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

Posted in Hathaways of Haworth, Haworth and Oxenhope, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , | 10 Comments

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 or he  where elsewhere and he 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

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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,bought lace is easy to find on line and cheap ,or you can use lace cut from a vintage table or tray cloth

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 ideally 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.

The rest

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  but thats rarely used for Victorian clothing.Most of the others are taffeta which is an excellent choice as it is also usually washable and if you buy synthetic fabric it rarely creases.The taffeta below is called “shot ” fabric which means it has two colours woven in the fabric and shimmers in the light,I always use shot taffeta for dresses unless they need to look like working class or middle class everyday dresses and all the gowns below are the same style  fabric

green fit bustle gown





,but you can use fake  very plain  fake silk if you need an everyday middle class dress,this was a governess gown.

moor top2

velvet ,embroidered silk which is very realistic looking but can be expensive.


or satin but satin while cheap does pucker very easily and is a pain to hem..

you can buy taffeta fairly cheaply off  ebay from around £2.99 metre all the fabric above was that price or cheaper .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.For a wide skirted dress you need a double duvet cover.

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

If your making a narrower skirted dress which isnt going to have a hoop you can use a single duvet cover such as the one below,also an Ikea duvet cover and again a pattern very similar to a genuine 1830s dress

1830s bronte gown

or  find a pair of curtains in a charity shop .The dress below is curtain fabric.

st ives bluebells 1830s gown



The skirt below is made from a vintage Laura Ashley curtains, making a skirt and using a Victorian looking blouse is a way to make a cheap Victorian looking outfit but it doesnt look as authentic as a dress.

laura ashley skirt

You can add a waist coat to the skirt which looks better


or a modern but Victorian looking jacket

victorian mourning outfit

The dress below also uses vintage curtain for the pink skirt.

pink bustle dress

This gown is made from a cotton duvet cover from a charity shop

green cotton bustle dress

I made an extra very frilled skirt with a slight train to go under the dress to make an extra outfit,I used an old duvet cover and a lot of cheap lace

me tills 1870s dress


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 .

If you have a large  budget then kilt fabric is perfect as it doesn’t need any hems at all as  the edges are already finished,its not wide enough to use the edges for a single tier skirt but makes stunning tiered ones.The dress below also used the edges of the fabric for the wide sleeves which also didnt need to be hemmed and for a piece of fabric around the neckline instead of the usual lace,I am not sure how much fabric was in this as I used other for a skirt but theres at least 5 metres

red taratn vcitroain gown

You can make a similar cotton gown that will also have edges by using a sari or rather two ,you make it the same way by cutting three tiers.This is very authentic as many Victorian gowns used Indian cotton probably originally saris.

tiered gown



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.Try to avoid Nylon lace as it will be very noticeable at your neckline and its the lace which is the main feature of your gown,if it looks modern the dress wont work.

dark green gown

To make a long sleeved gown is harder but essential the same cut a rectangle but this 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

If you need long sleeves for an early Victorian dress you can use these elbow length puffed sleeves and add to tubes of fabric to make long sleeves.This was a long sleeved daytime bodice that went with the green tiered dress,making two bodices and keeping the skirt separate is a brilliant way to have two outfits for the price of one


Or if you have a blouse for under your dress you can make Pagoda sleeves ,for these you make the top narrower so its not making a big puffy top but keep the bottom wide ,it makes an upside down v shape and  you leave them un gathered at the bottom to make the wide flared Victorian sleeves below.Its also easy to make a short plain sleeve then make a wide sleeve for under it ,this will again give you twolooks for any dresses

cb birthday pars

pagoda slssve side

pagoda sle.For


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.For most Victorian dresses a pointed front even a very slight one  is the most flattering.

parasonage red dress

,though early dresses had straight or slightly curved fronts some of which were higher.This is an original gown from the V and A Musuem


,,you can use either for bustle dresses as it wont show ,but a v shape gives crisper folds at the waist.

mina dress


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.

bodice top layer

,If you have a pretty decorated piece of fabric it can create a nice focus

cavailer gown

or a jewelled panel from a evening gown(the panel above is from a cushion and the panel  below from an Asian Dupata ).


Any decorated piece of fabric 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 .If they are slightly uneven or the seams not straight you can always cover the join with trim or lace as below.

cavailer gown2

The fabric panel  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  this second piece 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.

If your feeling adventurous you can try stitching  the two side panels over your centre panel almost covering it making a fake jacket closure

hathawys blue gown

Which ever style you choose  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.It might seem when the dress is of the lacing cord looks clumsy and will stand out but this is not the case even when seen directly from the back.

back bustle dr4sss

from most angles is barely visible .

unquiet slumbers bst




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.Even a small gap that shows skin or under layers sill stand out(.If you make this “modesty panel” a foot or so longer than the bodice it will tuck down and hide the closure gap in your skirt.You could also add a frill as below which would blend in with any frills on a bustle.

back bst

oh la lal moncrome

But you may wish to try the bodice on first as if it meets perfectly as above  you may not want to bother with this stage ,,though save some fabric just in case you need to do it later .

To make the holes you ideally need a pointy tool ideally  bodkin,but you can just as easily use a DIY bradel, a sharp kebab or similar skewer or any other sharp pointed 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 possibly 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.Now thread it though to make a fish bone type lacing design  or a straight one as in those seen below.Its essentially the same way you would thread shoe laces.

bustle dress back


Do not the x shaped one as the x shape will stand out and is inaccurate,While back lacing gowns were uncommon in Victorian times they were made so this closure is authentic and much easier than using buttons etc which would require a perfectly tailored bodice to fasten

Try on the bodice ,if it fits tack on your skirt ,you can leave the back gap in the skirt  as its rarely noticeable.You can easily hide it by making over laping gathers in the back skirt or making a longer panel for under the lacing cord ,no one has ever noticed a gap in my dresses ,even on film footage.


but if you prefer to have it closed you can buy velcro which is hard to stitch but much better than stick on velcro.

Bustle gowns

The bodices of these gowns can be made following the instructions above ,Leaving out very wide long puffed sleeves as this is not a style used in bustle gowns,you can use smaller puffs or gather  and ruche in wider ones.


