How to make a Jane Austen era,18thc ,Regency gown ,a cheats guide ,for people who dont like sewing

Heres a very quick cheats guide to making a Regency era gown ,its the easiest way and needs nothing but a needle and thread ,some ribbon or cord and an hour or so .
There’s also some very brief background on Regency fashion and brief instructions for making some cheats versiosn of the under layers ,also at the foot of the page are some tips on Jewellery and hair.
 emma regency bonnet
You will need
1/ A sari sometimes spelled as Saree ,this will make the dresses skirt
2/A sari blouse,this will make the dresses bodice
3/ Cotton in the colour closest to the sari
4/ A needle
5/Something to use to lace up the back around 2 metres maximum less if your narrow chested .This can be very narrow curtain tie back cord or piping cord, narrow ribbon ,narrow jewellery making cord or at a pinch though not ideal string,This should be as close as possible to the sari fabrics colour.
6/ Cellotape ,gaffer tape or similar ,, Any sticky tape ,Elastoplast may work on some fabrics ,
7/Something pointy and sharp to make holes, a skewer that you use to test meat or cakes or for threading kebabs on ,a bradel or similar.
Time needed
between one and three hours
1/buy a Sari, these are very long Asian “dresses” though they are not actually a dress but a long piece of fabric with hemmed or otherwise finished edges ,these are wrapped around the body to give the distinctive Indian Sari outfit.Saris come in all style and qualities ,from plain cotton to jewelled silks.These were probably the source of many regency gown fabrics and there is likely to be a sari in the fabric you want
sari green
sari wedding
sari cotton
If you look at actual Regency gowns its easy to spot militaries in fabrics
regency traiend gown
regency ball gown

They usually around 5 metres. They often have a decorative front panel and the rest is either plain or a less elaborate pattern with an embroidered or otherwise detailed edge either side, this eliminates any need to hem your gown.
sari red 1
2/Buy a sari blouse,these come in all shapes and sizes some square necked ,some scoop necked ,some with puffed sleeves ,some with no sleeves so finding a neckline to suit your gown shouldn’t be too hard.Any sleeveless one will be good for an under gown but will need sleeves sewing in for use as a ballgown or day gown.Its also occasionally possible to find long sleeved ones but they are unusual

sair blouse  1
sari blouse 5
sair blouse puffed sleevs
sometimes blouses come with the saris and have matching trim on the sleeves as above ,this is the best choice as the colours will be identical which they might not be otherwise unless you buy plain white or black
sair white back lacing

Saris can be bought on ebay and some online Asian retailers ,or if you like in the UK from your nearest Asian store, Bombay Stores in Bradford is excellent.
OR you can buy a plain white sari blouse and a plain white sari or some white fabric or a white flat sheet ,a sheet means you wont need to hem anything .This plain white one could also be used as an underdress
3/ Note some sari blouses are closed at the front and have a small back lacing panel ,these are perfect as you will not even need to buy something to lace up the dress or do any sewing at the back.
4/If your blouse front fastens
sari front blouse
,sew up the front
sari blouse sewn
,cut the back up the middle
sari blouse cut
and turn over the edge ideally as narrow as possible and if possible twice to make it stronger at the lacing points, you could also turn it over a small length of cord to make it stronger
5/.you need to add some small holes to this with a barbecue skewer or cake/meat tester something long,narrow and pointed .
Its possible you may decide to leave adding cord or ribbon until you have sewn the skirt part onto the bodice,this makes it easier to sew the skirt on ,but harder to check what the whole dress will look like when finished before joining the skirt and bodice )
6/Use , around a meter or two metres of cord or ribbon ,,one metre if your very petite or more if your very busty.You can use narrow ribbon ,though ideally narrow cord ,curtain cord or jewellery making cord is best
7/.cellotape the edges of the cord and thread it through the holes ,you may need to poke it through the holes with the end of a pencil or blunt pointy object.
7.Tie knots in the end of the cord
The skirt part
1/ Unrole the sari and put it as flat as possible ,if it has a front decorative panel either cut this off
sari 2
or use it as a front panel on your gown.
green sari
(this also shows how your dress will look hwne the blouse/bodice and skirt are attached)
The easiest way if your a non sewer or cant view the dress on a mannequin or friend is to just remove it as it avoids the need to match the front pleats perfectly.(You could hem this panel and use it as a shawl if you leave a reasonable sized piece but don’t leave yourself short for the dress)
1A/If your under 5.4 and need the dress to touch the floor in flat shoes your lucky and don’t need to do any further cutting or much sewing.If your over 5/4 and only 5/5 /5.6 don’t mind having the dress skim your ankles you can likewise get by ,If your over that height ou will either need to cut the sari into strips long enough to touch the floor and sew each strip together to make a long strip then hem them or use the sari as it is add a trim or lace around the bottom of the finished dress to make it floor length.
2/ cut a narrow strip ,,only 4 inches wide is needed though 6 inches is best of the sari fabric ,this will go under the lacing panel on your blouse to avoid showing a gap when the dress is laced, ideally this should be stitched on and hemmed all around the edges but you could just hem the top or iron the top over and push it under the bodice when its on and not bother edging it as it wont be seen.
3/ gather or pleat the sari fabric so it looks as close as possible to a regency shape skirt,For non sewers the easiest is gathers ,you can just tie a know in the end of the cotton then do big long stitches and pull them together to make gathers,try to make the gathers mostly at the sides and back and keep the front fairly flat .This finished gathered part needs to fit around your chest just below your bust.You can check this by trying it against your bra ,crop top etc leave a few inches leeway and cut a straight opening around 6 inches long at the center of the back ,the shorter this is the better as its only to let you pull the dress over your head and is not going to fasten closed .If wanted hem this gap or iron the rough edges over so they don’t show.
3a/ For anyone wanting an accurately pleated skirt to their gown regency gowns are usually flat at the front then pleated and full at the back .
beents again
4/Arrange the gathers or pleats so they are very full near the gap and go slightly over it to hide the opening then try it actually on you.
5/Sew this “skirt” onto the bottom of the sari blouse either by turning the blouse inside out and sewing both insides /wrong sides together ,this is the neatest way .Or if you really don’t like to sew you can just sew it to the blouse ,as neatly as possible and hide the join with a big sash or piece of trim ,,this wont look good enough to wear without a sash or belt though.
6/turn the dress right side out and try it on .
7/if its a bit too loose you can just over over the lacing panel more and re add the tape.if its too short you can buy trim or lace and sew it around the hem.
8/you have your Jane Austen gown.

regency golden gown
you can make a regency “bra” by using Sari blouse and cutting out the sleeves and making a bigger neck leaving a very wide arm hole and narrow strips around the neck ,hem these edges or buying a sleeveless low back sari blouse
.Alternatively to give the impression of Regency stays being worn under your gown or to get the Pride and Prejudice Eliza Bennet look you can wear a balconette bra or underwired non padded bra,Balconettes give the closest shape to a Regency pair of boned stays.
bennet 1
.A non wired unpadded bra or cropped internal support vest top will give a softer look.
beent keira
2/Regency underskirt ,again use a sari blouse cut out the sleeves sew a narrower panel of fabric around the bottom in the same way as for the actual dress but it needs to not be gathered at the front and not as full ,either plain white sari fabric, sheeting or white cotton curtain voile .If you don’t have much fabric you can make it very narrow and put a split up the back or sides.
If you cant get a sari blouse cut a long strip of sheeting or cotton voile curtain make sure this is long enough to be ankle length.
sew the edges together making a long tube of fabric and gather this to a width that fits over your bust and directly under your arms,,as though it was a bath towel wrapped around you .
Sew ribbons or similar onto this strip of fabric ,ideally this needs to be one piece to make a strap either side ,but if this is likely to be difficult to get right you can just sew toe pieces of ribbon each side ,the put it on ,tie the ribbons tighter at your shoulders and either leave them tied or sew the ends together.
sometimes Saris have matching shawls called dupattas.
duppatta paisly
If not these dupattas can be bought fairly cheaply at Asian stores or online, they are long rectangular shawls and probably what where the original regency shawls were.You can also buy a large plain or paisley pashmina as these are also a good shape ,Regency shawls were very long rather than square.
regency shawl
regency shawl 1
outerwear ,spencers
Directions for making a Spencer in half an hour can be found on another post .though a contrasting blouse could again be used,ora retailerd and cut short cropped jacket, instructions in my next post
 regency gown
Hats ,headdresses and Bonnets
I will also do a post soon on how to make a regency bonnet from a sun hat or modern hat in an hour
Alternatively you can buy a Turban and add feathers and trims or just feathers
tiara and feather
,these can be bought from Asian Stores. Another option is to buy a velvet Beret and again add feathers. Tiaras came into fashion at this time so a simple Tiara in an appropriate style of jewelled headband can work for balls.
a plain pearl or coral necklace
regn necklace
A delicate diamanté necklace for balls or double sign of coral ,pearls etc
regenc necklace

or for day time a very simple cross with stones set into it or nothing at all.
reg necklace

This will be difficult to do accurately unless your good with curling tongs and have at least shoulder length hair.
For a simple style you can just pull it back to the back of your head and make a bun.For daytime you can cover the join between your own hair and hairpiece with a strip of fabric folded and tied

I have a hairpiece that has ringlets attached ,pull my hair into a bun and pin this over it ,you could also use a clip on short curly ponytail hairpiece.Use lots of hairspray

I now have a post on how to make a cheap and very easy Regency hat or bonnet

I am planning posts on other items such as a cheats guide 30 minute  Spencer  and a guide on how to make parasols Reticules and pockets

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Haworth 1940s weekend a cheats guide to the 1940s look

As Haworth 1940s weekend is this Saturday ,heres brief cheats guide to looking authentic without buying vintage 40s clothing,which while  being without doubt the most desirable option is often not practical especially if like myself  you are curvy and big footed as most 1940s ladies clothing is very petite and shoes are often  small sizes and quite narrow fitting.Luckily there was a trend for 1940s clothing and shoes in the 1980s and many of these clothes look surprisingly like 40s originals .All the clothing below (except for the fur and hat )is vintage 1980s from charity shops ,though  given time is best to shop around vintage shops and on ebay or etsy it’s also possible to pick up bargains at local charity shops.
Good brands to look out for are Hobbs for jackets and skirts ,coast for jackets,skirts and stunning vintage look evening gowns. Older Laura Ashley dresses and jackets can be good,the blue jacket in the photos is a vintage Laura Ashely.Primark is often a good place to find vintage look faux furs and seamed stockings or tights


The ideal is to find a jacket and skirt that look close enough in colour to be a suit,while both the above and below ensembles are obviously not colour perfect matches this wont be too noticeable while the outfits being worn with accessories .
A straight or slightly Aline skirt is best as these are the easiest to find and match to jackets.skirts should not be split at the back unless the split is hidden in a kick pleat and not too short no more than an inch above knee height at most.Its also authentic to wear pleated skirts but these are often harder to match to jackets
Jackets need to be nicely tailored ,either with a little flounced peplum waist or cut in a fairly masculine way . For skirts and jackets wool or wool look synthetic fabrics work best.

1940s haworth 2


I also often buy more recent vintage clothing ,from the Hitchcock blond fashion trend around 2004 as even the 1980s clothing can be a little bit too small on the bust and hips for me and is much more difficult to maintain as it often creases whereas modern fabrics are much more crease resistant .If you can afford it splash out on new clothing then a trip to Boundary Mill ,to a Hobbs, Coast ,Laura Ashley or Debenhams will probably yield results.

brown suit apothacvires

haworth 1940s 1

To go under your “suit” you need a 40s look blouse ,something in muted colours is best ,either with a wide collar or a peter pan style collar as these two styles have been popular recently so are quite easy to find online or in charity shops.I prefer either plain silk blouses or polka dot cotton blouses with peter pan collars.Muted very small print florals can also work but these are harder to match to skirts and jackets so if your only using the outfit once its best to keep to easy to match colours.

to give the outfit an authentic look its necessary to add  accessories .

The main essentials are a 40s style hat and a fur which can be a mink ,squirrel or fox cape or stole .
cindy 40s weekend
The most instantly recognisable 1940s fur is the  fox with its head and legs etc still attached (The reason so many 1940s furs have their heads and legs is that furs made into coats ,stoles capes etc without their legs and head were subject to rationing  and you would need to have the required number of ration tokens to buy it.whereas anything with limbs or its head was classed as a pelt and excluded from rationing .Furs are not always expensive while am artic fox can cost well over one hundred pounds a small mink can  usually be bought for single figures and if you willing to buy something slightly less than perfect its also possible to pick up stoles and foxes.

If you dont like to wear fur then its still possible to look the part but it requires much more work as other details will need to be much more precise.
last 40s talk

try to focus on a stunning hat and eye-catching bags or jewellery. Also to required if you will be outside are gloves  and a handbag .
To complete the look a pearl necklace and earings,perhaps a brooch. While there was a great variety of 1940s costume jewellery pearls are the best and easiest to find choice. Many supermarkets and stores will have simple pearl necklaces and though one were the pearls are graduated in size is more historically accurate any short necklace made of small pearls will look great. If you want something a bit different try an AB crystal necklace,these will need to be bought vintage but are often easier to find cheaply than genuine 1940s pearl necklaces which can be expensive as charity shops have begun to realise re enactors brose them and increased the price of things they consider “1940s y (sometimes to prices substantiality more expensive than an actual vintage shop) wereas AB necklaces are not popular and tend to still be in the cheap sections and can be picked up for a couple of pounds or less.AB or Aurora Borealis chrystals are the sparkling clear crystals that reflect different coloured light ,they are usualy cut with a lot of facets .
ab necklace
A gas mask is essential for complete accuracy as they had to be carried at all times when out ,though my friend gets around this by carrying an 1945 newspaper so she says its the end of the war.It is also possible to buy empty gas mask boxes to carry and as no one ever sees inside the box this is a cheap and easy solution, the empty box is also much lighter than a box and mask.

haworth 1940s 3A  bag of some kind is another essential ,unlike today no woman would go out without a handbag ,,at a pinch a  nw or preferably vintage shopping basket will do ,maybe you have one  left over from school cookery classes ?,even a modern new one is a great alternative to a genuine 1940s handbag which are usually very expensive

40s-shot gloves

.If you prefer a bag or are going to an event such as a dance were a basket obviously isn’t an option finding bags that look like 1940s bags can be hard as far as handbags go but some 1980s clutch bags are quite convincing and there has recently been a trend towards retro style clutch bags so a visit to Primark or a similar store might bear fruit ,try to keep to muted colours as though some 1940s bags were quite bright most were fairly conservative colours and certainly darker colours give a more “vintage” impression. I would remove any clip on straps as they wouldn’t usually have been used.(often 1940s clutch bags have a loop at the back to loop through your hand ).If you do buy vintage make sure its a 1940s style not the similar 1950s style.Avoid patent leather as these are most likely to be later bags .Its also best to try to find single strap bags as while 1940s style did sometimes have two handles or even shoulder straps the iconic 1940s bag is the single handled clasp top bag.

re tea dances or evening events

If you can ,try to find short dress not a long  one as either a faux 40s or genuine 1940s dress such as the satin one below .A wrap dress style in silk or wool or a button front style in silk cotton or wool are the style that are easiest to wear ,bias cut dresses look beautiful but are hard to wear if your not tall and skinny and also hard to source underwear for as modern cut knickers may leave lines ,but so will the catches from suspenders .
cream fox cerise dress
If you buy a short dress can easily be teamed with a jacket if you need to go  to other outside events whereas a long evening gown is only useful for indoor night events.

me and tilly 40s

As can be seen in the full length shots  of my outfits I usually wear high heeled shoes ,1940s shoes were often quite high ,I tend to wear either brogues or peep toe shoes as these are the two most well-known 40s styles.Suede looks authentic for peep toe shoes while brogues are best in plain black or brown.
Due to war time shortages shoes were not infrequently made with fabric and wood or cork was also sometimes used often for wedge heels but these styles though authentic tend to look more modern Again Primark can be fruitful for peep toe shoes.Tesco also occasionally have quite authentic looking 40s styles .Ladies did wear flat shoes but its harder to find authentic looking replica flat shoes and 1940s ones are very hard to find in sizes above uk 4 or 5

1940s womenA mistake sometimes made is to wear pointed toe high heels  or narrow heels which were not in fashion until the 1950s,,I forgot to change my shoes before this photo below was taken and it does spoil the effect.

haworth 1940s 4

Seamed stockings or tights add a nice authentic detail but should be flesh coloured not grey or black,It is possible to draw lines on the backs of each others legs but much harder than you might imagine to get the lines straight and in the uk bare legs can be chilly .

All the hats I have worn above are replica hats made specially for me however you can easily cheat and buy a 1980s wide-brimmed hat and modify it ,I had hoped to go a brief tutorial on how to do this but unfortunately I have not yet done so .Some 1980s wide-brimmed hats can be used as they are. Others if you remove the maribou or ostrich feathers and replace them with pheasant feathers look pretty good.If you do want to try restyling ,take a modern felt hat or even one of the posh school hats ,then cut two thirds of brim from the crown.Twist this free part of brim around to create an interesting shape,tack it in place and perhaps add a feather,any offcuts of the hat fabric can be cut into leaf shapes to decorate the hat .A google search for 1940s hats will give some ideas for styles.
school hat restyled

The hat above is made from an old school hat the brim was cut almost completely off leaving a narrow strip of fabric it was then twist slightly and stitched at an angle to the crown, I also cut the crown slightly to curve to the head, smaller hats will need a hat pin to keep them in place and indeed most hats feel easier to wear if you put a hat pin in them .To use a hat pin push it into the hat so its not sticking out then put the hat on and push the hat pin through your hair style and out of the hat the other side,this is safer than trying to just push the hat pin straight in while your wearing the hat .If yopu cant buy a hat you can wear a headscarf twisted or folded into a narrow strip and tied at the top of your head but this is not particularly authentic unless your in an informal environment or dressing as a worker
For gloves
any neatly cut plain leather or faux leather pair work well and you may already have some or be able to pick them up easily and cheaply from stores.If you prefer vintage a pair of little crochet gloves such as those seen in the photo of me with the shopping basket are the prettiest and cheapest option ,nylon gloves are often later 1950s or 60s and are also really hot to wear. Vintage gloves can be tiny or narrow fitting ,I have fairly small hands and need a sz 7 which I would imagine is the smallest size likely to fit modern ladies hands though perhaps for crochet gloves you may just get away with a sz 6.5 .

Lastly make up

The make up for the 1940s is fairly pale compared to modern tanned look foundations though not as pale as in earlier decades.The key thing is pale foundation ,flesh coloured or very pale eyeshadow and a red lipstick ,pillar box red or something similar as though not all lipstick was red it was very popular  is the look most associated with the 1940s .
For hair if you have short hair or don’t want to put your hair up ,buy a wide brimmed hat and you don’t need to worry about styling it ,if your hair is long enough then you can wear it looped up at the front in two v shapes but to do this you need something under your hair to get the height ,little hair cushions on combs can be bought but if you don’t have any roll up a couple of pieces of faux fur or velvet and roll your hair over these. You will need lots and ,lots of very stiff hairspray ,maximum hold ,spray it as you go along with your make up ,spray it again when your finished and again before you leave and if you have space take the hairspray with you as Haworth’s often breezy ,my hair will usually still stay up even without the hairpins.
I hope these are helpful hints
Have a lovely time at your event .

related posts
hair styles on youtube

footnote .
some ladies needed to kit out their menfolk so heres a little added bit.
I am not overly experienced at searching out mens clothing how ever I do have to kit out my husband and have friends who had helpful hints
John wears a wide lapel jacket which I think is actual vintage 40s but a vintage 80s jacket would work too and plain trousers (without turn ups as turn ups were not allowed under the clothing restrictions) He makes it look more 40s like with a civil defence arm band.Under the jacket he wears a modern shirt and either a bow tie or narrow tie and fedora hat.If you can pick up a waistcoat that would make a nice addition . He also has a back up James Herriot style outfit ,tweed jacket ,corduroy trousers brogues.A friend has a fairly easy outfit ,he wears a long old fashioned mens overall ,like the shopkeeper from open all hours ,he wears a normal shirt ,bow tie and flat cap .
for easy to find mens hats you can get flat caps ,tweed caps or Indianana Jones style hats ,Bowlers hats are also fairly easy to find but expensive.
Flat caps and tweed caps are usually available in charity shops ,The Souke Haworth also has them usually as well as a lot of great mens jackets and hats ,John also got his civil defence armband from there and they are fairly cheap .
I don’t advise uniforms for men who are not regular re enactors as they are hard to get entirely right and often expensive .You might be able to create a faux navel outfit with a roll neck jumper and captains cap from a fancy dress shop ,,think captain birds eye ,,or you could just wear a Breton style cap and say your one of the seamen who manned the small crafts for Dunkirk.
It should be noted that wearing a none allied forces uniform may mean that your movements are limited,Pickering doesn’t allowed Gemrans on trains and you have to stay in Le vishem which is levishem but for the war weekend acts as enemy occupied France .
German uniforms are not accurate for homefront 1940s weekends and are often unwelcome .In many places “enemy forces ” are not allowed on trains or other transport and genuine vintage German uniforms can have extremely unpleasant provenances .Herr flick might seem a fun choice and fairly easy if you already have a long leather coat but SS officers were never the nice guys and were never seen on mainland Britain in uniform.
see below

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How to put victorian or replica victorian clothing on

corset sign

Just a very quick post on dressing in period costume as WGW is coming up and Haworths going steam punk in Nov

The most important thing is highlighted in the Goth day public service announcement

First some donts

If your wearing a steel boned or steel busk corset ,put  your stockings and shoes on first

Dont wear tights unless your not going to need the loo while in costume.

