Dean Faull ,misunderstood scapegoat or “the enemy in our midst?”

the minister magic hour

(This post  is currently  being updated frequently as events unfold so please find updates at the base of the post .)

I am sure regular blog readers will know that I am no fan of Dean Faull ,this is not based on personal bias or ill feeling due to her support of  her previous city  of Leicester over York in the Richard III reburial case.It is based on having had personal experience of the lady .Having spent an hour as a captive audience during a service and been forced to listen to a homily which was not only poorly researched and inaccurate but had no christian content whatsoever  and had the unique effect of making the majority congregation leave wishing they had never gone and many close to tears.

The title of the post is taken from her very own words from that address “I suppose,,, you think of me as  the enemy in your midst”.

I had entered the minister the day of the service  wishing very much to see that any preconceptions I had about the Dean where wrong and hoped to leave feeling our Minister ,heritage and the people of Yorkshire were in safe hands .I left not only angered but feeling something very much akin to despair

Standing in the shadow of the statue of Constantine hearing people leaving bewildered and hurt ,and yes angry in some cases ,I wondered what would become of York with the Dean in charge .

york minister dean

I think its clear what has become of  York ,its become a place where secrets are kept ,people are undervalued and heritage is ignored Its problems long hidden have now  become the  subject of media debate .The ministers bell ringers have been sacked and no one is really sure why .What everyone is fairly sure about rightly or wrongly is that it was the deans fault.I do not wish to be unfairly biased so I would welcome any input from those with positive comments about the dean in the comments section  and will most certainly add any relevant comments to the body of the post but unfortunately I didn’t find anything online to add to this post.

It is widely  felt that she has impoverished the culture of York and stamped by the imposition of silence on its streets her own power and authority to the detriment of the city.

“I live in york and am lucky enough to hear the bells regularly, Tuesday nights are wonderful as it’s bell ringing practice and a walk round york with the bells ringing is pure magic (or it was before she stopped them).

The only times the bells haven’t rung was during the second world war, so she has achieved something only Hitler has managed previously, she must be so proud of herself.”

comment extract Guardian orbitalgirl)

The current scandal is being widely reported.

While the Mail and express may have chosen their own unique way of reporting the issue the numerous comments on the posts show there is a very real problem at the Minister ,its source being the Dean ,either personally or in the form of “government” she has imposed.

There was no advance warning or consultation with the ringers

“At Tuesday’s meeting, we were told that the minster had commissioned an external report on ringing which had identified health and safety risks. As a result of this – and without any warning – the decision was taken that ringing must stop immediately. This was a complete surprise as none of the ringers had been involved in any report, nor were we aware that it was being carried out. Most frustratingly, the minster will not share this report with us or tell us what the supposed risks were.”

“We feel that our dean, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, has demonstrated time and again a wilful lack of understanding of bell ringing at the minster. Since her arrival in York in 2012, we have invited her to meet us on several occasions, but she has repeatedly not attended. We are used to having a good relationship with dean and chapter, and in the past they have joined us for dinners and social events.

The Guardian  continues

“But this is a dean who, to our knowledge, has never ascended the bell tower or seen us ring, yet was willing to speak to the press on Thursday about the risks of operating in “far-flung parts of the minster” and “working at height”. As any of the ringers could have told her, no part of our ringing involves working at height:”

Dean Faulls came to York in 2012  from Leicester where she had been for 12 years .Perhaps having spent many years in a place that is primarily urban it is hard to acclimatize to a diocese  that is overwhelmingly rural and she has consistently failed to consult with those who would help her understand the cares and concerns of her new flock .It’s also hard to escape the impression that she feels York needs “modernising” and shaking up,that she’s somehow fallen among backward peasants who need sorting out and teaching how the modern world works.I think also that the Arch bishop in a recent statement probably summed up the problem,while mentioning the deans compassion ,he added

“She follows procedures by the letter, she’s more rigid than some people.”

Its possible the dean is indeed a scape goat,she is unquestionably unpopular either fairly or unfairly  and she may be paying the price for the decisions that have been made elsewhere.I  think that  you need to assume the dean is either incompetent or uncaring  or both to have allowed things to reach such a pass.There is now a second petition raised due to the Deans perceived mismanagement and overbearing attitude.

(Another petition to have her replaced has also been started and the link is at the foot of this post)

The thought that the bells of York minister will not mark the passing of the year is unbelievable,to not hear them usher in the period of remembrance or welcome in Christmas  day or the new year will be a great loss .Had there been some physical reason it would be sad but the silence is unnecessary and is the result of deliberate actions taken to exclude the ringers from the minister ,in a manner that reminds one of some third world dictators  military coup.

The way this has been dealt with and the treatment of the bell ringers  has repercussions far beyond the silencing  of the bells and the silencing  of the bell ringers themselves, it also shows a contempt for the workers who are necessary to keep the minister and indeed the entire church running smoothly .It may seem as though “volunteers” are some how amateurs  and need taking in hand or organising ,but Bell ringing is a skilled task needing many hours and indeed years of practice ,its time-consuming and requires dedication .This is a shoddy way to repay such dedication ,its shows contempt for their skills and entirely disregards their feelings as human beings.Its also an incredibly bad management choice,Yorks bell ringers have an outstanding reputation ,imagine the England cricket or football team managers waking up one morning sacking all the team ,then sacking anyone who complained about it .

Likewise the church is built from volunteers ,,,Jesus was a carpenter who turned to spreading the word of God ,Peter a fisheman ,Matthew a Tax collector,It now exists entirely due to an army of volunteers and I doubt any church large or small can exist without them ,from the person who takes the tea towels home after a service  in a small chapel to those doing the bell ringing at York.It is always these “volunteers” who are the  bones and sinews of the church ,,vicars (or Deans) come and go ,but the volunteers remain ,be they the flower lady knows were the best spots are for specific arrangements ,she knows the light ,the heat the space needed and what the congregation  like .The lady giving out teas ,knows each persons preferences and foibles .Volunteers keep the chruch going ,often sacrificing they precious leisure hours to do menial tasks  or giving up other leisure pursuits to achieve excellence as is the case with Yorks Bellringers,No sensible vicar (or Dean) would try to impose micromanagement on these volunteers and fence them around pharisee like with an ever-increasing list of dos and dont until the only flowers likely to appear are plastic ones from china and the warm smile and welcoming word of the people serving coffee and tea are replaced by a vending machine .

Likewise Bell ringing was in our old church a family activity ,my son used to go as did other young people they mixed with older members of the congregation and took real pride in their work ,not only have the dean silenced the bells she has destroyed that part of the Ministers life.

Yorks heritage is being dismantled ,its harmony torn apart and its reputation sullied.

The focus  has shifted from the relaying of the gospel in a way appropriate to the modern world but honouring the heritage of centuries to image control and damage limitation.The deans mismanagement and high handedness are pulling apart the human fabric of the Minister and a church is built of flesh and blood people not mere stones.

The precincts of the sacred Minister have become the prowling ground of fear and are being subjected to a form  totalitarian rule that is utterly inappropriate in the church of God.

I was once considering applying for a post there ,but I do not feel that signing “gagging orders”  or spending every working minute watching what I say or do was a work environment I would find beneficial ,,and of course I had supported the Richard III York reburial so on that basis alone I was pretty sure my application would be filed in a shredder.

I think it is probably fair to say that the Dean had managed to cause upset a plenty prior now and indeed  prior to the reburial debate but that her  part within the debate made matters worse and caused strife ,especially as she made very clear her loyalties still lay with her home town of Leicester .I think the Churchs management” has made a  huge mistake not addressing the issue .Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter or how “out of proportion” the issues have become ,its imposible not to see that anyone who causes such a degree of division ought to be reassigned.

Whether of no it was justified the very fact of the petition raised to have her replaced after thr Richard III memorial service  and the response to it would ,I feel that for anyone with any sense of care for her flock have been enough for her to seek a relocation as it was clear she had lost the trust and affection of the greater art of her flock and that the wounds caused would be slow to heal .

It is now clear that those wounds can never heal as they are being constantly added to ,its hard not to escape the impression of a dean willing to tread down anyone who opposes her ,and whose sole focus is to provide for herself a suitably stunning resume for future promotion .

Update 1 Oct 17th

The minister and Dean Faull after increasing media pressure to explain their actions eventually issued this statement

york Minster Bell Ringers

York Minster’s governing body, the Chapter of York, is responsible for ensuring that the Minster is a safe place for everyone who steps inside. This means managing and minimising risk to people and the building and includes safeguarding, health and safety and security.

Earlier this summer, it was necessary for the Chapter to take action regarding a member of the bell ringing community on safeguarding grounds. This came after complex multi-agency activity involving City of York Council, York Diocese Safeguarding Adviser and the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Officer.

The decision was taken in line with advice from safeguarding professionals, and with regard to national policies and guidance, including the Church of England’s on minimising risk to children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Some members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters.

Repeated disregard of the Chapter’s attempts to fully implement the Church’s national policies for safeguarding, health and safety and security meant that decisive action was required.

This is why the Chapter took the decision to disband the bell ringing team last week.  New arrangements for bell ringing at the Minster will start in the New Year.

This suggests (if the entire story) the Dean and Minister decided to punish all the bell ringers for the actions of one and instead of understanding that the bell ringers were a close knit group  and using persuasion and perhaps action against an individual ,,if indeed it was merited removed the entire talented group,,many of whom will have had no idea of any issues.I am also lead to believe that this issue had been dealt with and that no one was found to be at fault in the way described by the Dean

The bell ringers own response is here

YMSCR Response to the Archbishop of York

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, delivered a statement this afternoon regarding the York Minster bell ringers.

