There is one woman, the calligrapher Esther Inglis., and following on from these, the rising merchant classes. In this section as well as the portraits you will find, some of a collection of 16th century knitted caps, from the Museum of London., a beautiful blackwork woman’s waistcoat from the Fashion Museum Bath, and other clothing related items like pins and thimbles. One thing you can stand and try to read is a long inventory of goods from a London haberdasher in 1582. There are also gloves and drawing instruments and coins.

Still moving round in the wrong direction we have the gentry, nobility and court. Here the portraits include the English sea dogs, Raleigh, Frobisher and Drake, the nobility in the guise of  the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk by Hans Eworth, Elizabeth’s favourite the Earl of Leicester and her Lord Treasurer, William Cecil, among others. This grouping is accompanied by more upmarket goods, pomanders, sweet bags, rings, rapiers, and a very nice wheel-lock pistol.

Then we have Elizabeth herself in several portraits including the ermine portrait, and two versions of her with three goddesses. We were back at the beginning, having gone the wrong way around the entire thing. Here we found maps of Britain and London and Hoefnagel’s Fete at Bermondsey.

The book is well worth £25 (it’s a hardback), and as well as providing a catalogue of the exhibition there are four essays at the beginning of the work including, for those interested in clothes, Susan North on What Elizabethan’s wore: evidence from wills and inventories of the “middling sort”

Cooper, Tarnya. Elizabeth & her people. National Portrait Gallery. ISBN 978 1 85514 465 1

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Cheapside Hoard – Exhibition and book review.

The Cheapside Hoard
This exhibition is on until 27th April 2014, so if you can get to it, go. If you can’t get to it, buy the book. Having said that getting into the exhibition is interesting, no cameras, no bags, no coats (lockers are available), past security guards and through a full height turnstile, it’s like getting into a bank vault, but then this is serious jewellery.

In 1912 some workmen discovered a large cache of late sixteenth, early seventeenth century jewellery in a cellar in Cheapside. Cheapside is a major road in the City of London running, roughly, from St Paul’s Cathedral east towards the Bank of England, and in the early seventeenth century contained many goldsmiths’ shops. The hoard was purchased and divided between the London Museum, the Guildhall and the British Museum. This is the first time all 400 odd pieces have been brought together. The first part of the exhibition covers all of this information with photographs, contemporary illustrations, maps, and some wonderful early shop signs. It then goes on to set the scene of London in the first half of the 17th century, the work of goldsmiths and jewellers, and their shops.

The discussion of where the jewels themselves come from is fascinating because it gives an idea of how wide the trade routes were. There are sapphires from Burma, India and Sri Lanka, while some amethysts came from India others were sourced from Ethiopia, Bohemia, Albania and Brazil. Rubies and garnets were from Burma, India and Sri Lanka, turquoise from Persia. Emeralds were from Colombia, and include a spectacular watch in an emerald case.

The exhibition, and the book, is particularly good at matching jewellery in paintings with examples in the collection. There are chains meant worn in loops like those that appear on the portrait of a woman previously thought to be Mary, Queen of Scots. There are beautiful pendant earrings like those worn by the Countess of Southampton, and there are plenty of rings as worn by Margaret Cotton both on her hand and in her ruff. Interesting there are not many pearls, though this maybe because they have not survived the conditions in which they were hidden, however there is a lovely tiny pin, topped with a ship the hull made from a baroque pearl and the rigging of gold.

There is a discussion in both the exhibition and the book as to when the hoard may have been hidden. There is a datable watch made by Gaultier Ferlite, probably between 1610 and 1620, it is the only watch made by him to have survived. There is also a seal with the arms of a Viscount Stafford, the only person to fit this became a viscount in 1637.

A BBC4 programme on the Cheapside Hoard, made to coincide with the exhibition, is not currently available via the BBC website, but it is available online in two parts from YouTube:

The book London's Lost Jewels: The Cheapside Hoard by Hazel Forsyth. Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd ISBN 13: 9781781300206 ISBN 10: 1781300208 £19.95
Reproductions of some of the jewels are available from the museum shop, though the amethyst earrings are £349 – Christmas presents ladies?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

MEDATS (Medieval Dress and Textile Society ) Study Day 23rd Nov 2013

An excellent study day on Saturday with MEDATS, held in the bowels of the British Museum. What follows is my impression of the papers given; any mistakes or misunderstandings are my own.