Next the layers

1 /chemise layer  ,this goes under your corset to stop the corset rubbing idealy a long chemise or camisole top and petticoat ,or you can use almost anything else a thin strappy long vest top ,a cotton strappy hippy top, a strappy nightdress



edwardian lace petticoat

2/ Corset layer

The corset now goes on any structural undergarments ,hoop ,bustle ,bustle cushion ,


Petticoats layer ,.

either one petticoat over the structural underlayers or one to add fullness to the skirts .I usually wear  at least one basic one and one decorated one with a taffeta or lace trimmed hemlines or a trained  petticoat with bustle gowns

For 1830s/40s you will need several petticoats but they dont need to be decorated.They can add a lot of weight however ,I found that I average between 1 and 2 stones of  outfit


Dress and extras layer

Put on your dress, add lace collar and cuffs or pelerine or  ribbon and lace collar etc ,this is what makes the gown look correct.

Avoid any jewelry with sparkly stones unless you playing someone very rich ,paste jewels were considered tacky by the middle classes ,black jet look-alike jewelry ,bone looking plastic, mother or pearl ,small pearl brooches or portrait miniatures work well

essential accessories

Fan ,,it’s no fun at all in hot weather or hot rooms wearing Victorian costume unless you have a fan to help you keep cool

Little bag/reticule /pocket

Its essential asd you wont have pockets or a modern handbag  to have somewhere to put change ,hankies ,phones fans

desirable Extras


Mittens or gloves

No lady would go out without gloves or possibly mittens and most wore mittens in the house and evening /opera  gloves which reached upper arm  or night time events or dinner (see above)


No lady would leave the house without a bonnet or hat

bonnet side view

Married ladies would wear a cap or some token piece of lacetrimed ribbon in the house in the early years of the reign

Shawl /cloak

Again no lady would leave the house without them and a shawl is handy if your moving around in drafty places in a wide shouldered dress

Parasol /Brolly

This is a pleasant extra as in hot weather it does stop you feeling too hot and in rain it reduces the amount of extra weight your likely to be a carrying from rain-soaked clothing any outfit will have around 10 metres of fabric and many up to metres so thats a lot of fabric to get wet

Vintage handkerchief

Faux vintage pocket watch.




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1480 to 1600 ,When women ruled the world, part one

margret of Austria

While  it is common to bemoan the fate of women in the late medieval /early renaissance period I would suggest that it was in fact a time when women shaped Europe’s history and made changes that are still felt in our modern world.In this first of a series of posts I will give a very  brief introduction to the Queens ,duchesses ,ladies and princesses who helped shape our modern world.Many were not particularly likable but all played a role in shaping Europe.

The  period between 1480 and 1600 was a time when either officially or unofficially women ruled much of Europe for most of the time ,either in their own names or by controlling husbands  or sons who ruled .It is true that many of these women were in some respects  powerless victims,Margret Beaufort was married as a child and had her first and last child Henry Tudor  at the age of  13 ,Katherine of Aragon was  discarded by her husband and died in poverty ,Anne Boleyn was executed once Henry VIII tired of her ,Mary Tudor was wife to a younger husband who though she was devoted to him  had little love for her ,Mary Stuart through unwise marriages ended her days as a prisoner of Elizabeth I (who perhaps learning from the mistakes of both Marys remained unmarried).Yet despite the overwhelming odds stacked against women in  the 15th and 16th centuries these women overcame the odds and made a huge impact on their world and ours for either good or ill

In upcoming posts I will cover ,,


Isabella of Castile

Isabella drove the “Moors” from Spain ,she spent much of her adult life on military campaigns . By her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon she helped  to create  modern Spain. Despite being married  her husband Ferdinand did not control her lands she remained ruler  of them herself.If Isabella and Ferdinand had not removed the moors from spain its possible Spain would have remained Muslim up until the present day .Had Isabella not acted as sponsor to Christopher Columbus Spain would not have had any input to the  USA nor would the conquistadors have troubled the latin American countries for better or worse the Aztecs reign would have continued .She also expelled the Jews from Spain and sadly increased persecution of non Christians but she thus facilitated  the advance of science in other countries as Jewish doctors and scholars feld .She was succeeded by her daughter Juana ,,though only briefly as Juana became increasingly mentally unbalanced  .

Margret Beaufort


Mother of Henry Tudor later to be Henry VII .She began her life tragically ,married  very young (she was probably  between 11 and 12 ).Her husband who was twice her age .She gave birth at 13 to her only child Henry by which time she was already a widow .Yet Margret overcame all the odds to become the mother of the first Tudor King.Without Margret it is extremely unlikely Henry Tudor would have become Henry VII  as it was primarily by her plotting and support Henry managed to invade England and win at  Bosworth .Without Margaret there would be no Tudor dynasty.

Katherine of Aragon

white band-Catherine_aragon

While often seen as Henry VIII boring first wife ,it was Katherine who shaped much of Henry’s early policy and it was under Katherine’s command that England won the battle of  Flodden against the  Scots ,the battle saw the death of not just the king but also much of the nobility of Scotland.By refusing to comply to Henrys demand for an end to their marriage she created a situation were the reformists gained power and England became  more isolated from Europe.

Anne Boleyn


The determination of Henry VIII to cast off  Katherine for Anne and the way both women dealt with the situation shaped Tudor society and culture and a widespread and lasting effect on our lives It is unlikely that the protestant reformers would have had the success in England which they did without Anns protection .Anne was a determined supporter of the reformers and her copy of Tyndale’s New testament still survives.

Queen Mary 1

mary tudor

Always in the shadow of her half-sister Elizabeth Mary Tudor is yet an interesting figure in her own right ,sadly responsible for the creating of an anti catholic bias in the English mind which lasted for many centuries  ,she was also the first woman ever to rule England in her own right and by popular consent.

Elizabeth 1


The influence of Elizabeth’s reign impacted on almost every aspect of modern life in the UK ,our culture ,our trade ,our prejudices and our belief in what it is to be English .

Catherine de Medici

Catharina Medici

Not an independent  monarch in her own right,she ruled through her sons  and played a key role in the politics  of Europe,The years during which her sons reigned is often called the age of Catherine de Medici .She made real changed in Frances policy while unfortunate events such as the St Bartholomew’s day massacre created such a powerful full memory that it had lasting repercussions for Roman Catholics .The Massacre is now largely forgotten but at the time it stunned Europe ,Its effect can probably best be summed up as correlating to the effect of 9/11.

Mary Stuart the Queen of Scots

black dress mary

While Mary was rather a tragic and ineffective ruler ,she ruled as queen in Scotland briefly and provided a son James who was to unite mainland Britain under one monarch.The rule of Mary and Elizabeth made  mainland Britain for a while at least a place entirely under the governance of queens.

whether directly as queens Regnant or regents  or indirectly as queens consort for much of the 16 th Century much of Europe’s history  was being shaped by women.

Margaret of Austria

margret of Austria

Governor of the Netherlands

Navarrese  Queens

Navarre is interesting as it had several queens throughout its history and five between the mid 15th and late 16thc century .Navarre had two  queens during the 16th c who played roles in European politics Catherine and Joan III it was also home to the  the influential  queen consort  Marguerite.

While these are likely to be the only  queens covered in depth there are many other interesting ladies worthy of note

In Russia

Between 1533  and 1538 Elena Glinskaya  ruled as regent .

Eleanore of Toledo

 eleanorElizabeth Woodville

eliz woodvil

Elizabeth  of York


Elizabeth Bathory


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The Early Tudor white band unimportant mystery or the key to Tudor gown construction?

As I have been working my way through the Tudor era I have been doing further research on the puzzling white band that appears in many early Tudor portraits. The result is this rather long post. I have put forward an assortment of possibilities with arguments for and against each .The white band is a narrow strip of fabric that goes around the shoulders of ladies in an assortment of English portraits from the early and mid Tudor era.

annehorenboutThe band can be seen here going around the shoulders and down the bodice front .There seems no reason for this band in this portrait or most others .


the sole exception is this Holbein sketch were it appears to be holding up the skirts

YoungEnglishWomanHolbein white bandI do not however think that the white band in this case is necessarily holding up the skirts its seems to terminate a little above the garter but if it is indeed holding up the skirts I think it unlikely to be representative of its use in the portraits of upper class women All Tudor ladies seem to have usually let their gowns trail  as theres several comments about trained gowns and also about the middle class womens gowns trailing in mud .Where gowns were lifted they seem to have been back pined

three_ladies back lacing

I know there are several theory’s ,perhaps it is part of the undergown /chemise showing through much as the chemises in Italian portraits  do .

Italian-1520 white band

We have a portrait of Katherine of Aragon  wearing a gown in what appears to be a similar style so it is possible

kath sleeves

.It does explain its  appearance and disappearance  which can  be accounted for by a change in lacing in the gowns.

Early Tudor gowns front  usualy fastened  such as the one Elizabeth of york is shown wearing in  her famous portrait .


and in the Whitehall mural obviously front fasten and have no band

whitehall mural detail

A further portrait also  shows  Catherine of  Aragon wearing a gown that  appears to  fasten at the front,Though in Catherine’s case there is a panel pined across the front.On these gowns trim and neckline decoration is attached to the gown (This is the reason I usually attach trims to gowns which I design and sell as I feel there is some evidence to suggest that at least some less expensive trim was attached to the overgowns in the early Tudor age)


I  do think it possible Tudor gowns went through a side lacing phase as Holbein’s famous sketch shows a gown that appears to neither front nor back laced and the lady has the mysterious white band

holbein front and back gown.Later Tudor gowns either back lace or front lace with a panel pined across over the lacing and the white band accordingly disappears .


I think this unlikely however as both the Holbein sketch of a young woman walking and other sketches show the band with front fastening gowns.

It more likely that the Band in its early stages  is linked to sleeves style and attachment.Tudor gowns change shape in the early decades of the 16thc and it’s During this time the white band appears and perhaps may have covered  not just the side lacing of the  new style gowns  but also have covered the attachment lacing for the sleeves  or to cover pins and protect the gown from any pins etc used to attach the gowns sleeves.This function would hold good even for back lacing gowns as tie on sleeves would still need covering


Though I have to do further research I am also not convinced that all Tudor gowns acquired integral sleeves  either during the White band era or later as I have so far found it impossible to create the later  very wide necked and tight sleeves style with integral sleeves without the sleeves constantly falling off the shoulders.Its also very difficult to get any full sleeved chemise through these tight sleeves.I think its very possible some if not all Tudor gown sleeves were separate to the gowns

maria be medicei seperate sleeves

overgown undergown sep sleeves

Though I confess if this is the case I cant figure out how the sleeves attached as theres clearly no lacing holes in the Jane seymour portrait .The sleeves could only have attached to a layer under jewelled neckline billiment layer and so be hidden by the billiments as above and in later portraits such as the master John Portrait of Mary Tudor

princess mary tudor neckline

Perhaps  instead the tight top part of the sleeve was closed laced sleeve that devloped from tie /pin on sleeves


If you added underlacing to the sleeves above you would have a gown very like the Princess Mary Tudor gown

Or perhaps the  tight sleevs formed part of another gown with a sleevelss gown or bodice  of the same fabric above 1545 bodice  Christoph Amberger (1505-1562) A Woman

If the overgown was sleevelss or had tie on sleeves i also explains  how the undersleeves in so many paintings  such as the Jane Seymour portrait were attached and matched the visible part of the petticoat.Perhaps the expensive fabric  lower under sleeves evolved from separate lace on sleeves and did in fact form part of the undergown ensemble

Its also possible the upper sleeve was not a full sleeve but was merely a piece of fabric pined around the shoulders like a more complex version of the shawl partlets If you contrast the dress below with the image showing a shawl partlet it is a possibility.

tudor  sperate gowns CleveJoosPortraitAngietevavndenRijne

partlet fur hood

If this si so theres three gown sleeves showing in portraits.
The tight sleevelss or very short sleeved over gown ,
A longer full sleeve from an under gown
and a further sleeve from another undergown .
As with the skirts of any undergown only the visible part of these sleeves needed to be made of expensive fabrics ,while slashing in the lower parts would allow the chemise to show through. Some images  of earlier gowns suggest the undergown had eleborate and intergral sleeves covered by shorter overgown sleeves

under sleevs over sleevslucas-van-leyden-the-game-of-chess

However to return to the mystery of the Band .I feel it has implications that go beyond the gowns construction and influence headress construction .The band seems fairly sturdy linen perhaps even stiffened linen as it seems very similar to the linen that sticks out from the bottom of gable hoods .As mentioned earlier I dont belive it can have usualy been a chemise as it  also seems to appear in front lacing gowns were a chemise could not have been visible at the sides.(This can be seen in the second image at the top of this post where the woman has no a front fastening gown but still has the white band)The  preliminary  sketch for the portrait  also shows this (the sketch below is a later copy  but  to identical to the original except in the use of colour.(where I have been unable to find suitable online images of originals I have used these later coloured copies but only having compared them to originals)


The white bands always lie above any Chemise or lie under a partlet layer in both sketches and portraits such as this of Lady Moore.In this portrait there’s also a suggestion that the gable hood linen layer is a layer onto which is pined the fold of the lappets of gable hoods(This will be shown to be important later in the post)

More by follower of Hans Holbein (private collection) bottom

The Alice Moore portrait also shows the band seems to curve around the arm hole and stops at waist level quite abruptly

white band-Catherine_aragonIn the Catherine of argon portrait it also curves under the arms slightly and in other sketches

dauncey hoblein white band

I personally feel the most likely and flexible answer is the white band was used not just to cover lacing fixtures but also to hold billiments or other expensive trims and ,the jewels and beadwork could be tacked to the white band then a few limted pins could hold it in place and also that uit acted as a protective layer between the expensive fabrics  of the bodice in order to attach the  multitude of chains popular at this time ,it seems to serve that function in the Alice More portrait and the one below

white band mary guildford

The white bands  further use was perhaps to protect the bodice from Partlet fastenings or pins as some partlets seem to have been cape like and occasionally shawls were used.(I realise the portrait below doesnt show a white band ,however I could not find the portrait I wanted to use and did in any case merely want to show the cape /shawl like partlet as I doubt this style could have stayed in place without pins

partlet fur hood

If the white band served this function it explains why also used during the side lacing phase then its continuation could be accounted for by covering ties or lacing on the sleeves on later gowns but not on others which may have been in the back lacing or the earlier front fastening style though its possible what we assume to be a full overgown may not be but rather a  later tighter laced closed version of the early tudor late medieval gowns


If you lace the blue gown above closed enough for the skirts part to meet than add a panel to cover the lacing you have the typical Tudor gown

meltonconstableparr raised vlevletThus combining the Front lacing and over panel design with the earlier short sleeved gown

Why is the white band often absent if it covered sleeve  lacing holes on  early Tudor gowns ?

I would suggest the reasons its  puzzling compleat  absence  on some early portraits such as the famous National portrait gallery Anne Bolyn  one  below is also easily accounted for


These are later copies that removed what seems odd and unnecessary  items  or details ,perhaps also they were based on sketches that didn’t clearly show a band.The portrait above also simplifies the French hood and shows billiments attached to it  .The 1530s seems also to be a transitional phase in the White band ,non white band phase ,perhaps as it’s the time front and ,back lacing gowns begin to be more popular

Developement of the band

The white band if it  had an extra purpose  as place to pin billiments ahs other implication.I do not belive that billiments where integral to under gowns  once ,back and side lacing phases developed . it’s at this time it becomes popular to match billiments on hoods to those on gowns and occasionally even necklaces and girdles,the Billiments may have been attached to undergowns but this seems unlikes as it would make it harder to wear the billiments with different gowns .The  more elaborate  jeweled billiments  I belive were always pined onto linen and this includes those on Gable hoods  ,this seems to be the case in the existing portraits  such as those above  and can be seen more clearly on sketches

Holbein_gable_hood_eng construction layers

Or sketches of less aristocratic ladies where there is no distraction from Jewels.The one below also shows a brooch holding the lappets in place at the side further suggesting that Gable hoods were not complete whole but a headdress built up of mix and match layers over a base of stiff linen

English_Lady_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger hood and broochThis would explain their development as an early portrait shows a line linen gable hood prototype headdress

220px-Lady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGAnd also one with pined on veil over a white linen base


Though I have not had a chance to explore this using actual fabrics as yet it seems to me a likely explanation ,It’s also possible French hoods were layers of fabrics and trims rather than merely one complete headress.Early portraits of front fastening gowns with applied decoration show hoods in several parts often with matching applied decoration as below or with expensive fabric layers as ind in the Young Catherine portrait or the ones below


isablela of hapsberg frenc hoodThis of Isabelle of Hapsburg is very similar to Catherine’s hood and perhaps it was in fact Catherine of Aragon not Mary Tudor or Anne Boleyn who brought the hood over initially before discarding it like the spanish farthingale for more English fashions such as the gable hood

Later hood styles  appear to carry forward these layers or have layers mounted over bases

NPG 1119; Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard after Hans Holbein the Younger

frenc hoodsWhile some sketches such as the one above suggest a vague link between the french hood and english intermediate hood

HolbeinAnneCresacre1527 white band

Later hoods seem a mix of white linen or silk with added billiments  and with separate probably wired back billiments holding in place a veil as seen in this portrait of mary

PORTRAIT OF MARY TUDOR artist not known but in the style of Flicke, Painted onto wood, found at Anglesey Abbey

The English intermediate hood while worn over a coif  seems the only headdress which is actually composed in one piece ,all be it with applied layers of fabric .The shortened version of the intermediate hood appears to have been used for mounting  billments to create a version of the french hood.I realise these are sometimes seen as coifs but several portraits such as the one below show the layer to be quite rigid

french hood

The frequent appearance of white in french hoods ,or red supports the separate  billiments theory as they appear when hoods begin to appear with applied decoration that matches the bodices gold studs or embroidery but continue until late in the hoods history by which stage the trend to match bodice and hood billiments requires s=more complex and expensive billiments which would be too expensive to confine to one headdress or dress

Later also when the hood begins to gain height and acquire a steeper angle  when the billiment is relativity simple such as gold work  or  pearls they  appear to have become separate wired items used to hold the back veil in place

FrancoiseBrezeHead french hood

It’s still  likely the lower billiment is mounted on a linen coif as there is evidence for this

parr-smIf you remove the bonnet in this portrait and add a french hood panel the pearls will sit in the same place as front billiments  on french hoods and a couple of early portraits support this idea such as the one below where there seems to be a layer of peals or beads above the pleated underlayer

Jean Perréal (French artist, c 1451-c 1531) Anne de Bretagne

This pleated underlayer is a continuous feature  of french hoods and perhaps became pined back to become a coif for the hair to hold it up .

The snood in this image must I think have had the hair dressed under it and possibly covered by a linen snood to protect the expensive fabrics from the hair.Hair was unlikely to be as clean as today as lacking our modern complex shampoos there was nothing  to prevent grease and oils building up and some ladies do seem to have used oils to dress their hair perhaps perfumed .The image below also seems to show  the bottom pearls |(or faux pearl glass beads )mounted on a coif .While the back white panel of peals seems to be mounted on linen or silk and the neckline Jewels mounted on white fabric.

tudor-french-hood snood

I think this shows jewels were ordinarily sewn onto linen and not gowns ,headresses etc and confirms the use of the white band and white neckline trims for Jewels.I think the simple band that initaly covered sleeve lacings and prevented damage to delicate and expensive fabrics such as cloth of gold velvet but also began to be used to pin billiments onto .