In this statement he referred to Chapter’s decision earlier this summer to take action regarding a member of the bell ringing community on safeguarding grounds. He also stated that “some of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters. Repeated disregard of the Chapter’s attempts to fully implement the Church’s national policies for safeguarding, health and safety and security meant that decisive action was required.”

The York Minster Society of Change Ringers (YMSCR) would like to clarify that, whilst we have challenged the Chapter on the fairness of some decisions, we strongly refute any suggestion that we disregarded the implementation of any of their policies. All of Chapter’s policies have been implemented in full, at all times. YMSCR take health and safety, security and safeguarding with the utmost seriousness. The Dean and Chapter have not been able to point to any evidence that suggests the contrary.

Individuals within YMSCR have privately expressed concerns to the Dean and Chapter over whether due process was followed during their action regarding a member of the bell ringing community. As a direct result of doing so, the entire team had their volunteer agreements terminated. This demonstrates that York Minster do not tolerate any questioning of their decisions, or of the processes by which these were made, even when that questioning is conducted politely and in private.

If this was the reason for the Dean and Chapter’s decision to dismiss the band last week, we do not understand why this was not communicated to us at the time, and why the Dean and Chapter misled the public by releasing several statements contradicting this. We are deeply disappointed that Dean Faull and Archbishop Sentamu have decided to release their statement this afternoon without any prior communication or consultation with YMSCR.

Now, more than ever, we feel the need to sit down and talk in private with the Dean and Chapter of York Minster to discuss these issues. We make a direct appeal to Dean Vivienne Faull and Archbishop John Sentamu to make contact and to arrange this meeting.

Update (18.00, 17th October):

Please note that, contrary to some reports, there is no ongoing investigation into any member of YMSCR, past or present.

te 2 oct 17th

It should be noted that the Dean refused the ringers offer to return to make the bells sfe for prolonged no one and instead paid for a firm from the Leicester area to do the job at some cost .

I should like to add the following from the York Bell ringers  site ,I would first however like to make clear that the views expressed in my post and on my blog are my own and in no way connected to the bell ringers who have maintained a dignified stance in refusing to speculate or comment on the Dean.

This letter is to everyone who is following the current situation at York Minster regarding the band of bell ringers.

We are a group of young ringers, all under 25 years of age. We are all students in York and we feel that it is important to put across our experience as bell ringers at York Minster in the light of recent events. Bellringing groups on social media exploded on the morning of Wednesday 12th October, following the publication in the York Press of the story regarding the sudden and unexpected sacking of the Minster bell ringers. It has since spread rapidly and even made it to the BBC. Needless to say it has been difficult for any of us to concentrate recently on anything other than these saddening developments. Whilst reading many of these news articles and also comments and discussions amongst fellow bell ringers across the country on social media, several things have come to our attention that we now wish to address. We feel that it is important that you hear directly from those affected.

Firstly, there have been numerous suggestions (particularly amongst other bell ringers) that the band at the Minster is closed off and ‘elitist’. This is simply NOT true. We would like to make it clear that since arriving in York and showing an interest in ringing regularly at the Minster, we have always been made welcome and encouraged. We all made the commitment to attend both the weekly Tuesday evening practices and service ringing every Sunday and have consequently made tremendous progress; some of us had never rung on 12 bells before yet we were all welcome as long as we made the commitment to attend regularly.

The quality of ringing is of a very high standard and consequently it could  sometimes be daunting, wondering whether we would succeed, but that is pressure that we put on ourselves through a desire to improve, and the rest of the band have always been inclusive and encouraging. We have made some very firm friends as a result of ringing at the Minster and were welcomed quickly into the group, invited to drinks at the pub afterwards as well as to Christmas meals and annual dinners. Two new members were elected to the Minster society only last week which shows that the band is ever-evolving, dynamic and welcoming.

The strong friendships we have made are demonstrated by the success of our under 30’s quarter peal this year, the average age of the band was 24 and the quality of the ringing was excellent and maintained throughout. This is also a testament to the diversity of the band. Having enough capable younger ringers to ring a quarter peal of ‘Plain Bob Cinques’ on such a challenging set of bells is quite an achievement.

This raises another point about the bells themselves. Many of us had been ringers in various parts of the country for several years previously, in some cases as long as 10 years, before arriving at York Minster. Regardless of that it took us all a significant amount of time to get used to handling the bells and even longer to learn how to strike them properly in order to keep up the impressive standard which has been maintained at the Minster for so long. Bellringing is a difficult skill to master and takes lots of time, commitment and dedication. This makes the recent discarding of the band by the Dean and Chapter all the more disappointing.  It also demonstrates an apparent lack of understanding on their part about what ringing these bells involves which could have been avoided had they not shown such an apparent unwillingness to visit the tower to learn more which they were invited to do on several occasions.

There have also been suggestions that the Minster bellringers were unwilling to comply with requests from the Dean and Chapter and unwilling to change and adapt. This is not true.  We have complete and total faith in our committee and in our Ringing Master, Peter Sanderson, that he always met with the Chapter when it was requested, made sure that new policies were implemented whilst keeping the rest of us updated, and tried to stay in constant touch with the Minster authorities.  Regrettably, we have always felt that the same level of commitment, communication and understanding was lacking from them. One recent example of this was the introduction of a new sign-in sheet with which we all complied every time we entered and left the tower. If the reasons behind this policy were explained, they were certainly not fully understood, but regardless the whole band was happy to comply.

We are still all deeply upset and shocked by our exclusion from the tower. Fortunately we believe that the friendships within the band are strong enough to withstand this difficult time, and we will still keep ringing even if for the foreseeable future it cannot be at the Minster. The friendships, dedication and skill that we have all developed as a result of ringing at the Minster will be with us always.

From the ‘Student Ringers of York Minster

The following  is an earlier post from the sites news page ,it includes the update the deans decision to pay to have the bells properly stood ,,despite the ringers offering to do it for free,I would suggest needless expenditure ought to be the subject of inquiry as I am sure some other bell ringers would also have been happy to do this,,unless the dean did not want someone there who was not subject to the same controls that can be imposed on contractors

The ringers page

“We should like to make it clear via this post that none of the (former) York Minster ringers wish to be associated with the personal attacks on the Dean of York or the nickname published in the Times today (15th October 2016). Please could we ask that all personal attacks on the Dean of York cease?

The ringers are grateful for all the support we have received locally, nationally and from around the world. We did not call in the media ourselves following Tuesday’s meeting and subsequent denial of access, but find ourselves having to respond to increasing media attention and bafflement.
The whole situation is very sad. We have learnt that the Minster are now employing a bellfoundry to ring the bells down (for a fee) rather than accept our offer to make them safe free of charge.

We would still like the situation to be resolved through talks and reconciliation but there has been to date no response from the Dean or Chapter on this open offer.”

From an earlier news page

Dear all visitors,

you have probably arrived here having read the news.

If not, please see the York Press website or other media regarding the axing of the York Minster bellringers October 2016.

As far as we know, the ban is a blanket one, therefore, to anyone hoping for bells for your wedding or other events such as ordinations, marathons, Tour de Yorkshire or similar, our apologies. Those booked in as visiting bands, or for peal attempts, please keep in touch- we will let you know any updates. Obviously, anyone who was thinking of joining us as a visitor for practise or service ringing, do understand you will be welcome back another time.

There is a petition to request ringing at key services over the coming months, namely Remembrance Sunday, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, and there is an option to sign and/or share if you so wish.

The Minster authorities are doing a very thorough job of cleansing their website of all references to the bells.  Articles referencing recent ringing have been removed; ringers have been removed from the volunteers section; the books and CDs appear to have been pulled from the online shop. The Minster Twitter feed apologises for ‘essential maintenance’ a couple of days ago. However, the book, “The Bells and Bellringers of York Minster” is available to purchase still through us, details under the “publications” tab.

Lastly, a copy below of the open letter to the Dean of York Minster, from our esteemed Ringing Master (“head bell ringer”) of 10 years

“Dear Vivienne,

There is information, issued by the Minster, being quoted in the media which is simply wrong. In particular I read that I “was not accountable to the Chapter – a situation the body wishes to change by creating a new Head of the Bell Tower role”. As you know, I was appointed to the position of Ringing Master by Chapter in 2006 and have remained fully accountable to them ever since, always implementing Chapter’s policies as requested and being willing to work co-operatively with Chapter to resolve any issues as they have arisen. That is at it should be and as it was until Tuesday evening.

The Minster bellringers are a happy, united, vibrant, skilled, and dedicated team which has grown and evolved over the past forty years to become the envy of many Cathedrals and parish churches across the country. It includes ringers aged from 11 years to 70 plus. It matters not a jot whether it is me or someone else who leads the band into the next decade but to see this wonderful team discarded by Chapter on Tuesday evening with no warning and in such a brutal fashion was heartbreaking beyond measure. The letters of termination handed out to members were headed “York Minster invites everyone to discover God’s love”. Such doublespeak would hardly be out of place in George Orwell’s most famous work.

You have also referred in the media to the review of the operation of the bell tower which raised health and safety concerns. That review was commissioned by Chapter, undertaken and completed without the knowledge of the bellringers and with no opportunity for them to provide input. Nor have the results ever been shared with us. I’m afraid that this is typical of the secrecy with which the Minster operates under the current leadership team under your direction.