From the Trachtenbuch, the left
hand outfit has been reproduced
 The first speaker was Jenny Tiramani with the 1530 outfit from Matthaus Schwarz that she produced for the University of Cambridge. For those who haven’t seen this there is an excellent video online at There was some discussion about the compromises that had had to be made, partly because of budget constraints. Also the model was a slightly different size and shape from the person it was made for, resulting in comments to the effect that it would never meet in the middle – it did. The comment was also made that, when dressing someone, a lot of time was spent arranging the person so they looked perfect. There were questions about the weight of the aiguillettes, and how this affected how they sat and how they needed to be attached, and how things laced together. The entire Trachtenbuch des Matthaus Schwarz aus Augsburg,1520 – 1560 is available in full online.

 The next speaker was Kathleen O’Neill on Nicolette: Action Transvestite. The second part of the title comes from Eddie Izzard, “I'm an action transvestite! ‘Cause it's running, jumping, climbing trees, you know.” These are the things Nicolette does while dressed as a man. The chantefable of Aucassin and Nicolette was not one I knew, and it was interesting to look at a heroine who not only cross dresses to get her man, but also dyes her skin darker. Kathleen is planning to put this on her blog at but I don’t think it is there yet.

 The third of the morning speakers was Sarah Thursfield on lacing in fact and fiction. Sarah started with some modern images that come up if you put medieval lacing in Google images, but she spared us the renaissance wench. Modern depictions show lacing that is entirely without function, and it is possible to trace ideas back to early (19th century) costume historians like Planche and Fairholt. Sarah argued that in the medieval period lacing was as ubiquitous and functional as zips used to be, before they became a fashion statement. The use of lacing was traced through the rise of more fitted clothes for both men and women, and the placing of it on the side, front or back of the garment. The Third Temptation of Christ in the Winchester Psalter of c.1150, was examined, where the devil wears lacing. Sarah said that Margaret Scott had commented that the devil's clothes are half male, half female. The side slit and the lacing are from men's wear, and the very long sleeve and skirt are from women's wear.

Book available from the BBC
 After lunch and the AGM Chris Carnie explored the work she had done researching and making Ruth Goodman’s c.1500 outfit for the television series “The Tudor Monastery Farm” Chris based her work on some of the very few depictions of lower class women that exist, especially for England. She showed a woodcut from the Sarum Book of Hours of 1507, an illustration of February from the Grimani Breviary of 1515-20, and material from the Hours of Henry VIII of c1500. Chris created a smock, kirtle, gown, kerchief, filet, rail, apron and cloth stockings that Ruth can be seen wearing in the programme. A book to accompany the series is available. The wear that the outfit received during the filming was discussed.

The final speaker of the day was Johannes Pietsch looking at the Fashionable Silhouette in the Middle Ages. He began his examination of the silhouette with Superbia (pride) on horseback in the Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg, Alsace. The Hortus was started in c.1167 and Johannes worked his way through to the fascinating Erasmus Grasser statues c.1480, of Moriskentänzer (morris dancers)  in the Munich City Museum. On the way he took in the garments, which he described as jaque not pourpoint, of Charles de Blois and Charles VI, this lead to a questioning as to whether fashion follows armour, or armour follows fashion.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Knitting History Forum, 9th November 2013

