Friday, May 15, 2015

Document Focus: Wenceslaus Hollar's Ornatvs Mvluebris Anglicanus and 1630s English Fashions

I've recently been going through some of the engravings done by seventeenth-century artists, particularly the Bohemian Wenceslaus Hollar who worked extensively in England, and Abraham Bosse, a French engraver. I love, love, love the engraving styles of the early seventeenth century, and particularly the styles of both the artists that I've mentioned. 

As a historian working on dress these types of engravings are also particularly useful to understand what types of clothing people wore and how they wore it. Although, keep in mind, that as an artistic medium these drawings can be prone to exaggeration or artistic licence. However, for the most part Hollar seems to have liked to draw people from all walks of life and in various social situations, so you can assume that they must have been somewhat realistic representations. 

The prints below come from a particular work Ornatvs Mvluebris Anglicanus or The Severall Habits of English Women, from the Nobilitie to the contry Woman, as they are in these times, 1640. Although the British Library also dates some of the pictures to 1638. In all probability, many of these engravings were first sketched in the late 1630s and not published until 1640. There are no captions that accompany the pictures, but they appear to progress from elite dress to common dress and that's how I've ordered the ones below. All of the pictures and more, are available via the University of Toronto's Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection

 Fashionable Gowns 

These fashionable elite women both wear the gowns of the 1630s that consisted of bodices with high waistlines and elbow-length full voluminous sleeves, a stomacher, a petticoat skirt and a falling lace collar.  The bodices were often boned, as the extant example from the V&A is below with whalebone, buckram and canvas, and the stomacher would also have been stiffened with heavy fabrics, whalebone or a busk. 

Bodice. 1630-1639. England.  Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Although it seems that the bodice of the gown could also be incorporated into the skirts as the picture of the woman on the right depicts. A tailoring bill for Queen Henrietta Maria from 1634 mentioned "one Gowne of black satin, The Sleeves, Stomacher and forepart with a lace throughout." Women also wore foundational garments underneath such as the bodies belonging to Dame Elizabeth Filmer at the Manchester Galleries discussed here


A curious case is the 'hungerline' or French 'hongreline'. When I was examining the household bills of Henrietta Maria of England, I came across numerous references to a "hungerline", for example in a bill from 1632 it states that the Queen's tailor made a "Satten hungerline imbrodered with gold and Silver sticht and garnished with whalebone and lyned with taffaty." The bill also makes references to an un-boned "carnacion satten hungerline imbroidered and stitched and lyned with white taffetie..." 
So it left me wondering - what is a hungerline? This is where my French comes in handy. According to French sources, a 'hongreline" was a short French-style waistcoat that was derived in style from the justaucorps which was a coat worn by men. Alfred Franklin in Corporations ouvrières de Paris Du Douzième Au Dix-Huitième Siècle (1884) noted that it was common among rural women and servants in France. However, considering there is ample evidence of it in Henrietta Maria's wardrobe  and it is depicted on bourgeois women (see below), it seems that it was popular even among the upper classes. The style was probably brought to England by the French Henrietta Maria when she married Charles I in 1625. The only visual image I've been able to find that depicts a hungerline is this French one, from 1629, which unfortunately only gives us a side view. 

Translation: "The clothing of a bourgeoise lady of Paris in a simple skirt and a modern style of hongreline when she wants to leave her neighbourhood." 
Isaac Briot, 1629. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. 

Some French sources state that the main features of the hongreline was it's "basques grandes/flottantes", ie. the large and flowing lower part of the bodice.However, the main difference I can see between a hungerline and a normal gown bodice or waistcoat, and the reason I have chosen Hollar's picture above, is the sleeve detail. The drawing above depicts a sleeve that contains two parts - the bigger embroidered upper sleeve that stops at the elbow, and a lower sleeve that comes out from underneath and finishes at the wrist. The sleeves also seem to have been heavily embroidered as description in Henrietta Maria's bills describe, and maybe even had decorative button detail that mimicked a man's coat sleeves, as is very obvious on the next picture below. It may well be though that this style is one that will never be completely recovered from history.


Pomanders (from the French pomme d'ambre) were items of jewellery that contained fragrant aromatic substances such as ambergris, musk, clove or civet, and commonly hung from the neck or the waist. Popular since medieval times they were believed to ward off infection during times of plague (as it was thought that disease was transmitted through foul air). However, by the eighteenth century they were used mostly to cover up bad smells, particularly in cities such as London were the streets were often filled with household waste and excrement. They also took part in the social etiquette practices of the day. 

Pomander. 1600-50. European. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

One of my fellow researchers Will Tullett from Kings College London is working on smell during the early modern period, and has looked extensively at Pomanders. You can check out his research here.