When you arrived as Dean in 2012 the ringers invited you on several occasions to visit the bell-tower and meet the team. You declined all of those invitations and have never to my knowledge ascended the tower. As significant grievances between the ringers and Chapter have arisen over the past 18 months I have made numerous offers to meet with you and to work together to resolve them. You have rejected every one of those offers.

Nevertheless, I make that offer again now: to meet with you and your team; to discuss honestly and openly all of the concerns which exist; and to find ways in which the current situation can be amicably resolved. With such an approach the Minster bells could, and should, be heard again very soon.

Yours sincerely

Peter Sanderson (Ringing Master, York Minster Society of Change Ringers) “


From Yorkmix

York Minster bell ringing row goes international – Situation ‘utterly bizarre’ says Lord Mayor

The reverberations from the York Minster bell ringing row have now echoed beyond our island borders.

News of the Dean and Chapter’s decision to disband the bell ringing team, and silence the belfry until at least Easter next year, has shocked the international bell ringing community.

The American Bell Association, based in Miami, Florida, but with members across the country, reported the news on its Facebook page, the leadership saying it was “saddened, and a little angry”.

Elsewhere European group The Children of Quasimodo posted: “Our sympathies are with the Bellringers of York Minster in England, they just got ousted from ringing for ‘administrational reasons’”.


York Minster bell ringing row goes international – Situation ‘utterly bizarre’ says Lord Mayor


I have to wonder whether there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Surely, even the most evil, scheming inHuman Resources abomination would not conceive of dismissing volunteers of many years standing in such a way, with no consultation, no notice, and locking the door in their face. Surely?

Pointing out that the story has led to “national, if not international, condemnation of York Minster”, the Lord Mayor adds: “A spectacular piece of foot-shooting which will disadvantage the Minster itself, as well as people involved in the Service of Remembrance, celebrants of Christmas, and New Year.

“Utterly bizarre behaviour!”


Futher update a new petition has been started to have the dean removed,the issue is that regardless of culpability in this issue

“Whatever the cause of the dispute with the bell ringers, she has acted with her habitual high-handed, dictatorial manner and well-known lack of people skills. She has made herself a laughing stock in the national media, with comment after comment calling her behaviour unChristian. She has become an embarrassment to the Minster, and to York. She is not fit for purpose in the role of Dean.”

dear, the response of the Minster management to complaints is now to sack the complainers. A great example of the exercise of God’s Love. It is blindingly clear that the Minster has a major management dysfunction originating in control freakery and arbitrary and arrogant exercise of power. The relevant authorities need to do something and fast before the publicity gets any worse. if it possibly could get any worse than refusing to ring the bells on Remembrance Sunday.

Posted in history, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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 versions 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 similar  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 when the blouse/bodice and skirt are attached)
The easiest way if you dont sew  or cant view the dress on a mannequin or friend is to just remove it and not sure 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 you 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.You can also wear something with an interesting authentic looking hem  under the Sari dress our making  so that this peeps out from under the dress,a skirt or long strappy dress will work,there are Regency styles of gown that have under gowns so its still authentic.
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 but  if you dont sew ,the easiest is to use just gathers ,,,,you can just tie a knot in the end of a long piece of  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 open  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 if you have access to a wider choice by 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 per side.This is to make a strap either side ,but if this is likely to be difficult to get right you can just sew two pieces of ribbon each side ,the when you 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,or a re tailored  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 but these must be made from beads of equal size not graduated ,graduated beads are a 1940 and after style
regn necklace
A delicate diamanté necklace for balls or double string  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 and use the strongest hold if your going to be either outside or dancing .

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

I also have posts on other items such as a cheats guide 30 minute  Spencer  and a guide on how to make parasols Reticules and pockets the victorian cheats guides cna be useful for accessories .

Posted in 18thc, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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 , | 15 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.




Posted in 18thc, 19thc, brontes, Hathaways of Haworth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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


Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, history | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Posted in brontes, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, 18thc, 19thc, brontes, costume research, Georgians, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tudor and Elizabethan clothing research sources

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


or master John.


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

princess mary tudor neckline

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


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


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

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

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

purple tudor gown

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


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

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

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


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

For example

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


anne  b

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

effigy-corset on

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


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



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

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

Drea bath smocks

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

extant elenaore

elenaro extant

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


and also stockings

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

16thc gown

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


black dress mary

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

pisa gown

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

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


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

elizabth r gown

Created using the little known phoenix portrait.

Elizabeth20 phoennix

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

mitchley side

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

ditchley back

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

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

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

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

The Other Boleyn Girl

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


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


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

la_reine_margot_1993_diaporama_portraitOr without the prerequisite  under layers


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

eliz green gown

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, costume research, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A day in the life of Emily Bronte ?

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



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

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

(Image below From the BBC series Jane Eyre)

jane wakes

Emilys day

nightgown 1830

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


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

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


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


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

a_victorian_maid fires

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


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


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

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

servant water

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

perhaps now or soon after open shutters and any curtains

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

we know th Brontes had prayer time .


Housework next


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

donkey stoning

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

do nkey stone

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

bronte parsonahe bronte era 1850

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

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


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

collect and empty Hot water bottles ,


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

(Probably on wash day you would now get dressed )

Once weekly wash day


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

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

4 sheets

4 pillow cases ,2 bolster pillow cases


10  handtowels towels plus shaving clothes for the men

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

at least 7 tablecloths,6 traycloths,10 napkins

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

10  or more Aprons

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

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

6 chemises

5  nightdresses, the girls plus servants

2 to 4  mens night shirts

6 to 8 petticoats

8 pairs stockings at least

21 or more handkerchiefs,,

4 wrapper dresses

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

Storing linen meant using lavender ,moth balls etc.

Once the housework was done

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

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

mrsbeetonchops off head of turtle in bbc adaptation

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

kitchen maid pots

Light fires in rooms only used later in the day .

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


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


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


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

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

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

muddy skirts

Make tea .evening meal

set table for evening meal,eat evening meal.

maid cleaning table

Clear evening meal plates wash and dry,scour any pans

feed scraps  to dogs and cats ,feed dogs

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

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


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

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

LP56-toast-toasting fork-fire-kettle

Evening Prayers

Let cats and dogs out

fill bedwarmers and hot water bottles ,wind clocks

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

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

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

An easy cheats guide to making Victorian dress

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

To make this you will need

Some wide pretty lace or fringe or beaded trim  for the neckline,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 , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 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 .

Posted in 19thc, brontes, Hathaways of Haworth, work | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anne of Cleves ,not as bad as shes painted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 16thc/17thc, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My life in Golden Hollow

It seems like half a lifetime since I left my home in Yorkshire to come to Skerray in Sutherland.Yet its only been a few short months.

Though hundreds of miles away from all I have known and all those I love, from the moment I arrived in Skerray I felt I had come to a place where I belonged.Skerray was where I had always wanted to live without knowing it.

Skerray is on the coast of Sutherland,Sutherland  has been called Europes last great wilderness and it is also a place where the so called old fashioned values of  community ,of trust ,of caring for your neighbour still endure,a place I will always remember for the kindness extended to me from my very first hours among them and until my very last.

I started out from one of the norths biggest cities ,on a rush hour train ,with my wee dog Tilly  and my not so wee cat Izzy and as train succeed train the crowds dwindled .Many hours later as I boarded the Caladonian sleeper I  finally felt I was beginning my new life ,the next morning,I woke to see the highlands appearing out of the weak dawn light of autumn .I drank my coffee in bed watching the highlands passing my window ,saw a brief glimpse of deer and a more lingering view of mountains and heath.

,I was in Scotland ,my new country.From the restrained bustle of Inverness I boarded my final train to Thurso,a route that with each passing station becomes more and more rural and stations become sentinels in what sometimes seems an empty land.I watched the coast disappear and reappear ,I saw wild goats and more deer ambling across  inner flat land of Caithness before the land yet again became green and undulating..As I was driven from Thurso across a landscape  less populated and wilder than its possible to imagine unless you have been to Sutherland. The roads all single track,some and where sheep as a common and often far more common than cars.Skerray is a crofting community  I got used to finding sheep outside the house  .Along the road where were occasional glimpses of incredibly beautiful coves and impossibly blue green seas,while in the valley  a small thatched restored croft with its post office sign slightly askew and a small tree of incredibly red Rowen berries sat on a road that quite literatly ended at the sea  this was Skerray .

My own house was in Clashbuie ,a place composed of just two houses a pretty stone one and mine .Mo Dhaichadh ,which is gaelic and means my home,clashbuie means golden or or yellow hollow ,I loved the idea of my home being called  Mo Dhaichadh it seemed a good omen ,,though after a few weeks of trying to pronounce it I started to wish it was called number 10 or anything but its (to me at least)  impossible to pronounce gaelic name.

As the car dropped me off and drove away I turned to see for the first time Island Niamh ,it would be the most defining sight of my time in Skerray the first thing I saw every morning  and often in the evenings I would have coffee outside  and listen to the noise of the unseen waves hitting the rocks below and see the  dark shape of Niamh ,I would watch seabirds swirl around its cliffs and  in my last few days here I saw the northern lights,swirl and flare above .