I spent a pleasant day yesterday at the KHF conference, where six speakers provided a wealth of information on knitting from the 16th century to the present day. So many thanks to Sandy Black who was our host at the London College of Fashion, for organising the day, and acting as the Forum’s chair.
Our first speaker was Susan North from the  V&A Museum, who spoke on A (Knitting) Needle in a Haystack: knitting information found whilst researching other things.
Susan has recently complete her PhD at Queen Mary, University of London, and as she said if you are going through archives looking for information of one thing, it is as well to make notes on other things while you are there. She had lots of references to knitting and knitting needles in the 16th and 17th centuries, and she pointed people to an article on knitting in Naples in the journal Jacquard.
She suggested comparing the pattern of the V&A jacket in Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns, with the garment in the Royal Ontario Museum, a picture of which from Wikimedia Commons appears here.
Our second speaker was Amanda Mason from the Imperial War Museum, and her subject was Wartime Knitting: collection of the Imperial War Museum. She showed us garments in the collection made by POWs using wool unravelled from old socks and jumpers and knitted on needles made from wood from packing cases. She also spoke about a lady on the home front who tried to knit a jumper from darning wool, because it wasn’t on ration.
Next up was Maria Price who followed on the WW2 theme as she was costume designer for Foyle's War, and she spoke on the problems of Researching and designing costume and knitwear for film and TV. People will spot anything that is wrong, and write in.
Rachael Matthews, who followed her is an artist and knitting/textile practitioner. She runs a shop called Prick Your Finger, and the best way to find out about her work is to look at her website
Matteo Molinari, is bravely working for a PhD at the LCF and spoke on Crochet: Ubiquitous Craft, Iniquitous Historiography. He was looking at the origins of crochet and how various myths have grown up about it. One of his pictures showed a c.1700 metallic chain lace. Unfortunately when you search the V&A collection for it by its accession number the website does not have an image.
Finally we had Barbara Smith who spoke on The evolution of Aran Style. It is more recent than you think. She talked about Muriel Gahan of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association who visited the Aran Islands in 1931, and provided a commercial outlet for Aran knitters in her Dublin shop. A jumper bought in that shop in 1937 was illustrated in Mary Thomas’s 1943 Book of Knitting Patterns.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Pantofles and the origins of slippers and mules.

This is a quick look at pantofles, slippers and mules. The problem with what museums call things in their collection, is that they are often using modern descriptions to categorise. Words change their meaning over time, and leak from one language to another, often taking on differing meanings during the change.  The two examples shown here are both described by their museums as toffel (slippers), and the pictures are provided from Wikimedia Commons. The black leather slippers embroidered with gold thread and silk are in Skokloster Castle, and are traditionally associated with Eric XIV of Sweden who died in 1577. The picture of the insole is of a 17th century slipper in the Livrustkammaren, the Swedish Royal Armoury. Below I give links to some 16th and 17th century survivals which may be slippers, or pantofels, or mules, or just shoes depending on who is looking at them. They are for the most part made with fabric uppers and are backless.

The word pantofle in its various forms and spellings appears all over Europe in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The earliest use seems to be in French in 1465 as pantoufle, and the word continues to mean a slipper in modern French.  Its first use in English appears to be about 1482, and in Lowland Scots in 1489 as pantonis, but it also appears as pantofla in 1463 in Catalan Spanish, the Dutch and German pantoffel are also late fifteenth century, and the Italian pantofla is in use by 1502 (OED; DSL; Hanham 1961).

So does a pantofle indicate a light indoor shoe in the early modern period? It does seem to mean something different from an ordinary shoe. The Scottish Treasury Accounts in 1489 have “Payt to Ryche cordynar for xxx payre of schone and xxx paire of pantonis” (paid to Riche cordwainer [shoemaker] for 30 pairs of shoes and 30 pairs of pantofles), and again in 1494 “to Home the cordinare, for schone, brodykinnis and pantuiffillis” (to Home the cordwainer for shoes, buskins and pantofles). By 1565 the lexographer Thomas Cooper in his Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae gives the Latin word Baxeæ as meaning “..a kynde of slippers, or pantofles,” though a modern Latin dictionary translates it as a sandal (OLD).

By the second half of the sixteenth century however the term in English has moved to be associated with the new fashion, the chopine. Stubbes in his 1585 moan about all fashions says “They have corked shoes, pincnets, and fine pantofles, which bear them up a finger or two inches or more from the ground ... I see not to what good uses serve these pantofles, except it be to wear in a private house, or in a man’s chamber to keep him warm?”  George Puttenham in 1589 makes the same association commenting that an actor did “walke vpon those high corked shoes or pantofles, which now they call in Spaine & Italy Shoppini.”