This woman wears a waistcoat, a petticoat, falling lace band and also holds onto a fan. More interestingly though she appears to have a purse dangling from her waist. In the seventeenth century purses such as this were rarely used to actually carry money, as women such as the one depicted in this engraving rarely engaged in commercial exchanges that required cash. These purses could also contain mirrors (which is probably indicates what it was most commonly used for). They could also be used to carry around sewing materials or sweets, and other bits and pieces. 

Purse, 1600-1630. England.  Victoria & Albert Museum, London


Muffs in the seventeenth century, as they are now, were design to keep the wearer's hands warm when outside. They are believed to have first come about in the sixteenth century, possibly originating from the fur trim that was common on the cuffs of a gown. Most muffs during this period appear to have been made from fur, although there are fabric muffs such as this one from the eighteenth century, so it is totally plausible that they were also made from fabric too. In my archival research on English royal wardrobes I've actually never come across a muff, well, in tailoring bills anyway. So I'm not sure exactly where they were sourced. Nor have I been able to find any extant seventeenth-century examples in museum collections. The best we have from the period is other drawings from artists like Hollar, such as:

In fact that there are SO many engravings of muffs by Hollar. It would seem that really really liked women's muffs (double entendre intended)!



The woman on the left wears an over cape, a muff and has a purse dangling from her waist. Whilst the woman on the left wears a fashionable gown with a falling lace collar and holds a muff. What both women have in common is that they are wearing masks. 
Masks were, believe it or not, worn frequently in the streets of England during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Full faced masks were used primarily to shade the wearer's face from the sun's rays, as the wearers were usually aristocratic women whose pale skin reflected their position in life. They were held in place on the face by holding a glass bead that was attached to the mask between the teeth, which would have made it quite difficult to talk! Some of these masks have survived and were made from black velvet and silk/leather, such as this one found in the wall of a sixteenth-century building in England. Or the one below which comes from a fashion doll and dates to the 1690s.

Dolls Mask, 1690-1700. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The masks in these picture though are not fulled faced, and so were probably not used for sun protection. Instead they could have been used by women to disguise themselves. Samuel Pepys, in a diary entry from 18th February 1667, describes such a woman at a playhouse he attended: 
"And one of the ladies would, and did sit with her mask on, all the play, and, being exceeding witty as ever I heard woman, did talk most pleasantly with him; but was, I believe, a virtuous woman, and of quality. He would fain know who she was, but she would not tell; yet did give him many pleasant hints of her knowledge of him, by that means setting his brains at work to find, out who she was, and did give him leave to use all means to find out who she was, but pulling off her mask. He was mighty witty, and she also making sport with him very inoffensively, that a more pleasant 'rencontre' I never heard." 


Hats like this were worn by both men and women during the seventeenth century. Hats could be made from felted beaver or rabbit fur, such as the one from the Victoria and Albert Museum below, or from leather such as this example also from the V&A. They could also have really tall, narrow "steeple" crowns such as this one which were favoured by the Puritans who wished to distinguish themselves from the ostentatious cavaliers. Over the course of the seventeenth century vast amounts of beaver fur used in hat making in Britain was imported from their colonies in North America, making them more affordable as the previous European Beaver was scarce as it had been nearly hunted to extinction. According to the V&A the felting process involved the fur being removed from the animal pelt and then heated to fuse it together. It was then moulded into shape around a wooden form, dyed, trimmed and smoothed. 

Felted Hat, 1590-1670. England. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The woman in this picture is most likely a middling class city woman. Felt hats were common among all classes of people in the seventeenth century. They were used as riding headwear for elite women and as everyday wear for the gentry and middling classes. Hats were also particularly common in rural areas of Britain, understandably as rural people usually spent more time outdoors in fields. However, as felt hats were still expensive they would probably have had similar styles made from leather. 

Hats could also be pointed, looking like what we now think of at witches hats, such as the one worn in the painting Mrs Salesbury with her Grandchildren from 1675-6.

Portrait of Mrs Salesbury with her Grandchildren Edward and Elizabeth Bagot, by John Michael Wright. 1675-6. Tate Gallery, London

Ruffs & Collars

It is interesting that this particular lady is wearing a ruff as by the 1640s falling collars were more the norm. I've certainly found no evidence of ruffs in all the probate inventories and household bills that I've looked at from the 1630s/40s. Maybe this is an anomaly?

A more common "ruff" from this period. Ruff, 1620-29. England. Victorian and Albert Museum, London

Ruffs were particularly expensive to produce and to maintain: firstly they required a lot of fabric, they constantly had to be re-starched and bleached, and setting them back into shape was also time consuming and costly in terms of labour. Yet looking closely at this picture and comparing it to the ones above, from her dress this woman doesn't appear to be particularly elite. Possibly she is middling class which could explain why she is still wearing a ruff - fashionable tastes changed a lot more in the courts and among the wealthy than they did in the lower classes and if she was the wife of a merchant for example she could afford the upkeep of the ruff. Very intriguing indeed... 


