Flemish Ensemble 1560's

THL Eva vanOldebroek

gold frontgold back

Several artists working in the Southern Netherlands painted portraits of the relatively new merchant-class patrons. The depictions of women's garb during this period are fairly consistent. White ruffs are sported at neck and wrists, they may either be attached to the under shift, or part of a partlet worn under the gown. Some sitters wear a loose overgown in black fabric with very puffy sleeves, open at the front, and trimmed with black velvet strips. Under this they sport a black gown with a square neckline, also trimmed with the same black velvet trim. Others have black velvet-trimmed gowns with no overgown, but with the neckline obscured by a black velvet partlet with gold buttons down the front. I used a portrait of a family from Antwerp as my model. The wife wears a long black gown with no overgown, and no partlet visible. It's velvet trim is fairly simple: single strips down the front and around the hem, and three or four on the sleeves. It seems to have a couple more angled down the bodice, but I needed to finish this gown in a limited time, so I left them off for now.


For my first experiment I made a shift with a small ruff at the neck and wrists out of white linen. The kirtle is a support layer and the skirt helps hold out the hem to give the correct profile. The bodice is two layers of heavy cotton; the channels in the front are filled with jute cord. This is covered with gold silk, and the skirt is made of rectangles of the same gold silk. It is knife-pleated to the bodice, with eyelets at the sides to lace up. The hem is stiffened with a strip of heavy linen, and with the crisp drape of the silk makes an excellent peticoat. The sleeves are red silk lined with cotton broadcloth, and tied to the kirtle at the shoulders.

The gown was patterned on a diagram from Alcega, copied in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. It is cut in 4 pieces, two front and two back. The collar is included in the pattern pieces, not cut and sewn on separately. The fabric is black wool, and lined in black cotton broadcloth. The black guards are cotton velveteen, as this is much easier to work with, and the nap is more accurate for this period than rayon or nylon velvet. The front is closed with black hooks and eyes.

This could also be cut as a separate bodice and skirt, and the collar could be cut and sewn on separately as well. I chose to cut them all in one piece to save on fabric and time. The skirt will drape differently when made separately.

The head covering is a simple linen caul with a two inch brim placed over my braided hair. The veil was made of fine white cotton, as it is difficult to find linen fine enough to drape correctly. The front is stiffened with a 20 gauge wire sewn into the hem, bent and pinned to the caul at the temples. It should be folded under more and pinned in the back as well, as it looks too full in the photograph.

The girdle is made of "Wedding Favor" gold rings, doubled up and linked together, fastened at the waist with a acorn on the hanging end. Several of the portraits seem to depict pomanders at the ends, some are gold metal decorated with simple motifs. I found the little acorn in a home decorator section of the local fabric store, and is light enough not to weigh down the rather thin metal of the rings. Given more time, I might be able to find better rings and ornaments, but for now this arrangement approximates the look of the originals.

For portraits, see Antonio (or Anthonis) Mor, Pieter Pourbus, Frans Floris, Adriaan Key

A few on the web:







Last updated: 3/21/2010