I will add images of my own experiments with applied trims once I complete more Tudor gowns and also post separate explorations of both Gable hood and french hoods again when I experiment with the construction myself

I am indebted to the blog below for several images of French headdresses

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Blake Morrison ,Three sisters a review

I was asked to review Blake Morrisons” we are three sisters”  .I went to the play with mixed feelings, while normally eager to see new Bronte inspired work, I had avoided “We are three sisters” as I hate Chekhov, I find him needlessly depressing and I sympathise entirely with the view of one long dead reviewer of Chekhov’s three sisters who pointed out “that if someone had just bought three tickets to Moscow the play would have ended”,, and probably it would have been for the best.That said I should not have felt so gloomy, if anything could make me love Chekhov ,it would be “We are three sisters” though in truth I struggled to find anything much of Chekhov’s three sisters in Blake Morrison’s (vastly improved) three sisters. While I could not watch more than a few minutes of Chekhov’s  play  without wishing the sisters would just buck up their ideas and get on with life ,aided by solid performances from Barry Rutters Northern Broadside  theatre company  Blake Morrison’s ”we are three  sisters” could not be more  different ,lively intelligent and determined, they are victims of their circumstances, intelligent enough to realise this yet refusing to lie down and give up ,throwing off their victim status with a power and determination one could imagine the Bronte’s themselves possesing.Morrison  has created several of those  rarities, intelligent well written and witty characters who are also Northerners. Though Lydia did at times descend to an ecky thump, flat cap and whippet level of Northernhood   the other characters deftly avoided the trap and made me proud of this innovative and native company.Broadside is the child of and run by among others Barry Rutter, based in Halifax and composed of primarily northern cast and crew, it is fiercely loyal to its northern roots and determined to highlight the talent and creativity of  the area propelled  by the vision  and drive of  its founder  Barry Rutter.wearethreesisters_1998069b
I was delighted to discover on entering the theatre that the parsonage dining room had been recreated in its main elements. The table ,chairs etc where set on a red carpet, the chairs being identical to the parsonages far from common style of chair and on table  sat the sisters writing slopes even the sofa (though on set translated in a chaise long) was the correct colour and set in roughly the same spot. The dining room is so central to Bronte myth and to their actual lives that its only fitting most of the plays action takes place in this space and while I am aware Black Morrison did not want to photographically recreate the Brontes spaces yet even the tiny kitchen set, almost off stage and set lower reminded one instantly of the warm and welcoming parsonage kitchen.I was intrigued by the presence of a gravestone propped almost unnoticed on the “chimney breast which separated the Main dining space from the kitchen and I had assumed it was designed to indict Charlotte’s conviction that the parsonage was itself, built on graves, an idea seized on by some Bronte biographers to imply the Brontes felt surrounded by death, a feeling that grew in my mind when Emily recites in the first scene the stanzas as she paces the main set.
see around me tombstones grey,
I see around me Tombstones grey
stretching their shadows far away
beneath the turf my footsteps tread
Lie low and lone the silent dead
I was later told the gravestone was a mere accident  which seemed unlikely but if so it was lucky accident and if the gravestone  was  intentional it was a nice and thoughtful idea it was, like the equally thoughtfully added chip, chip, chip of the stone mason as he unseen, carves out new gravestones for those silent dead ,another  great idea. It was also a delight to see the sisters dressed accurately and with obvious thought and attention to detail, Ann in a grey 1840s gown ,charlotte  in a drab 1840s gown, both in multiple  petticoats which though invisible yet made the gowns move right despite being much more high maintenance than adding the usual inaccurate hoops  and even more impressive  Emily was dressed in a 1830s gown with straight skirts, that seemed inspired by the Gun Group, it was a nice touch that probably went unnoticed by most theatre goers and therefore all the more impressive.Moving to the performances of the actors themselvesI may perhaps start with my most negative comments and get them out of the way as I feel somehow a traitor to the cause to mention them. It was the performance of Barry Rutter as the school teacher, I entered the theatre eager to love Mr Rutter, I really did, the man is a talented Northerner proud of his roots and has helped create an excellent company in Northern  Broadside. Unfortunately he had not long been on stage before enthusiasm gave way to despair.Mr Rutters performance reminded me of fireworks, bright and dazzling, it exploded onto the stage with bangs and bright lights only to almost instantly fizzle out and plummet to earth, leaving only a lump of cardboard  that gets in everyone’s way .He was the weak link in an otherwise strong chain. He walks around in one scene in a cardboard mask and one couldn’t help but feel that his performance might have been improved had he left it on throughout the play, as compared to the restraint and sensitivity shown by the other actors, his forever mobile eyebrows and very mobile features created the impression of a great plastic chrysanthemum stuck inside a bouquet of snowdrops. I have heard and also read in other reviews that Mr Rutter has been excellent in past performances and perhaps this was just a bad day for him. I am only sure that Mr Rutter couldn’t enter a scene without leaving you wishing you where elsewhere and left you sympathizing with a talented cast trying to act round the manic elephant in the room.The cast was otherwise truly exceptional and on a Saturday afternoon with another long and emotionally demanding performance ahead of them, to what would no doubt be a bigger audience they gave their all to the performance. They made the two thirds full theatre resound with clear and passionately spoken yet restrained performances.The play opens with the sisters, Mr Bronte and Branwell singing one of Ann’s hymns to her melody that has been thoughtfully reset, I am no musician  so unfortunately cannot do justice to its sensitivity  to the characters later roles  but the actress playing Ann  later explained in our interview that it was a five-part harmony. To my uneducated ears the hymn was simply, perfectly sung. The male voices kept subtle enough  not to drown the ladies yet clear  and strong while  the actresses sounded very sweet .

From the very first  the script show that the playwright is very familiar with the Bronte’s letters and other primary sources, It harks back briefly to Chekhov ,it is Anns birthday (name day) and she mentions the contents of her diary paper, a nice deft way to set the scene. I suspect that Blake Morrison read widely and perhaps made notes of the biographical elements of several of Charlotte’s novels such as Shirley and has taken inspiration for some parts of Charlotte’s early dialogue about curates from it. Throughout the play he shows an intimate acquaintance with facts and wide-ranging exploration of primary and secondary sources as well as Bronte novels and poetry so that when he later bends the facts you are absolutely certain it is an artistic and creative decision not ignorance. The research lies gently within the script and often hidden but I believe it helps breath life into the characters. Perhaps  also ought to  mention  here another  major difference between the Blake Morrison and Chekhov plays, especially as it was yet another reason I had avoided the play ,while Chekhov’s sisters seem to me at least to constantly long for  civilisation and culture of Moscow ,thinking very little of their present backwater existence among what they perhaps consider red necks ,In the Blake Morrison play there is none of this denigration of the Brontes surroundings and  while this unavoidably means the play drifts  further from its Chekhovian roots, good for him !

To review each character in more detail I will start with the sisters and with Emily  who was perfectly played  by Sophia di Martino and  while I personally felt the character  as written was at times  too morose she was most people’s perception of Emily  and aside from the odd gloomy comments which are, as parts of the script outside her control the actress absolutely perfectly portrays Emily’s force of character (the actress called her” a force of nature “in our interview ) She recited Emily’s poetry when the script provided her with the opportunity not as mere lines but as something that spoke to her own soul.
There is interwoven into all  her actions and delivery the impression of Emily as something  at once both ordinary yet elemental, yet thrillingly this wasn’t the clichéd Emily but a living breathing funny and sometimes fragile Emily, rooted in her love of the moors yet not enslaved  by the script into a stereotypical hybrid of Kathy and Heathcliff ( the Kathy- like moor wandering cliché was something the actress later mentioned they had been very keen to avoid). I was delighted to see the domestic homemaker and witty Emily brought to life here .I often felt “yes! this is how Emily looked and  moved and spoke” It was almost as if I were  a fly on the wall at the parsonage back in the 1840s. It was a delight
Charlotte was equally well-played, I didn’t get chance to talk to the actress about her  intentions and inspirations as she wasn’t with us later so I will have to go with my own impressions, I felt she was possibly the most Chekhovian of the characters, also I got a very deep impression that this was Juliette Barker’s Charlotte ,rather than Mrs Gaskells  and Juliette Barker doesn’t seem to be much of a Charlotte fan .Its seemed the actress had done her research and she was extremely good in her scenes with Branwell and Tabby. She made  Charlotte a warmer, brighter being .Blake Morrison has obviously thought long and in-depth about Charlotte and it shows .He takes Barker’s solid scholarship but, Pygmalion like breathes life into her chilly marble .
Tabby was brilliant, a character pivotal to the Brontes yet usually ignored it was a real joy to see her brought to life. It may have been merely to provide a  nod to Chekhov and a victim to Lydia as it’s a small part with few lines and  she could have been an almost non entity ,the butt of Lydia’s insults and object of  the girls sympathy but it is a great tribute to the actress that she’s one of my favourite characters from the play ,Her Tabby is blunt, vivacious, funny, yet occasionally heartbreakingly frail. Blake Morrison yet again has breathed the spirit of the real person into the old familiar mould.
Branwell was perfectly portrayed physically .


When he walks on he reminds me of the Leyland bust and his own sketches. I am not sure what I thought of his emotional  portrayal ,I didn’t like this Branwell and not because of his actions. In another play, Bronte Boy, Branwell was just as badly behaved yet still lovable and worthy of sympathy. Blake Morrisons  Branwell seems unsympathetic and I am not sure if that’s due to the original Chekhov play or the choice of the playwright, The scenes where he bully’s and denigrates  his sisters vividly brought to life how life must have actually been in those dark days final days  but as this is unsoftened by earlier scenes of affection you are left with a distinctly unflattering portrait, I am no fan of Branwell yet he was a loving brother and a talented and witty man but I felt little of this in Blake Morrison’s Branwell .
I also found Lydia two-dimensional but that was how she was written and the actress playing her seemed to do her best with, in parts not very good material, though she has some excellent one liners, among my favourites was

“I thought Haworth would be more like Harrogate”

I would imagine she’s supposed to be a monster, but I remember one reviewer described her as one step away from Hyacinth Bucket and that was the idea that stuck in my mind.
To return to the sisters, Ann played by Rebecca Hutchinson  is perfect, she’s often left in the shadows in Bronte biographies and plays so  it was utterly delightful to see another  play that centres so much of the action on her and an actress that brings her so fully to life, the actress playing her was indignant  that a recent poll mentioned Charlotte and Emily but completely  missed Ann off  the famous Yorkshire authors list. That passion for her character and her right to a voice seemed to me to inform and impassion the performance. Ann was the gentle quiet Ann of myth but not the lifeless cardboard cut out of so many portrayals.
Of the male characters  The father  Patrick was also excellent, touching  and intelligent but  funny and  kind and though he obviously has his eccentricities and  has a somewhat fiery nature  he  is not dominated by either  but they merely add another endearing layer to the character.
The minor  characters are a curate “William ” who is so well written and played I believe he has every woman in the audience half in love with him before he finishes his first scene and kicking herself by the end of his second .William is, I assume based on Willy Weightman and has much of what seems to have been Weightmans charisma and sex appeal ,yet also his  compassionate sweet nature  and dedication to improving the lot of his parishioners, all be it intermixed in the Curate character with a superficiality on other  levels and what amounts to an addiction to insincere flirtation.
The doctor is also a revelation, initially a frequently superficial and occasionally brutish character he is also tender ,sad and intelligent, his final scene as he prepares to leave Haworth  reminded me somehow of the legend of a mute swan singing before its death, his lines where simple but moving and perfectly  delivered, the audience was hushed .
It’s strange that though the men seem to dominate the first acts yet they seem somehow disposable, the sisters silent and often unremarked on seemed to me to dominate the play even when  silent or in the shadows

I left feeling that you didn’t need to know the original Three sisters to enjoy Blake Morrison’s  version, Though it’s obviously hung onto a rough three sisters outline,, it had gloom enough to go around but was also bright and witty  ( though I know initially Chekhov wrote “the three sisters “as a comedy. I don’t think you can actually say you wrote a comedy when you have to explain to people it’s a comedy, which apparently Chekhov had to do ).This play however was genuinely laugh out loud funny, in the places intended to be funny and the lines were expertly delivered with perfect comic timing.

Later  we were joined by two cast members the young actresses who had played Ann and the equally talented Emily The interviews were a joy. I asked the actress playing Ann if she had read Agnes Grey as it seemed to show in her character and she said yes she had read all Annes work and esp. her poetry which she loved and that she had read a great deal of Juliette barkers biography which she is still studying. I asked her  if she liked Ann ,she said yes she loved Ann for “her optimism ,for daring to be an unashamed romantic ,for always searching for the good in people and despite adversity daring to dream big and see beauty in everyday, which is a real gift.”
I then asked “Emily if having so little of Emilys own words outside of her novel and poetry was liberating or restrictive. She said it was both “it was a challenge getting to know Emily as she didn’t want to be known” which I thought was an excellent and intuitive summary .Of the character of Emily in the play as elsewhere she felt “a lot is imaginary and other people’s ideas “. She has also read widely and is very familiar with Juliette Barker’s work and Emily poetry .She named reciting the poetry as one of the highlights of the play for herself. Both of the actresses where charming and very happy to talk.

I should like to thank the young ladies for their patience and time which no doubt left them, little time for leisure and food between their interview with us and the later performance. All in all I was glad we had seen the play and sorry I had left it so late, perhaps the play should have focused less on its Chekhovian origins and been keener to stress its strengths which to me seemed to be non Chekhovian elements which to me at least seemed to be the larger part of the play. Blake Morrison seems to have made the wise choice of ignoring what was a perhaps ill-advised brief and imposed a better brighter vision onto it.

Abigail Bell is the pseudonym of  Lyn Marie Cunliffe

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Lucy Locket lost her Pocket,,A short look at a forgotton treasure

pocket boston(

The almost forgotten rhyme

“Lucy locket lost her pocket ,Kitty fisher found it ,not a penny was there in it but the binding round it ”

Is the only remaining record in popular culture of a little known yet long treasured item of women’s clothing and its meaning is like pockets themselves becoming lost to history.

met pocket


Pockets  were an essential item of dress for many centuries and were once the most emotionally valuable  item a woman could posses as can be seen by amount of work often put in to making and decorating these  never seen items.

pair of pockets

In our modern homes ,we can probably never appreciate the value of these items to women in past centuries.Until the early years of the 20th c it was not unusual for  adults to share beds with siblings and certainly most would have shared rooms .If you were a servant or governess of lived away from home in a boarding school  as either a pupil or teacher , your personal possessions could be searched  if a theft had occurred,or examined to ensure you were” forming habits of orderliness ” or merely by the curious (there is an incident recorded in Charlotte Brontes Villette of the  owner of a school rifling through her new teachers clothing and possessions while the teacher is assumed to be asleep)even your underwear was not private ,,there are many records of laundry fees being charged to governess ,pupils etc,I have seen many items of Victorian clothing with names written or embroidered into them and though I can find no confirmation of it I suspect this is because the items would be washed in common with other clothing in big houses ,schools etc as there is no other logical reason for it,,why write your name on underwear you will be either wearing ,storing in your chest of drawers or washing yourself..There was therefore very little privacy, richer women may have had writing boxes or work boxes but even these were not entirely secure,  they were often left open or could be easily picked or forced  openThe pocket was for many years a womans only secure place for items she wanted to keep private or secure.

Pockets could be single or a matching pair.

yellow pockets 1785

they were usually lined and fastened with tape ties,though size varies Most are  a similar shape to those above and around 10 to 12 ins deep and are accessed by front openings.Some are larger ,very few are smaller ,I personally find pockets around 12 ins deep by 6 wide at their base the best size as they are large enough for bulky items but not too cumbersome

Pockets were also a common gift from women to other women perhaps on birthdays ,weddings etc .Pockets could also be bought ready-made but this is less common than making your own.(simple  un embroidered Pockets are fairly quick to make,I can make a pair in a day and if I use embroidered fabrics or damask they can still look surprisingly effective )

perhaps letters from loved ones, mementoes ,keys to her writing box or trunk.Alongside its value as a private space ,it was invaluable on a practical level ,it acted very much like the modern workmans tool belt,containing things needed regularly such as watches,scissors, pins ,handkerchiefs ). They  also acted much like our modern handbags containing mirrors,combs ,money ,perhaps perfume ,smelling salts , a frequent item is a long pin ,,used for securing hats or neck kerchiefs,etc ,this must have been not just useful for securing clothing but seems to have been seen as a defensive item from time to time,we have one story from Samuel Pepys diary were a lady he is flirting with  in church threatens him with a long hat pin . Larger pockets seemed to have also been used to tuck away snacks .I have complied a list of possible pocket contents through the ages( my source is primarily the V and A excellent article but includes some extra items from newspapers ,inquests etc and some items mentioned as ladies possessions in the 16thc)

Almost always mentioned are




Items of jewellery such as brooches



pins of assorted kinds


small knives (needed  for an assortment of things  ,to sharpen pencils ,pen nibs,to open letters, cut open the pages of books as these often came uncut par fruit)

Very frequently mentioned and most often recommended by ladies advice columns ,magazines or letters

small Pins/pin cushion

needles /needle case


(I also assume in instances where these are being carried outside the home the contents included small amounts of thread,,or the thimble and needles are somewhat useless but as most external pocket contents are based on instances of theft which only require  records of items of value thread would go unrecorded)



note book.

Smelling salts

pocket watch ( perhaps rarely in earlier centuries pocket sundials which were carried by the rich)

spectacles (if worn)



snuff box

personal medicines/pills

objects of sentimental value ,lockets, locks of hair,miniature portraits ,love letters,

Less frequently and probably for outside use

Gloves (though mittens seem to have been stashed in pockets when at home)


letters,passports, tickets etc

The words pocket  knife,pocket watch ,pocket handkerchief  ,pocket-book all show the original home of such items .

The word Pocket  is I am told an old English word (12th to 15th c ) however .I feel it likely they were then a visible external items as they could not have been worn under the fitted Kirtles of the early middle ages.These Kirtles did have openings as can be seen here in a painting from the late 14thc but its hard to imagine enough space for pockets large enough to store anything but a few pennies without spoiling the line of the gown and the cord ties of a pocket  around the waist would possible cause an unslightly wrinkle at the waist a little bit like our  underwear VPL  which spoils the look of fitted skirts and trousers in the present day

tommassio medieval painter pockets 1330

I cant find any reference to pockets discovered in medieval graves, eg the Smithfeild plague pits (though later pockets are fabrics which are unlikely to survive some  early 16th examples have wirework decorations  or use fabric with metalic thread work and this  could have survived.Unfortunately  I have been unable to gain access to original excavation reports so its possible there are fragments which may have been pockets .)

It is still hard to imagine gowns with the fitted shape of that below could conceal a typical pocket


There are many examples of extant pouches which are top openings and look a little like bags  ,these seem to be outer wear as  it would be hard to access that kind of opening under a gown and the style suggests a hand bag style object or at least a bag to go on a belt


Certainly in  the 13th c Pouches were outerwear as seen on this tomb from 1283


If we assume pockets became under gown items with the rise of the houppelande around the 1380s/90s


That still leaves at least 450 years of  widespread use and another 50 years when they became rarer but were still worn though they seem to die out in widespread under gown use around 1840 .There are many 184os pockets surviving though they tend to be plainer than earlier examples ,,these come from the Kay Shuttleworth collection


The use of pockets dies out later for children and they continue in use amongst the  elderly and the lower classes.

There is a mention of them in a few novels such as  David Copperfield, 1850,:

‘Releasing one of her arms, she put it down in her pocket to the elbow, and brought out some paper bags of cakes which she crammed into my pockets, and a purse which she put in my hand, but not one word did she say.’