This woman wears a coif, a falling collar, waistcoat and petticoat. She appears to also be wearing an apron, which indicates that she was most likely a middling or common class woman. In her right hand she also holds a pair of gloves. Interestingly if you enlarge the picture and look really closely at the embroidered detail on the waistcoat it looks just like this one in the V&A which is made from fustian and embroidered with silver thread and spangles:

Waistcoat, English, 1630-40. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

During the early seventeenth century a waistcoat was one of the most basic items in a woman's wardrobe. Both elite and common women owned waistcoats. A tailoring bill for the wardrobe of Queen Henrietta Maria from 1634 noted that she had ordered "one Petticoate & wastcoate of black Taby with twoe Silke & Silver Laces throughout." The probate inventory of Agnes Hilling, a Widow from Clifton England in 1634 records that when she died she possessed "wearing apparell" that consisted of "three gownes, three pettiocoatts, 3 Wascoats, one Aperne, a bond and diveres other things of her Wearinge apparell..." 


On the University of Toronto's website this picture is listed as "The Kitchen Maid". She wears a coif, waistcoat, and a couple of petticoats. She is carrying what I assume is vegetables and other foods for the kitchen that she works in. The most interesting detail of this engraving is her shoes, or really what I should say is attached to them. These under-shoes were called 'pattens' and were designed to lift the wearer out of the mud and waste of early modern streets. They were usually made from wood or metal and slipped over the shoes on the wearer's foot. Although primarily worn by common or country women, this pair from the early eighteenth century have pointed toes to fit a fashionable woman's shoe and a spot at the back for the heel to sit. The latchets are also covered in velvet which suggest that they would have been worn by a woman with wealth. 

Pair of pattens, Great Britain, 1720s-30s. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

For all their benefits in keeping shoes out of the city street muck, it seems that pattens must have been terribly difficult to walk in. The Burlesque "Scarronnides, or, Virgile travestie a mock poem" a modern retelling of the fourth book of Virgils Aeneid by Charles Cotton published in 1665 proclaimed that,  "But to the Church (forsooth) anon/ ...They must, and slipping on their Pattens / They went, as who should say to Mattens." On 24 January 1660 Samuel Pepys similarly wrote in his diary that, “I called on my wife and took her to Mrs Pierce's, she in the way being exceedingly troubled with a pair of new pattens, and I vexed to go so slow."

If you're interested in reading about the contents of the probate inventories of common women during this period, the Costume Historian has done a really great blog post about it here.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

'History, Bitches' gets undressed with: Bodies, Stays and Busks

Stay Busks, 18th-19th Centuries. Victoria & Albert Museum

My next podcast with Brittany from 'History, Bitches' is up! In this podcast we discuss bodies, stays and busks, and more particularly their influence on early modern sexuality and courtship practices. Much of the discussion is based on my article that's been published in the Journal of Gender and History, available here.

Click on the picture below to download the podcast for free off iTunes

Or go here to listen to the previous podcast on farthingales!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

'History, Bitches' gets Undressed with: The Farthingale

Royal, military and court costumes of the time of James I, ART Vol. c91 no.6d, Shakespeare Folger Library

Recently I recorded two podcasts with my friend Brittany who I've had the pleasure of meeting whilst a visiting research student at Kings College London.

Brittany runs the 'History, Bitches' podcast series that explores women's history through the lens of provocative women and re-considers the contentious legacies they’ve left behind. As part of her new series where she is interviewing researchers in the field of women's history, she asked me if I'd like to take part.

In part one we look at one aspect of my research - the farthingale, whilst in part two we discuss bodies and busks (including the content of my published article on busks and sexual desire).

Click on the picture below to download the podcast for free off iTunes

Or go click here to stream online!

I hope you enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Artefact Focus: Four ways to Fasten the Bodice of an Eighteenth Century Gown

So you've decided to make an eighteenth century gown.

After you've finally determined which one - Mantua, Robe à la française, Robe à la anglaise, Robe à la polonaise, Chemise à la reine, Round Gown – to name but a few, you're faced with the question: how to you fasten the front of the bodice?

If you are making an earlier style of gown such as a Mantua or one that was worn with a stomacher, a contrasting and sometimes ornately decorated triangular panel that covered the stays underneath, the bodice of the gown was pinned to the stomacher.

Mantua, c. 1720-1730, England. Victorian & Albert Museum. T.88 to C-1978

Woman's Robe à la Française and Petticoat. c. 1760-5. France or England. LACMA. M.56.6a-b

However if you're making a mid-late eighteenth century gown, particularly the Robe à la anglaise, then the front panels of the bodice met and fastened together in the centre of the torso. But how?