Randle Holme in his 1688 work makes the link between pantofles and slippers, when talking about an orchid, “The Lady Slipper so called from the resemblance the fore-part of the flower hath to a Slipper, or Pantable.” As with pantofle the term slipper arrives in the fifteenth century, appearing more than once in the Paston letters where someone has, “viijd. wyth þe whyche I schuld bye a peyer of slyppers.” Raleigh speaks of “fair lined slippers for the cold”, and William King wrote in his poem The Old Cheese of a wife who, if her husband went out too often would, “give him his slippers and lock up his shoes.”  That slippers were made by shoemakers is shown in a comment in a Dekker play, “What a filthy knaue was the shoo-maker, that made my slippers, what a creaking they keepe.”   Dr Johnson in his famous dictionary describes slippers as “A shoe without leather behind, into which the foot slips easily.” Here above is a lovely mid 17th century woodcut showing slippers by the bed.

It is difficult to tell when the term mule is associated with a backless shoe. Although the quote from Dr. Johnson shows he considered slippers to be backless, he doesn’t list mule in his dictionary except in the sense of the animal. The word mule was in the fifteenth century applied to sores or chilblains, especially on the heel (OED).  Somehow by the sixteenth century the word is applied to a type of footwear, Heywood in 1562 has, “Thou wearst..Moyles of veluet to saue thy shooes of lether.” Higgins 1585 translation of the Nomenclator however seems to associate mules with the high soled chopine. “Mulleus, a shooe with a high sole,..a moyle.”

So on the basis of the above when Queen Elizabeth’s shoe makers list what they have made, they knew what they meant. We can be considerably less certain about what is meant by, “xxiiij paire of velvet shoos, slippers and pantobles stitched with silke lined with satten and in the soles with skarlett two paire of slippers of tufte taffeta lined with velvet, xxiij paire of Spanishe lether shoes and pantobles of sondrie colours and fashions.” (Arnold)

Surviving examples:

Velvet slippers in the Rijksmuseum dating from c.1550-c.1574

 This is a report with a photograph of a 1640s-1660s slipper (mule) found on Canna Island, Scotland

 These are the nightcap and slippers of King Christian IV of Denmark (died 1648). They are in the Danish Royal collection. Both are monogrammed with C4, his initial and regnal number.

 This is a pair of 1650s-1660s leather soled backless slippers with an originally salmon pink watered silk upper. They are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and like the Canna slippers they are plain.

This pair are also from the V&A, and are of the same date range, 1650s-1660s. They were probably originally purple velvet, and are embroidered with silver-gilt thread and lined with leather.

Dating from the 1660 or 1670s this pair in the Victoria and Albert Museum are embroidered white silk. They are discussed in detail with photographs and x-rays by Luca Costigliolo in: North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.2, London: V&A Publishing, 2012, pp.152-155

This pair from the Platt Hall Gallery of English Costume date to around 1665-1675. They are of pale blue silk satin over cream leather, embroidered with metal thread and spangles

Another slightly later (1700-1720) slipper from Platt Hall, is in blue/silver figured silk, over leather with a red heel

Finally from 1710-1720s in the V&A collection is a pair of brocaded silk slippers. 

Arnold, Janet 1988 Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd. Leeds: Maney.

Dekker Thomas and Webster, John. 2010  North-ward Hoe: sundry times acted by the children of Paules. 1607. The British Library

DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language [online]

Hanham,  Alison, 1961. The Cely Papers and the Oxford English Dictionary, English Studies,  vol. 42, pages 129-152

Heywood, John  1562  The Proverbs, Epigrams, And Miscellanies Of John Heywood.

Higgins, John. 1585. The Nomenclator Or Remembrancer ... Conteining Proper Names and Apt Terms for All Things Under Their Convenient Titles... Written in Latine, Greeke, French and Other Forrein Tongues: and Now in English

Holme, Randle, 1688. Academie of Armory.