This my new home was without the usual “comforts ” of modern life ,no heating other than an open fire in the living room and Solid fuel Rayburn.My bathroom heater for most of my stay was candles in ever increasing numbers as the year and advanced and temperatures dropped .

later I was given a calor gas heater but for now my bedroom heating was also candles supplemented by a tiny oil filled radiator ,which I suspect gave out considerably less heat at considerable more cost.

To stay warm in Mo dhachaidh required concentration and pre planning ,I had ordered logs and coal and anthracite and kindling ,so I lit my first log fire for several years  and then my first ever Rayburn ,The Rayburn was my housemate almost as much as my pets ,it,cooked ,my food ,heated the kitchen ,dried my  clothes and gave me hot water enough to have had baths ,morning noon and night had I wanted,it made the house a home.The pets quite liked the Rayburn too,you cant really snuggle next to a central heating boiler.

I found it surprisingly easy to settle into my Rayburn and living room fire slavery,for unlike a central heating boiler they are  needy and demanding ,they required feeding logs or peat or coal at frequent intervals  to stay in and all,these needed bringing in and in enough quantities to avoid trips to the woodshed in the dark or in gales.


When ever a storm was forecast I would scuttle about stacking logs in my porch and shoving anthracite into buckets hoping to see out the storm without venturing outside .The gales are a common feature of winters here and though my house was sheltered from most set as it was into the dip in the hillside ,if you opened the door it sounded as thought the house was surrounded by banshees ,if gales came from the north the banshees were joined by thundering gusts that tore the gate out of my hand if I didn’t wait for one to pass before hurriddly oening or closing them .My wee dog developed a sideways walk on such days and the big dog a wolf like ears back squint.

Living in any remote place can be difficult ,living in one where the only bus to the nearest “town” Tongue was weekly required a certain amount of forward planning.But a place is only remote if you want to leave it and I rarely wanted to  leave Skerray,Walking the dogs around its varied landscapes was a revelation ,walk for a few minutes above the house and cliffs and coves,beautiful blue seas and rugged Islands appeared ,the most beguiling being Na Ron with its deserted village.Walk a few minutes inland towards tongue  and the mountains apparead  Tongue Ben Loyal and Ben hope ,a longer walk would take you to the vast expanse of golden sands and famous surf of Torrisdale beach.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Really Leicester University ,your teaching Research Ethics ?

Ricardian friends will find this ironic the university of Leicester has an Ethics course on Future learn,I find it abhorrent that a university whose head lecturer of archaeology finds it appropriate to excavate human remains with a mattock and hence knocked a huge whole in a human skull ,a university who then stored said human remains in a cupboard with broken electrical goods and joked about it on air.



,who did unauthorised destructive tests on human remains .



and who frequently showed lack of respect for human remains.Who were less than transparent about their funding in the media.

leicester costs dig

Who used underhand dealings that ought to be beneath an academic body  to keep within their control a king of England ,one of its greatest kings in fact and insisted despite public outrage insisted against all guidelines on burying that king among enemies instead of among his own people .A University who also stole or took credit for research carried out by others ,others who despite years of research and outstanding reputations were given no academic credit and who have been consistently sidelined and ridiculed..

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Peace in our time



While I know that better qualified  ,more eloquent and more informed voices than mine have been raised against the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States ,I feel in good conscience I can’t let this day end without giving voice to my horror ,disgust and sorrow.While I live in the UK I feel that some events have repercussions far outside their own borders .

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

Our world has become a darker ,more dangerous and less tolerant place ,a place where injustice will hold sway in one of the most influential nations on earth ,where a man with the intellect of a rather stupid baboon and the compassion of a hungry Hyena now has a place on the world stage ,and access to millions of armed men and women.We are now in a world where he can decide who lives and who dies ,what the rights of women ,Muslims ,gays, the disabled ,Latin Americans ,African Americans and native Americans will have.

The US has taken a step back into the darkness of intolerance.Martin Luther kings dream has given way to a cold bleak dawn

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King, Jr

“Laziness is a trait in blacks.” He was allegedly referring to a black accountant working for Trump Plaza, and added, ““Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” The kicker is that Trump, in a 1999 Playboy magazine interview, did not even deny saying those things. He admitted O’Donnell’s allegations were probably true

Donald Trump .


I do wonder if Mr Trump realises that Africa is not a country but many nations.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

It is true I live in the UK and that as such Trumps likely domestic policy is “none of my business” I would again quote Martin Luther king

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There will be an unseen death toll ,those hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Isis and  crisis of unprecedented proportions in the middle near and far east ,which was utterly and entirely of western making .The USA and UK  with its one time prime minister Blair as its spineless lackey must take much of the blame for  the rise of ISIS/ISIL yet we wring our hands at the mess without doing a nothing to help ,we turn away those fleeing horrors of our making and consign them to death as surely as those Jewish refugees ships we turned away and left to Hitlers tender mercy .

Trump has called for a blanket ban on “muslims” entering the country and refugees later saying that he meant those who couldnt provide paperwork ,,Leaving aside the fact that many refugees are actually christians  (a group who has borne the initial brunt of Isis wrath and seen the worst of its atrocities )

It is breathtakingly stupid to base need on the ability to provide paperwork ,to make being unable to provide “the correct paperwork ” a crime that consigns whole families to poverty and despair or even death .


I also seems to me that terrorists would be careful to ensure they did indeed have paperwork and Isis certainly have the resources to provide it so its ridiculous reason to deny a safe haven to someone.

wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?

Well clearly the answer to why Trumps stupid ,crass and delights in ignorance is that hes heard the voice of Wisdom is a womans voice .,,and women under Trump will have no voice

Trump has said so many stupid things and disgusting things about women that it takes no particular journalistic research skills to find a goodly crop ,indeed I am spoiled for choice if that is the correct turn of phrase .But referring consistently to women as “ass” claiming its fine to grope them ,basing criticism of those women uppity enough to challenge him on their looks ,their voice or their gender should say clearly enough his views on women .There are several country’s leaders who are women how will they feel dealing with Mr Trump.How will women’s rights groups feel today.

Lastly in a country without a national health service or any form of benefits for the poor and those who have fallen on hard time ,,where often the rich live and the poor die and a child’s future is defined by the colour of its parents money ,how will Trump deal with the sick ,the disabled ,the homeless and the uneducated ?

Trump was quoted ,,possibly wrongly ,possibly not as claiming he would want all Muslims placed on a register ,,later it appears he was misquoted and actually meant something else,,what nobody is really sure of ,however he has made clear he mistrust “them “and by constantly linking refugees ,Muslim and terrorist in his rhetoric its not hard to see his actual views are not far from those he is “misquoted ” as having expressed


I had planned to write a version of the famous    Martin Niemöller  anti Nazi poem but a better version than mine has already been written.

First Trump came for the women
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a woman.

Then Trump came for the people with disabilities
And I did not speak out
Because I did not have a disability.

Then Trump came for the African Americans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not African American.

Then Trump came for the Mexicans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Mexican.

Then Trump came for the Muslims
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Muslim.

Then Trump came for the gay, bi, and trans people
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay, bi or trans.*

Then Trump came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.**

Then Trump came for the journalists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a journalist.***

Then Trump came for the judges
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a judge.

And now Trump is coming for the Constitution of the United States
And if I do not speak out, what am I?

The famous poem by an anti-Nazi pastor, rewritten for Donald Trump’s America

Let the final word of this post go again to Dr Martin Luther King Jr and to Jesus words from the gospel of Matthew

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump in his own words

I have watched with growing disbelief as Donald Trump has gone from the monster raving loony party choice to serious contender for president .I realise this is the point at which an image of Mr Trump ought to illustrate this post but frankly the idea of using his image on my blog is nauseating .


Better and more literate bloggers ,writers and speakers have put forward reasons why Mr Trump should never be in a position of real power so as I wanted to do something to add my voice to theirs I thought I would provide a selection of Mr Trumps own words ,these provide a plethora of reasons for any one not to vote for him be they man or woman ,but I would most especially ask those  people with daughters ,is this the man you want to have control over their lives and futures.For those men reading who have  mothers or sisters I would ask would you want Trump to speak of or treat your mother or sister and daughter in this way .I would also ask of everyone  ,do you really want a man perfectly willing to betray another man by seducing and sleeping with his wife to have control over your country ,do you really think that anyone is likely to trust that man in the oval office,a man who even on a relatively  intellectually   challenging tv show cant keep his mind off sex and womens bodies long enough to focus on the tasks in hand .This is not just someone prone to harmless flirting or who pursues women from love of beauty.

This is a man with a current lawsuit filed against him, brought by “Jane Doe”, a woman who claims to have been tied to a bed, hit in the face, and raped by Trump when she was 13 years old. Jane Doe has the support of a witness and describes her rape as occurring when she attended the party of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile. Trump has always denied the allegations.


Trump has admitted noticing young girls attractiveness on tv and never denied the conversation.

Trump: “Now, somebody who a lot of people don’t give credit to but in actuality is really beautiful is Paris Hilton. I’ve known Paris Hilton from the time she’s 12, her parents are friends of mine, and the first time I saw her she walked into the room and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’”

Stern: “Did you wanna bang her?”

Trump: “Well, at 12, I wasn’t interested. I’ve never been into that … but she was beautiful.”

He then went on to admit he’d watched her sex tape.

Trump on Terorrism

Trump shows an almost total lack of empathy for victims of atrocities ,he used both Paris attacks to push his  pro gun stance,,,,

isnt t interesting that the tragedy in Paris took place in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world?” Trump tweeted in January.