Robe à l'anglaise, c. 1776. British. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2009.300.952

Lucky for me I have access to a few extant garments from the eighteenth century that are in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. So I decided to do some research....

The garments housed in the museum show four different ways of fastening an eighteenth century gown.

Gown # 1: Hooks and Eyes

Satin Brocade Robe à l'anglaise, 1760-1770.


Hooks and eyes have been around for a very long time. Personally I've seen them on seventeenth century dress and in a melted pile as remnants of the Great Fire of London, at the museum of London. However, they first start to appear in English literature in the fourteenth century, although they could have already been around much earlier. This dress is strange in the fact that the front of the robe is made up of three panels. I personally haven't seen that before on historical examples, but then again my specialty isn't the latter eighteenth century so maybe it's not as uncommon as I think?

Anyway on to the fastenings:

Gown # 2: Ribbon

Silk robe à l'anglaise polonaise, 1765-1780
This particular example fastens with two bits of ribbon/material ties at the front of the gown. I'm not sure if the fastenings on this dress are original (the condition of a few leads me to believe that some may be newer editions added by conservation), however it still seems a plausible eighteenth century method.

Gown # 3: Press Studs

Silk Brocade Robe à la Française, 1770s
So this gown is interesting as it has press studs/snap fasteners.A quick Google search tells me that they weren't invented until 1885 by a German inventor, Heribert Bauer. So this leads me to believe that this dress was restored in the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century. I say restored because it doesn't appear to have been altered (thank goodness) like a lot of early modern clothes were during the nineteenth century were.  Although not an historically correct eighteenth century closure, if you already have some in your sewing stash then I say use them!

Gown #4: ???

Flemish Brocade / Satin, Robe a l'anglaise, 1760-1

So this gown doesn't have any fastenings. I'm unsure as to how they closed it in the photograph above, however, I assume they used pins. Pins are a very historically accurate option and were used for a variety of purposes throughout the early modern period, and as I mentioned above they were used to secure the bodice to the stomacher in early eighteenth century styles.

I hope you enjoyed! If you've seen or know of any other methods of fastening the bodice of eighteenth century gowns let me know!


Some one of the lovely ladies from the Historical Sew Fortnightly facebook page had a couple of very interesting and insightful things to say about the fastenings on these gowns: 

- Most late 18th century women's gowns with a centre front closing were also pinned, like those that had stomachers. I've found a modern demo here.

- Hook & eye fasteners generated a lot of discussion, some said that they were very rare, others that they were found most often pre-1780s. The difference seems to be between England and United States, they were rare in extant examples of English dress, but 50/50 in extant American examples. 

- The ties on gown number two are most probably additions by the museum for conservation or display purposes. 

- Buttons were also common on "compere fronts" during the 1760s/70s

Friday, November 14, 2014

1760s-1780s Paniers

So these paniers have been a long time in the making! I originally started them over a year ago. My plan was to hand sew the whole thing to make it as authentic as possible even though hand sewing is really not my thing, which probably explains why it got placed on the UFO pile, untouched for a year. However, this year for Halloween I decided to go as a French revolution guillotine victim and under my eighteenth century gown I needed some pocket hoops! So I fished the half finished paniers out of the UFO pile and started working on them.

The pattern that I used for these paniers was from The Dreamstresses' "Panier-Along" tutorial that is based on information given in Norah Waugh’s Corsets & Crinolines, and on the panier pattern at Tidens Tøj for the paniers pictured below:

Although I started to hand sew them when I started the project over a year ago, due to my hectic schedule and the fact that I left it until the last minute to finish them I gave up on the hand sewing and decided to machine sew the rest (which was mainly inside seams, etc.). Luckily most of the outside stitching I had done when I was hand sewing them so they look somewhat authentic and have some nice detailing like this,

The fabric is cotton linen and I couldn't find any cane cane so I had to use modern dressmakers boning (doubled up when possible to give more structure). 

The only way I deviated from the pattern and instructions provided by The Dreamstress was using white pre-made bias tape to finish the top of the paniers as it was much quicker than making it myself. 

And here it is, the finished paniers!

And under the gown:

The HSF '14 Challenge: #21 - Re-do
Fabric:  white linen, white cotton thread,
Pattern: Provided by The Dreamstress' "Panier Along"
Year: 1760s-1780s
Notions: Dressmakers boning, twill tape, bias tape
How historically accurate is it? Pattern is mostly accurate, maybe (80%).  Fabrics and notions are as historically accurate as you can get these days (80%). It's half hand sewn and half machine sewn. (50%). Overall I'd say 70% accurate
Hours to complete: 10
First worn: Halloween 2014
Total cost: Can't remember, but probably around AU$40