OED: Oxford English Dictionary [online]

OLD: Oxford Latin Dictionary [online]

Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century Part I. 2004. Edited by Norman Davis. Early English Text Society.

Puttenham, George 1589. The Arte of English Poesie.

Stubbes, Philip, 1585. The Anatomy of Abuses.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Micheal & Elizabeth Feller - the Needlework Collection 1 – Book review

I can’t believe it has taken me two years to catch up with this sumptuously illustrated book, especially since I have another book by the same publishers which I have reviewed on here.

Micheal and Elizabeth Feller are collectors of needlework, and this first volume of their collection covers mainly seventeenth century items.  Volume 2 published in 2012 covers the later items in the collection.  The book is extremely well illustrated with lots of close ups and details, and is divided into three parts.
The first part, pages 1-124 entitled the early English works, is authored by Mary M. Brooks and covers a wide range of seventeenth century needlework items including panels, mirror frames, book covers, boxes, cushions, small bags, gloves, coifs and forehead cloths and men’s caps. These items are in a range of embroidery techniques typical of the seventeenth century, from raised work to beadwork, and from blackwork to petit point.
The second part, authored by the collector Elizabeth Feller is entitled other times other places. This is only 20 pages long and covers as it says some European and later examples in the collection.
The final part, by Jacqueline Holdsworth covers the early samplers, these are all seventeenth century, and include all styles: band and spot, whitework and polychrome. The inside of the dust cover of the book is a charted design for a reproduction of a 1687 sampler by Dorothy Ward that is in the collection.

Several pages from the book are available as a preview at and give a good idea of the layout with each item in the collection having a photograph of the whole item, photographs of one or two details, and an explanatory text.

Micheal & Elizabeth Feller - the Needlework Collection 1, by Mary M. Brooks, Elizabeth Feller and Jacqueline Holdsworth. 2011. Needleprint, ISBN 978-0955208652 (0955208653) £47. Amazon may tell you it is out of print, but it appears to be still available direct from the publishers. Well worth the money.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Consumption and Gender in the Early seventeenth Century Household: the world of Alice Le Strange- Book review

Consumption and Gender in the Early seventeenth Century Household: the world of Alice Le Strange, by Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. £60. ISBN 978 0 19 923353 3

I first wrote about this project eighteen months ago before the book was published. I put it on my Christmas list but nobody bought it for me. I have now purchased it for myself and am very happy. I recommend this book for anyone studying the period. Alice Le Strange kept accounts from 1610 (her husband Hamon actually started them in 1606) until 1654, so they cover almost all of the first half of the seventeenth century, and everything involved in the running of a gentry household.  

 The Le Stranges were Norfolk gentry and had lived in the area for 300 years before the accounts covered here start. Hamon Le Strange was, in 1603, one of the men who rode to Scotland to inform James of the death of Elizabeth. He got a knighthood out of it, but he was not a courtier preferring to live in Norfolk and run his estate.

The book analyses the accounts in various different ways, and does not include a complete transcription of the account books.

One chapter in the book covers the acquisition of goods, that is how they bought food, clothing, furnishings etc.,  another covers what the authors call everyday consumables, what they ate, what they drank, what they used to light the house, what items were cleaned with and what medicines were used, which medical people were consulted.

The chapter on material culture covers furniture and furnishings, there is for example a complete account for the cost of furnishing a bedroom in 1628 which runs from 28 shillings for the bedstead itself, to 3s 6d for 4 dozen horn curtain rings, and £53 19s for 83 yards of crimson damask.   The same treatment is given to clothes and household textiles. While Alice’s own clothing allowance of £66 13s 4d a year is not in the accounts, the clothing of the children is, and is often detailed. Particularly interesting was the purchase in 1630 of 29 yards of white calico (cotton) for Nicholas’s shirts.