.I suspect in the 1850s  the pockets demise among younger women  as a common item of  underwear was influenced by  the degree to which a woman could afford the fashionable cage crinolines as,though crinolines have a gap at the front it would be very difficult to access pockets via it and I have never seen an 1850s gown which had either pocket slits or was fastened in a way that would allow easy access to pockets.I personally find it easy and very useful to wear pockets under gowns from the Tudor era up until the late 1830s after which it becomes harder to accommodate a pocket.(ironically the most common use for pockets amongst re enactors is for mobile phones ! as while professional re enactments require absolute authenticity down to the lack of undergarments,,pockets are a great place to stash “forbidden modern comforts)

There are miscellaneous later references in stories but ,,the last official records I can find of tie on pockets is in the inquest notes of  the Rippers victims  from the late 1880s  one  is described as having had” A large pocket worn under the skirt and tied about the waist with strings (empty when found) another was wearing a pair of pockets and another single pocket also tie on (footnote 1)Another ripper victim Elizabeth stride  (d 1888) has a petticoat with a large pocket,,I own a mid-Victorian petticoat with such a pocket and in shape and size it mirrors the original tie on pockets  .One ripper victims (Elizabeth strides)had  contained or at least still had in it at the time she was found..

  • A key (as of a padlock)
  • A small piece of lead pencil
  • Six large and one small button
  • A comb
  • A broken piece of comb
  • A metal spoon
  • A hook (as from a dress)
  • A piece of muslin
  • One or two small pieces of paper
  • (Manchester’s  Platt hall has several lower middle class /upper lower class basic pockets which were probably of the kind worn by the  rippers victims)

cotton pocket

(This image and several more of pockets can be found in this excellent online resource for the visual arts VAD

I personally suspect pockets did not go out of use but merely changed use and were transferred to petticoats .I am not sure how long they survive in petticoats .

There is no other item of  hidden clothing for which we have such an enduring record and which changes so little in design over so long a period.

The majority of surviving pockets  up to the 1800s are almost without exception beautifully made often  they are embroidered or  use expensive fabrics gleaned from scraps of expensive gowns ,later in the 1800 to 1820 when straight regency gowns become fashionable pockets become less ornate and often white,,so as not to show under the gowns ,,a further proof I feel that pockets continued in very general use throughout the regency era of straight often light coloured gowns , The pockets seem to have continued to be less ornate up until their eventual demise but even simple pockets are still beautifully stitched .The obvious time lavished on them and the use of decoration on unseen items  is enough to tell us something of their importance to women ,pocket decoration is purely for the woman herself ,not to show off her husband’s status or her own accomplishments .

If you would like to make your own pocket the V and A Museum has a guide here


Hidden or on display?

Pockets for most of their history and in most countries were very rarely worn outside of clothing or designed to be objects of display.The pockets of the lower classes in the 16th to early 19th c might peep from beneath aprons or hitched over skirts but no lady wishing to appear genteel would usually wish hers to be on display  .Interestingly for a  while  in 16thc Italy it was briefly  fashionable for ladies to wear a lavishly made pocket at their waist , one was found tied to the body of Eleanor of Toledo beneath her satin  gown and they can be seen on numerous Italian paintings.

birth of the virgin alleri, footnote 2)

I can find no record of the fashion spreading to the UK though its possible it was a feature of fashionable”undress” wear .

pocket 16thc

footnote 1  ,The ripper victims provide a tragic but invaluable source of costume information ,unlike fashion magazines or novels these poor lower class ladies are shown in their everyday clothing The pockets found on the victims were the kind now completely lost to us ,made from rough fabrics and  purely functional those of a kind used by the poorest and lowest classes eg  Catherine Eddows owned a pair made of unbleached calico and a further single one made of bed ticking .I use this website as it is the most accurate and “user friendly”online source.

Footnote 2

The source given for detailed treatment of pockets is excellent and the website is recommended for study of 16th Italian clothing ,I do however disagree with Anea who considers the Duchess Eleanor of Toledo was buried in a gown with an integral pocket,I feel the pocket description as being tied on was accurate ,its likely she was buried with a few private possessions which may have perished .The items which survived best in Eleanor’s grave were those in very close contact with the body such as stays or stockings or those under the body ,this is because fluids escaping during putrification preserved them.

Pocket contents list has  been taken largely from information here

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Tudor and Elizabethan clothing research sources

I have been planning my new years wardrobes ,I always like to have some central theme or historical figure in mind as  it then makes it easier to focus detailed research on the gowns ,head dresses  etc.My usual choice is assorted queens from the Tudor era as the portraits of artists such as Holbein.


or master John.


All provide excellent sources for both an overall look and more importantly for visual detailing.

princess mary tudor neckline

jane-seymour-portraitHowever when using portraits for such details its a good idea to hunt around for other versions of  them and with Holbein to see if its possible to find his preliminary sketches.


For instance the famous and contemporary  portrait of Jane Seymour by Holbein  has two different versions largely identical  in pose, clothing and style though they  differ in several details eg   in one Jane wears more elaborate sleeves than in the other and there is less embroidery on the blackwork cuffs


The portrait earlier in the post if Holbein’s own “official” portrait while the other version while roughly contemporary is from the studio of Holbein and while obviously based on his original sketches differs slightly.It’s handy to play spot the difference on various portraits.

I find it helpful to examine each portrait  however famous or universally accepted as carefully as lawyer  would some important legal contract they was required to sign.

The portraits will be the foundation of any costume  and on their accuracy and reliability the authenticity of  your finished outfit and your reputation depends.However carefuly made or recreated an outfit based on a flawed source is effectively useless .I use the outfits as visual aids ,I consider them as  I would a thesis or academic paper .While it’s obviously outside my pocket to make 16thc gowns  of cloth of gold ,venetian silk damask etc  or trim hood with genuine gemstones I can do everything possible to recreate the shape ,look and layers as accurately as  possible . I always strive to have them as near to historically perfect as possible and always point out any aspects of costumes which I have been forced to compromise on

purple tudor gown

After choosing a portrait or painting I usually do the following checks


Is it actually a confirmed portrait of the person it claims to be .I do use disputed portraits but never use them for any outfit that forms the core of a teaching wardrobe ,if you’re replicating a  Tudor or Elizabethan costume for historical purposes ,knowing its function when being worn is essential and unknown sitters are useless for this .

2/ Is the portrait completely contemporary? ,later portraits ,copies etc while useful are flawed ,its unlikely later painters saw the clothing worn with their own eyes  or saw the fashions being worn .Even if the painter is copying an original lost portrait the new version will have been created with a different purpose in mind to the original ,For example consider this famous portrait of Anne Boleyn.

457px-Anne_boleynIt’s in the National portrait gallery labeled as Anne Boleyn and always used in biographies of her .It’s widely believed by the public that this is Anne’s contemporary portrait however that is not the case it is a much  later copy and only one of several versions of the same image.The one below is from Hever castle the Boleyn’s home


In all later portraits there is a hidden agenda , items may have been added to  highlight the prestige of the sitter  or details showing links to them by the person commissioning the portrait.

For example

I always have misgivings about the famous B necklace worn by Anne  in her most famous portraits .The portraits in which she is wearing it are later copies ,there is never any record of her wearing a necklace like it in verbal accounts  and it doesn’t show up on other contemporary portraits of her . There seems no reason for her to have chosen to habitually wear such a necklace.While loyal to and proud of her family ,Once in the public eye she was always very keen to stress her royal and aristocratic ties rather than her less exalted family ties .Perhaps she had a B necklace when she first went to court but wearing a B necklace for an official portrait rather than  one showing symbol of rank or some necklace with her and Henry’s arms or initial intertwined seems odd .It’s doubly suspicious to me because the source of the portraits in which she is wearing the necklace seem to be  the Hever castle painting ,Hever was the Boleyn’s seat and her family home.It seems much more likely that in later years the opportunist Boleyn family commissioned portraits of the now  famous rather than infamous Anne ,mother of the reigning queen and were keen to highlight unequivocably her origins in their family .The image bears no relation  to  most other possible images of Anne which all seem like each other but unlike the portrait.


anne  b

.I personally feel it likely the Holbein sketches are Anne and are preliminary to the lost full length portrait and the  more formally posed sketch is the basis for the medal below.


Which is our only contemporary image and  was stuck in her brief reign.To enter a detailed assessment of these portraits is beyond the scope of this post but the Anne Boleyn files contains and excellent and as always very well researched treatment of the subject here

The second  point follows on and is an extension of the above comments, do some parts  of the painting look less reliable than others ? as its possible details have been added later or mistakes made in restoring the painting.An excellent  example is the Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine


The lady is wearing a unsual hair style which is more or less impossible to recreate and a strange double heandband.The painting was heavily retouched and the veil which ran under the lady’s chin painted the same colour as her hair to match it ,Thus not only can the painting provide a misleading hairstyle but also give the impression the lady’s head is uncovered.The actual hair should look something like this ,another Leonardo portrait ,usually called La Belle Ferronnierre


It’s also handy to do a “character check” on the painting to make sure it has a satisfactory provenance.

3 /Try to always use a second and preferably  written source. For the Tudor court  the accounts of the great wardrobe  provide much detailed information on fabrics trims etc and accounts from ambassadors ,courtiers etc give details on when and where the gowns were worn ,how suitable they seemed ,the impression they created etc.I think the Medici version is called  the gardrobbe but Medici letters and documents are availible online here

4  Moving on from portraiture try to find  extant similar items  For later Elizabethan outfits we have the items and information gained from the Elizabeth 1 funeral  effigy .

effigy-corset on

The clothing removed from the original are the usual source for detailed information on the stays worn under late Elizabethan gowns.


and  are backed up not just by Elizabeth’s wardrobe accounts but also  the famous  portrait of Elizabeth Veron in a state of less than formal dress showing how they were worn .though there are minor difference in the stays in essential details they are the same



Getting the under layers correct is the basic foundation needed to have the costume look perfect and is the main problem for this era ,very few extant undergarments exist and are mostly  either from overseas and often from funeral effigy or clothing taken from re interred bodies.

For extant over gowns we have no actual  complete early  UK Tudor gowns ,we some shifts or shirts such as those below now in the museum of costume in Bath

Drea bath smocks

It is only for the later period we have extant clothing.This is largely from tombs ,effigies or religious statues .The most reliable gown we have has been restored from fragments taken from the body of Eleanor of Toledo and is not entire ,though the surving fragments allow it to be compelty recreated…the orginal gown fragments are dark the added fabric used to recreate the gown is white

extant elenaore

elenaro extant

whatever may be the moral implications of disturbing a body and removing its clothing ,the information gained from clothing taken from the Medic tombs is invaluable.The Eleanor  gown provided details of lacing ,under layers ,fabrics and trims ,a pair of stays worn with the gown were also recovered and restored


and also stockings

HOSEExEleanoraMCM2The wealth of information gained from clothing from the Medici tombs was my main reason for choosing Eleanor of Toledo as my choice for late 16th outfits this year,it would be possible to recreate an entire outfit at actual size if desired ,Sources used here include an excellent but expensive book on the  subject  Moda alla Corte dei Medici.

16thc gown

.The tomb clothes are backed up by portraits  of both Eleanore and other ladies.I will be using the gown for my Elizabethan talks and though italian it is a useful source as we have written evidence Elizabeth 1 dressed in italian style gowns and we also have contemporary portraits of Elizabeth shown directly below and other ladies  such as Mary queen of Scotts seen under the Elizabeth portrait in similar gowns.


black dress mary

The Eleanore funeral gown is backed up by other extant items such as the Pisa gown ,cut in exactly the same way as the Eleanor gown and with similar decoration .

pisa gown

The uk is represented by some very late Elizabethan /early  Stuart overgowns and jackets most of which are in the V and A museum and can be viewed online

vam overgownThe most useful  Uk item for teaching purposes is this jacket dated by the portrait in which it appears to 1620s but in basic design  the same  that is seen in earlier late Elizabethan portraits such as the Elizabeth Veron one


Once I have a firm idea of the underlying look and shape of accurate gowns I usually turn to costume dramas which have gained a respected reputation for accuracy for example Elizabeth R which created details  replica gowns from many of Elizabeth’s portraits including this excellent  incredibly detailed replica

elizabth r gown

Created using the little known phoenix portrait.

Elizabeth20 phoennix

Or this equally impressive replica of a much more famous outfit based on the Ditchley portrait

mitchley side

385px-Queen_Elizabeth_I_('The_Ditchley_portrait')_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_YoungerThis outfit perfectly illustrates the advantage of using reputable costume dramas is it recreates the back of the gown which is barely glimpsed on portrait.

ditchley back

It also highlight a problem in creating costumes for use in public ,Most people assumed that the series had taken liberties with the back of the gown however a close look at the portrait shows that the back is indeed made from a more or less identical  fabric.Its occasionaly better if creating gowns for  non academic events to alter them slightly ,for instance make the back of this gown white as is assumed is the case as opposed to them more accurate version above.

The final use of costume drama is to see how comfortable or uncomfortable a gown is likely to be and how it moves, how much it limits movement and how much space it takes up .

Having used Elizabeth R as an example of good costume dramas which used respected costumers,original extant sources and sound research I would like to add a cautionary word about popular and well known though much less reliable costume dramas,some were nominated or won costume Oscars or awards which can give the impression of reliability however awards are judged by many criteria and visual impact is much more important than accuracy

The other Boleyn  girl is infamous in costuming circles for the liberties taken with Tudor costumes ,from the slightly less noticeable flaws such as the weird  far too short french hoods ,with coloured rather than black veils in Marys case and none at all in Annes ..

The Other Boleyn Girl

The hoods are  also shown with gowns of a much later style but most infamous are the “dressing gowns /Overgowns which seem based on mens 18thc dressing gowns


Yes even badly costumed films do occasionally provide helpful inspiration for instance the Other Boleyn girls contains two excellent and surprisingly accurate versions of the rarely used English intermediate hood ,,all be it worn far to back on the head in Marys case


Another popular misconception gained from movies and series such as ,La rein Margot,The other Boleyn girl and the Tudors is that 16th women habitually wore gowns slipping off their shoulders

la_reine_margot_1993_diaporama_portraitOr without the prerequisite  under layers


Though I love this red gown ,none of the ladies have on chemises or the correct petticoats.The drastic effects of poor layering can be seen in the two contrasting images of a stunning Elizabeth R gown .(images from costume movies and screen stills can be seen here (

eliz green gown

which can been seen 1 hour 4 mins into the episode the marriage game

and again worn in a much less impressive manner and with poor attention to detail and without the correct layers in The acclaimed saga of England’s virgin queen here

tudorelizabethan055.2Other examples of reused gowns can be seen here,the results often show the necessity for correct underlayers and accessories,though in some instances they are useful for seeing  how a gown can be changed to look different once its been used.

I hope this has been a helpful post both in providing sources of extant items and in giving general tips for costume research

There is an extreemly exhaustive list of historical costume sources to be found

Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, costume research, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A day in the life of Emily Bronte ?

I have been working on displays for the day long Bronte event and thinking over possible subjects  .I decided a display on  “a day in the life “would be something that people would find interesting and which I could probably put together with a reasonable amount of accuracy having lived from time to time in a similar manner  to the Victorians ,,though with the modern convienances  of  plumbing  (usually) running water  and an inside toilet.For several years we lived in the very far north of Scotland in a tiny village at the end on a peninsula .(our house first house was near the blue house on the far left our second at the very far right on the seafront with a long front sun porch )



The long road to the village  meant that we were also at the very end of the power and utility lines .It was more common than otherwise to wake up in winter to have no power ,,indeed friends still living in the area reported waking up  with no lights or heating  on three days  last week .

We know that Emily got up early ,,before the servants to do the heavy work such setting the fires and that the Brontes like ourselves and our friends had pets and /or livestock so the early morning  and late night routine in  is probably a pretty accurate .I have based the later morning and afternoon on the average occupations of a Victorian lady and the night is again based on personal experience or that of friends.

(Image below From the BBC series Jane Eyre)

jane wakes

Emilys day

nightgown 1830

1/ Wake up,pull back bed curtains  light a candle ,put on thick socks ,warm shoes,dressing gown (or wrapper gown) and shawl.(there’s no point in washing at this stage in the day as everything your about to do is messy and it’s not impossible that any water in the bedroom kept for washing has a skimming of ice ,(,our washing up water  in the kitchen froze on a couple of occasions and our house had modern insulation).Pull the bed covers back to air the bed .


2/Take your candle and light a candle or lamp on the stairs so the next person up doesn’t need to grope around .Do this in all the rooms that will be used while it’s still dark.The image from Jane Eyre above is excellent as it show the ladies in their correct nightwear and the way everyone had candles to get around.

3/Stoke up the kitchen range and put the kettle on.


4/ Let the house dogs outside or if the dog sleeps outside let it in .Break any ice on the livestock  waterbowls,collect any eggs otherwise once theres no longer birds to keep them warm you end up with frozen eggs,we collected frozen eggs on occasion and they were not particularly pleasant.


5/ make a pot of tea (or coffee) to get warm , have a piece of bread and butter,then put on coarse cloth oversleeves and apron.

a_victorian_maid fires

6/We know Emily rose early to do the elderly servants morning jobs so she would  clean the grates and  tidy out the bedded down fires relighting the ones in rooms likely to be used  during the day and setting fires ready to light in the other rooms.She would need restock the coal scuttles , clean and dust the fireplace and sweep the hearth ,reuse large chunks of charcoal ,,, maybe add the removed tiny cinders to the paths at the back of the house .I would bring in kindling regularly to dry it for fire lighting and  I would also bring in logs to store  somewhere inside so they burned well but the Brontes probably used coal or at least had servants to bring in logs.


7/dust the areas of the room close to the fire to remove soot,peat dust etc which settles with alarming regularity each day.


8 /Trim the wicks, clean the chimneys and shades of any oil lamps and refill with oil, (pre paraffin oil was muckier than later paraffin) Most lighting in the Brontes era would have been by candles .Tidy any candles still ok  trim around the wick if needed ,replace all the used candles ,clean any wax off the candle holders

Luckily I didn’t have to do then next bit but Emily would need to bring in water from the pump for breakfast,I am not sure what the Parsonage water pump looked like but I didn’t see taps or tanks so water would have needed collecting from outside.

servant water

9/wash hands and possibly face  and remove coarse cloth apron and oversleeves ,put on new clean plain better quality apron  maybe do your hair at this point Emily wore hers  up at the back of her head twisted and held in place with a spanish style comb

perhaps now or soon after open shutters and any curtains

10/Set table for breakfast ,,have breakfast when everyone’s down .
Morning Prayers.

we know th Brontes had prayer time .


Housework next


while tabby and later younger servants would have done some of this ,while Tabby was ill and later too old for kneeling on floors Emily probably did some or all of these tasks at some point ,Daily work would typically involve sweeping the hall free of dust mud etc and I would imagine in wet weather scrubbing the hall floor and  kitchen floor as pets tread in mud .Then scrub the kitchen table  ,sweep the rooms floors and stairs ,maybe shaking out and beating any hearth rugs if any in the front room  and kitchen as they tend to get dusty from soot or ash ,wiping down any lower woodwork that might be mudded  by the dogs brushing against it or shaking themselves when coming in wet ,plumping cushions ,airing the beds making the beds  ,Donkey stoning the Front step.

donkey stoning

Donkey stone was a funny hard substance that when damp could be rubbed on stone a bit like chalk  to create a lighter  bright finish to stone flags ,,Its was a source of pride to have a donkey stoned clean step,,I can remember the women in my grandmas row of houses doing their steps,I did it a couple of times as it seemed fun  ,,at pre school age its was fun but hard on the hands .It didnt last long either and smudged

do nkey stone

The Parsonage definitely  “did its steps” as can been seen in the photo below

bronte parsonahe bronte era 1850

Sweeping the  outdoor paths would  probably be done by the servants as would black leading the range.polishing , front door  and its fittings ,knockers, boot scrapers etc.

Next as everyone is now up and about their day you can sort out the bedrooms ,Change the wash stand towels ,wash the washstand bowls,


Bring in water and ,refill the  wash stand jugs with water.Empty chamber pots ,swill  buckets,

collect and empty Hot water bottles ,


bed warmers ,foot warmers,perhaps fill dogs water bowls .refill flower vases check any flowers in vases to make sure they look ok.

(Probably on wash day you would now get dressed )

Once weekly wash day


washing clothes ,,ideally done by servants but they seem to have regularly been  helped by the Brontes,In North and South by Mrs Gaskel the heroine also helps on washing days of it seems likely that most young ladies from less well off families secretly did their bit  ,,likewise Ironing ,,not just clothing but bedding ,towels which were made from cotton or lien not the fully towelling of modern towels. several table clothes,tray clothes ,napkins,,  We know Emily ironed some items as she was using an Italian iron used for finer work when she was bitten by a dog .