“When you look at Paris — you know the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris — nobody had guns but the bad guys. Nobody had guns. Nobody,” Trump said at a rally here. “They were just shooting them one by one and then they (security forces) broke in and had a big shootout and ultimately killed the terrorists.”
“You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry –” Trump said, pausing as the crowd erupted into raucous applause, “– it would’ve been a much, much different situation.”
On the Brussels attack
Iyou went into Brussels 20 years ago, it was like a magical city. Now you look at it, it’s an armed camp,” Trump said. “You want to lead your life, you don’t want to be living in an armed camp for your whole life. And there is a certain group of people that is making living a normal life impossible.”
Europeans, Trump warned, need to change their tactics.
“Those countries better get smart fast, because they’re just disintegrating,” he said.

Trump on immigration and Mexico

“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

At a November campaign rally in Alabama, Trump supporters physically attackedan African-American protester after the man began chanting “Black lives matter.” Video of the incident shows the assailants kicking the man after he has already fallen to the ground.

The following day, Trump implied that the attackers were justified.

“Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up,” he mused. “It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”


When Trump addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in December, he tried to relate to the crowd by invoking the stereotype of Jews as talented and cunning business people.

“I’m a negotiator, like you folks,” Trump told the crowd, touting his book The Art of the Deal.

“Is there anyone who doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room?” Trump said. “Perhaps more than any room I’ve spoken to.”

But that wasn’t even the most offensive thing Trump told his Jewish audience. He implied that he had little chance of earning the Jewish Republican group’s support, because his fealty could not be bought with campaign donations.

“You’re not going to support me, because I don’t want your money,” he said. “You want to control your own politician.”


At a campaign appearance in California in June, Trump boasted that he had a black supporter in the crowd, saying “look at my African American over here.”


“I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it,” Trump told John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, according O’Donnell’s account in his 1991 book “Trumped!” “The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”

Trump, according to O’Donnell, went on to say, “‘Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that.”


In a New York magazine profile published in November 1992, a year after Trump divorced his first wife, Ivana, Trump was quoted dispensing his wisdom about how to handle the fairer sex.

“You have to treat ’em like shit,” Trump said in the article to friend Philip Johnson, who responded, “You’d make a good mafioso.”


“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”


9. “The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

. “The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs…How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”
Read more at  ???????


Trump caused mass outage after advocating “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions if the practice is banned (which it likely will be if he gets his way).

“There has to be some form of punishment,” he told MSNBC, referring to women who would seek to defy the ban.


Trump in his own words

  • “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
  •  then he described trying to get a woman to sleep with him by pretending to help her ,,moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married.

26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


barbed sky

cold on coldness

,pretty and clean looking ,

a new start snowy whiteness ,,

pure unspoiled

,yet below the snow

,chilled and frozen

denied light ,

denied warm

the heath and flowers

The small wild things unseen unmourned

wither and die .



Scream into the night ,hear the waves crash against the rocks ,

the rocks dont care ,the rocks wont bend or break ,

ever and again  tide after tide ,day after day

,wave after wave is broken againts them

yet again and again the waves  return,

gently on sunny days kissing  the rocks

,on darker days  throwing themselves in fury against them ,

,but  sunny kisses or stormy abandon neither matters

, the rocks remain  as they always will cold and barren .


Yet again caught in the storm

yet again soaked and chilled

but the rain is not an enemy

the storms blow away the dross

the rain makes new life bloom

and after the storms ,

after the rains and cold

There is the rainbow


there is sun and light

warmth and new life


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I would just like to add a short post by way of an apology for my long absence ,I am really sorry if anyone who contacted me got a reply too late to be of use to them ,due to a long period of family illness and a rather complicated house move I have not been able to spend enough time online ,I will be keeping up to date on comments and messages now ,though bad weather may disrupt my internet connection for the odd day or two I will try to answer any queries within a few days

To help with some queries

I no longer  give costumed talks

I nolonger make costumes

and unfortunately

I can no longer add more photos to the cheats guides as I no longer sew ,but I will try to help with extra instructions if needed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Skerray ,Sutherland ,where every one is always welcome

I have recently moved North (or even further North )to the beautiful Northern coast of Scotland ,to Skerray in Sutherland  .


I am a long way now from Yorkshire ,my friends and my family ,it took 24 hours and 5 trains including the amazing Caledonian sleeper to arrive here ,so I think its safe to say I am “a long way from home” Yet I have never felt more at home and more among friends .

I took the house because on a property listing I saw the view from its windows ,which is now my view


I had been very happy with incredible neighbours in Leeds and was sad to leave those friends behind and my friends from Station road ,but I have always felt a tug back to the countryside ,I missed the landmarks of the year,Lambs appearing first in the lowland fields then sometimes weeks later up on the moor farms echoing the arrival of spring and the banishment of the snows, l missed seeing  spring creep across the land as the daffodils which would flower first in the sheltered road edges then lastly in the high villages.I missed heather its rusty rich browns that for a few brief weeks would be replaced by swathes of purple that  swept slowly upland .Even better than the purple heather  flowers were their predecessors , the hidden gems of the moors ,the whinberry or bilberry tiny little black fruits hidden in the heath .Always on walks there where the sweeping views and wide skies.


,I missed even  the decline inot autumn and winter ,chilly nights and ultimatly the snow

road end black moor

and  sheep that had been  my almost constant (if distant) companions on walks over the moor come snow or rain or the hottest sunny day.


I took my new home without a prior visit I felt somehow it was a place I could be happy and make home and that has proven to be the case.From quite literally the moment I arrived I have been made to feel incredibly welcome and met with unerring kindness.

Skerray is a beautiful place.From its rocky coastline


to sheltered harbour.


to inland and its rugged hills where heather and grass struggle to cloth the bare rocks and where croft houses sit perched in hollows or on hilltops


Rich in wildlife Skerray has Otters ,Pine Martens ,porpoises  and over three hundred seals come each year to  breed in the safety of  Island  Roan (seal Island)


Island Roan itself is a magical place, only a mile or so offshore ,but impossible to reach ,its deserted houses seem from a distance as though their owners have just closed the door and left for a walk yet they have been empty decades ,the last of the Islanders leaving in late 1930s ,now only wild sheep walk the roads or sleep in the rooms.

The full history of Island Roan can be found here on the Skerray webpage

The weather can be windy


and theres the odd grey day  and patch or rain ,but so far on every rainy day theres been a rainbow even during the rain itself on one occasion


I have only been here three weeks and so much of Skerray is still waiting to be discovered ,I am sure to add more posts ,,Skerray is part of what is often called Europe last great wilderness ,the very utmost North of Scotland ,somewhere I now feel very privileged to call my home.

For anyone wishing to visit Skerray ,you will always find a warm welcome .



Skerray was recently featured in a post about its amazing fundraising and its kind gesture .

But then, thank God, there is the north-coast village of Skerray.

Local organiser Elizabeth Mackay tells me that they made £830 at last Saturday’s charity lunch in the village hall in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support.

This was a splendid achievement for such a small and remote community. But what really struck me about the lunch was something that I read in the online edition of the Northern Times – that it had been decided that the MacMillan event should also be held in memory of the murdered Yorkshire MP Jo Cox.

Birstall is a very long way from Skerray.

I should imagine that few on the north coast would have been familiar with the west Yorkshire village – and it might well be the case that Jo Cox was relatively unacquainted with Skerray. And yet last Saturday’s gesture was important.

It symbolised simple decency. It symbolised that, even far away, good people abhorred what had happened and grieved for Jo Cox’s family. It was a small gesture but a noble one.

(I found this incredibly moving as Jo Cox had been from the next ward to ours ,we had all been shocked and horrified by her murder)

For its tardis Library

and it has a small part in Titanic websites as it lost one of its sons in that tragedy ,his grave stands overlooking the sands and waters of Torrisdale


If you would like to visit Skerray ,there is a caravan club campsite and if you prefer more comfort there is an excellent  B and B in Skerray called between the rocks and the sea.


and higher on the hill another excellent home with a room

and a croft house

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When is a lawn not a lawn? wildlife friendly alternatives to grass and mowing

A very short post on lawns ,grass lawns are usually high maintenance and very environmentally and for the most part wildlife unfriendly Blackbirds and occasionally thrushes  can often be seen pecking on them.

brown blackbrid

In some rural areas the very lucky gardener might see a green woodpecker clearing his lawn of one of its favourite foods ants.


photo credit

But they are no use to most birds ,bees or butterflies .

Lawns provide a valuable space for children to play on ,dogs to run on to walk on in summer,but for much of the year in most of the UK they are either muddy or in summer baked and very sorry looking indeed .Lawns are very high maintenance and can be expensive ,in houses with water metres they eat into the household budget and not the best surface for chairs  and tables  or benches which often sink into them and leave bare patches were your feet rest .

It makes much more sense to put tables on a paved patio area with planters that can be replanted to provide flowers and maybe even scents all year around .It doesnt need  to be expensive paving can be bought very cheaply and if plants such as thyme or sempervivium


photo credit

are planted in the cracks then you can get by without filling in gaps with concrete .A much more visually interesting “lawn” composed of low growing wild and cultivated creeping plants with winter and spring flowering bulbs is much more interesting ,wildlife friendly and less hard work to maintain with less mowing and watering required .There are  also a number of scented lawn alternatives the most famous being camomile.But thyme and creeping mints also work ,though best if inter planted with stepping stones as none of these will take consistent walking on .Chamomile can also look a little bit unkempt close up but they are very pleasant to walk on and look much better than grass for most of the year.