.To decorate the neckline use either lace.

pink bustle dress

or beaded trim.


though its also possible to buy pleated satin ribbon .The decoration below is on an 18thc dress but the pleated trim is the same for Victorian gowns

detailing bodice

You could also add two wide lace panels either side of the neckline to make a v necked dress ,just cut two lengths of lace long enough to tack under the gowns neckline at an angle to meet front and back.





black dress side train


Or a piece across the centre  front to make a higher neckline



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 side end .imagine ts going to be tied a bit like a scarf around your middle

.Now  stitch it to the bodice at the front dont stitch right from side to side but just across the centre front   .Make the bit were you sew it to the waist flat at the front.

green cotton bustle dress

gathered at the sides.

pull it towards your waistband and drape it until it goes all around to the centre back if theres enough fabric spare you can make an extra draped bit.Stitch it to the waistband.

bustle red


This should create at least a little bit of a draped front.If you fold it over in deep folds you can avoid adding any decoration ,pleats or trim to this






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.

If you use velvet or contrasting fabric this front panel is a major style point to the gown.The least amount of work taken on a bustle dress can involve draping this over a contrasting skirt to give a more or less complete dress,just add another draped piece at the back.

wycoll blue vel dress

To create both front and back drapery 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 .

Instead of this front draped panel or as well as you could add two side panels ,like little aprons but at the sides,adding this under or over the apron front drapery gives a much more complicated look to the gown.

green dress detail

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 almost straight as for this gown.


,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 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 .

green fit bustle gown


.Alternatively do one long gathered rectangle gathered as above and add either one or two more in decreasing sizes ,or cut  one  small long rectangle and gather it at the top  as below ,then sew a piece of gathered fabric to the bottom of the modesty panel used under the lacing  to make a little frilled back.

cherry tree back bustle dress


Or use a lot of draped or gathered  lengths intertwined over a long panel of contrasting fabric.You dont need to follow any pattern just make a lot of different lengths pf fabric and ruch them ,this gown has a front panel which was long enough to gather at the sides then drape up but this used a lot of fabric.


back heb

cut a lot of the little frills and stitch them onto a long strip of fabric,this is not  hard but does take a very long time.

bustle dress back

for a very simple bustle you could just use a panel of lots of pleats these take a while but are not hard to make.

back bst



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 cheats guide  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 .

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Haworth information centre

Source: Haworth information centre

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Haworth information centre

Bradford council are yet again showing their  disgraceful disregard for our heritage and are set to make a disastrously short sighted decision to close Haworths visitor centre ,there can be no more stupid way of “saving money” not only does the visitor centre provide an invaluable service to visitors in Haworth but it also provides information on events in other towns and at other times of the year,many people collecting leaflets there go on to visit other attractions or return to other events in Haworth and the surrounding area  .

visitor centre

The centre is ideally situated at the centre of the village ,the staff are knowledgeable and extremely helpful and friendly ,they give invaluable help and the centre is rarely if ever empty ,I lived until very recently in the next village along and often walked into Haworth or visited friends on Main street and I honestly cant remember ever seeing the visitor centre empty for more than a few minutes even in bad weather ,I have often had to go into the centre to collect leaflets or give details about events or ask about times for events and usually I have had to walk past people who were searching the shelves and on weekend and summer days the place is always packed.

For several years I  was privileged to work  in costume on main street during most of Haworth main events throughout the year and for the Bronte Parsonage Museum on other occasions and frequently I heard visitors say how useful the centre had been ,I saw people with leaflets they had collected from there about events,people would come to the museum fresh from the centre .

I also met many ,many people grateful for help given them by the centre.Haworth needs its visitor centre ,many visit wanting to see Bronte sites such as the Bronte waterfall ,Top Withins ,Wycoller ,finding the footpaths without help can be hard and advice on how easy or hard the routes are is essential.

Likewise the centre provides valuable help for those needing  practical help ,for eating out ,shopping ,accommodation  timetables for buses ,for the KWVR etc.

in Addition there are many businesses outside of Haworth that get valuable custom from people seeing their details in the Visitor centre.

The very fact that the council can even consider closing the centre shows its utter contempt for its Bronte Heritage,yet again it has shown its members are merely philistines ready to sell their birthright for a pottage.

Just a few short years again it refused to loan the Bronte Birthplace trust just over a hundred thousand in order to buy the Brontes birthplace,not only is it a priceless piece of our heritage it could have provided valuable tourism income for Thorton and very quickly paid for itself .

The area gets considerable revenue from Bronte related tourism ,it gets further revenue from the KWVR and from people visiting the moors ,penine way walkers etc the yet it clearly couldn’t care less about the village,the area,its heritage or its people

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The easy Tudor head dress ,an intermediate or transitional hood


HolbeinAnneCresacre1527 white band

This is by far the easiest Tudor  headdress to make and the cheapest as it doesnt need either a lot of fabric or  to be trimmed .The hood will only need a cardboard cereal box and some small pieces of fabric.

I have organised the instructions so that once you have the basic shape you can stop with a finished hood at any point ,so for the simplest hood there are instructions only for adding a lining and outer fabric.To make a slightly more complicated hood you carry on down the post ,so you can make a hood that’s decorated in assorted ways and finally make a hood with an added veil .

For all the hoods you will need a cereal box

birdwatch and blog stuff 094

and these tools


Plus some fabric

The inner and outer layers.

fabric needed int hood


Ideally a cushion or pillow sized piece of white cotton or linen

A cushion sized piece of outer fabric,this can be plain linen  if you want a lower class hood but silk ,taffeta,damask,brocade and velvet are the normal fabrics I use.

Optional extras

A small length of trimming for around the front edge,an old necklace would work or a string of plastic pearls.This is optional for most styles but if you make the first style of hood its probably best to trim it.


trims hood

A length of pleated trim.

hood pleated trim

This can be bought on line or from some fabric stores,it goes around the inside of the hood,I very rarely use this as I dont feel its essential but you might like to add some if you have it easily available .

To make the hood base


Take a cereal box and cut it along the edge so that its flat.

birdwatch and blog stuff 094

Now cut the box into a strip wide enough to go across your head and to the bottom of each ear or as close as possible.

birdwatch and blog stuff 135

,for the width it needs to be wide enough across your head to part cover it but with a few inches spare to turn over at the back to create an open box type shape .Your wanting to make this shape

HolbeinAnneCresacre1527 white band


cut along the back at a few point to make some panels to fold over ,you don’t need to cut shaped panels just make the cardboard easily shaped.

birdwatch and blog stuff 142

If the hood shape is not quite right use some cellotape across the top and inside front to shape it slightly more ,you press the end of the cellotape down and then pull it tight shaping the hood as you go ,it sounds odd until you actually do it ,,

birdwatch and blog stuff 146

Cover the whole of  the outside  of this hood base in cellotape ,make sure its flat and smoothed down so it doesnt make crinkly noises.This will make the headdress very flexible and also waterproof ,You can also cover the inside but I usualy just cover the front edge and the bottom of each side.