This list below is a conservative estimate of a weekly Bronte  wash load for an average of two beds for the Brontes (women often shared beds )and one bed for a servant  or servants and assumes not all bedding was washed every week but in rotation

4 sheets

4 pillow cases ,2 bolster pillow cases


10  handtowels towels plus shaving clothes for the men

assorted Kitchen hand towels  tea towels,dish clothes ,glass clothes ,dusting and window clothes, and in addition probably towels or similar used for drying the dogs

at least 7 tablecloths,6 traycloths,10 napkins

(a clean fresh looking one would always be used for each main meal,,eating Breakfast and supper at the kitchen table would mean less washing of table linen.Tray clothes for Mr Bronte meals ,visitors afternoon teas ,napkins  for 4  people and Mr Bronte and those for guests at afternoon teas etc.

10  or more Aprons

(A clean one would always be used for  major batches  of baking and certainly a clean dress apron for smart day wear so for Emily ,Charlotte and at least one servant that would amount to at least 10 a week,probably more depending on how often the morning coarse aprons used for cleaning grates were washed .

5/6 pairs Under sleeves probably collars ,mittens,tippets etc as well

6 chemises

5  nightdresses, the girls plus servants

2 to 4  mens night shirts

6 to 8 petticoats

8 pairs stockings at least

21 or more handkerchiefs,,

4 wrapper dresses

most  of these items would also need starching,,collars cuffs, some petticoats,

Storing linen meant using lavender ,moth balls etc.

Once the housework was done

When the early morning  housework was done ,it would be time to dress properly go upstairs put on  a corset petticoats  a day dress ,collar ,cuffs or undersleeves  and mittens,perhaps also an apron.I very much doubt on days when there was no guests Staying or visitors expected that anyone would fully dress before the grates etc where done as its very hard to bend down for any length of time in corsets and wrapper gowns were  usually made of less expensive fabric with fewer frills,trims and flounces so where  easier to wash frequently than the more expensive gowns and certainly I can’t imagine anyone wanting to get too many petticoats wet and mucky from ,ash or soot or soapy floor cleaning water

Go downstairs do any baking ,bread ,pies for the days meals ,maybe custards ,ricepuddings,  some days also  the more in-depth weekly bake of cakes ,jam making, pickles making .We know Emily made bread from the story of her learning German from a book propped in front of her  while she worked.

mrsbeetonchops off head of turtle in bbc adaptation

Set table for lunch ,eat lunch ,clear table,wash ,dry and put away the lunch plates cups etc

kitchen maid pots

Light fires in rooms only used later in the day .

musical instrument practice maybe ,now or perhaps in the early evening


Now is the time to do essential  but Socialy acceptable  ladylike work  which would be ok to be interrupted  during should a visitor arrive. Light sewing (making household items or clothing such as petticoats  dresses etc, would be done in more private times earlier in the day or later after tea when the light allowed ) but crocheting lace,tatting,embroidering cuffs ,handkerchiefs , making baby clothes for the poor or for friends ,making pockets, purses, mittens etc was all allowable at this time of the day .


Some days you would probably receive visitors make and set trays for afternoon tea.Most visitors ,maybe curates ,people on parish business ,sunday school teachers, vergers, friends, all would require at the very least a  tea tray laying ,while many would also require cakes and possibly bread ,butter and cold meats or pies .On some other days you would make visits to parishioners, the sick ,to shops or friends.This ought to done in the afternoon as you won’t be catching the homeowners in their flurry of housework or during preparations for their evening meal ,though mill workers might be visited later in the day.


You would need to shop for items  either daily as  in most fresh  foods such as Milk Meat ,fish,fruit and some vegetables ,though some might be grown in a cottage garden and  many others might be delivered,also less frequently special trips for fabrics ,paper, medicines ,cleaning stuffs,

If going out ,put on gloves,bonnet ,shawl and cape or mantle,take muff in bad weather,if  formally visiting you should ideally change your  collar and cuffs for smarter ones,for  formal visits to upper class guests  perhaps even change your gown

Walk dogs, so again don outside wear  shawl ,bonnet ,gloves change shoes (I also think it likely there were designated walking clothes  which where older items already past their best,maybe kept in the back kitchen.As I have done a lot of Bronte work I have seen the damage done to petticoats and shoes etc by mud and peat ,even with a modern washing machine and stain remover I have never succeeded in removing peat stains from petticoats and gown and cloak hems .while soaked bonnets never again look their best ,so I think they had special bonnets ,gloves, stockings ,shoes ,maybe even petticoats and dresses in very bad weather)

muddy skirts

Make tea .evening meal

set table for evening meal,eat evening meal.

maid cleaning table

Clear evening meal plates wash and dry,scour any pans

feed scraps  to dogs and cats ,feed dogs

Light candles ,lamps etc ,maybe bedroom fires on cold nights,perhaps bring in some water ready for the next morning

put Hens chickens etc in their hutches or coups,lock doors,close shutters around the house


Free time for reading, writing ,talking,letter writing maybe ,it’s quite hard to sew by candle or lamplight so if any fine sewing was done I suspect it would be tapestry  or rug work where tiny stitches were not needed

before bed perhaps snack supper of Bread and Butter  in summer ,or bread or teacakes toasted on the fire  in winter with tea.

LP56-toast-toasting fork-fire-kettle

Evening Prayers

Let cats and dogs out

fill bedwarmers and hot water bottles ,wind clocks

,”bed down” the fires ,,covering with ashes to keep them barely in and thus avoiding having to kindle a fire in the morning and  making them safe to leave overnight without wasting fuel.

Bed ,take off ,shoes ,collar ,cuffs ,dress ,petticoats corset chemise,,stockings, put on bed socks ,nightdress ,night cap.make sure bedroom fire is safe for the night,put out your candle

Posted in 19thc, brontes, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

An easy cheats guide to making Victorian dress

As part two of my make your own Victorian outfit I will do a quick cheats guide to making a gown the instructions will create a gown like this.I also give instructions on how to make a  cheats bustle gown but this is a slightly harder project

To make this you will need

Some wide pretty lace or fringe or beaded trim  for the neckline

A commercial  boned evening /clubbing bodice such as this

This is to recover  for your dress bodice ,try to find ones that are well made  such as wit and wisdom ,top shop etc are best as they come with straps,Or if you don’t have or can’t find any of these you can buy a boned corset in the style  below  from ebay ,these are more trouble to work with as they can,t be cut to make a v at the front and will need the front fastening part sewn together then had a strip of fabric stitched over the studs to stop them showing through.

When choosing a top idealy buy a size larger than you need as once it’s recovered it wont stretch and you may also need to cut off a back zip will make the bodice even smaller.

fabric etc

you will need ,cotton and at least two needles,

scissors ,


around 4 metres of very thin curtain cord ,ribbon or thong,,you need something around shoelace width ideally or as narrow as possible this will be used for lacing up the back of your gown.You can if your very short of time and resources use ribbon but this will look odd unless you make a very long back flounce to cover most of it.Cord by contrast isn’t really noticeable

You will need around 5 metres of fabric,,the dress above is Damask most of the others are taffeta ,but you can use cotton ,velvet ,silk or satin.

you can buy taffeta fairly cheap off  ebay from around £2.99 metre .It’s also possible to use a cotton floral duvet cover  such as this from Ikea which has become very popular with costumers as it’s almost a copy of late 18th early 19th c fabric

Patterned cotton is a good choice as its very easy to hide bad stitching or wobbly seams and looks really authentic

or  find a pair of curtains in a charity shop .If you are lucky enough to find some vintage silk or velvet curtains when you cut the skirt make sure you utilise the hem of the curtain,,its likely to look very machine sewn but you can always cover the line of hem stitching with narrow trim of ribbon,lace or fringe etc.I made a mistake hemming the gown below and used velvet ribbon to hide the old hemline

Mrs rochester3

(The  pelerine “collar” here is a tray cloth restyled )I dont advise using striped or checked fabric as its harder to match on the sleeves and bodice .



Make the skirt ,this is fairly easy ,hold the fabric against you until you can be certain you know where to cut to make it the right length ,,if your make a skirt that will go over a hoop or net petticoat make it at least 3 ins longer than you need as the hoop will make it higher ,if it’s going over a very wide hoop leave  at least 6 ins ,this may be too much but better safe than sorry .Mistakes at this point will be hard and time-consuming to correct so leave the piece longer rather than shorter .If you do make a mistake ,it’s not the end of your project  you can buy a wide strip of lace or contrasting fabric to sew around the bottom of the hem but its extra expense and trouble as its hard to sew trim on straight when a skirts already been sewn together and as can be seen below not very noticeable

Mrs Rochester


Having cut a long strip of your fabric or two strips if you’re using curtains or a duvet ,sew them together ,leaving a few inches at the top ,this will be the back of your dress and the gap will be at the centre back of your dress ,its going to need to fit over your head through.


cut a  wide (3/4 in) strip of fabric or ribbon exactly the right length to go around your waist


Run a needle and thread along the top of the “skirt and pull it into gathers until its the same size as your ribbon leave around 1 in   un gathered at either side of the gap and fold these over to make a neater edge.If you want a neater skirt you can pleat it but this is harder


Sew the gathered up “skirt” onto the ribbon ,it doesn’t  need to be overly neat as it will be hidden under the bodice but the stitches need to be close and strong ,,using the thread double is the easiest way .Fold the ribbon over the top of the gathered up skirt piece and stitch it down.


Its helps to iron the waistband as flat as possible as it reduces bulk at the waist but it’s not essential,,don’t forget to iron it inside out .
If the skirt needs hemming try it over the hoop then cut to length and hem ., do a narrow hem so your stitches are close to the floor when the skirts on as ,no ones likely to notice how neat the hemline stitches are so as long as its a colour of cotton close to the fabric you don’t need to worry too much about evenness or neatness.If you feel like going the extra mile you can add velvet ribbon or fringe etc trim to cover the stitches but it’s rarely noticed.

If you really dont have time or dont want to hem the gown you could use pinking shears or scalloped edged scissors to create a hemline .The Gown below has no hems whatsoever.

The gown below could also be made instead of a single tier gown if you have been able to find very wide but short curtains or two pairs of curtains not quite long enough to make a single tier skirt ,the curtains could be used individually as a tier each .If you can find a long skirt of some kind to sew them onto that would make life easier but if not you could use a sheet as the base for the tier layers .Just follow the original skirt instructions for any under skirt and the tiers

green dres

7 /optional

Make two puff sleeves ,cut two generous  long rectangles of fabric that are wide enough to reach your elbow or above depending on how long you want the sleeves.Sew the  sleeve ends together to make a cylinder,now gather the bottom ,keep trying it on your arm until it’s how you would like it ,now you can fold over the rough edge and stitch it roughly ,,cover your stitches with some gathered lace.,repeat with the other sleeve .leave the tops of both rough until you finish your bodice..Its not essential to have sleeves you can just add very deep  lace (see the green and blue gowns below). If you used curtains and dont have spare fabric you could  use a  different fabric for the sleeves such as tulle or lace .A deep venise lace flounce will usually look fine though.

dark green gown

To make a long sleeved gown is harder but essential the same cut a rectangle but htis time hold it against your arm to work out how it needs to be shaped to make a fitted sleeve ,Alternatively make the puffed sleeves elbow length

emily shoot pars

or  make the top narrower  and leave them ungathered at the bottom to make the wide flared victorian sleeves below

cb birthday pars


Make bodice,first cut the front waist to the shape you want,start with smaller cuts than you feel might be needed just in case you make a mistake ,then trim a bit at a time

Next cut off any back zip,if you keep this but cut off the knobbly base and remove the actual zipper it is useful to put this at the back edge of your gown between the edge and the lacing holes as this will prevent tears to the fabric

Now you  begin covering the bodice  place a piece of fabric in the centre front and tack it down ,If you have a pretty decorated piece of fabric or a jewelled panel from a evening gown(this is from an Asian Dupata ) it can look very effective.

bodice front

but if not use the same fabric as for the rest of the gown.Make this piece of fabric wide enough to reach from strap to strap but no wider and lay it on the fabric

Next lay a piece of fabric next to the front panel at what ever angle you think looks best and so that the right side of the fabric is face down on top of the bodice  ,if in doubt you can lay it along a boned panel in the bodice so you can a stitching guide and can be sure each side will be the same .It doesn’t need to be long enough to completely cover the strap you can patch this up later with spare pieces as its easier and the piecing wont show as its going to be covered by lace.

Now stitch it down leaving at least an inch overlap on the pieces so that is theres a later tear on the seam you dont automatically see the bodice underneath .Stitch this  row of stitches over again ,this stitching needs to be very strong ,flip the fabric over so its right side is showing and tack its edge down as you did the front piece ,now repeat the process  at the opposite side. Now repeat it at each side with another strip of fabric on and so on until you have covered both sides of the bodice,For a typically Victorian look its best to use at least four.

brown bronte gown

and separate panels either side but you can use just three as below

Now tuck the bottom and top edges neatly under the bodice and tack down.

When you reach the back fold the edges of the final piece over and stitch it inside the bodice .If this is the right size then you can move on to the final steps ,if not add another piece of the fabric in the same manner as the other pieces ,however on the final piece slip the only zip tracking into the edge and secure with a few stitches,,this will give a firm edge to hold the bodice in shape once you add the lacing holes

lastly piece up any gaps on the strap parts and sew the puff sleeves into the bodice ,gather them as needed to make them fit ,Its best to try to keep the gathers at the top of the arms but not essential as the lace will  hide any mistakes.The finished gown minus the lace trim will look roughly like this


Add the gathered lace to the neckline,if you can find old lace ,or an old tablecloth or tray cloth to cut lace off it will make the dress look more authentic but it does cause problems for washing.

,Modern venice /venise lace is best as its easy to wash but looks authentic,this can be bought from ebay or fabric stores.

If you want a day gown not an evening gown you can use a long thin table runner or tray cloth cut it part way down the middle and cut a small semi circle out of  the top of this  cut to make a faux Victorian collar or pelerine as seen here,this could also go over a low necked gown to make it an day gown

brown bronte gown

lastly make holes at the back of the bodice to thread ribbon or ideally cord through the lace the bodice shut when on.If you have spare fabric its best to save a piece to put inside the bodice to cover any gap between the two back parts of the bodice once on ,but you may wish to try the bodice on first as if it meets perfectly you may not want to bother with this stage ,,though save some fabric just incase you need to do it later .To make the holes you ideally need  a bodkin,,I have rarely used one though ,you can just as easily use a DIY bradel, a sharp kebab or similar skewer or any other sharp point object you may have to hand ,,dont use scissors as they make holes that are too big and dont use a knife as it will slash the fabric and possible your finger as well .I usually add holes at around 2/3 inch intervals but it’s entirely up to you and what you feel is needed .

To thread the lacing cord in seal each end of the cord tightly by wrapping cellotape or parcel tape around it to stop it unravelling.

try on the bodice ,if it fits tack on your skirt ,you can leave the back gap in the skirt  as its rarely noticeable but if you prefer to have it closed you can buy stick on velcro.

Bustle gowns

The bodices of these gowns can be made following the instructions above ,Leaving out the puffed sleeves as this is not a style used in bustle gowns.To decorate the neckline use either lace or beaded trim.

peacock blue bustle dress bodice

To make the front draped bit add a very wide and long blunted ended triangle of fabric  (ie cut and very long triangle longer at the front then chop two triangles off each end .Now  stitch it to the bodice long bit at the front .Make the bit were you sew it to the waist  flat at the front gathered at the sides  until it goes all around  to the centre  back ,this should create a little bit of a draped front and ,if you make this piece long and wide enough you should  be able to gather it into a reasonable draped shape by playing about the the blunt ends of the fabric panel ,try sewing ribbon to the end  of the blunt ended edges or use a safety pin and keep experimenting with how to drape it.Dont worry if the v isn’t central some bustle gowns didnt have exactly central front drapes .

pink bustle dress


I will give instructions for creating the bustle bit further along but first the easy bit. The skirt can be made almost the same way but instead of gathering the waistline all the way around  leave the front  straight ,just gather the sides a little bit  and back more .For the hemline instead of making it exactly the same all the way around cut the front higher and the back longer to give some extra length to go over the bustle ,,a trained gown is ideal so you do not  have to worry too much as getting the back length exact .The skirt in bustle gowns cant be sewn onto the bodice as theres another layer over it .You can just leave it without a proper waistline and add ribbon ties or velcro fastening The gowns below. followed the same bodice instructions .

hunter green bustle dress


me john

The hard part of bustle gowns is the  actual bustling and this is difficult .I usually make bustle gowns in three parts sometimes more .The bodice ,the skirt and the bustle.For the bustle I use assorted sized pieces and assorted shapes .You can use a long wide piece of fabric and simply  gather it up at each end.then get a narrow piece and do the same and another piece this will give three gathered tiers add these to a long piece of ribbon and tie onto your waist over the skirt then put the bodice on.

Thats basically  what this bustle is .

hunter green bustle dress

.Alternatively do one long gathered rectangle gathered as above and make some little flounces , cut  a small long  rectangle and gather it at the top ,then sew it to a piece of ribbon to make a little frilled back

green cotton bustle dress

Or cut a lot of the little frills onto a long strip of fabric

black dress side train

Bustle dresses need a lot of time spent hemming but you can get around this if you add frills that are edged with pinking shears as in the red gown below


All the dresses shown in this post were made using this method and it can be used  to make Tudor , Elizabethan and restoration  bodices in the same manner but you will need different sleeves .For early Tudor gowns you can omit adding a front  v to the waistband and just cover the bodice as it is ,likewise for the Restoration gown below  for Elizabethan bodices ideally a longer v shaped front but its not essential

green and gold gowngreen tudor gown front

,please do comment at the foot of the post if you need any further help .

Further DIY clothing posts are here

and lastly ,though its a Regency bonnet the instructions will work for an early Victorian bonnet also

Posted in 19thc, brontes, Hathaways of Haworth, history, work | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Charlotte Brontes wardrobe unlocked The going away Gown

This was a dress I had been hoping to examine closely as its one of the gowns which can be assigned to Charlotte with absolute certainty and one I had tried to replicate (unsuccessfully) from memory .It was the first gown that I caught sight of on my arrival at the library ,the hem just peeking out from its layers of careful wraping.The dress is made from good quality very crisp silk and the hem further stiffened with corded fabric edging so the skirt of the gown  stood out in stiff but graceful folds that for some reason brought to mind those statutes of ladies that recline on Tudor and Elizabethan graves their petticoats and gowns all falling in stiffly folded curves around their feet.

With so much to see I was unsure which of the gowns to examine first but as the mysterious Brown gown lay closest to me I decided to start there and leave the Iconic and well-known  going away /Honeymoon gown for later.

It’s a strange and moving item ,the stiffness of the fabric  and the gowns construction  almost creates an impression of an occupant and  its strange to imagine what is now laid out with such care  on a table was once hung neatly upstairs with similar care waiting Charlotte’s arrival from her wedding at the nearby church and just a few hours later would have been clothing Charlotte as she walked happily out of the Parsonage door to start her Honeymoon tour .I suspect it arrived at its destination hours later rather less crisp and pristine than it now looks but  such is the case with all natural fabrics  and the gown was an eminently sensible choice for traveling .

It’s beautifuly tailored with a  comfortably cut double bodice giving an extra layer of warmth  .The loose sleeves and front fastening bodice making it comfortable in heat  of the day or cold  of the evening and easy for tired travel weary figners to remove.The dark but elegant colours are  less likely to show mud spatters or spills.Smart and very fashionable but not overly showy,The collar shows signs  of the same (now)  gold silk fringing as the waistline and when new this probably shone attractively in the sunlight making  the gown look less dark than it seems laid out flat .

I  know some gowns can change colour over time and I am not sure how  or if this fabric has changed colour with age,I know is widely considered to have been mauve ,,though mauve was an exepnsive colour to buy in the first half of the victorian age,, ,it’s always been carefully stored so there’s no sunlight fading  or fading from washing ,discolouration from coal or woodsmoke fires etc and its doesnt look markedly different inside so  the colour change must have been within the fabric itself and I dont know enough about fabric conservation to know how early victorian dyes age,certainly later analine dyes can fade but this would have been pre analine .There does seem to be possible signs of shattering at the neck ,which is  no reflection on its conseravtion ,its tragicaly an unavoidable result of reactions within some silks to  metals used in the dying process so may be thats also caused discolouration. I think as its trimmed with the gold look fringing and the mid brown corded velvet fabric  it was probably always fairly dark ,though perhaps with more colour evident.

