Thursday, January 25, 2018

Hidden Treasure in Oklahoma

I normally don't try to plug destinations for things you HAVE to visit, but if you love 16th century Italian , you need to make a visit to Tulsa, OK. Villa Philbrook was built in the 1920's as a private home, and is now an art museum open to the public.
Photo by myself in the gardens behind the Villa.

I was invited out to assist with a special even they were hosting over the summer. Our local SCA chapter in Tulsa was adding ambiance and entertaining guests prior to a vow renewal/wedding, and a screening of The Princess Bride.

Because we were only to happy to help the museum allowed us to take photos around the grounds in our period clothing. This is not something that is normally allowed without prior permissions. Enjoy of few more photos of our visit to one of the hidden treasures of Oklahoma, and I hope all of you Italian architecture fans add it to your must see spaces!

For more information on local events, including free admission days please check out their Facebook page here.
For details on the museum, collections, and photoshoot rules, please visit their website .

Photo by myself in the Gardens.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Strawberry Hill and my updated Gable Hoods

Strawberry Hill Miniature
Before moving to Oklahoma I had fallen in love with this miniature believed to be Anne Boleyn in the Strawberry Hill Galleries. As I studied the miniature and compared the look to my previous Gable Hood I decided this was clearly an earlier and more conservative version of the hood. Instead of looking to Holbein and Jane Seymour for more understanding on the construction I looked backward to the styles worn by Katherine of Aragon. Even if this miniature is not Anne, the elongated shape of the hood and wider curtain style veil off the back suggest she was attending court and was sporting a style Katherine of Aragon can been seen wearing in many portraits from the mid to late 1520's.

Katherine of Aragon by Wenceslaus Hollar

My reading and research lead me to a book called The Queen's Servants. It is a sequel to the Tudor Tailor and focuses on fashions earlier during Katherine of Aragon's reign as queen. The updated hood research for hats known in the 16th century as English Bonnets, has a coif, paste, frontlets, and veil. Where they recommended sewing the gable hoods of the 1530's into a solid at in the Tudor Tailor, these English Bonnets are held together with dressing pins. A few practical advantages of the pin construction, you can disassemble the had for easy transport and cleaning, or switch out the upper pieces to match your outfit.
These photos are of me wearing the hood with my natural hair. By modern standards I have long hair, but not with much body. I believe the hood will sit better if I add a supplemental false braid to help create a better foundation and raise the hat 1 inch off my collar bone without needing to be trimmed. I am working on encasing these braids in the yellow striped material seen in the painting as a possible reincarnation of the braid cases and nets seen in earlier centuries.
Photo by Melissa Jones 2016.

Tudor Tailor Petticoat

It may surprise many of you that until last winter I had never worn the Tudor warming layer called a petticoat underneath my various Tudor gowns.
While living in Oklahoma I moved into a home that was built in the 1930's. The windows all appeared to be original to the house, and despite updated gas heating being installed the old vents had never been filled in. Even after adding weather stripping there was still a draft sometimes. What is my point of this anecdote? for the first time since 2011, I lived in a place that was cold enough I might want an additional layer and could comfortably experiment with the addition to my silhouette. When you daily high for weeks at a time is 20 degrees, a petticoat magically seems like a marvelous idea!

Remembering how warm my red wool kirtle based of Peter Brughel the Younger's paintings were, and from period sources I knew the garment had to be wool. I selected a bright red wool I had purchased at JoAnns on clearance. Its a tropical weight so my hope it if the drape on the back of my gown the light weight might be well tolerated during a warmer time of the year as well. This petticoat was fully lined with linen to help extend the life of the garment. The bodice is a heavy weight linen scrap, and the skirts were a dark colored linen to help hide any menstrual blood since I can't bleach the wool. I did not add any additional stiffening to the bodice as this is not mean to be a supportive layer. The kirtle preforms that function in a Tudor lady's wardrobe. The pleats were padded with wool felt to help increase the skirts volume. Each piece was hand flat lined and then whip stitched together in a 16th century fashion

This pattern came from The Tudor Tailor. It seems the open bodice was inspired by a popular jerkin design during Herny VIII's reign. I have not found any surviving petticoats from Henry VIII's reign for women, only wardrobe entries. While I can't document the shapes beyond The Tudor Tailor, it does seem a period plausible pattern to me.  I can say the warming layer on its own made a huge difference in my personal comfort in my drafty Oklahoma home. Recently I have not had many occasions to wear my Tudor wardrobe about, but when I get an updated photo with this garment I will be sure to update here with a before and after photo.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Venetian Sonata with Ladder Lacing