Cut a generous amount of white fabric for the lining ,put it inside the hood and see if its long enough for the style of edges and front you want.For the easy hood it just needs enough to sit flush and cover the inside .For a pleated hood you need more and to try out how many pleats you want.Don’t sew the fabric yet this is just to judge if you have the right amount for your chosen style,if not you can use a design which works with what you do have.

birdwatch and blog stuff 182

For the simplest hood or if you are short of lining fabric  or cant find any white fabric you can make a later style where you dont need much fabric or can use any colour for the lining or even the same fabric as used on the outside.

purple tudor hood

This simple style is very quick ,uses very little fabric and looks effective .It can take as little as half an hour and usually takes less than an hour .However its not an accurate early style,For a very accurate early style you could make a fur covered hood.

white fur hood

These are very quick to make and very warm if your outside in bad weather.You can make one by cutting up an old fur hat or fur scarf its not essential to buy fur fabric.They are unusual but accurate

partlet fur hood

To line the hood.

To make any style you first need to stitch down the lining , to do this stitch the untrimmed cut side  to the outer side of the hood base.This will hide the rough edge.

inner hood


Now pull it back over the front of the hood and push it inside.

outer hood lining

To cover the hood.

Now place  the outer fabric against the white fabric on the outside of the hood and tack it down in the same way stitch it wrong side and pull it over the outside of the hood.

int hood fabric join

If you  cover the join with trim or pull the lining over the join making a simple fold you have the hood more or less finished.


int hood outer side

Just add a few stitches to secure the hood lining

.If you make this simple style and want to add more decoration you could add  trim to the outside or a frill to the inside or both .

cecily heron hoo

Or missing out the next steps you can go to the end of the post for instructions on making a veil and add a veil

intermedate hood black

To continue for a pleated style hood.

Optional further stages


If you want to add more detailing by adding folds to the outside of the hood .Once you reach the stage where you have stitched on the lining and outer fabrics you have the  point at which  the pleats need making ,its best to make them quite deep so you can cover over any stitching.I add a few stitches to keep the folds  in place but they are not essential

int hood lining folds



If you dont have  any or if you dont have very much white fabric you can  fold the outer fabric instead.

intermediate hood gold

Adding folds does mean using more of  one or both both fabrics depending on how many folds you will need a third or half as much again..

Securing the fabric for pleated hoods.


Once you have the outer part finished you can tack down the lining securing it to the hood frame ,this doesnt need to go right into the cardboard at every place but it does need to go through in some parts.

Pull the outside fabric flush at the back and sides and sewn it down,if your adding a veil you can make the stitching quite untidy at the back as it wont show.Like wise if your trimming the outside edges of the hood you can just stitch both fabrics together and hide the join with trim.

Optional extras.

If you want to add  more detailing  to this style you can add a trim of pleated fabric ,you can buy this on line or from fabric stores ready pleated.It makes a nice finish inside the hood and can look flattering.It just needs tacking onto the hood lining at the front.

hood pleated trim

Or you can add a trim to the hood

red trim hood

These all add authentic looking detailing easily and quickly.

To add yet a further variation  which is more complicated but add extra authenticity you can fold the bottom edge of the white trim to make either a short or deep white panel .

int hood side finished

Now stitch the lining down as desired ,you might want overlaps at the side  or leave it flush as above.

hood corner finishied


Its also more accurate to add a veil as most have these in portraits

english intermediate hood back blackmoor

This is easy to make as its made like the french hood veil,

cut a long piece of  black fabric fold it over and sew it into a tube

veil hood

Now stitch this to the back of the hood

english interdiate black hood

The hood is now finished.

english black int hood

If you need more details or any help making the hoods please let me know by adding a comment below.

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Making a chemise,Medieval ,Tudor,18th century and Victorian

A short post on making chemises.

victorian chemise

.More or less all are made using two basic techinques.One involves cutting rectangles of fabric ,the other involves a long piece of fabric folded in half which you then cut a neck hole in ,place over your head and shape to the desired style by cutting the fabric to fit.

The easiest is the strappy narrow chemise ,this is quick and easy ,you merely sew a long strip of fabric together  leaving a gap at the bottom to form a split which makes it easier to walk in then sew on two straps made from  lace or ribbon or four pieces of ribbon to tie at the shoulders.

You can also use this simple style for making short camisols ,just use a shorter  piece


Fold your rectange of fabric in half lengthways

folden rectangle

Sew it along its edge,leave a split at the bottom so you can walk easier in it.Add straps

chemise lace straps

The fabric will need a hem unless you can use an old sheet in which case the sheets edges could be used for the hem.

To make a chemise in this style for under a tudor gown ,you could use embriodered panels for the straps and these will then be seen under the gowns neckline

chemise blackwork straps

If you add a front panel you will have a complete neckline

chemise blackwork neckline

In addition if you have enough of the trim the machine stiched hem of the sheet could be hidden by a length of trim

black work hem

You can use this under every style of costume but its especially useful for under regency and narrow high waisted medieval gowns where it is the only under garment needed.

To add sleeves to this chemise id also fairly easy you need to fold two strips of fabric to make straps or sew two length of trim as above ,safety pin them to the chemise top until they are the right length and in the right place then ,stitch them on .Onto this you can sew the sleeves ,to make a sleeve cut two  wide rectangles of fabric to the length  you want .

Fabric tube

either wrist ,elbow or above elbow ,sew them along the longest edge as above  then sew them onto the straps.

chemise plus sleeve

.Its not the most elegant of chemises and looks a bit untidy when your wearing it alone but it takes very little time and fabric and looks brilliant under gowns as all thats seen if the fancy neckline ,possibly the cuffs and hem if you lift your skirt to go upstairs etc.

partlet black damask gown


The sleeves can be arkward to sew onto the big gap made by the straps but if you make sure the sleeve top is wider than the arm hole and start sewing under the arm towards the top ,stop half way and do the same at the other side sewing towards the top until you get part way ,this will give you all the spare fabric at the top so you can gather any surplus fabric into folds to make slightly puffed sleeves and avoid having to cut a proper sleeve top.This  narrow style made sleeveless with just the straps is useful under 18thc and victorian  dresses as the body part isnt very bulky.

celtic chemise

The next easiest chemise is made from three rectangles of fabric two narrow and arm length or slightly longer and one wide piece that is long enough to reach from your underarm to the floor .You need wide pieces as folded in half they are much narrower ,,as below.

fabric panels chemise

.if you use an old sheet again cut the rectangles so that  you utilise the hem of the sheet for your hem and cuffs.