Sadly the dress shows very little sign of use ,the lining along the hemlines is pristine,There is areas of damage at the neckline but they may be fabric aging or from a brooch or caused by its outing on a model in the early days or the 20th c.Theres also some odd pin marks along the hemline which look like a previouse hem line but that seems odd as theres less than an inch difference .Despite these I dont think the gown saw major ,its impossible to remove hemline staining from mud or general pavement dust and debris (as anyone trying to resell a modern wedding or prom gown knows) and this gown has none of those which I am pretty certain it would have had it been worn around Haworth,for country walks or in a victorian town.

It’s possible it only saw one outing on the day Charlotte left for her honeymoon.

I did not however examine this as closely as the other items as while I was extremely careful will all the clothing I confess to being so nervous of damaging this gown that I had to will myself to move any part of it and the fabric does seem to be rather fragile in some places on the bodice .I am used to examining artifacts and usually  focus on the item before me to the exclusion  of other thoughts but in the case of this gown I  felt an almost unbearable sadness that this tiny  gown had seen such high hopes and happiness yet months later was probably hidden away in a trunk  it’s very sight a source of pain and sorrow .

The gown is  very full skirted like most of Charlotte’s later gowns  but is not in fact an actual gown but a two-part outfit ,as was becoming fashionable at the time ,this allowed for an extra bodice to be made to convert gowns to a secondary use without requiring a complete change of clothing ,,perhaps this gown also had a second bodice now lost,It is beautifully and I would guess professionayl made and much more detailed on a closer inspection that it seems when viewed in the small postcard images.

It has a very complex construction compared to the other gowns ,the pleated bodice being built on a more tailored underbodice.The bodice had a  detailed  waist trimmed with silk fringe.It is trimmed at the hem ,cuff and neck with mid brown corded possible velvet fabric .Its fastens  with hooks and eyes .It’s a telling contrast to the earlier Brown gown laid next to it which  while it was carefully and neatly cut and sewn  was almost certainly homemade with several signs of wear,the brown  gown seemed to me at  to shout governess or at least teacher as do some of the other earlier gowns in the parsonage online collection  .This outfit was that of a  reasonable wealthy fashionable middle class lady .

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Anne of Cleves ,not as bad as shes painted

The Lady seems to have had a bad press ,Henry’s wives tend to be used to embody almost every female stereotype that exists ,The faithful ,longsuffering wife,, Catherine of Aragon ,,the adventuress and other woman ,,Ann Bolyne, the  chaste ,gentle and quiet loved and tragically  lost young mother ,Jane Seymour ,the ugly ,stupid frumpy ,Ann ,the young silly strumpet,Catherine Howard ,the good  wise  older woman /stepmother Katherine Parr. The labels are usually wrong based on Victorian writers or hearsay and when  occasionally accurate tell nothing like the whole story ,,For example Henry VIII is supposed to have loved  the  virtuouos  and shy  Jane Seymour , yet Jane was quite old by Tudor standards,, well over 25  and a woman that’s very probably jane is caught sat on Henry’s  knee while hes still married to Ann ,which doesnt seem very maiden like behavior. Likewise Henry is supposed to have  been devoted to Jane ,yet when  he saw Janes newly arrived Ladies in waiting he was heard to say that had he seen them before he would never have married Jane ,within months of their marriage he had taken a mistress and though he was certainly extremely upset by her death  and actually wore mourning for several months ,the letters sent out to inform ambassadors of Jane’s death also mentioned he was inline for another wife .

In this light we should therefore reassess Ann.The first portrait we always see of Ann is the longer version of a miniature painted by Hans Holbein

The smaller miniature in its pretty ivory box seen here was part of a number of mail order bride portraits Henry commissioned so asses the merits of potential brides.

The miniature was enough to persuade Henry to send Holbein off to paint an expensive full length portrait of Ann and the full length version sold Henry on Ann as his next bride.Interestingly no one even Henry complained the portrait was inaccurate and Holbein remained Henry VIII and the courts painter of choice.The mystery may be partly solved by a side view image of Ann.

The features that look regular and attractive front on do seem rather sharp and angular side on and its been suggested Anns nose was much longer and the painting may have been retouched.Even so to me at least she still doesn’t seem that bad,She seems to be prettier than her predessor Jane Seymour.

and not unlike her successor the pretty Katherine Howard as far as facial features go.

In fact to me this portrait above seems more likely to be Anne than Catherine ,the attribution of the portrait as one of Catherine is based mostly on the fact the lady is wearing royal jewels and yet this portrait is nothing like almost every other portrait thats linked to Catherine or has in the past been said to be her.Other potential portraits of Catherine are always in the same basic style and shes always wearing the same style of clothing

I think it not impossible therefore that the minture portrait of the lady with a rich jewelled hood and the queens jewels  is  one of Ann .We think of Anne as always dressed in the highwaisted Flemish style but she quickly adjusted to English court life and did not continue to wear Flemish clothing long after her arrival but soon adopted English fashions.The lady in the miniature portrait is quite curvey as is Ann and has a similar stance and facial features ,she also seems older than the very young Catherine Howard who was almost certainly a teenager when Henry met her and may have been in her late teens as queen .

Its uncertain why Henry found Ann unattractive , when Henry remarried there were a number of occasions when both Ann and hes new wife Catherine were together at events,sometimes dancing together and Several ambassadors remarked that Catherine was not as pretty as Ann who Henry thought ugly.(when she took to wearing English dress for the first time after the wedding, one contemporary remarked that the fashion ‘set forth her beauty and good visage that every creature rejoyced to behold her’)( quote compliments of Ms sunydale)The problem Henry had with Ann appears to be less black and white than the Flanders Mare comments suggests.

Its likely that one thing Henry really disliked was her figure ,he singles it out for complaint in his comments to courtiers and she is far more buxom than his other wives ,Henry seems to have liked small breasted petite built ladies and Ann is always shown as curvy.Likewise her succesor Katherine was extreemly petite

It’s also  likely it was her lack of English ,social skills and “elegant accomplishments” that most soured the relationship.They certainly got off to a bad start as Henry who liked to play games of courtly love appeared to Ann on her arrival “in disguise “,Ann didn’t recognise him ,treated him rather coldly and when he tried to kiss her ,its possible she may have slapped him ,,not what Henry would have expected.Ann was probably never likely to make up ground from this first meeting .

Unknown woman at the court of Henry VIII suggested as either Ann or her sister Amelia

Despite being discarded I can’t help feeling of all Henrys wives Anne was the most fortunate ,,She spent very little time living with him,He was so nice to her while they were together she thought everything was fine more or less up to the point where she was “dumped”She got along ok with Henry but doesnt seem to have been in love with him unlike his unforunate first wives and she got a very handsome settlement during Henry life, a high position when at court and enjoyed a great deal of liberty not given to most women at that time and certainly more than she would have had in cleves.She also seems to have avoided Henrys amorous attentions which considering his vast build ,stinking leg ulcer and bad breadth was probably not a bad thing .While her fortunes were less good under his successors ,she survived both Henry and his other wives and apart from a slight run in with Henrys secret service was usualy left in peace .

Posted in 16thc/17thc, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewells and new starts

I have this week finished my last costumes and accessories ,I will rarely if ever be making new costumes .While I may add the occasional new costuming post they will be much less frequent ,though I still hope to answer any queries on the “cheats costuming guides “as quickly as possible ,after almost a decade of costume work I thought  would add one final series of short post that covers my all time favourites and cheats guides how to make them.There are no dresses shown here that could not be made by absolutely anyone however inexperienced and they do not need anything other than a needle, cottons ,scissors ,a modern clubbing or evening boned bodice /corset top and some fabric .The only other essential is time and patience .

This post will show the costumes and I will attempt to cover each outfit before the end of 2015.I will add links as each costume  related post is finished

I am hard pressed  to think of one complete favourite but from each era theres a gown I really loved ,from the Elizabethan ,late Renaissance its this gown as it was extremely comfortable and also very adaptable.

queenie unedited

The gown shown front laced over a under panel with wrist and neck ruffs,wide hoop bum roll and soft boned corset

ven gown

The gown shown Venetian style Front laced over just a chemise and narrow hoop.

Below is the gowns first incarnation ,I originally had tie on sleeves  ,something I can heartily recommend against,they are incredibly difficult to tie on without help ,they are incredibly hard to get the chemise to pouf out from without having a very full chemise sleeve and they are a pain in the neck to keep on,I also didnt like the gown back lacing.

The front lacing version was easy to get into without help ,its probably the only renaissance dress I was able to get into unaided

la reine margot gown

It uses 4 metres of red and gold faux silk damask ,but you could also use cotton damask .It has a wit and wisdom bodice which I used as a base for the dress bodice and recovered it using the procedure in my cheats Tudor gown guide.The skirt is just a long oblong of fabric stitched along one edge with a gap at the back then pleated and stitched onto the bodice ,the sleeves are also just oblongs of fabric stitched with little gaps left ,later I made the sleeves narrower at the cuff and added a lot of extra edging trims before stitching them onto the gown with puffs of white fabric to fake  chemise stitched under them.

This dress doesnt really need any accessories such as a head dress and the gown will look ok without a hoop (as seen above) though it looks better with one .

You can make a matching pair of very Elizabethan looking gloves by buying a pair of modern fake suede or suede gloves,vintage gloves give the best shape but very cheap modern gloves also work perfectly well .The glove can be quickly made into authentic looking renaissances ones by adding a panel of embroidered trim or rich looking fabric and trimming that with gold or pearl trim.

gloves front

Making these gloves was one of my favourite costuming tasks ,as they were an essential for outside work but were a nice detail added to costumes and very quick to make

gaunt gloves

pink gloves

glove tops red

Or you could just add a fur panel ,the fur below is ermine but rabbit or faux fur would also work

ermine gloves

Tudor gown favourite

By far my favourite Tudor gown was this red flocked taffeta gown and matching hood


reddresseated tudor gown

The flocked taffeta fabric is very hard on the fingers to stitch ,but is easy to use as it doesnt fray  and  very easy to wear as it doesn’t crease  and is also fully washable .I used the same recovered bodice method as for the Tudor and Elizabethan gown guide

The petticoat is made from Gold faux silk damask ,the hood using my cereal box method is covered in the same red flocked taffeta trimmed with a pearl necklace from primark


All my own costume  French  and other hoods were made using that method .The black velvet hood is the easiest to find fabric for and to make as black velvet skirts etc are usually easy to buy in charity shops  and usually lined in black lining fabric that can be used for the back veil while pearl necklaces can be bought in many dress or accessory shops

bolyen hood

My favourite french hood is probably the one below made with red and gold faux silk damask and trimmed with gold and seed pearls.

narrow red hood

black french hood

My favourite overall Tudor headress has to be the English intermediate or transistion hood as its easy to make easy to wear and easy to put on

green tudor gown front


My favourite Victorian gown style is probably the bustle gown ,though its the most complicated to wear and make .

back claudia gown


This blue gown did admittedly take me several weeks and a the back ruching took a great deal of reworking to get correct ,yet bustle dresses are basically just a straight skirt  which can be made from a oblong of fabric(Using the cheats under layers guides ) with a plain boned bodice dress over it ,(using the dress guides ) .The skirt of which  is stitched flat at the front but gathered at the back  and which is either very long and gathered up to create the typical folds at the front then the excess gathered and draped to create a bustle .

bustle red

has a very long back or a separate long piece of fabric for the bustle or train .

You can create a more impressive bustle by adding more pieces of contrasting fabric and stitching on frills.


But the gown construction is still basicaly the longer than normal overdress and a skirt

wgw red gown


My overall  favourite Hoop gown and the easiest to make is the Green gown which was for a long time my work gown

green dres

I made the same tiered style a few other times but the green one having curved edges cut with pinking shears rather than hemmed took much less time and was much easier

Medieval gowns

My favourite to wear is easily the gothic era style gowns which are a covered short front lacing bodice with a panel of fabric below the lacing and a fur collar over it,while the tall Henin head dresses are the hardest headdresses I have ever made so I will try to add a cheats guide post on making them.

henin gown


Lastly my favourite 18thc gown and again by far the easiest to recreate ,,though the three foot tall hair is less simple .The dress is basicaly a Tudor gown and bodice with a frill added to the waist and a front panel added to lengthen the bodices front ,worn over a petticoat.The main difference is that the skirt is partly pleated edge to edge at the waist ,you allow the open front to have one normal pleat which will go onto the bodice ,then you la the skirt flat on the floor and  stitch most of each side of the skirt to the other part its lying on  leaving just enough fabric to stitich the skirt onto the bodice ,this  makes two sides rather than onto the bodice directly

pantoweekend court mantua

me harry panto

As always in costuming the detail is what makes the outfit look impressive not the skill that goes into the outfit,I added two pieces of purple velvet to each sleeve and edged it with gold braid .I also added gold and purple trim to the skirt faux Mantua panel.

mantua cuffs

I will add the last of my cheats guide and links to the new ones in the next weeks ,but finally so close ups of the detailing for an assortment of costumes ,the details and trims make much more of an impression that detailed tailoring and they are the difference between making a passable outfit and making something amazing.they dont take skill just time .


bodice p cuff


purple cuff

regency gown sleeve

red sleevsand cuff

cap detail

gable hood front

red jewled caraco jacket


mourning bonnet

green poke boonett

1830s dress scarbough


saque back narrow panniers


regency gown  full length

regency gown back1

green coat

green brocade dress




And the final and equaly important element  stunning fabrics ,these dont need to be specially bought fabric ,just eye catching the cape below is made from an old fur coat to edge the hood and a satin duvet cover from a charity shop,if your fabric is eye catching enough you can get by with less detailing


medieval gown 2

blue easter gowb

bluebells woods

parasonage red dress

red dms dress

red pettitcoat 1

golden gown bingley gable hood


golden gown

regency golden gown



green tudor gown

Lastly I was trying to choose the photo I would most like to remember my costume work by and I think it must be this

evil queen  panto weekend

It was an amazing day,I loved working at the Haworth Christmas events,I loved the mask and the umbrella was a present from a friend ,the gown was quite easy to make but looked amazing yet the outfit took several hours to put on mostly because my huge hair took up three hours of work .

hair pantoweekend

Lastly because  was working with a young friend who looked pretty in a polonaise gown and hat I had made

harry candid shot


she was the princess to my Evil queen ,both with full accessories,carefully made gloves petticoats ,even lace edged handkerchiefs,but we also both had on thick  lined wellies ,,snow ice and a temperature well into the minuses meant that was the only way to glide effortlessly up the main street and during the parades

me harry panto

I was working with friends for friends

pantoweekend processiopn2

panto weekend steps

And it was my last Haworth Christmas costumed outing .

I had a wonderful decade of costuming and hope my cheats costume guides will help others have a equaly enjoyable time ,either at single events or at re enctments or even as costumers.

Best wishes to all my blog readers,its been a great privilege and pleasure.

Lyn Marie Cunliffe




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Paris .

A very short  post as I merely  wanted to send a message of sympathy and support to the people of France and especially Paris .

Sunset flares at Champ de Mars in Paris

Sunset flares at Champ de Mars in Paris

Paris is a beautiful city ,tolerant ,a long time home of free speech ,freedom of thought ,freedom of expression ,all values opposed by those who skulking in the shadows briefly emerged bully like to cause terror and destruction .

We associate Isis and islamic terrorists with death and misery,with the destruction of  priceless sites rich in thousands of years of heritage,the destruction of humanity ,crucified men ,raped women ,murdered children such things, a blot on humanity never endure and history condemns them . Paris we associate with enduring values ,history will always affirm their greatness,  freedom of thought ,conscience,speech ,with the values of liberty ,brotherhood and equality ,its a city of light,  romance , art ,culture ,theatres ,novels ,poetry .It has a long history and this is just one horrific  tragic night  ,when the name of Isis is long forgotten Paris will still stand for all those values held dear to the civilised world.

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kristallnacht ,the day after

Today in the UK we remembered those who gave their lives not just in the two world wars but also in more recent and in current conflicts .Below shows the war memorial at Camp Bastian ,left behind as a permanent monument to those who gave their lives in a more recent conflict.


These are our fallen heroes people who gave their lives so others could be free ,so we could be free ,for our today they gave their tomorrow.

However today is also the anniversary of the day after  kristallnacht ,the night of broken glass .I feel it fitting therefore to ponder both the past and present persecution of minorities and consider whether we are indeed living lives worthy of those fallen heroes.There is a parallel  between those who fought to free the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban and those who fought to free Europe from the Nazi terror ,whatever the politics thanks to UK troops for a brief few years women were allowed to walk without fear ,women and children were allowed education ,it was safe to practice your own religion whatever it might be .But unlike Europe in the 1940s we have allowed Afghanistan to fall back into tyranny and oppression.

Kristallnacht was the symbolic start of  the Nazis war against  the Jewish people, a systematic murder of six millon or more people just for their ancestry, you didnt have to be a practicing or believing Jew or even part of a Jewish family or from Jewish parents  ,having a Jewish father or mother or grandparent even if they had married non Jews was enough.The holocaust also saw the death of millons of others the disabled ,Romany people,Gays ,communists ,Muslims.The Nazi regime waged war not just on ethnic minorities but on anyone who was different or disadvantaged,and the world watched and for the most part did nothing.

It is inconceivable now that we would condone the refusal of our goverment to take in Jewish refugees but what about “Gypsies” would we allow a thousand Gypsies into the UK?If one night all our Gypsies disappeared ,if those messy roadside caravans suddenly vanished and we didnt have to give land to them for static sites ,,would be really care ?Do we not see Romanys as somehow “dirty” dishonest and definitely undesirable neighbours.They are a set apart society with its won belifes and codes of conduct in many cases at direct odds with our own, Yet this is a stereotype  ,many Romani live in either permanent sites ,most disaprove of the roadside “tinkers” or  they live in houses and live “normal”lives.

We have a Romani friend who is a United Nations ,UNESCO ambassador ,she has founded dozens of orphanages ,schools and help centres for the disadvantaged around the world ,mostly at her own expense and those of a small group of supporters .

Would the world be better if Melanie Price was one night spirited away to Auschwitz?

or what about Pablo Piccaso ,Mother Theresa , Charles Chaplin ,Yule Brynner ,Michael Caine,Bob Hoskins, Penelope Cruz ,Helen Mirren ,Eric Cantona ,

All those above had proven and acknowledged romani parents or grandparents or have rumors of having  “Gypsy blood” ,rumours and distant descent would have been enough to send them to the ghetto or gas chambers.

Likewise we prioritise worthy and unworthy causes ,just and unjust murders or oppression.To imprison without trial hundred of men at Guantanamo bay is fine because they are Muslim and terrorists and as its the USA and they are a democratic country so they must be acting justly .Guantanamo is a “detention and interrogation camp which basically means somewhere men can be treated inhumanly and tortured. Yet there have been instances of men imprisoned falsely so is it really OK to treat fellow humans like this,,,

download (1)

without trial ,or do we just assume they are guilty because they are accused?


likewise Isil murder of the Gays has not caused the public outcry that is common when high profile targets such as journalists are murdered .Gays are still a minority and still in some countries treated less than fairly or with suspicion ,Minorities as always are an easy target.



First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

(Martin Niemoller)

We now  have a much more urgent and current example of refugees fleeing a largely unreported Holocaust .


Yet as a country and as a people we are behaving exactly as we did in the 1940s ,turning away most ,treating others with disgust ,raising and raising the bar by which we confirm their danger in their homelands so we can with a clear conscience send them back to certain death .

As with the Jews of Germany the outrages have started with the damage and destruction of places of worship or heritage,this is the remains of the Tomb of Jonah,destroyed by ISIS/ISIL

People walk on the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The revered Muslim shrine was destroyed on Thursday by militants who overran the city in June and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC, and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale. (AP Photo)

People walk on the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The revered Muslim shrine was destroyed on Thursday by militants who overran the city in June and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC, and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale. (AP Photo)

Apart from academics and some religious bodies there was very little coverage our outrage when Isil began destroying mosques and churchs or sites of historic interest

However as in Germany ISIL have moved from the destruction of buildings to the destruction of people.

See Video: ISIS executes 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya

Compare and contrast and try if you can to separate the 1940s reports from the present reports.

“They should be interned as “enemy aliens”

80% of adults believed that refugees come to Britain because they regard it as a “soft touch”, 66% thought there are too many immigrants in Britain, and 63% considered too much is being done to help immigrants.

They are lazy .

They are more loyal to their religion and race than their country.

Theres too many .

Women and Children maybe but no men

They are exaggerating .

we have to look after our own people

We are too small.

There present economic climate is not right

As you probably guessed these are all past and present quotes.