If you want to have a more wildlife friendly lawn you could take the easier step on encouraging low ground ground covering “weeds” I encourage daisys and low growing clover a lawn full of daisys looks quite pretty and provides insects with food ,while they grown more slowly and are less likely to harbour slugs than lawns.I usually  mow the lawn at least every week and often more in spring to chop off broad leafed “weeds” such as dandelion and docks ,which seems to allow the daisys and clover to take over.I also planted some chamomile along the edges and I let the dandelions have some space bordering the top flower beds away from the house to provide insects some variety.

At least one  sixth of the lawn is now creeping clover which is extremely wildlife friendly and doesn’t need mowing I use this in the planned tropical garden ,which is a fairly small space but the only very sheltered spot in the garden.

.In the top part which has a sometimes boggy corner  I also encouraged moss to grow ,I plan on trying to get some carnivorous plants to grow there though at present its quite tatty looking as an old shed was there until recently.

I left one piece to grow long as a small little meadow area ,next year I will sow some barley and oats  and flax in it and its already got chamomile growing,some daisys I dug up from the main lawn and some wild geraniums ready to plant in it.We are lucky to have a back garden that backs onto a small patch of woodland so this top part is a woodland garden.

back woodland garden view toards arbour

and when sat in it facing towards the mature trees you are surrounded  by bird song and we get speckled wood butterflies among others .I know that its most common to sown poppys and other annuals which look wonderful but which in our garden are just really expensive slug food.

Even should you want to keep your lawn then consider planting it will crocus ,snowdrops and anemones.

anemone blanda

These will cheer up winter and spring without making the lawn look unkempt and die down by the time the lawn can be walked on. Daffodils are a popular choice  but the traditional large daffodils long leaves look quite sorry for themselves for several weeks after the flowers go and daffodils blow over in the wind or get trampled by dogs .I have started to plant  the tiny assorted mini daffodils  or smaller medium sized ones instead,their leaves are much less intrusive.


For areas that are not walked on in corners I plant winter flowering primulas or small winter flowering pansys  and soon plan to plant the much more wildlife friendly primrose .

garden back tree part spring



Posted in gardens and gardening, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A cheats costume guide ,how to make a Marie Antionette ,Georgian ,18thc ,colonial gown ,jacket or outfit

A quick guide to making  an 18thc outfit.All you will need  to make any of the 18thc outfits shown is a needle ,thread, cellotape scissors,something to make small holes with for the lacing cord .


This is quite a long post because theres a huge choice of dresses which need different amounts of fabric ,trim and time ,some also need more under layers than others ,so I have included a lot of information about styles and needs before the actual dress instructions because the choice of style and fabric will from the start influence what you need.


For all the dresses you will cord or narrow ribbon ,,narrow curtain tie back ,upholstery piping cord works best it needs to be shoelace thickness or slightly thicker but you can use ribbon.Its quite cheap so its best to buy more than you need,4 to 6 metres because you want enough so that when the cords in thew holes you dont need to take it out to get into the dress just pull it wider apart  ,though for most dresses  if you really cant find that much cord you can get away with three if you absolutely need to .

back bustle dr4sss

For all dresses you will need  clubbing or evening bodice thats boned at the front and ideally at the sides ,the boning needs to be good not too floppy , wit and wisdom ,top shop ,next and principles all sell them or charity shops will have evening dresses,bridesmaid dresses,prom dresses etc .I doesnt matter what the fabric is as it will be hidden under your chosen dress fabric .if you have a choice try to choose  one with a neckline the shape you want  to save cutting it to get the shape you want and try to find a fabric thats close to the colour of your fabric as its hard to cover dark fabric with pale  and when you wash them the bodice fabric may run and discolour the dress .If your not able to find a similar colour  use a lighter colour as its easier to cover pale fabrics with dark .The bodice can even be denim .Thick fabric works best .The bodice doe not need a special shaped front anything thats waist length will work fine .

wit and wisdom denim bodice

You will need something to make the dress stick out ,this will vary depending on the weight of the fabric you use and also the style of dress  for wide styles a cheap bridal hoop will do which you can squash to shape.i needs at least three hoops  and the more the better a cheap one is around £7 on ebay from china ,they take around 30 days to arrive.Uk bought ones are around £15 they can get mishaped easily , more expensive cotton ones are better they cost £3o to £40  from the USA  but keep their shape and take 14 days to arrive,charity shops may have one.Hoops are awkward to store unless you have a spare room or big cupboard


For many dresses you can use a  stiff net underskirt,some you can use a bridal store bought one,these are also cheap and easy to find on ebay ,but you need one with lots of net layers


Theres also petticoats which have both hoops and net ,you can chop off bits of net from one place on the petticoat and sew it on others  or theres petticoats with lots of ruffles which you can again chop off one place and sew on another to get the right shape for an idea of the shapes available

If you want a very very wide one its easy to make but takes time ,the one below  took around 10 metres  at £1 a metre sewn onto a cheap underskirt  and is just gathered using a running stitch which is where you just push the needle through fabric is a straight line  but it took several days and takes up a lot of space to store (.I will give full instructions later ).For everything except heavy fabrics and very wide skirted gowns this works well.

side tulle pet

for some styles you will just need a padded roll of fabric for which you will need a pillow or cushion cut to  the shape below or two rectangular narrow cushions to tie on either side  .These are easy to store but dont work for heavy fabrics you can use these and a net petticoat and that often works well.



When you look through the images below and choose the style, try to buy the structural support first because it will help you work out how much fabric you need  ,if you cant afford the time or cant find a bridal hooped petticoat ,then pick a style you can wear using a cushion.Also consider how your getting to your event ,its pretty easy to sit down and even walk around in very wide skirts like the court mantua as you just need to go through doors sideways  but if your too wide for your car seats then thats going to be a more or less insolvable problem ,likewise the dresses that stick out at the back can be very uncomfortable on long journeys as you cant lean back ,its probably also not safe if you were to crash .

Lastly  to make the dresses you need fabric which can be old curtains or duvets , your after something that will look like embroidered silk ,satin ,damask or at a pinch flowered cotton,You can usually buy striped curtain or duvet fabric and Chinese brocade from fabric stalls or curtain shops.For most outfits you need quite big curtains ,try to find some that are at least as long as the length from above your navel to the floor with a few cms /inches spare  if your making a polonaise ,robe a la anglais or caraco jacket and skirt .For the sacque back dresses you need much longer ones ,they need to be long enough to go from your shoulders to the floor .

Choosing your style

I have added some original dress photos to give you an idea of the kind of fabric and the kind of suport layer you will need,just because something needs a bridal hoop wont mean that its hard to make ,they can be just as easy as some other style .I have also put names of the style of gown so you will know which style you like best.Dont worry about remembering the different names I have provided them because it makes it easier to choose the style but also it means you will know what to use for google image search for further ideas

18thc pink gown

Polonaise gown  ,or its possibly a Pet en lair jacket and skirt /petticoat ,,skirts at this time are usually called petticoats even when they are on the outside.This is easy to make but needs hoops or purpose bought panniers

Below is a pet en l air jacket its like a cut off sacque back dress, if you make a  mess of your sacque back skirt length you can make one of these any length at all very short or almost as long as the skirt of a dress and they can be the same colour as the skirt or different  ,they are also good practice for a sacque back ,equally is you mess up the lacing cord holes or the back of your dress this will hide any mistakes .These were very popular everyday wear

pet en lier2

You can use a net petticoat or cushion to support this style


This style will need a hoop or panniers

Another pet en l air below  you may be able to get away with cushions or net for this depending on how heavy the fabric is .This outfit actually appears in Beatrix potters tailor of Gloucester ,Beatrix potter visited the V and A museum to get ideas for her characters costumes

pet en lair.jpg



Chintz polonaise style gown and a quilted petticoat .this will need a big cushion and net petticoat made in this shape

back tulle bustle

you can use lightweight throws or quilts for quilted  petticoats ,many poorer people did this to make themselves a petticoat from a worn out quilt .Theres a lot of different styles of polonaise gown but they are all basically gowns with draped up sides,some made the drapes by pulling up the fabric though gaps in the waistline of a dress like the robe a la anglais ,so were always meant to be draped .If you dont have enough fabric for long enough or very full skirts you can make a polonaise as its doesnt necessarily need to have skirts that touch the floor as they will be ruched up anyway


The gowns above are sacque backs ,sometimes also called Robe a la francais,you will need fairly sturdy hoop skirts or purpose bought panniers


A court Mantua ,this is a royal wedding gown , Court mantuas  are very richly decorated very wide gowns ,the very wide dresses in museums are all like to be court mantuas ,people in everyday life didnt wear skirts this wide .You can make a fairly wide one of these using a bridal hoop will two side pillows as well to get the height


Caraco jacket and a petticoat /skirt ,these we a very popular everyday wear outfit ,like the pet en lair they can be the same colour as the skirt or different.You could use a net petticoat or ordinary shaped bridal hoop for this because you can alter the shape of bridal hoops by moving the metal hoops ,theres a hole in each layer to let you do this and you just slide the metal hoop  to and fro


Caraco jacket and skirt (above) ,this is cotton and Ikea do duvets that are an almost perfect match for the fabric above/You could use either a net petticoat or a bridal hoop for this a very cheap hoop would do

caracop jacket pettiocat

This is a slightly different jacket and skirt,this needs a big cushion ,which looks much better with a piece of stiff net sewn to it.

caracop jacket

short jacket brilliant if you can only afford or find a small amount of expensive fabric

robe a la angalis vam

Robe a la anglais  you can use a bridal hoop squashed to shape or possibly cushions and net


A court gown or possibly a wedding gown,this needs either a bridal hoop with or without  cushions  or specially bought panniers ,court dresses are always heavily embroidered ,sometimes jewelled and often very wide indeed,the fact this is fairly narrow means its possibly a wedding or ball gown.

court matnai kensignton

Court mantua backs  above and below


Mantua are very early dresses and are easy to make  in the cheats style ,though hard to make an accurate one , they were  a kind of gown that had a long train which was then folded origami like at the back to create the impression of a jacket at the front ,its possible  to make a fake version using just a caraco jacket style top over a open fronted dress .My outfit below used fake silk damask from ebay and a piece of quilted style curtain /cushion fabric from a curtain shops bargain basket ,it cost around £50 to make including the trim .If you want to give the impression of absolute accuracy you could then make another long strip of fabric for the skirt back and fold it like a mantua but sew it on as a separate piece.