sewn hem

You need to cut a very wide piece of fabric for the body part of this chemise as itheres a lot of gathering at the neckline.You can just gather the top of the long tube and sew the two smaller tubes onto it at the under arm which wont give a neckline or “proper chemise” but would work if you just need something for under your stays or corset that has sleeves to wear under a slashed sleeve dress.

ven gown

or to peep out of a Tudor wide sleeves.

mary gown and silver sleeves



To mack a much more accurate and much nicer chemise takes a little longer but not that much more skill .For a chemise with neckline ,cut  the top of  the long wide rectangle so it has a slight curve as this will make a curved neckline ,then cut two curves for the sleeve holes ,this will leave some “straps “,depending on how much you gather the neck you might need to add a strip to these straps to make the chemise arm part wide enough,you can avoid this by cutting a very low deep curve for the neckline ,but this is much harder to get right as it can mean your arm curves are too high .Much easier to just add a bit if needed.

chemise wide pqanel



This panel now needs to be gathered just use a running stitch and pull it tight every so often so you gat gathers

gathered top

This design can be adapted to make a wide variety of styles depending on what sleeves you add,long ,short ,full or gathered.

Make the sleeves as you made the body of the chemise cut a rectangle and stitch it together muse the hem of the sheet for your sleeve edge

Fabric tube

If you use narrow sleeves you can create an all purpose chemise for under medieval and Tudor gowns.

red overdress

The style above doesnt have  cuffs and uses the  hems on the edges of the sheet for the sleeve edges.You can also gather the botton of the sleeve using a running stitch to make gathered cuffs


drawstring chemsie

Or gather the sleeves a few inches above the end to make a frilled cuff.

gathered cuff single

,you can leave this plain or add lace,black lace will give the impression of fake black work embroidery for under Tudor and Elizabethan gowns

tudor inner sleeves

You could also civer the gathers with a trim or piece of embriodred fabric

cuff blackwork

You then gather the top of the sleeve.

chem sleeve

Now sew this to the big rectangles gathered top

chemise top and sleev


If you feel more adventurous you can edge the sleeves with lace and  gather the sleeves  as above but make three or four lines of gathers then sew braid over.This isnt at all difficult or time consuming but looks brilliant


Its easy to add the same trim at the neckline ,which will also help cover up any rough stitching

goldwork chemise

Alternatively you can edge the  neck and sleeves with wide cotton broderie anglais lace .This makes either a simple nightdress or a chemise for under Georgian gowns so the fill forms a frill thats sticks out from under your dresses short sleeve

victrian nightgown gothic

back saque back


If you make extremely wide sleeves you can then gather them at two or more points down your  arm to make a fairy tale style chemise.

eowyn chemi

This style of chemise looks especially good if you can get hold of some trim to add at the sleeves top as it will look more interesting showing under an over gown

eowyn chemis

blue overdress

The second method for making chemises is a little more complicated and takes more sewing though its still doesnt really need any specialist skills .

You start with a piece of fabric long enough to reach your feet or calf when folded in half ,you then hold this against you and make a small hole to put your head through.For a chemise with sleeves you need the fabric to be wide enough for the length of sleeve you want as the sleeves and body are cut from the same piece .

To make an easier version that needs more sewing but less careful measurment use a narrow strip that is just wide enough to go over your head and leave enough fabric to sew down either side .The cut the head hole .Once you have the head hole  you need to shape it to your desired neckline. For a V shaped neckline you can either cut a long thin hole which will make it equally low front and back and wide necked  as below

partlet back

partlet ,book



or  cut out a triangular section from the front  and leave the back as a slight curve giving a tear drop shape,this works best for a narrower neckline.

blue chemise

For a square neckline cut a rectangular hole .You can make a wide neckline by cutting a horizontal slit in the fabric.For all the necklines make smaller than needed cuts first and gradually widen them until they fit perfectly as its easy to cut off more fabric but almost impossible to put right an neckline mistake.If your wearing the chemise under a gown make use the neckline is lower than the gown where the chemise is not going to be visible or in cases where the neckline has to show that its exactly the right shape.


,if its hard to get both front and back right aim to have the front showing

reddresseated tudor gown


or the front and sides showing and just tuck the back down


Edging the neckline is best done by adding lace or a trim ,you can hem them by cutting the edges but it is a little more complicated to get a perfect neat edge .

There is a combination of two methods which is the easier than trying to cut perfectly fitting sleeves from the same piece of fabric

Cut a narrow sleeveless tabard with a hole at the neck now add sleeves in the style of your choice ,this is also a good way to make a chemise with very fine floaty fabric for the sleeves or silk or embroidered fabric without using the same fabric for the entire chemise ,saving money .

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A cheats guide to Medieval dresses ,how to make a medieval gown with no sewing experience

I thought a quick guide to the medieval styles of gown that can be made without any sewing skill or resources would be useful prior to giving more detailed posts on each style over the next week or so .

I have listed each with photos and difficulty level as some will need more fabric or trimmings than others .

The easiest to make is a late medieval close sleeved style either the style below.Which is usually worn with a tall headdress


or a Borgia /Italian style with tie on sleeves.

borgia med gown

The familiar typically medieval version also front laces so its easy to get on if you wont have anyone to help you dress,it needs no under wear other than your normal underwear and could be laced using either curtain cord or ribbon.

medieval gown 3

This a trained gown so uses more fabric and needs longer lengths to make this with actual fabric you will need around 5 to 6 metres  ,you can easily also use curtains as that will save adding a hem but the curtains will need to be long enough to give you a long train at the back ,for me that needs around 50 inches as I am quite short .Alongside fabric you  will a clubbing or evening wear boned bodice which is cut down to make it higher waisted ,something such as the one below by wit and wisdom top shop is ideal.

wit and wisdom bodice

but it takes no special skills or equipment,I can make a gown like this in a couple of days if its made using already hemmed curtains.

You will need curtains wide that when stitched together they make a skirt wide enough for you but also leave enough fabric to make close fitting sleeves and around half a metre at least to recover a bodice.