While this tragic photo

syrian-migrant-boy-turkey (1)

Beside causing a public outcry  because of the lack of compassion on behalf of those countries refusing refugees ,elicited far more outrage because of its content ,,which shows that as in the 1940s we care more about being offended than about the offensive treatment of refugees .Also elicited the following self justification ,blaming of others and deriding of those who are speaking out

Heres a fairly representative quote from a Daily Mail article

“Which brings us back to the child’s corpse on the beach in Turkey. I repeat, it’s awful. Heartbreaking. But it’s not our fault, and it’s not our responsibility, however compassionate we might feel.

The father told the Mail that the family were fleeing the war in Syria when the dinghy capsized.

Miraculously, he survived, although he couldn’t save his wife and two children.

But here’s what puzzles me. They’d been living in Turkey for the past year. So why didn’t he apply for asylum there? After all, surely culturally Syria has more in common with Turkey, another Muslim country, than with Tunbridge Wells or Trondheim.

We’re also told that he’s a Kurd. So why didn’t he move to Kurdistan? Who knows? And that’s just the point. No one knows anything for sure.

Similarly, the shocking death of a child should never be exploited just because media tarts and ‘liberal’ luvvies such as Jackboots Jacqui and the absurd Emma Thompson can feel good about themselves.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

A far more outrageous and thankfully less representative comment

UKIP are investigating a former candidate who tweeted that the three-year-old Syrian boy tragically pictured washed up dead on a Turkish beach “died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe”.

Obsessed with seeing Muslims as the enemy we have lost our empathy for those who are in genuine trouble ,while in addition many of those so called “muslim” refugees are in fact Christians .Isis /Isil is now the Nazi ,but as in the past we have settled for a mixture of hand wringing followed by no constructive action or more commonly turning a blind eye .

We nolonger call those desperately fleeing atrocities” Asylum seekers  ” which allows us to treat them as immigrants rather than as those needing urgent refuge.

Yet what difference is there between these two images taken over half a century apart

Isil victims are not infrequently forced to dig their own graves


As were many Jews

jews in grave

If instead we were seeing this distributed across the internet


would we react differently?

(this is from a report about a different  not Isil issue but I borrow this to show more clearly the similarities).

There is no discernible difference between the many images showing Nazis Murdering Jews and Isil murdering its current victims

last jew in vi

isis shoots man 40

jews next to graves

isis squad shoots victims

Women are not spared and their mass disappearances do in part explain why some male refugees do not have their wives or daughters with them.

jewish women prisioners


Auschwitz-Wartime 2

Auschwitz-Wartime 2


The two images above show women over a century apart both being separated from their families one a Jewish woman at Auschwitz Birkenau ,the other a Christian kidnapped by Isis to be used as a reward for its fighters.



The two images above show children always one of the first to suffer in war yet ISIL and the Nazis almost uniquely targeted children for murder equally with adults,the children above share much being equally victims of terror yet the difference is also telling the Christian child in the colour photo was dead before the photo could make the press,the Jewish children in the photo above were being liberated from Auschwitz they lived full lives.

There are numerous images each repeating now images of horror from the 1940s which we as a nation vowed would never happen again.

I called this post the night the day after because it what the choices made by the Jews fellow Germans that next day which would define their character and their actions would make them able to stand before their children and grandchildren  with clear consciences or as forever condemned .

Many Germans on the day after Kristallnacht wisely it might be said laid low ,closed their curtains while their Jewish neighbours cleaned up the broken glass ,did a detour rather than be forced to walk past and ignore the Jewish shop they had used for decades.Some walked past in silent shock.

FILE--A pedestrian looks at the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin Nov. 10, 1938, the day after the

FILE–A pedestrian looks at the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin Nov. 10, 1938, the day after the “Kristallnacht” rampage, when Nazi thugs set fire to hundreds of synagogues, looted thousands of Jewish businesses and attacked Jews in Germany and Austria. Germany’s remembrance of the Nov. 9, 1938 terror, the “Night of Broken Glass,” comes amid fresh debate on the nation’s relationship with its past–triggered by the government’s return to Berlin, the prewar capital from which Adolf Hitler ruled.(APPhoto)

but some to their great credit went into the streets to help their Jewish neighbours sweep up the shards of glass ,some  continued , despite the risk to use their neighbours shops. A small protest against tyranny ,we don’t have photos to illustrate their bravery because of course it would not have served Nazi propaganda .

Today Remembrance day ,it the time we remember those who gave their lives so we could be free ,so tyranny could be defeated and so we could  have safe long lives.

Today I feel is a time to ask ourselves if we are living a life worthy of their sacrifice .


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


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An answer to the message signed in Blood.


I have posted in the past on the atrocities being committed by fundamentalist Islamic groups ,in particular those usually abbreviated to and best known as ISIS/ISIL ,This is my last ,an answer to ISIS and a plea to the world,to Muslims ,to ISIS and to  my Christian brethren and  its especially addressed to those who are responsible for the atrocities ,unlike the cowards in videos  who send messages masked and sign them with the blood of their victims I am putting my face to this message and signing it with my name.

I am Lynn Marie Cunliffe ,I am a Christian and I stand with my brethren around the world ,I ask the world takes notice of the cries of the Christians being massacred around the world ,that it supports those Christians now refugees,that it welcomes to its countries those lucky enough to have escaped and is proactive is rescuing those in danger.

But to those supporting ,approving or committing these atrocities I say you are being misled, when you murder my Christian brethren you have not won ,you have lost ,you will always loose because for us death is not the end ,because we have our own message signed in blood ,the blood of Jesus Christ shed for all .Its an enduring message never to be overwritten or blotted out and one which Christians have though the ages gladly signed with their blood .

To all members of Isis and other groups, I say that there is a true message in blood which is written by Jesus with love for you ,you can know peace and freedom and have the certainty of heaven ,that whatever you have done it is not too late ,that whatever you are being asked to do  you don’t need to do ,that it won’t earn you heaven ,that on the contrary you will face Allah  ashamed of what you have done ,that your teachers are misleading you ,you are being betrayed and used .

I say that just  as there are Muslims who say things that are not according to the teaching of Allah ,there are Christians who are not speaking for all the Christians ,or for our God ,your God.No true Christian wants the death of one single one of you, for love of our brethren we are angered by your acts ,but what we truely want and pray is to welcome you as our brothers and sisters in Christ.Whatever you have done you still have a chance to turn and become what you are meant to be ,a human being blessed by knowing the love of God ,able to create with acts of gentleness and love a world worthy of all our children and leave behind a legacy which you will not be ashamed to own before Allah.

We have a great Christian Saint who was  just like you, the bible writes about him in Acts and you can look him up on the Internet ,he was called first Saul and then Paul,he murdered Christians ,hunting out men and women and dragging them out  be killed and imprisoned because he felt by doing that he was serving God ,but one day God spoke to him and he listened and had the courage to change ,he is one of our greatest Christian writers ,he gave his life for his faith and he is one of our most loved and respected saints ,people reading his letters in the bible have achieved great things ,he left a lasting legacy .

To all those sites showing the videos of Christians being murdered and using it to promote hatred towards Muslims,you are wrong ,no evil can be cured by promoting more evil ,hatred can never be the answer to hatred ,the ones to be pitied in those videos ,the real victims are the killers ,the Christians are not mere victims ,they died victors because they died for what they believed in a message of peace and love and acceptance and those who are outraged by their deaths should promote that same answer to violence .

To my Christian brothers and sisters I ask with all my heart that you do not allow the images of evil to turn your hearts against those committing them or those innocent Muslims who abhor them as much as you .I would put before you the example of St Paul and the response of the early church to persecution .God has welcomed to himself the souls of the martyrs but he also loves those who have murdered them and wants to have them turn and repent .When we allow ourselves to harbour towards them hatred or propagate hatred then evil has won.

To all those who watch news reports and then turn away ,I say this is a new holocaust ,Christians ,Jews ,other Muslims ,gays ,those who have views opposed to Isis are being massacred now this minute.In the time you have taken to read this post one Christian has been murdered.In the 1940s if video of the holocaust ,of the massacres ,mass graves and death camps had been seen then people say things would have been different,that the world didnt act because the world didn’t know,maybe that’s the case .But today now you do know .One day this video and others will be discussed as part of documentarys or school syllabus .One day you will be asked by your children and by a new generation what you did to help.Will you be shown to be one of those righteous Gentiles ,those heroes of the war who worked to save Jews or who acted as voices crying in the wilderness to educate the free world about the horrors ,those who we now respect ,or will you be unable to answer the question ,what did you do? And the even more damming  have no answer to the question why did you do nothing ?

I write this my message ,which I alone am responsible for,not my community or church ,I don’t attend a church and certainly not my friends ,neighbours or family .It is a message which I am willing to sign with my name and face.

Lynn Marie Cunliffe


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What price the treasures of the past,,a warning from history


A very short post that’s more questions than answers.

ISIS  has embarked on a crusade ( I use the word fully cognisant of its negative connotations )against the heritage of the countries in which is it ascendant ,it’s busily destroying the priceless heritage of  conquered people’s ,a heritage that belongs for all time to all humanity and that has been in many cases treasured and in every case has survived for millennia .The lack of publicity for these events and the lack of concern for its threats to other sites is appalling because it is a warning to Europe that Isis is now at its gates

The destruction of these sites has huge implications ,is not just the defacing of priceless statues but the total destruction of sites such as Nimrod


It has  first defaced


Then blown apart


and destroyed utterly any remaining fragments leaving deserts of rubble


Destorying not just the surviving sites but  also any unexcavated remains,perhaps another Rosetta Stone ,more library’s of cuneiform tablets ,more priceless pieces of jewellery or pottery that could establish trade routes ,,all lost to us and our children and childrens children .Does one generation have a right to rob those yet born of knowledge and beauty and heritage?.If not what is the correct way to defend that heritage ? Does it justify an armed response should economic sanctions be used ,should we at the cost to ourselves of increased oil prices boycott such countries,should we create more punitive laws for those trading in stolen artifacts.ISIS and  other groups have made Millons from this illicit trade in antiquities and therefore those convicted of trading ought to be dealt with under terrorism laws,looted antiquities should be seen in the same light as blood or confict Diamonds as the funds gained are put to exactly the same use.

While so far the sites and artifacts destroyed have a significance only recognised by  the citizens of th countries concerned and the academic community ,what site will need to be destroyed before we take action ,what is one step too far,,

ISIS is gaining power and land across the Middle East and is now not far from the borders of Europe.Israel and states with borders on countries under their control such as Jordan

What if it destroys ,Petra


Jordan now has Isis on its borders ,it controls territory along huge lengths of Jordan’s border ,it’s under a hundred  miles away ,Isis has marked Jordan out as one of its next targets  especially as Jordan has thousands of refugees from Isis controlled countries and  It must control tiny Jordan in order to get to and destroy its primary target Israel .even without controlling Jordan it already has Petra on its destruction list and is close enough to launch a terrorist attack .

Isis is on the borders of Turkey and has some support in the country from well organised terrosist factions that have already launched audacious attacks on Christian villages and border sites.Turkey the gateway to Europe is in very real danger from within and without and like polands peril  in the 1930 the countries of Euroe and the government of the USA are doing nothing to help it .

Even Egypt is falling  under its influence and has enough fundamentalist factions to see Terrorist attacks on major sites ,people have now forgotten massacres such as that of  Luxor InThe temple of Hatusept ,where over 60 tourist were killed ,this is an obvious enough target  for further attacks being not only a site with offensive imagery but also one built by a powerful female pharaoh ,,while it has also stated its intention to destroy the pyramids,Eygpts heritage is in peril .

In the rest of Europe we should be clear priceless sites are at risk and protect them with increased security ,the great Mezquita of Córdoba is an obviously example as a Christian church which is housed in a famous and important mosque ,,while in the Uk  and elsewhere museums housing treasures from now destroyed sites should be a priority for governments protection and police and funds made available to implement more tight security measures.

we should also pay attention to the threaten sites locations ,as its true.y a warning from history ,that Isis can make credible threats to sites of historical interest shows it has confidence that it can successfully gain land and ventualy control in those countries ,it’s advances has been fast and it’s progress inexorable ,we need to be aware that the freedom of free nations  is in danger not just in the middle and Far East but in Europe.

But for the the present ,,what do we choose to protect what site is one too many and what do we do ,,does the destruction of any place or object justify the shedding of human blood?

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The cheats guide to making a very easy Regency Spencer (short jacket )

red specner breeze

How to make a Regency Spencer 

There are two options for making a Spencer Jacket, for most jackets the easiest ,quickest and most effective is to find a suitable full length modern jacket and cut it down ,both the one above and those below are cropped modern jackets.

mrs bronte parsonage sign



jane Austen festival


Mrs Bronte moor

reg dress

I have worn an assortment of these cut down and retailored Jackets and no one has ever guessed they were not specially made Spencers,yet the need so special skills and take well under an hour to make .The most important thing is to find a suitable jacket.(I will give details on choosing a jacket at the base of the instructions)

You simply find your jacket

black jacket 1


And cut off the bottom leaving enough length to make a turned over hem

spencer guide 2

Before cutting check the waistline of the gown or gowns your most likely to be wearing it with and make sure the jacket sits at or just below it .Cut to about 2 inches below a fastening ,button etc .

Now just turn over the cut edges and you have a Spencer.

If your lucky and theres enough spare fabric you can turn the chopped off bits into Regency bags or reticules to make your jacket just sew along the already cut edges .

spencer guide and bags


spencer side

You may be lucky enough to have a jacket that has some interesting detailing that makes the bags look ok without trim but if not a small amount of curtain or upholstery fringe makes most bags look authentic.

To finish your bag  add a strip of velcro acorss the top of your bag and a piece of crod for a handle or use an old necklace or length of beaded trim etc.

Jacket choices

You can make Spencers from jackets made from any fabrics but the most authentic looking ones are velvet and mat silk ,shiny fabrics such as satin should be avoided as should patterned fabrics.Plain wool works but not tweed ,I have made a very pretty pair of corded velvet ones but theres are not really authentic.

Chose one which is tailored and shaped to fit snuggly at the bust and just below it.Miliatary style jackets look good and are a authentic Regency style but most smart or evenign jackets work ,,dotn be tempted to use an already cropped shrug style jacket as most of these wont sit properly

The jacket should also have a slightly puffed sleeve or at least have some gathers were the sleeve is attached to the bodice ,straight sleeves will work but dont sit as comfortably over puffed sleeved dresses.


To make a much more elaborate Evening Spencer

gold spencer gal

If you want to make a more complex Spencer for evening wear its still possible to make one fairly quickly.

I will add  more photos to the  guide shortly .

You will need the fabric of your choice ,,at least a metre ,more if your making a long sleeved one .

A boned bodice ,clubbing or prom top any length but with a neckline the shape you want your spencer to be .You also need to decide if your going to have a closed front Spencer or one that fastens with a band leaving a front gap

some kind of fastener ,velco,hooks and eyes or  ties ,

As with the jacket you need to cut the bodice off at the length you need our Spencer to be.

spencer 1

Then cover this cropped off bodice with your fabric starting with  the centre back  panel

spencer guide 2


Turn the fabric over at the edges ,ie the neck the bottom and arm holes,it might turn over easier if you make small snips to it at intervals

spencer neck13


You then just carry on recovering  the bodice working outwards from both sides of the first panel

spencer 12

,when you reach the front edge turn over a generous amount of the fabric and stitch,This gives you a little waistcoat looking jacket

spncer body done


When its completely covered  you need to make sleeves you can just add puffed sleeves by cutting a long rectangle or fabric then gathering it to a width that fits in the arm hole and at the bottom to a width that fits your upper arm .Just tack this sleeve into the bodice.

Or you can make more elaborate sleeves

spencer sleeve finished

This is also quite easy ,you do  this by cutting long strips of your  fabric to the length required which should be just below or at the length of your gowns cuffs  .

spencer sleeve panels 21


Now cut two strips long enough to go around your upper arm where the spencer sleeves will end these will be your cuffs

stitch all these strips to your sleeve holes and then to a narrow longer strip which is your cuff .

spencer slseves fin

Add another strip across the front if you are  making that style of spencer then sew velcro to the end of the strip and inside the bodice  or add ties or hook and eyes

gold spencer gal

You can add more decoration or even add a long skirt part by cutting a length of fabric to the length required then  making it into pleats and stitching them to the base of the bodice.


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An easy guide to making your own victorian accessories part one,Muffs, capes and other things

Making almost all Victorian accessories is quite easy  and usualy very cheap and those which cant be made are usually easy to buy of ebay or from fancy dress shops.

Before I show how to make mittens ,capes ,cloaks ,collars chemisettes bags and parasols Its probably handy to see what you can buy without sewing anything  and where to buy the items such as fans and gloves you cant make ,its possible to buy fans offline very cheaply and plain ones will look authentic.

Shawls and capes

Picture 1114

Shawls are also very easy to find plain or paisley  look best

bronte gown back edit

webshot purple victorian dress SHAWL

Though I will show how to make one very quickly  also often possible to find faux fur or fur capes

blue cloak

nicki and harry

.Long elbow length gloves can usually also be bought cheaply offline

dark green gown

as can parasols ,some are lace  but theres also often fabric or paper ones

blue skirt


nicely tailored victorian style jackets can sometimes be found

victorian mourning outfit

Plain leather gloves are usually ok for Victorian events and sometimes its possible to find vintage muffs

blue dress

To make a muff

This is the easiest accessory to make .If your very lucky you may find a faux fur or fur coat  or jacket ,in which case just cut off a long length of sleeve tuck part of it inside until it makes the size of muff you want .The effect is the same as when you pull  your sleeve out of a coat but it gets stuck and pulls partly  inside out as you take it off .When its the right length you can tack it in place ,this makes a fully fur lined fur muff .Add a piece of ribbon or curtain cord tied inside in a loop for something to hang it around your neck with, or a very much shorter length to use as a hand strap.

If the sleeves are too short you will still have enough length for a muff but you will need to use the sleeve lining.A velvet ,silk or wool jacket or coat sleeves  will also work  to make muff in the same manner ,though it wont be as  warm.

You can also make a quick muff by using a 1940s fur stole such as these

40s-shot gloves

While cutting up a perfect 1940s fox fur is a little bit too wasteful may of these foxes have missing eyes,paws tails etc and can be bought cheaply to make muffs ,merely wrap them around themselves and tack in place .you could do the same with a fur wrap or cape

haworth 1940s 3

If the fake fur is a bit unremarkable or your using a silk ,satin ,velvet or wool jacket you can make a very fancy muff

pale pink muff

you could make a very fancy muff using beaded fabrics sleeves  from evening gowns or tops

black beaded eco muff

or gold trim your fur muff

gold muff detailing

To make a muff from scratch is also easy its just a bolong peice of fabric striched along its edge then add some fur along its edges  it works best of you use rich fabrics such as velvet or damask

tudor muff


jaand me

You will need

A  very full skirt  bought from a charity or thrift shop ,preferably one with interesting detailing .Any length but short

a fur collar or other collar ,velvet  silk ,satin ,this can be cut from a blouse cardigan or a vintage collar bought ,many modern cardigans have removable fur collars.

a very small length of ribbon ,velvet works best but any will do

How to make your cheap and quick cape

The easiest way to make a cape is to find a very full skirt  or full skirted dress thats made from something suitable ,velvet is ideal ,satin can also be used as could wool .A line skirts wont work but very full flared skirts will if you cant find anything else ,gathered skirts work best. If your lucky you make find a very long skirt to make a cloak length cape.The skirt should be lined but an unlined skirt works well but wont be as warm.(You can use shorter narrower  skirts even mini skirts  but theres slightly  more work ,I will cover it at the end of the post)

Step one

You simply cut the skirt down the back edge where the zip is .Turn the edges over and stitch them down  now just gathered the skirts neckline until it fits flush against your neck .The cape below was an very elaborately embroidered skirt which can from a charity shop. I cut as above and made into a cape this way ,it took around half an hour and cost approx £5


Step two

,cover  the neckline  gathers with a piece of fake fur ,feathers or ideally a vintage or modern  fur collar .