The dress below has pocket panniers and cushions to give the skirt its shape

court mantuwe.jpg

You can also sometimes find very lavish looking Asian fabrics or old wedding or party lenghas  or wedding saris ,though you need to find two large saris or use the lengha for just the bodice and frill around the bottom of the bodice

red court mantua

silk sacque back met

The dress above is a sacque back as is the one below they need hoops or panniers


18th red back

Robe a la anglais ,this can use either a hoop or a net petticoat and in this style you could probably use a bought bridal net petticoat,if you make one of these its possible to alter it later into a polonaise gown just by gathering up the skirts  ,its also an option if you make a mistake in the skirts

18thc red gown

This a robe a la anglais style gown ,,these open front styles can have a very full gathered skirt almost all the way around or a much narrower one sewn much further back almost at the side of your hips so they are a very flexible style if your now sure of your fabric amounts

18thc blue white

sacque back gown

18thc blue gown

Robe a la Anglais quite a hard shape to make the underlayers for ,it needs either very narrow side panniers and a back cushion or a big curved cushion  or two curved side cushions and a stiff petticoat


Green round gown this needs either narrow panniers or possibly cushions and net if you use a light fabric  ,a round gown is just a robe a la anglais dress thats not open at the front but the skirt /petticoat is the same all the way round ,this is quite a good one if you only have time to find one kind of fabric.

Zone gown below is the robe a la anglais style but with a crossing over front that is or gives the impression of being a jacket .sometimes worn with a belt as below but usually alone,this skirt shape could use a bridal net petticoat

zone gown.jpg

Below is a different kind of jacket.


This is a Perriot jacket ,these are a great choice if you only have a small amount of one fabric ,a short sleeves one can be made for most dresses sizes under uk sz 12 with a metre or so of fabric,The one above can be made using the instructions for making a dress bodice .The one below can also be made that way but you need to cut two almost triangular strips of fabric and sew them onto the side of the bodice to create the impression that its a jacket ,if you add wide neckline frill or collar no one can tell that its not a jacket ,its slightly hard but not as hard as it sounds and nowhere near as hard as making an actual jacket .

All these could be worn with just a bridal net petticoat.


Notes on fabrics and trims

If you look at the images above you can see that while theres often a lot of trimming you can avoid  need to find lacy and ribbon trims if you buy more fabric and make little frills and pleats from the same fabric as your dress or a different fabric that goes well ,if you buy some pinking shears which are scissors that cut decorative zig zag edges this will cut down your sewing and the time taken by a lot of hours or days even.For the other trims you can see, try using old lace from table cloth edging ,good quality lace or net curtains for the sleeves,old pillow cases to make the white wide neck min shawls or as for the trims more of the same or contrasting fabric used in your dress.


You dont need a sewing machine ,in fact it wont be much use for most of the work,theres no pattern to work with or worry about and no specialist skills if you can hold an needle and thread you can make the gowns.The only technical terms are tacking ,,which is just sewing loosely , pleating  and gathering gathering you can do by running your needle and thread though the fabric making loose stitches then gathering them up by pulling the thread .The you stitch these in place.

gathered top

skirt and wiastcoat

you can tweek the way the gathers hang by rearranging them along the length of the thread pleating is basically putting one piece  of fabric over another is assorted ways,these are pleats

queen victorians wedding gown on

I will cover how to make every style  even the complicated looking but easy Robe a la francaise or sacque back gown.The one below was made using the cheats guide method ,a commercial bought bodice ,a vintage hat and some panniers made from a bridal hoop


.This type gown takes time to do and needs trimmings and detailing but isnt at at all hard and in fact is more forgiving of mistakes than many other dresses because the back is hidden under the train.

sacq back back

For this and all the styles you can add frills to hide any mistakes ,the detailing below is just bought ready pleated satin ribbon with bought pre made roses.You can buy both from ebay or trimmings stores ,Bough from chine a dozen bows or roses can cost £1 if your willing to keep bidding until you get one cheap ,rolls of pleated ribbon can be between £5 and £20 depending on how much you buy .

pink det

These bought roses and pleated ribbon can make a dress look amazing ,I made a copy of the gown below quite quickly using bought pink trims

blue dress

A sacque back dress does use a lot of fabric and theres not really anyway around it ,a very wide long pair of curtains or ten metres is probably the minimum you can get away with and 12 or more is ideal if your going to use strips of the fabric to make frills and flounces . The back pleating needs at a bare minimum one metre  in width though this doesn’t look very good and is very arkward to work with


It needs at least two metres for the back pleats to look good and ideally two and a half.In addition the back piece is a very long piece of fabric because it goes from almost shoulder level .

saque back narrow panniers

The under petticoat which has the front piece showing will use maybe three metres but not all needs to be the front fabric you can use anything even old sheeting for most of it and just use good fabric for the front.

This dress also  uses a lot of frilled trim at least ten metres if you want a frilled bodice ,neckline and sleeves and for a simple skirt frill along just the front centre It needs 15 or more  if your going to add it to the skirts  or make designs.


If you use a rich deep coloured fabric with a pattern you can cut down a little on trims


The Robe a la Anglais and round gown

This needs much less fabric than a sacque back  a fairly wide pair of curtains long enough to reach just below your feet from your navel or 6 metres will make a decent gown but 7 would be ideal.The gown below is a round gown ,ie closed front robe a la anglais ,this is an easy  and quick style as you dont need to make a separate skirt to go under it but you do need to get the hem right .

marieant 014

It also Takes the least trimming .

The  polonaise gown,this is probably the easiest of any historical costumes to make because you dont even have to have the hem perfectly straight or the right length as  its going to be  gathered up and if you make a mess of the neck line you can add a wide shawl or length of cotton ,mistakes on the bodice you can cover with frills .

This is also more flexible on fabric you can just about get away with shorter curtains or  5 metres  of fabric  or two single duvet covers,one for the skirt for for the dress if you are clever doing the ruched up sides

polonaise gown,

The other outfits covered are the Caraco Jacket

This uses less still ,with a short skirt part you can use a single curtain or ex  display length  of fabric from a store ,single duvet cover or odd shaped off cut of fabric ,it uses only one or two metres or three  depending on the skirt length ,long skirts will use more


carco jacket

blue caraco

The pet en lair

This is like a chopped off Sacque back this uses 3 metres or 4 if your having a long skirt part

rose silk pet en lair

pet en lair back

The  fake court mantua, this looks like it uses a lot of fabric but is actually quite economical you can use just 6 though 7 is better .The front part of the skirt can be a different fabric to the rest so you can use something more expensive or elaborate

evil queen  panto weekend

Though I have given a rough idea about layers I will go into more detail on how to make or where to buy them below.

I will also cover hats,the one below uses silk flowers and a pound shop childrens hat



These  possibly the hardest bit of these dresses and outfits  because they have to hang straight over the side hoops,panniers or cushions ,but if you not using wide hoops this isnt a major problem and they are incredibly easy in other respects as they just tie closed and are a long tube of fabric sewn onto ribbon or similar.

pink c d skitt

If you really dont want to sew

You can also make an 18thc outfit without doing any sewing at all ,just buy a frilly blouse ,the one below came from a charity shop ,,an embroidered waistcoat the one below is pastimes off ebay and a very wide skirt,or make a skirt using my cheats guide on Victorian under layers or any cheats dress guide  .You can buy a cheap tricorn pirate or fancy dress hat very cheaply on ebay.use a cheap bridal hooped petticoat and squash it slightly so it sticks out sideways more than all around


You could also try to find a jacket with an 18thc style to go over this to create a 8thc style riding outfit


Though the waistcoat and jackets below are on Victorian style outfits they work as well if you use an 18thc style skirt ,a frilly collar and a tricorn hat ,,the three cornered pirate style hats ,the red outfit above has one of these hats shown with it ,you want fairly straight waistcoats and jackets that have a narrower waist and flared bottom


victorian mourning outfit

.I have used as much details as possible for the following instructions but unfortunately I   had to  use photos from other cheats guides on how to make  the outfits . I am sorry none have more images or  a photographic dress diary as I can no longer sew.