A fur collar can be added and this is easy to make either from a length of fake fur cut from a jacket or hat or a bought  modern or vintage fur collar or  scarf  or a collar cut from a fake fur coat .A coat would also give you some cuffs as well by just cutting off the bottom of the coat sleeves

A non trained version  like the one below takes less fabric or shorter curtains ,the curtain length only needs to be around the length from under your bust to the floor allowing for the height of shoes you will wear.The fur neckline here was made using a fur hat I cut the brim off and used it directly as it was already hemmed.the belt is a piece of jewelled trim but a plain leather belt could be used .This was made with vintage cotton velvet curtain sand the vintage fabric  gave a lovely soft colour .It back laces and though you can get into it alone if you buy a very long piece of lacing cord or ribbon (three metres ) its a struggle to get your arms into the sleeves and the long length of cord will need pinning up inside the dress somewhere

leah blue gown

The collar below was a modern fur scarf so needed no sewing,the”belt is some upholstery trim

white queen gown

The last style of high waisted late medieval gown is the fuller sleeved version ,this also just needs some curtains and an evening bodice or top with boning but it uses a lot more fabric so you will need very wide curtains or an extra two metres or more of fabric depending on how wide you want the sleeves to be

bluebells woods

A slightly different version of the high waisted gown which  takes a lot less time and uses much less fabric as you only need either very narrow  pair of curtains or one wide curtain or three metres of fabric is the open fronted over gown,this is usually worn over another gown but can be worn over just a chemise which is a long nightdress type garment.The chemise is not hard to make and you can use a sheet but it is an extra layer to make.

blue overdress

red overdress

The photo below shows a front lacing  over gown worn with an under gown  giving a fairy tale style dress  which is similar to those seen in the Borgias ty series.An under gown is very easy to make as its just a long length of fabric with straps.

gold dress

You could also made a fake under gown by sewing a long panel of fabric to the inner side of the dress and pulling it across them lacing up the over gown to keep it in place.This also uses much less fabric because you can use narrower curtains and if you find a second pair to use for the front it can look very impressive


leah and peter

The photo below shows a simple chemise ,its made by sewing one long piece of fabric together down its long edge using running stitch to gather it at one of the narrow eds so that its wide enough to go over your head but not too baggy at the front ,then you sew tow short tubes of fabric for sleeves which need to be at least 12 ins longer than your arms ,you sew these to the long tube and gather them at the top to make a neckline and at the bottom for cuffs ,if you use a sheet you wont need to sew the hem and by cutting the sleeves so the hem of the sheet is at cuff leave you wont need to sew cuffs either ,alternatively you can use a sheet and then use two pillow cases one for each arm so you dont even need to sew the sleeves edges together.

restoration chemises

A variation of the under gown style is to make the same dress but so that it laces at the back then stitch up the back leaving just the bodice un sewn so you can lace up the dress that way,this avoids needing a chemise as you can just sew two pairs of sleeves from a bought blouse to the top of the dress but its harder to get into and though easy to make it needs tie on sleeves which can be hard to tie on if you dont have any help.

ivory borgia gown

.Using different fabrics say from two sets of curtains  or curtains and a cushion makes the gown more interesting and is not any harder.A wide set of curtains or around 4 metres of fabric is needed


brown borgia gown

The sleeves  for the gown look like this when off and are easier than normal sleeves to make because they dont need to be stitched to the dress so dont need to be as carefully fitted.They are attached to the dress by adding three ties at the top of them and to the arms of the dress ,then just tied on


Other Medieval gowns

The style which takes the longest and if it has wide sleeves also takes the most time is the early medieval style,this doesn’t need a chemise or special underwear .The sleeveless version is fairly easy to get into but the long sleeved version will almost certainly need someone to lace you into it .

The inaccurate  but easiest version is a bodice with skirt attached that has separate tight sleeves that are separate and can either be tacked on with a few stitches or with safety pins at the underarm part of the bodice or left loose as a kind of long fingerless style glove.




This takes the least time but is also the least accurate ,its very useful if you can only find a evening bodice which is strapless as you dont have to try to make any straps and work out the width of the arm holes.

medieval gown 2

A slightly less inaccurate version uses a piece of trim  to attached the sleeves to ,this is tacked across the top of the bodice all the way around ,,or you could also use a length of fur .


back art

An alternative version of this gown if you prefer not to make pull on sleeves and accuracy is not an issue  uses two pieces of fabric attached to the neckline trim ,,in this case the fur this just dangles loose,if you use curtains you can cut this so that you use some of the curtain hem and edges cutting down your sewing time.It does need some kind of  fake chemise sleeve underneath but you can cut two blouse sleeves out to sew on.The version below has a separate under skirt but it can just as easily be made like the others above with a close skirt.


If you find a bodice with straps and dont  want to make sleeves were accuracy doesnt matter you can make this gown,which is just a covered bodice and tube of fabric for a skirt ,with again blouse sleeves sewn onto the bodice ,the cloak here is a curtain which was cut and shaped I will give cloak instructions in a further post.

cloak and green eowyn gown

back ren go



This gown is just a Tudor gown minus its sleeves so you can use the cheats guide to making a Tudor gown to make this .

A more accurate tight sleeved low waisted gown.

If you can find a evening bodice with straps then you can make a slightly more accurate dress

med black gown


An open skirted version looks even better ,but needs some extra fabric to make the under skirt ,either another set of curtains or some fabric ,you dont need to make a complete skirt just stitch a panel around the front and side of the dress ,though a skirt is better

Picture 7061

The dress is being worn with a vintage fur cape ,but modern versions can be bought cheaply.The dress doesnt need trim around the side and bottom but to make it look authentic it does need a belt and neckline trim ,you can use pearls or necklace or upholstery trim or fur from a collar .

The full sleeves medieval gown.

This is not much more complicated than a basic gown but uses much more fabric each sleeve needs around an extra metre and theres more sewing time involved.

You make the basic, medieval sleeveless gown which uses the cheats Tudor gown  bodice but  some short sleeves then to these add long flowing sleeves.

back arwyn


The most complicated gown is the open fronted fuller sleeved dress,this needs shaped sleeves so is a little harder to make and needs an underskirt ,but the underskirt is simply a rectangle of fabric sewn long its long edge then gathered and stitched to the dress .

boles 2


Other gowns.

If you cant find a boned bodice to use for a dress it is possible to make a dress without one though it involves much more sewing and more fabric.

To make this gown ,you use a very long piece of fabric ,,long enough to go over your head and touch the floor front and back  and touch your wrists either wide ,plus enough spare to make a length of fabric from shoulder level to  the floor with spare for a train.I will write a short post on how to do this over the next month or so but basicaly you make the gown essentially by holding the fabric at above head height ,making an hole for your head  ,the cutting the sleeves by holding it against you and cutting up the fabric .A very much easier way if you have help is to fold the fabric in half then lie on the floor with your arms slightly away from your body while a friend cuts the sleeves to shape and cuts it so the sleeve fabric makes the bodice shape more fitted. To make it more medieval looking you then sew a upside down v shaped piece to the back.Then add a fur collar and a belt ,you need a sturdy leather belt buckled tightly at under bust level.

blue dress

Unfortunately I dont have a clearer photo of this style of gown but I will post better view on the how to make it post as I will of course have the made gown for those.