Step three

sew on ribbons  to use for the ties

sweet love of youth

To make a cape using a short or narrow skirt

wgw red gown

cut off the waist band ,hem both edges as before and gather slightly at the neck but this time put the skirt on your shoulders and tuck it at each should until it sits flush as below ,sew these “darts” so the cape sits  flush against your shoulders,add the fur collar and add ribbons as before


 The duvet cover evening cloak

The cloak below was made with a satin duvet cover set


Firstly gather the duvet to suitable width for your neck using a running stitch.then fold the pillowcase along its width stitch a little bit of the folded edge together to give a slightly folded hood shaped bit ,gather the pillowcase as you did the duvet cover  then stitch the pillowcase to the duvet cover and add ties The cloak is already hemmed and lined .I add some fur trim cut from an old coat and made a matching muff with it

sil cloak

You can make cloaks from damask duvet set or a pair of curtains ,gathered again at the neck

pink cloak gowns


You can also use a  pair of heavier curtains for a winter cloak ,again,gathered again at the neck but first cut a long length off cut this length to a suitable size for a hood ,fold along its longest edge and stitch together




I have not yet tried it but I am fairly sure it would be possible to make a good cloak using a throw just gathered at the neck then trimmed with a fur collar as the cloaks  below look like throws before they are gathered and have their shoulders shaped.

for pam edite



Its possible to make mantles fairly easily but as they take more tailoring I will leave those until I have a suitable piece of fabric

green coat

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Cheats guide ,a beginners, guide to making a Victorian Hat


This will be a post on how to make the small little late Victorian hats .

hats fp

These are very easy and cheap to make as they are quite small

1869 maj - Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, dam hattar


and usually heavily decorated or decorated with very eye catching trims

hats again

you will need

a ceral box ,or some cardboard of the same thickness


cellotape or parcel tape

needle and cotton

A small piece of fabric ,velvet ,silk ,taffeta cotton  wool are all suitable

some scraps of ribbon,lace  or other trims such as  feather trim faux flowers or ribbon bows or rosettes

a headband ,the cheap three for a pound kind are fine and preferable as the band needs to be quite narrow.

Ideally Also

Some net ,tulle or veiling this will make the hat tool a lot better but it isn’t essential

some pleated ribbon,

The more interesting the odds and ends you can find to decorate the hats the more authentic they are likely to look.


pink hat

Before I begin I thought it worth mentioning another alternative ,its possible to buy the cheap sun hats  made for children and sold especially around Easter and make excellent little Victorian (and Georgian) style hats by adding lots of trims and veiling especially flowers and feathers,you can sew the front or back brim up or both to create a Tricorn



These look very authentic once on your head




harry candid shot

me john


marieant 014

pink c d skitt



pink hats

To make a little tilt hat from cardboard

find some cardboard ,an old cereal box is perfect

ready brek box scissors

cut out the sides and leave two oblongs from the front and back of the box

ready box cut

Check the ovals approximately the right size and shape ,longer towards the back is good if you want to curve the back to give height ,smaller narrower ones work if its going to be ontop of a complex hairstyle ,now cut out the second of the ovals.

hat guide to

Tape together and check again its the right size (see Above) then fully cover in tape

hat guide base

Place the ovals on top of  your chosen fabric,,the fabric your dress is made with is ideal ,I have used velvet here which works well as it has slight stretch ( I also made a hat with shot taffeta which I will show at the base of this post ,but I wanted to use the basic steps with the minimum of trims  for the making instructions,use a bigger piece than normal for your first hat in case you make any mistakes ,ordinarily you can use very small scarp pieces from gown fabric etc ,even use two contrasting pieces and cover the gaps on top with trim

velvet hat

gather or fold fabric underneath and sew ,underneath fabric together leaving to small gaps either side for a hair band to thread through  if the fabrics one with no stretch ,as this is velvet you can cut holes later

velvet hat covered back


ruche  the top fabric slightly to give a bit of depth,

hat ruched top

if you have enough spare fabric you can add more  height  by gathered more and more and stuff the gaps with tulle or fabric scraps the photo below shows this with the taffeta hat

hat filling


Now add  some trims ,feathers ,ribbons etc,

hast trims

these can be small scraps and dont need to be bought specially ,pieces from gifts ,chocolate box or flower ribbon ,flowers from Christmas decorations or bits of feathers from old hats or fascinators  or fancy hair bands,earrings etc they wont be seen up close so if they have slight damage this  isn’t a problem.

green hat feathers

you can use the ruched fabric to hide feathers, and as above step where you place the feathers  to give depth.You can use them flat against the hat they dont need to stick up and bend the cardboard as needed to give height at the back and curve the sides downwards,While the top must look good no one is likely to see it closely as its on your head so the sides ,back and underneath are as important especially the back as its likely to be highlighted by your hair style,I try to add a small faux veil to the back any transparent fabric ,net or even lace will work  any length but mid length is best.The “veil” below is from an old evening top

finishedl ical hat back


and add some veiling if possible for the front and top ,this is the part which most contributes to making the hat look authentic ,even small scraps sewn on top help

green fijihsed hast


thread hairband through the underneath and use thread to sew it securely on you can use this to give the underneath more curve  ,try to use a hair band you hair colour or close to it.check how the hat looks from the front back and sides one at head height.The hat may not look very interesting  unworn but once its on it will look great.Many extant Victorian hats in this style also look uninspiring when off .you can make more complicated hats by adding layering which is what the Victorian hats looked like

Heres the steps to decorating the  more complicated hat below  with more trimmings.

finished hat lilac

Work on creating more height  either with extra netting or you can ruche top to a greater height and more complicated gathers then add  some pleated trim around the front but not all the way around to avoid the doily look ,cover any outer edge gap with something else eg feathers

hat side feathers

add feathers stepped some at the back some at the sides and facing different ways,you can cover the feathers ends with the fabric  as below then stitch it so the fabrics ruched over it

hats and feather

,you could also add a few different shades of feather if you have them. to Increase your feathers without buying more  cut longer feathers

cut feathers

and use the end bits laid flat on the hat


hat top

Add some flowers fruit etc add a few together if possible rather than single ones ,more was often the best as far as the Victorian were concerned

decoated top hat


Add any other spare bits of trim ,scraps of veiling ribbon etc add a back veil and front veiling tilt to your preferred shape, make sure each side is interesting in its own right

finished hat lilac


Especially the back

finishedl ical hat back

Individual items wont be noticed but the overall effect will while hats look ok without adding front  veiling will make them look much better


finished lical hat frotn


I hope this has been helpful,while I usually make oval hats with the ends of the oval pointing towards your face you can make them so the long ends go ear to ear and also try assorted shapes .

It may be a week or so but I will finish my hat post with a guide on how to make Victorian  ladies top hat  and other felt styles .For these you need some charity /thrift shop hats  which you cut up the back and close in slightly to make smaller then twist into assorted shapes .Unfortunately I dont currently have any so I wont be able to add instructions until I find some but here are  the shapes you can create some use hats without wired brims some need wired brims .

blue cloak





bustle red

black dress side train

blue dress wycoller car park




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cheats guide ,costuming made easy , Tudor head dresses ,how to make an easy and accurate French hood


I will have three of these posts on Tudor Head dresses covering all the head dresses  and a short post on how to make caps and coifs.

This post will be on how to make assorted styles of French hood.


which is a fairly easy head dress to make ,it doesn’t really need any sewing skills and  can be made very cheaply.The one below cost less than £5 for the materials

bolyen hood

They will usually take around two to three hours to make a simple one like the one above  ,less time if you use a piece of veiling at the back rather than authentic taffeta

french hood 1

First however in case you prefer other styles I will give a quick run down of the other styles and links to my blog posts on how to make them

Head dresses 1  (A quite hard project)

The Gable hood.


This is by far the hardest head dress to make and even harder if its made the usual way with wire buckram etc,My cheats guide used cardboard and makes a comfortable wearable accurate hood.

Your may have to buy fabric and will probably have to buy trims for this hood so you will need access to a fabric shop or on line site

gable hood gold

They can be made for around £10 and look authentic,but will probably take  at least a couple of  afternoons or evenings to make

gable hood front

Headresses 2 ( A  very easy  project) 

The English intermediate or transitional  hood 


This is very easy and also quite cheap to make ,if your making one with fabric to match your gown and if you have a small piece of white cotton or linen or an old pillow case it will quite literally cost nothing  and should take around an hour to  two hours to make .These are my favourite head dresses very comfortable and suitable  for everyone even if you have short hair.

green tudor gown front

I will be adding the cheats guide to making an English hood shortly

The French hood guide

You will need….


(Ideally fairly large sharp ones ,kitchen scissors ,you can use smaller sized scissors but rounded ended scissors or nail scissors wont work (you can make an intermediate hood  like the one above without larger scissors )

Cellotape or parcel tape

A long  pearl or gold beaded necklace or even better two necklaces,other broken jewellery etc ,this if for the trim.You can use all one type of trim,this hood used a primark long pearl necklace

bolyen hood

Or if you dont have enough of one kind of trim or a long enough necklace you could use two different things maybe some braid that’s usually used on upholstery

trims hood

,if your buying trim buy two metres  of pearls for both edges or one metre of pearls and one metre of trim for the top .I use pieces of leftover trims which have been bought for gowns  necklines as I  sometimes like to match the hood and gown trims.

You will also need

A small piece of fabric  for the hood itself ,(you dont necessarily need to buy this  you will probably have something to hand),velvet is the easiest to work with as its slightly stretchy but damask also works well  or brocade ,Taffeta is much harder as it tends to rip and silk is too thin and shows through any unevenness in the hoods under layers ,,,you could use an  evening blouse or top ,an old cushion ,scraps leftover from your  gown or  you could buy half a metre of velvet or other fabric ,sometimes charity shops have small pieces of fabric ,or cushions made  from suitable fabrics .You can also use your gown fabric which is what I usually use if I am making a gown with anything except taffeta or silk


In addition you will need

A piece of  black fabric ,silk ,taffeta ,satin ,velvet or velvet for the back veil



If you can find some a small piece of pleated trim or satin organza etc for the front.

red hood

,this isnt essential and can be left off without it necessarily being noticed, neither hood below has the frill


grreen tudor gown

To tie it on you will need

Two short pieces or around half a yard /metre of  narrow ribbon or tape ,,,,this doesn’t need to be anything special you could even cut some of the ribbon that’s sewn inside garments to they can be hung on hangers ,maybe  from a skirt or trousers.If your buying it especially grossgrain ribbons works well as does velvet as they fray less and are easier to tie and untie Again if your buying it try to buy some that’s a similar colour to your hair as this will be used to tie the hood on and goes under your hair at the back .

For the hood base you will need


A standard sized cereal box or similar sized box as long as its a similar stiffness to a cereal box,a thick cardboard box or corrugated cardboard wont work .It has to be big enough for a curved piece cut out from it to go around your head as the French hood base needs to be cut in one piece.In the UK a family sized cornflakes box ,or wheetabix box  is the ideal size.


Decide what shape  of  french hood you want ,they vary and theres styles to suit everyone.they are all made the same way ,,just the cardboard is cut different shapes.


The Tudor Tailor has excellent patterns for different styles of hood but to make with cardboard you just need a rough idea of shape.

Early Styles

These are the classic style seen in the portrait of Anne Boleyn  and other ladies of the Tudor court.They are a medium width that’s curved evenly and almost the  same width all the way around



bolyen hood

tudro gown

Slightly wider styles.

These are slightly wider at the top and go slightly narrower to the sides ,they are usually more elaborately trimmed .

eliz red dress



gold tudor gown close

Squarish  wide styles

mary tudor

english-school-duchess-of-norfolk-em red hood B1986.9

Very late narrow styles

These sit very far back on your head and are very narrow ,later styles dont go very far down at the sides and end above your ears,often they dont have veils or have floaty chiffon style veils

sieve potrsit french hod

mary queen of scots blk and gold

black gwn hd

At the base of this post I have included  a galllery of French hood images ,both potraits and modern hoods made by either myself or for TV and movies .I have also included a small section on more complicated styles with extra instructions for anyone who would like to try something different for their second hood


Most French hoods are red ,black ,white ,gold or a mixture of those colours ,I dont know of many portraits showing hoods in colours to match gowns so for complete authenticity its best to keep to these colours ,however if historical accuracy isn’t required its nice to have hoods to match your gown



I think there is one portrait with a hood matching the gown  but this could be the piant changing colour

claude_france blue hood

There is a gallery of French hood images at the very bottom of this post

Step one

Cut the sides off  your cardboard cereal box or if you are buying proper card cut this to size approx 12 ins min by 16 ins min


,cut two  squashed circular shapes from from each side of the box.

cardboard hood

.The cut  a small piece from inside this piece to make a crescent shape,try this first cut away crescent on your head.

hood 1

.Cut silvers off until its fits your head comfortable inside .then cut a little  more from outside the crescent until its the right shape for your head ,again do this one tiny sliver at a time so you dont make a mistake that cant be covered over.If you get the curve slightly uneven you can correct this when you add the trims as long as its not too much of a difference.

Cut the other piece out to match place them over each other and fix together with cellotape or parcel tape

hood 2

Now completly cover with cellotape,this will make it waterproof ,more flexible and help shape it

hood 3

when they are secured together ,use more tape to slightly angle the hood inwards ,to do this just slightly pull back on the tape as you wrap it around to make the hood base start to curve,Its hard to photograph on the plain hoods as they wont stay on the mannequin head but heres the effect on a more complicated hood

complex hood 1

,,it hard to explain but once your actually doing to its very easy .Again try it on a few times until the hood curves how you want it to around your face.Early hoods dont really need to curve that much later hoods need more curve

elizabeth princess red gown

Lay the hood base on the fabric ,which should be much bigger than  the hood if its for your first hood.

hood and fabric

,later you can use smaller pieces or scraps left over from gowns etc

hood fabrci 1

but its best to have extra spare to use while your getting used to making them.As with the cardboard cut a smaller  part circle out from the centre .This gives you the shape you need for covering the hood

wrap the fabric around the hood and tack a few pieces in place, at the top and both ends this is just very loosely so that you can start to trim off excess fabric .You can also check trims against the fabric before sewing them on

hood 5

Stitch the fabric onto the hood completely  slowly pulling it tight at the back  until the front has no wrinkles ,when its covered with fabric start to give shape to the hood by pulling the fabric tight top to bottom and then across the back ,again it sounds odd but is really easy when your actually doing it ,your trying to make the hood top slope very slightly back and the sides very slightly forwards .For early styles this only needs to be a tiny amount .For later sides where the hood curves around your ears slightly you will need to apply a little more force .Be careful not to bend the actual cardboard as that will never go right at this point.Dont worry about any messy bits at the back they wont be seen as a veil goes over the back

green tudor gown

When you have the shape you want add trims,start with the outer edge as this will be the most noticeable and if you run out of trim its better to do without the lower trim than have gaps in this top trim .start at one end and curve it slightly behind the hood to start  and stitch along the top  .

For the bottom trim do the same except for later styles leave a little of the trim at the edges to stick out slightly if your using trim this wont be too hard but for pearls or upholstry  braid you can get the stiffness by folding it back on itself

(Optional stage if you dont have any frilled or pleated fabric pieces skip to the next stage )

Add the frilled front piece ,this is optional ,authentic hoods usually have this but its possible the frill showing was actually a little cap under the hood so its not an essential step

hood frill

Make the veil

Cut a rectangle of fabric  big enough to go right across the hoops top and around the side .fold it over then stitch the edges almost to the top  and  sew all base together to make almost a bag .

veil hood

Add this to the hood ideally towards the top at the back but anywhere at the back will be fine .If you can put a slight gather or pleat at the top I find that makes the veil hang better if your going to have  a plait of hair under it.

reddresseated tudor gown

Add the ribbon ties ,put the hood on and work out where they need to be to keep the hood tied on comfortably and securely,usually just mid way behind your ears works well .

The hoods now ready to wear .If you have hair that’s long enough to make even small plaits ,plait your hair in two pigtails and fasten them over your head just further back than you will want your hood to rest ,this should stop the hood slipping off backwards.

More complicated styles



These have a lot more decoration but are no harder than other styles ,if you have access to trims and some time it might be interesting to make  one of these designs

kath howard

mary kat miniture

Lastly a more complicated style of hood

This is made from two sections and does take more variety of fabric and more trims ,slightly more skill and time.Its a very flattering style and if you want to stand out its a good choice for your later hoods


mary gown back

To make this hood

Make the top part exactly as before for the simple hoods.

To make the base part cut a strip of the cardboard, you can use the edges of a cornflake  box,use two pieces overlapped and taped together as before.

hood two complex

Now add the hood to this base and cellotape on at the top fairly firmly but leave the sides free as you will need to pull fabric under them to make the two parts look separate

complex hood part 3.

Stitch fabric over the base first ,velvet is ideal as it also tends to stop the hood slipping but you could use silk or wool.

Now cover the hood ,for both pieces there will be some at the centre  you cant turn over towards the back ,sew the join as neatly as possible ,,so it can be covered by trim

Add trimmings and sew ribbons to the back part of the base.

A gallery of French hoods





anne bolyen 1536 detail





white hood

margaret tudor french hood

duchess d etempes white hood

GB hood

black french hood

red hood


english-school-duchess-of-norfolk-em red hood

small hood

tudros hood

bol hood

MadameCanaplesClt1525 hood

mary hood

french hoods

mary tudor tudors

claude_france blue hood

other  easy to make Tudor clothing posts are here

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The cheats costume guide ,A very easy and quick Regency bonnet or hat

jane Austen festival

I thought I would add a short post on how to make a Regency hat .The hat can also be made into a bonnet though I have only worn this as a  semi Tricorn hat.It will take around an hour or possibly  two to make depending on how much detail you add and cost around £10

jane suten hat m

The foundation of the bonnet /hat is one of these.Faux straw sun visors,They can  be bought very cheaply on line  from china and in an assortment of colours ,I use darker colours as they look more authentic .The hat above was made with a Khaki colour hat

brown hat

I have used a blue on for the hat made here

blue hat

You will need


needle and thread

around a metre of ribbon  or two shorter pieces,this is for ties for the hat so while a long piece would be ideal if you have bits of ribbon lying around and they will be long enough for ties that will work .

bonnet trims

a button,piece of fancy ribbon ,rossette or similar for the front of the turned up brim

a piece fabric around the size you would use for a cushion cover ,ideally in  taffeta ,silk or velvet but at a pinch you could use  dark cotton  if your making a tricorn as the fabric wont show much for that style.The perfect fabric is shot taffeta which is a fabric thats shimmery and fairly crsip

blue hat 2

ideally also

a piece of fancy ribbon ,extra wide ribbon ,embroidered trim or similar to make a band around the crown  or for making bows etc

ostrich feathers

Even assuming you buy fabric ribbon and a feather the hat should still cost around £10

First take your “hat and unravel it leave it for a few minutes or so ,I cut the straw bow off and throw it away as its quite big but you can leave it on .You could lay it next to your fabric to be sure it matches .

blue hat 1

To make your hat into a hat you need to make the top or crown ,which will be made using your fabric piece .Take the fabric and gather it up using a running stitch.

blue hat three

,leave a small amount ungathered so it will make it easier to stitch it one the brim

blue hat 4

Try the straw hat on and fasten it with the velcro ,make a note of  where on the velcro strip that hat will need to be for the best fit .Un  velcro and start to sew the gathered fabric onto the brim.Its easier to leave the hat undone so you can sew without it flopping about over your hands

blue hat 5

If you stitch it onto the outside of the brim it will leave the inside nice and neat but its not essential as the inside wont be seen


blue hat5

Sew the fabric on until you reach the last  un gathered part ,now velcro the hat together and add some stitches to keep it in place.if you push the fabric inside while your doing the sewing its much easier to see what your doing

blue hat 6

now turn it right side out

blue hat bonnet 1

You can leave the fabric loose but I usually gather it as it looks more authentic

gathered top blue bonnet

Next add a “hat band”,using a piece of of trim or ribbon for now just stitch it on across the top edge

blue bonnet 2

At this point you can make either a bonnet as seen above or a hat ,I havent ever used these wrap hats  as a bonnet so I am not sure how effective they are but if you buy a straw visor that works very well

Next add ribbon ties ,you can tuck these under the trim used for the band .Check that the ribbons are in the right place as this will affect how the hat looks because they are used to draw the hat over  your  face

blue hat sewing ribbon on

finish sewing the band down and see how it looks when tied under your chin

blue bonnet tricorn

sew the back part of the hat flush against the hat band and tack the front up the same way  cover the stitches with a bow or button or rossette

blue bonnet fin main

add feathers .

blue hat top fin

Unfortunately the mannequin head is tilted slightly so the hat wont sit properly on it but heres the finished hat

blue hat finished side

Heres how similar hats look when on with a full outfit

 regency gown


There is a guide on making an easy Regency gown here

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