If you've ever paid attention to the wide variety of outfits, costumes, or garb at a renaissance festival, you may have noticed that the most complete looking costumes all have one thing in common - appropriate head-wear. We've written about this before. This was not something we were going to skimp on for our Blue Bee dresses either.
Choosing a more English Tudor look for our dresses meant that we were kind of starting from zero for the hats. Before, our costumes had been Italian or German, and the hats strongly reflected that! Not unlike the wulsthaube, steuchlein, and hat combo for German costume, most English Tudor costumes have a combination of coif, (sometimes veil), and hat.
Most coifs seem pretty similar at first glance, but they can actually vary quite a bit in the details. Some are meant to cover the hairline, and some sit pretty far back on the head. Some leave the ears exposed, some cover just the tips of the ears, and some completely enclose the ears. Some are fairly curved to follow the contours of the face, and some look more like a fitted kerchief, and some have a separate forehead cover (not unlike a renaissance version of a sweatband). They can be lined or unlined. While most are white or off-white linen, they can go from very plain, to trimmed in lace, to some blackwork embroidery, to heavily embroidered with metallic thread, pearls, and even jewels!
I found this blog post to be a good combo of easy-to-follow, and middle-of-the-road in style. I drew a rough pattern, and cut two layers - one out of a very fine and high-quality linen for the top layer, and one of a lightweight cotton lawn for the lining.
I added a strip of cotton lace for a bit of interest, and gathered the top point by hand, so we wouldn't look like little lawn ornaments if we were just in the coif and not the hat. I left the bottom edge open to make a casing for the ties.
The coif, 1.0 version is modeled by the newest member of my sewing room (insert introductory fanfare here): Ms. Styra Foame! If you think she looks a little, well - masculine - that's because I tried first with a female styrofoam head, and found the head to be waaay too small. Frankly, even the male styrofoam head is a little on the small side for my fat head, but it was an improvement for fitting purposes. As a concession, I gave Ms. Foame eyeliner and lipstick with magic markers.
One thing that most coifs have in common is that they rely on the wearer having a good deal of hair, coiled into a bun, at the back of the head for the coif to hold on to. The ties cinch the bottom of the coif, under the bun, into a little poof at the back of the head. Then the ties may be tied at the back neck, pulled forward and tied under the chin (not unlike later puritan bonnets), or drawn up and tied on top of the head. The latter was most common for our period.
After speaking with Rachel and looking at more coif designs, we decided that plain coifs were a little too plain, so I added a strip of embroidery at the front where it would be most visible. I also took the chance to use a little gold lame thread in with the honey-brown for the flowers. A little extra tasteful bling never hurt anything!
Because both Rachel and I have short hair, we knew we were going to face some challenges getting the coif to stay in place, especially if we needed to pin a hat onto it also! After muddling over the problem for a bit, I decided to give wig clips a try. After all, if they can be used to secure some of these luxurious and no-double heavy hair pieces, surely a little coif would be no problem! I stitched them on the underside, right next to the front edge. As we had decided on embroidery after the coif was assembled, this also meant that it would protect the back of my embroidery a bit from sweat and hair oil as well.
And there she is! Phase one of the head-wear done! It seems almost a shame that most of it will be covered and/or outshone by the second half, yet-to-come in the next blog post...
With the fervor of Christmas past us, and with Kachel now sporting what was beginning to look like an actual dress, I figured it was time for me to start on one of the parts of the dress that I said I'd do.
After posting what felt like endless pins to our shared Pinterest board, we had decided on a partlet with a collar of gathered lace and attached sleeves, instead of a full chemise or smock underneath. This was for several reasons: A) we didn't want to overheat in the dresses, and the so-far two layers of linen are adding up, B) I wanted to take the excuse to learn about a new Tudor garment and run with it, and C) while doing nothing to promote modesty, a partlet would be quicker to put on and take off.
Going off of the instructions from this site, I had traced out a partlet pattern based on the bodice pattern we'd made for the dress. You can see a bit of the partlet pattern pinned to Kachel back in this post.
After finding the most dreamy cotton voile fabric online, I cut out the pieces. You might notice some rectangles I drew on the fabric. This is because along with learning more about partlets, I wanted to take the chance to learn more about blackwork embroidery, and I thought the collar and cuffs would be a great place to try it out.
In my research about the kinds of stitches used in blackwork and the designs used, I learned that aside from geometric designs, nature-based repeating figures were used, and modern blackwork uses colors other than black. The stitch is usually done on a fabric like Dublin linen that has an even weave and with a thread count that is big enough to be similar to a modern even-weave cross stitch fabric.
Since cotton voile is a very fine weave, I settled on an embroidery design that incorporates a blown-up blackwork figure. You'll have to take my word for it because I trashed the evidence, but I tried a dragonfly and peacock figure before settling on the simple bee figure. After all, I am not an upper-class lady with endless quiet afternoons to sew.
I went with a blue cotton embroidery floss to match the dress fabric. In the picture below, you can see that the blackwork stitch starts out very much like a running stitch. It ends up being something like a double running stitch to do, with the goal being that the stitching looks almost the same on the front as on the back. True blackwork patterns are on a grid, with curving lines actually being made up of little straight or diagonal stitches.
I think the collars and cuffs took binging about a season and a half of a TV show to finish? I wasn't counting. I decided to frame the pieces with a simple chain stitch to help the design stand out more. I backed it with fusible interfacing the stabilize the stitching, and give the cuffs and collar a little structure.
One cuff done! The cotton crochet lace adds a nice frilly touch. The grosgrain ribbon was as much a practical choice as a design choice. I find ties a lot easier to do than buttons or lacing.
With the collar on, it's taking shape! So, the cotton crochet lace at the collar kind of hides the embroidery, especially on our short necks. But I wouldn't do the partlet without an embroidered collar either.
As you can see a bit from the photograph, a partlet ties at the neck, and (optionally) at the under bust through a narrow casing at the bottom instead of a hem. Most partlets did not have attached sleeves, as the chemise sleeve would be used, and the dress sleeves would cover the arms as well.
And here it is, all done and tucked under the bodice! (Also a preview of a trial trim placement for the dress bodice) Since Rachel and I have no intention of adding another layer with a chemise or smock, we attached sleeves to our partlets. You can decide to have the collar tied or open, and how open (or not) you want the opening of the partlet to be. The sleeves have a little bit of extra length to ensure that the cuffs can poke out from the dress sleeve, but otherwise they are not too extra long.
I can't wait to try out this new kind of garment, and to see the partlet (and the embroidery!) up against the rest of the dress!
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!