Other gowns and outfits LOTR ,fairytale ,fantasy and LARP

The Lord of the Rings outfit below can be made easily and very quickly but to look good will need some trim bought either from ebay or fabric /curtain shops,they are useful if you dont have a bodice or curtains and your budget  isquite low  as you can use just a metre of fabric ,,or less for a strapless version and an old sheet  (unfortunately the outfit below didnt fit the mannequin very well but it is a good clear view of the design.










Both outfits need a chemise ,the white under gown but that can be made cheaply and quickly using an old sheet cut into three pieces one long two narrower and shorter for sleeves

drawstring chemsie

a more complicated version will take longer but is not much more difficult

eowyn chemis

The Lord of the Rings gown

Based on a hybrid Galadriel and Arywn outfit ,this is essentially a much loosely version of  the sleeveless under gown  made with floaty fabric .It can be made wither sleeveless


or with long floaty sleeves added ,it needs a cloak to look its best ,I will give cloak instructions in a later post and add a link but a simple cloak can be made using the Victorian cheats guide instructions.

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

use galadriel

Early medieval layered outfits

These are handy if you cant buy a bodice or want something that looks very early medieval ,Viking ,Saxon etc or for nativity plays.the same layers also  work for men .

These need a lot more sewing time as theres several layers at least two a chemise and tabard but a third mantle makes the outfit look much better ,none are hard to make and are just rectangles of fabric sewn assorted ways ,the chemise needs a little more skill if  you want it fitted or with narrow sleeves or if your likely to show it alone but otherwise it can be made in three easy pieces like the others .The version below is made like the medieval  fitted gown but had panels added at the waist instead of the shoulder level .



The tabard layer ,this version has sleeves but the simple version is a rectange of fabric you fold double hold next  to you cut a hole for your head and leave open at the sides

larp tunic

The mantle


This is a rectangle of fabric folded so theres a wide piece for your back and two narrow pieces at the front they are then stitched along the top  one narrow curtain or throw works fine .If you add a wide panel of fur and belt it in at the waist it is a very effective way to keep out the bad weather


The finished layers when worn


A cloak makes a nice extra layer .

cloak and green eowyn gown

I will post links to the cheats  guide on how to make each style of dress over the next few weeks and add links ,if you need a medieval gown in a hurry and accuracy isnt important you can always use the Tudor gown cheats guide

Cheats guide to making a Tudor or Early Elizabethan gown

but make the bodice a bit lower  ,make wider longer sleeves and add a medieval style “girdle or belt made from a long modern belt or piece of jewelled trim.





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The cheats guide to Medieval head dresses part one ,choosing a style a time and materials guide

Source: The cheats guide to Medieval head dresses part one ,choosing a style a time and materials guide

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The cheats guide to Medieval head dresses part one ,choosing a style a time and materials guide

I will continue my cheats costuming guide by giving very easy instructions on how to make authentic looking medieval head wear .Most head dresses are covered including the tall Henin headdress which is the pointy one that most people associate with the middle ages.

med clothing

I will add detailed  instructions on making the  head dresses  in the next few posts  but first I thought it would be most helpful to describe the different types and the approximate time and resources needed .I will  also add instructions on making the dress in a later post as  its surprisingly  easy and quick  to make ,by far the simplest of gowns.

henin gown

The quickest and easiest but least authentic head gear  is a band made from twisting fake flowers together ,this could be used were authenticity is not a problem and fake flowers are easy and cheap to find ,often poundland or bargain stores will have them ,also fake ivy or flower strands could be simple tied together

headdress rep

This  style of head dress does unfortunately require long hair that is  a reasonably authentic looking colour ,but  most  medieval head dresses  dont ,the circlet  and Juliette cap are  the only headdresses which do.the others completely hide all your hair so it can be long  or short and any colour ,a cropped blue cut could be hidden under a truncated henin or crespinette ,a tall Henin idealy needs either medium length or long hair to keep in place (it needs to be just long enough to make a small  ponytail on top of your head ) but again your hair  colour and style dont  matter.

The most simple and by far the quickest authentic headdress to make is a simple band or circlet with a seperate chin strap or barbett  ,or a wimple or veil ,the circlet also forms the basis of many other m0re elaborate head dresses.I will add details on this style with the later instructions



The circlet can be made using an empty cereal box of any size ,or a  later more complicated version can be made from a vintage hat  decorated as  the below is with pearl necklaces or trim ,it will take around a half hour to two hours depending on how much decoration you add and needs very little fabric or trim .You can pin a veil to the top of a hat or wear one under the circlet style Barbette.A small piece of fabric needs to run under your chin and onto the top of your head for complete authenticity but is not essential

babette 1


The next easiest is probably a truncated  Henin which can be made using a box and a fairly small amount of fabric.It covers all your hair ,the loop at the front is not hair but a band of fabric.

truncated henin

The instructions for the truncated  Henin headdress can also be used to make a Napoleonic Shako ,by simply angling the hat as its made and  adding a crescent across the front at an angle otherwise the process is identical.


The more complicated looking Crespine/ crespinette is an attractive easy to make and comfortable Head dress which is essentialy two cauls attached to a band or circlet

The simplest version has no veil


While more complicated versions have veils which seem to rest on wires,I dont include instructions for this version as it requires more specialist materials and much more time.


To make a  crespine is slightly more complicated  than a circlet but not difficult,it has two bands added either side which are then covered in fabric,a caul can be added at the back


This takes around two to three hours depending on decoration but like the  circlets use very little fabric and scraps can be used.It can also be made using one large or two small cereal boxes and cello-tape.

If you prefer a more Italian style head dress you can make a “Juliet cap”.


by either cutting off the top of almost any hat to make a circular one  or by cutting an oval again from a cereal box and curving it to create a more pointed smaller cap .


My version below used a cheap childs straw hat top for its base and scraps of dress fabric and trim.

juilette cap

You could also make a very simple  coif using  two pieces of jewelled fabric


or fabric with detailing already applied

silk coif red

or scraps of fabric you have decorated

jeweled coif

Coifs take between half an hour and an hour and need nothing but some small peices of fabric and a needle and cotton

The next piece of head wear which can be made quickly is a caul which is merely a circle of fabric gathered and stitched ,theres no need ot add elastic ,the caul also forms part of some more complicated head wear

beaded silk caul russet

The most complicated Head dress covered is the Henin which will take around three to four hours and use two boxes or one box from a household appliance .This is not overly complicated but is harder to wear as it rests on a bun or plait of hair to keep it at an angle .It also needs more fabric and a decent veil or piece of thin organza or tulle.

henin gown

Other head dresses are combinations of either a  coif ,circlet ,caul barbette and ,Henin  The one below would take maybe two to three hours and is a coif worn under a  simple jewelled band .

jeweled coif painting

Lastly you can use a vintage hat to make a medieval hat ,this needs much more fabric and time but very little skill.


