Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Seeing what you're looking at

I have, for some months, had a rotating series of military engravings by DeGheyn and Goltzius as the screensaver and desktop on my work computer. This has afforded me the chance to study the costume and weapons depicted in great detail and I've come to the conclusion that I need to re-examine any previous assumptions I might have had regarding military dress of the 1580s and 90s.

To this end I decided start with the most basic item of male dress in the period, the shirt. We have owned a copy of Patterns of fashion 4 : the cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c.1540-1660, conceived & illustrated by Janet Arnold. Quite Specific Media Group, c2008, pretty much since it was published but aside from browsing through it, I hadn't sat down to really study the garments. When I finally go around to taking a look, I found several shirts which were spot on in terms of dating (as much as one can actually date garments of this period) and of roughly similar dimensions. In addition there is a shirt of Gustavus Adolphus which can firmly dated to 1627. Although it is more recent, it has some similarities to shirts being worn by military men of 40 years earlier, especially in size and ornamentation of the collar and cuffs which could be worn simply turned over the doublet collar and sleeve cuffs. They are small enough though for a separate ruff and wrist ruffles to be pinned on over them.

Needless to say I have been reflecting quite a bit about Luke's shirt supply - how many did he own - where did he procure them from, etc., etc. When he was a boy and up though the time he went into service, his Mother, sisters and his Mother's maids would have made his shirts. While in Norreys' service he would probably have gotten some of his shirts as part of his livery with the remainder coming from home. Then later after he was on his own with his own men and military establishment he probably would hire a seamstress in London to make him the bulk of his shirts. His Mother still makes him some shirts and they are beautiful examples of the needlewoman's art.

I decided to model the shirt I was going to make on numbers 10 and 12 from Patterns of Fashion. Both are from the last quarter of the 16th century and are of similar dimensions. The originals were quite long, shirts could be used for sleeping and receiving visitors in one's bedchamber and we have no way to know if these shirts solely served that purpose but had I made them to their actual length, I would be tripping over the bottoms. They also were wrapped about one's nether regions and did the office of jockey shirts of the day. I decided to shorten the shirt to my shins, still plenty long but not so much that I would fall on my face. They are both highly decorated and with reluctance I am dispensing with most if it, save for some bobbin lace edging around the collar, front opening, cuffs and hem. I feel like I want to get a good pattern worked out to fit me well before expending the time and effort on a highly ornamented shirt. I have cut out the fabric and will begin turning and sewing down all the edges. When that's done, I'll try to remember to post again with an update on my progress.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tudor Resources

The British National Archives have a number of interesting Tudor period resources for the researcher. Today I turned up an online exhibition on Tudor Hackney: which includes wills, inventories, illustrations of local landmarks and maps.

They also have exhibits on Tudor Latin (both beginner and advanced): and

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fun with primary sources

I'm a firm believer in using primary sources as much as possible. Secondary sources might be great for background and analysis but I want to hear what people are saying first hand. You can imagine my delight when the notice came across my email that the early modern English state papers have been scanned, put up online and that Harvard had just subscribed. Hallelujah! I've been using them in calendared form as an (almost) primary source for Luke's journal but now at the click of a mouse, I can view the actual letters in all their illegible, secretary hand glory.

I have started to dig through the correspondence of Luke's friend and mentor, Sir Roger Williams. His penmanship is atrocious (and was acknowledged as much at the time), a cursive secretary hand with "endearing" spelling, but in spite of all that he has spoken to me from across 428 years! How I wish I had a time machine and could dial up Alost in Flanders on Oct. 12, 1583. That day he wrote a letter to Sir Francis Walsingham which included this paragraph (spelling and punctuation modernized):

"...Some will say: These soldiers will grow too high-minded. If her Majesty has occasion to try her fate, pray God send her rather high minds than low. What occasion that France and others did fear our country men but the valour that Edward the Third, the Black Prince, Harry the Fifth, the Duke of Lancaster and Harry the Eighth with such gallant fellows that followed them? These had no low minds. If you look well to yourselves, never England was better furnished with gallant gentlemen and commons than at this present, and do think if we were put to it, we would show our fore-fathers' minds..."

No doubt in my mind as to just who was Shakespeare's model for the character of Fluellen in Henry V...