The main requirements are all here though .The only things   you need which is not covered is how to make the panniers that make some of the  dress skirts stand out each side ,but  you can make a reasonably satisfactory shape using a bought bridal hoop then squashing it flat sideways this will gave a lower waistline but otherwise the right shape ,you could also roll up the waist until the hoop looks more like panniers then stitch it in place your after this shape.This is the shape your aiming for .

panniers.jpg gives the more historicaly accurate method for making panniers

Bough hoops work  pretty well these can be bought quite easily online the only problem is stopping the hoop being uneven at one side or the other but if you add ties inside the hoop at either side to tie it close to your hips and pull it in a bit that usually works fine.

inside panniers

This image is from the following blog page which also gives excellent advice on underlayers

You can also  use a petticoat with fewer hoops if you make short panniers again using ties inside but in this case you will have to cut the top off the petticoat and sew the remaining bottom part with its hoops onto a piece of fabric ,ribbon or trim  make a waistband

short panniers

Most of my dresses I wore for work  used what are called pocket panniers,which are lighter but much harder to make if you dont have access to boning and some sewing practice.They are also harder to keep in place I used to have to safety pin the waist ties of mine to my corset.These can be bought from online though its only overseas sellers who have most of the styles.There are instructions on all the panniers in the link below

pannier style 1 (4 of 7)


Step one

Underlayers .

Women would have worn something very much like this,a heavily boned corset/stays,a chemise under skirt then,hoops tacked on frilled sleeves and over the hoops another underskirt


glen close


But for the cheats costume underwear you can get away with almost no sewing and a lot simpler layers

For any of these outfits you will need at least two under layers a chemise and a corset and something to make the skirts stick out ,a hoop etc  .its not essential but you also ideally  need a long petticoat or underskirt  for under your hoop and even better another one for over it if your making a skirt or dress from very lightweight fabric because otherwise you dress might snag on the hoop or the hoop boning show through  .


The chemise sounds a specialist item but really isnt you could use a strappy nightdress like the one below

chemise BHS

To make your own is also cheap and easy ,it just needs a piece of fabric long enough to go to knew length or just above  and wide enough to go around you then two pieces of ribbon,trim or lace for straps The cheats guide link for making a chemise is below the photo ,for an 18thc outfit you just need the most basic straight sleeveless one with straps.

chemise lace straps

The reason  for wearing this layer is because otherwise your corset will rub on your skin and get hot and sweaty ,also the lacing will almost certainly nip your back and the hoop will rub your legs.Its also much more comfortable to sit on that most of the gown fabrics .

The next layer is a corset/stays.

You need this to give you a good shape but also to pin your other layers onto and to protect you from the skirt etc digging in


Replica stays are very expensive and for most purposes outside of the re enactment community you dont really need them,you do need a sturdy corset though ideally with a steel busk front ,the one below has steel bones and is available online from ebay etc for between £15 and £30 depending on if you buy direct from china or from a UK seller,,Chinese garment sizes are much smaller than most other countries ,I am a uk sz 14 and need an XXL OR XXXL  corset usually .You need the corset to be at least 2 inches /5cms and its better if its 4 inches narrower than your waist.It needs to be tight enough to fit very snuggly so it wont slide around   .If you buy one thats too big you can just pinch a bit of fabric with your finger and thumb and sew along the edge and keep doing this until its the right size


Your corset needs to give you a roughly  18th shape so try to find something thats less curvy  if at all possible .You can use a cheap chain store corset from for example Primark but I dont advise this if your making a heavy dress because the weight of the skirt will dig in at the waist and the bonings not stiff enough to give the right shape.

turquise corset

The outfit below has a primark chain store style corset under it.

polonaise gown

The Mantua outfit has a steel boned corset

court mantuwe


The  corset and the chemise are the only essential layers but its much better to have two more an under petticoat like the one above ,this  skirt  can be used under a 18thc gown and ,instructions for making it are in the cheats guide to Victorian under layers here

If you are a uk sz 12 or under its often possible to buy antique ones cheaply or you could use a modern peasant skirt if it made from light weight cotton.

The over layer is a skirt to put over your panniers and can be made using the same Victorian layers guide or again you could buy a modern very wide long skirt made of nay fabric.

Unless you cut and tailor the underskirt its likely to be a bit uneven at the hemline once its  over the hoop but as long as its lying flat this doesnt matter as no ones going to see it.If you find you made the skirt too narrow just cut a split up the back .

Stage two the skirt /over petticoat

For most outfits you will need a skirt ,this can be all the same fabric as below ,which is essential if its all going to be visible or a mix of a cheap and expensive fabric.For the skirt you will need around three metres of fabric


Or you can use one piece of embroidered or jewelled or quilted  or contrasting fabric and two metres of cheaper fabric which will be hidden under your dress

purple pett


This cheaper fabric for the back can be anything light weight ,satin silk ,taffeta ,cotton even old sheets You can also make the front panel  or whole skirt the same fabric as your gown

gold and purple 044

I also used to economise on the number of under skirts/petticoat skirts I had by sewing two panels of different fabric together to make a skirt  I could wear this with either side showing to create the impression I had two different skirts,you can do with is Tudor and Elizabethan gowns too and I have an example of an Elizabethan one below

flora pet red ruff st

white sleeve golden pet

This skirt is very easy to cut out ,its just a long tube of fabric  ,you then sew this together along its long edge with a two gaps one either side at your hip so you can fasten it.

You can either make it from a length of fabric and cut and hem it your self which would make it easier to get the hem level right because you can just get someone to  cut around the bottom when you have it on .But the easier  and quicker way if your making a domed skirt or not very wide hoops or if you dont need all the skirt to show just the front is to  use a pair of curtains because you will already have a hem at the bottom ,the skirt below was made from  curtains

pink c d skitt

If you have spare money you can avoid making a hem if you buy fabric which has a usable edge,Tartan kilt fabric usually has a straight finished edge.

carco jacket

Making the rest of the Skirt is quick and easy but its best to know how the original skirts were made and what you need to watch out for first

The skirts on 18thc gowns were cut and pleated to give a straight hem line once over the hoops which is slightly harder than making a normal domed shaped skirt .I have not always managed to get it right.

blue easter gowb

you dont need to worry about  this if you only need the front showing because you can get around this by having a very  wide skirt with a back split at hemline level so that its only the hidden back and sides which will be less even , I often used different gowns skirts under my 18thc gowns and just hide the uneven sides under the dress.

18thc pl cap

To make the Skirt waist band and pleats or gathers 

Before you gather or pleat the skirt check the very top of the post to see how your chosen outfits skirt looks if its fuller at the back or sides or if the front is flat then gather it in that shape using a tacking stitch.

As the skirt is  going to fasten 18thc style ,theres no need to worry about measuring the waist exactly as you tie it closed  and the waist lines level is adjustable making it easier to have a straight bottom at the front .because it  fastens by having two side fastenings  with long ties at the waist .Like two sewn together aprons


18th Century Petticoats

It sounds  hard but dont be put off  is actually easy when you see it done  ,you  pull one part up of the skirt up and tie it right around your waist then pull the other part up and tie that ,the guide below shows this and gives  excellent dressing instructions ,though dont worry about the details it gives on layers etc .




The main thing is that the waist ties/ribbon  have to be long enough on both pieces of the skirt to go right around you and tie .You can  either turn the ribbon over at the top so it covers the cut edges of the fabric and sew it down  which make a neat edge or just leave it .If you are unsure about anything ,check the link below and  scroll down the cheats guide to Victorian layers it gives the waistline instructions for skirts with photos


The actual dress or caraco jacket .

For this you need

A commercial bodice ,clubbing top ,bridal top etc with a neckline roughly the shape you want and with proper straps unless you happy to make the shoulder straps .It needs to be boned and be either an 18thc shape or able to be cut into one

wit and wisdom bodice


To make this into an 18thc shape you need to make the front longer ,you can easily do this by cutting  out bits from the sides and sewing  them to the front in the required shape,

bodice three


.The front can be very long or fairly short depending on the length and  shape you want.Rounded or pointed or square .

18thc blue gown

robe a la angalis vam

bodice top layer

If you cant make the front long enough using just the cut off bits of the bodice then it doesnt matter as you can make it seem longer adding frills once its finished ,though the bodice front below is actually long you cant see the front for all the frills so its perfectly possible to fake the length is you use frills and flounces

mantiua kens

sb front

or jewels

bodice front

You can leave the back any shape though being longer works best to help keep your skirt in the right place and looks better if the backs going to be showing

mantua gold back

The only essential part of shaping the bodice is that you  need the side to be high enough for the hoop to fit under it and the skirts to billow out.

After you have cut the shape

saque back narrow panniers


Next cut off any fastenings at the back ,eg a zip or buttons ,if its a zip you can use the metal pieces for boning to make the back lacing tougher so keep them to one side

bodice stage 2

Now you need to cover the bodice ,start at the front and put a piece of fabric flat  across the entire front and stitch it down flat finsh by turning it over at the top and bottom

bodice inside

The front should now look like this

If you have a piece of pretty fabric ,cushion etc with embroidery like the one above it makes a really good front piece for the gown.

cavailer gown

Next lay another piece of fabric on top of this one with its outer ,good side resting on the outer good side of the bit you have already sewn on tack it down fold it back to make sure its ok then sew it down properly ,use double thread as its quicker and makes stronger seams more easily ,do this at the other side as well ,try to make this side the same width and sewn at the same angle  as first. Leave a generous overlap .

spencer 12

The angle you sew the front two pieces on will give the style to your dress and for 18thc styles this usually means they have to be at sharp angles or almost totally straight depending on your bodices style.