The only head dress not covered is the heart shaped  head dress which I have as yet found no simple and economical way to make.


It may be possible to make a similar head dress  for the stage or for proccesions etc where you wont be seen close up by cutting a wide heart shaped band as for a circlet but this would not look good close up and is very hard to keep on.

To read more detailed descriptions of medieval head wear and for some amazingly detailed and authentic looking recreations take a look at Kat Hats .

The gown styles I will cover are an early medieval fantasy style gown


A similar but more authentic style


medieval gown 3

A close sleeved high waisted gown and a wide sleeved version

bluebells woods

and a chemise

restoration chemises

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Remembering people and places ,Holocaust Memorial Day

To commemorate Holocaust Memorial day which is on January 27th I wanted to do a short post .

I was horrified to see a photo showing cyclists who had to be asked to dismount because they were cycling through  the Sobibor death camps “Himmelstrausse” or “Road to Heaven ” the path along which those who arrived at the camp were herded naked on their way to the gas chambers  .

cyclists sobibor road to heaven

Himmelstrauss  was the name given to the route at the death camps which marked the final journey of those arriving and along which they were often forced naked before being forced into the gas chambers ,after which their bodies were removed and destroyed .

Sobibor was one of several “death camps” or extermination camps created as part of Operation Reinhard.

,unlike Auschwitz ,or Belsen or Dachau ,there was no almost chance of survival ,Jews were murdered here on arrival ,the very few to survive were pulled from the crowds to act as work details to clear the bodies from the gas chambers and burn them or sort clothing and possessions of the dead.These workers were “culled”  and replaced at regular intervals so selection didnt guarantee survival just bought an extra few days or weeks of life.The only survivors of Sobibor were those who escaped during the uprising of 1943.  A star  of  David was discovered near the camps outer perimeter,I like to think that  perhaps dropped during this uprising  and its owner survived .Thought its much more likely its owner perished as though a few hundred escaped only 60 of those survived.

star of david

I thought it would be fitting to trace the life and journey of some of those whose last minutes were spent at Sobibor and the journey of  child whose last steps were taken walking along this path to the gas chambers of Sobibor.Due to recent archeaoligal excavations at the site of Sobibor more has been confirmed about the camps layout and fragments of the lives of those murdered here has emerged ,coins ,a ring inscribed  in Hebrew  with the Jewish wedding vow,,behold you are consecrated to me .


Found nr the gas chamber its owner would certainly have been murdered shortly after removing  it or perhaps t it fell from her in death,though its unlikey the guards would have missed such an exquisite item of jewellery,,  did she hide it  to keep it safely away from the thieving guards while she went for her “shower “and expected to retrieve it ?or what is much more likely  is that she realised her fate as often the women and children were forced to wait outside the chambers and hear the cries of the dying men before the chambers were emptied and they were forced into them ,perhaps it was a last act of defiance ,refusing to allow the murders to have something so personal and precious  or  symbolically buried  as the woman hearing the mens cries  realised her husband was now dead and she was a widow  .It is of course impossible to know ,but it survives as a poignant symbol of a destroyed life that was once filled with love and beauty ,a person loved and treasured who within a few short hours would not only be dead but may well have ceased to exist utterly ,their body burned in the fire pits that lay just out of sight.

I will trace the road to Sobibor for those Jews who arrived from one destination ,the Netherlands  ,the Netherlands have lasting and detailed record of events  that lead to the holocaust during WW2 ,we have the invaluable Diary of Anne Frank describing a life in hiding ,we also have the accounts of Corrie Ten Boom ,who was one of those who hid Jews and was active in helping many escape.We also have the surviving father on Anne Frank who eventually survived Auschwitz .

But the child whose journey I choose is not Anne Frank who died at Belsen but Lea Judith La Penha who like the older Anne Frank came  from Amsterdam.

The account below describes excavations at Sobibor that unearthed the identity tag belonging to six year old Lea.She was born on 14  of May 1937 and died on July 9th 1943 with her parents and over 2400 others.

sobibor judith

“By August 2012, the team of workers had recovered numerous artefacts interpreted to be the last possessions of some prisoners. In addition to evidence of structures and other features on the camp area landscape, artefacts included teeth, bone shards, jewellery, keys and coins that gave clues to identifying the victims. “The most important of these was an aluminium identification tag belonging to a six-year old girl, Lea Judith De La Penha of Amsterdam,” writes Haimi in a recent preliminary report, “who arrived from the Westerbork Camp in Holland together with her parents, on a transport that left on July 6, 1943 and arrived to Sobibór on July 9, 1943. The child’s mother was Judith de Abraham Rodrigues Parreira, b. 1903 and her father was David de Hartog Juda De La Penha, b. 1909. The De La Penha family belonged to a community of ‘Portuguese Jews’ who arrived from Spain and Portugal to Holland approximately one hundred years after the Spanish Inquisition in 1492……Following the German invasion, the situation for Dutch Jews became critical and in July 1942, the first transports of Jews to Poland began.”

Lea was traced and family photos show a happy family,shes shown having a dolls tea party

lea with her dols having a tea party


Or being held  .

lea 3

We have family photos of her and her parents  celebrating Christmas ,showing they had not been a strict and harshly observant Jewish family but enjoyed traditionally gentile celebrations

la penha family 2

 la penha family christmas

The La Penha family lived  in Amsterdam ,he father was a decorator and lithographer ,her mother a seamstress,they had married in 1934 and had their first child in 1936 the child died either at birth or shortly after ,their next child was Lea was born the following year and she must have been doubly precious to parents who would have lost their first born.They lived in good areas of Amsterdam ,though were not wealthy.From their home they were arrested and had just a few days to live


An account of the last weeks of the  La Penha family can be found here and I include a paragraph

la penha family 2

“the father, mother and Lea were arrested in 1943 and went on July 6 from Westerbork to Sobibor with the 68th transport. In this transport were 2417 people.
Upon arriving on July 9, 1943 the people of this transport were killed almost instantly, with  David, Judith and Lea killed on July 9th, 1943.
Shortly after the deportation from the Count Floris Street was the home pulsed. That means that the furniture was taken away from moving pulse and transferred to Argentina warehouse.The furniture was meticulously recorded.

An account  of their belongings can be found here in the original dutch

From their arrest they would have been taken to Amsterdam railway station and loaded onto overcrowded trains to Westerbrork transit camp.

train station amsterdam

On arrival after a fairly short journey they were processed but the process was nowhere near as disturbing and brutal as that of other camps.