The chapter on the family life cycle covers such things as how many people (family and servants) were in the household, it ranged from 10 to 30, and what the annual expenditure was, again a wide range from £926 to £2723. The accounts make little mention of the Civil War. The Le Strange’s were royalist, and Sir Hamon was involved in the unsuccessful defence of King’s Lynn in 1643, resulting in a comment in the accounts “Made and spent in suit by the unjust and tyrannical oppression of Mr. Toll and others of his faction in Lynn concerning the siege - £1088”

There is a chapter on elite consumption; this is not normal day to day expenditure but the costs incurred by holding office, travelling, and leisure activities. When Sir Hamon was Sherriff of the county  for example, the bill for feeding the assize judges came to £84 19s 7d. Likewise there are payments to the town waits (musicians), the purchase of hawks for hunting a pastime Sir Hamon was fond of, the purchase of books, musical instruments and a pair of compasses and a quadrant.

The chapter on the employment of labour covers not only what was paid to servants and day labourers, but also the Le Strange’s relationship with specialists. The warrener, for example, was not paid by the Le Stranges, he paid them £8 a year for the right to farm the rabbits. There is a useful section which compares what was paid by the Le Stranges with what was the statutory wage at the time.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Exhibition and Book Review - In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion

In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, Exhibition at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Friday, 10 May 2013 to Sunday, 06 October 2013. The book of the same title is by Anna Reynolds. London: The Royal Collection Trust, 2013. ISBN 978 1 905686445. 300 pages

 I went to this exhibition last weekend having purchased the book almost as soon as it was published, and the first thing to say to anyone interested in clothes is that the exhibition is almost entirely about the paintings, as the  Telegraph review stated,   there are just enough (but not too many) actual garments on display.” Sadly for me I thought that there were not enough actual garments, however that reveals my predilections. It is a large exhibition covering several rooms, with stunning paintings and some sumptuous clothing.

The rooms are divided into themes, but start with a chronology of fashion. This section includes some iconic paintings that most people know; Henry VIII looking just like Robert Shaw in Man for All Seasons, Elizabeth as a princess hanging next to her sister Mary Tudor, and later on the triple portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck. To aid those who have little understanding of period costume there are interpretation boards by Michael Parry each representing a decade and with a drawing of a man and a woman with the names given to items of clothing labelled, so for the 1540s they indicate what is an aiget, gable hood, forepart, codpiece, etc.

The portraits are not all of royalty, and they are not all English. The Dutch provide several genre paintings such as Schalcken’s The Game of “Lady Come into the Garden”, a 17th century equivalent of strip poker! They also provide some absolute classics such as Rembrandt’s Agatha Bas, and Bronzino’s Lady in Green.

But what about real clothes. There is a section on children, which includes the famous Van Dyck portrait of Charles I’s first three children, next to it you will find a lovely child’s cap and forehead cloth, originally associated with Charles I but the lace is later, c. 1700. The Gallery has borrowed a lot a lace from the Bowes Museum’s Blackborne Collection, there is one particularly stunning 1630s collar of needlelace. One room has three items down the centre. There is a 1650s bodice borrowed from the Museum of London and displayed close to the painting of Charles II dancing at a ball which shows several women wearing similar bodices. An embroidered ladies waistcoat, borrowed from the Fashion Museum Bath, is echoed by portraits of two women wearing embroidered bodices. One portrait of an unknown woman from an Unknown British painter of the 1620s, does not conform to the usual scrolling designs of the actual garment, the other which also of an unknown woman does have a scrolling design. The third garment in this room is a man’s doublet from the 1620s associated with Charles I. Later in a war themed section they have two sets of armour (not actually garments I suppose) and a buff coat, again associated with Charles I though it looks very plain, that has recently been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax.There are also a pair of gloves associated with James I, and pair of green silk stockings belonging to William III, and Henrietta Maria's slippers.

Worth going to, but somehow it did not come up to my expectations. In part this may be due to the fact that I had the book before I went to the exhibition, and the book contains photographs of many original garments that are not in the exhibition, the Verney family garments from Claydon House, the late 17th century manuta from the Met, the white silk bodice from the V&A, among many others. The book is beautifully illustrated and has lots of close ups. Well worth the price.