HOLOCAUST 0086-0090

transport 2

while effectively prisoners camp life was not as unpleasant as in the final destination work and death camps,Prisoners could practice their faith and had other facilities


The barracks while crowded and basic were not in any way  comparable to Auschwitz

barracks west

A full account of camp life can be found here and I include extracts

Arrival at Westerbork

Westerbork took on many of the characteristics of a small town. There was a hospital headed by Dr F M Spanier, with 1,800 beds, a maternity ward, laboratories, pharmacies, 120 doctors and a further 1,000 employees. Other facilities included an old people’s home, a huge modern kitchen, a school for children aged 6-14, an orphanage and religious services. Workshops existed for stocking repair, tailoring, furniture manufacturing, and bookbinding. There were divisions for locksmiths, decorators, bricklayers, carpenters, veterinarians, opticians and gardeners.

The camp included an electro-technical division, a garage and boiler room, a sewage works, and a telephone exchange. In 1943, when the “permanent” population was at its peak, 6,035 people were employed at the camp, not all of whom were Jewish.

Although men and women were segregated at night, there was no restriction on their movements during the day. Services within the camp included dental clinics, hairdressers, photographers and a postal system. Various sporting activities were available, including boxing, tug-of-war and gymnastics. Gemmeker encouraged entertainment activities – there was a cabaret, a choir and a ballet troupe. Toiletries, toys and plants could be purchased from the camp warehouse. There were no shortages in the camp, since it was regularly supplied by the Dutch administration and Gemmeker had a fund at his disposal appropriated from the Jewish property that had been confiscated. As with some other transit camps, Westerbork had its own currency.


                Sample of Westerbork Currency                                         sample 2

In case it should be thought that this was an idyllic existence, it should be born in mind that every inmate had the spectre of imminent death hanging over them. The railway line into the camp had been completed in November 1942 and allowed trains into the centre of the compound. 101,525 of the 107,000 Dutch Jews deported to the east were interned at Westerbork – 41,156 men, 45,867 women and 14,502 children. More than 95% of those deported from the camp perished.

Post Card from an inmate at Westerbork

Fear of transport to the unknown east dominated Westerbork and defined the behaviour of many of its inmates. Although no detailed knowledge about the destination of the transports was known, the prisoners were only too aware that the Germans were not planning anything that would prove beneficial to the deportees. In order to keep their names off the transport lists, people would do anything – “sacrifice their last hoarded halfpenny, their jewels, their clothes, their food, or in the case of young girls, their bodies.”

The regime at Westerbrork must have instilled a false sense of security on those transient prisoners who only saw the strict but not horrific camp and were told they were going East to be resettled or to work .Those sent from Amsterdam to Sobibor seem to have occasionaly been sent in overcrowded trains rather than the cattle carriages used for other transports .There is an account of a camp survivors that talks of unsuspecting dutch jews arriving in pulman carriages ,adding to their false sense of security perhaps Lea was lucky enough to be in one of these transports.


rather than the much  more brutal journey by  cattle carriage

So horrific was the journey in these that some died and all were glad to finally see their destination

transport 1

Sadly on arrival at Sobibor was no improvement.An account of  Sobibor  can be found in full here but I include the relevant part which  gives an account of the peoples arrival and will no doubt be the same process that accounts  for the final hour of little Leas life.

photo below  show arrivals at  the similar extremination  camp of Treblinka


. On arrival the Jews were taken directly to the reception area. They were informed that they had reached a transit camp en route to a labour camp. Many of them were forced to write letters to their relatives, to let them know that they had arrived safely at a labour camp. They were then told that they would continue on their journey the next day, but must take a shower and have their clothes disinfected before moving on.

The men and women were separated, the children being taken with their mothers. The Nazis ordered the victims to remove their clothing and hand over their valuables. The Jews were then marched to the gas chambers. They were treated brutally, chased and screamed at by the Ukrainian guards, who fired warning shots at them. About 450 to 550 Jews were forced into the gas chambers at a time.

The whole process, from arrival to burial, took just two or three hours. Prisoners were then ordered to clean out the railway wagons before the trains left and another train of about 20 wagons containing a thousand more Jews entered the camp.

A survivor sketched the proccess

richter-gfh2429 2 netherlands jewish prisoners sobibor

Some tried to escape but were shot by hidden troops with machine guns

richter-gfh2415 2 sobibor

richter-gfh2419 2 woman dead at sobibor

while blurred survivor photos from other camps show the confusion and terror of the final walk to the Gas chambers.


Afterwards the murdered victims were taken and their bodies hidden from new arrivals ,originally they were buried then when the system had been “perfected ” burned in open pits or in later camps such as Auschwitz in crematoriums

Carbon monoxide generated by a diesel engine mounted outside was piped into the gas chambers. The corpses were removed from a second door and buried in huge, specially excavated pits. Carts, and later trolleys on a small rail track, were used to carry deportees who were too infirm to walk to the burial pits where they were shot so as not to delay the killing process.

In April 1942, Franz Stangl, an SS officer with a background in Operation T4, arrived to take command. Stangl commanded a mere 20-30 SS men, mainly from the T4 program. There was also a guard company of Ukrainians. About 200 to 300 Jews worked in teams at the gas chambers and burial pits. They cleaned out the killing rooms, removed gold teeth from the corpses and pushed trolleys heaped with bodies towards the pits. About 1,000 Jews worked at the platform cleaning up the rail trucks and removing debris, and in teams at the shaving hut, the undressing barracks and in the sorting sheds.

Within a few days Lea went from a child surrounded my a loving family to death at Sobibor

perhaps like the girl in the red coat in Schindlers list She now stands out from the crowd of lost lives


her journey chronicled


but her the fate the same

dead girl in red coat

She has no grave ,the Nazis destoyed all trace of her within hours ,she lies intermingled with thosands of others  among the huge mound of ashes that form the burial memorial at Sobibor,only her name tag survived the process of destruction and preserves her memory



In an effort to hide the camps and murder committed in them the camps of operation Reinhard were destroyed after they had fulfilled their function ,incriminating paperwork destroyed  where unneeded ,the bodies burned and ashes crushed ,the camp buildings were raised to the ground ,rubble removed and then the ground backfilled ,inTreblinka a false farm was created with farmhouse and trees ,Sobibor disapeared until with the help of survivors the site was rediscovered .Archaeologists here and at Treblinka have helped to uncover the camps layout and remnants of lost people who perished .

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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 will a add more of the cheats guides and  the occasional new costuming research  post though as time passes they will be much less frequent . 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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