Photo by Melissa Jones. 2017

 Last Summer as part of the Realm of Venus' Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge 7, I made a Venetian Ensemble inspired by the late 1560's. This dress was an extension of the learning I made in 2012. In 2012, I researched the layers that go into this silhouette and created this look. Personally I am excited to see the growth and better execution that 5 years of honing my craft has given me.
New corset pieces. Stiffened with reed and 2 piece of synthetic whale bone.
This outfit started with a new effigy corset like the ones I have posted about previously on this blog. What is new is the angle of the diagonal channel is wider for my larger bust. I also began experimenting with synthetic whale bone for some of the more important channels, like the afore mentioned diagonal. Over all I am very pleased with my new corset made from a recycled silk dress I found at Goodwill. I usually prefer to just use silk yardage, but it was harder to find affordable silk in Oklahoma City than it was in Phoenix.
The fabric selected was a large period print in pastel green and antique gold. I found this in the fabric district in Addison, Texas. At the time I purchased it I had planned to make a Tudor kirtle with fore sleeves and only purchased 3 yards. If I had purchased another yard and a half I could have easily had fitted sleeves. With the yardage on hand my skirts were edged with a matching silk. The sleeves were in white silk and striped with gold braid.

My bodice was patterned based on my new corset, but drafted differently. My original dress was basically Elenora di Toledo's funeral gown sliced up the center front. This time I looked to the diagonal straps and lower bodice cut I found in Alcega's Spanish tailoring book. The diagonal fit of these shoulder straps snugs wonderfully on the edge on of my shoulder . The Venetians were known for their racier fashions at this time. The bodice has a layer of linen canvas pad stitched to a thin muslin layer. Then the bodice was assembled by hand using period stitches to flat line the bodice.

Once I tried on the finalized bodice I was able to pin the straps at a good place and stitch them into the bodice front where I had left a small slit to tuck my edges in. The finalized shoulder straps showed me it was time to decorate the sleeve heads a bit. I constructed my caps completely out of cabbage from the dress and after a few different options I selected layered tabs with a single spiral. all of these pieces were hemmed and applied by hand. These caps help to hide the tie points of the sleeves.  

Those lovely lacing rings I was so fond of the last go round we sewn into the shoulder strap for tie down sleeves. In the event I am able to make spiral sleeves out of the dress remnants I want to be able to choose the sleeves and change them out. These sleeves are while silk with hand applied gold braid. Applying by hand allowed me to create an illusion on the braid being straight as it curves around my elbow. They were lined in a white linen and have had white silk ribbon ties added to attach them.

In 2012, I theorized that my ladder lacing went through lacing rings and stitched them into the front opening of my gown. The laces were always prone to rolling about. After speaking with some friends and doing a few more experiments  I decided to stitch 2 linen tapes down on each side to lace dress. After wearing the gown several times I can say that this method of lacing keeps the laces straight, and the piece of synthetic whale bone in the interlining is helping to keep the line of the bodice straight as you see in period portraits.  

These skirts are fairly basic and attached to the bodice using very narrow cartridge pleats. I have grown very fond of the fullness my skirts have when the hem is padded with wool felt. I first found out about this technique while reading Janet Arnold's description of Elenora di Toldedo's funeral dress. This time the band fills the gold guard at the bottom of the skirt

By the time I finished this dress I had actually started loosing weight which is why many of these pictures make the dress appear a bit architectural or broad.

Photo by Melissa Jones 2017

Fresco by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo 1570

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Scholehouse for the Needle Coif

Museum Number T.12-1948, Victoria and Albert Museum

A few years ago I posted some research on monochrome English embroidery. This was the kick off of a hand project I have been carrying around and working on periodically. In February of this year I finished my coif. This coif is made of the finest linen I could find and embroidered with silk died using period techniques which I purchased at Pennsic War. The extant examples were made from linen ground fabric and silk embroidery thread. Most of my embroidery was done using stem stitch  or satin stitch. The edge was treated with a long and short button hole stitch similar to that seen in some smocks and shirts of the time rather than with lace. 

My design was inspired by a Schole-House for the Needle, and two extent coifs. the design was transferred from paper to the coif using a period method of pattern transfer called prick and pounce. the little dots were then inked using a fabric safe pen.

I assembled the coif for wearing and then dressed my hair into a circle The coif drawstrings then are tied around these braids to create a poof seen in period art.

Related post:


Shoreleyker, Richard.

A schole-house for the needle: Produced from the original book printed in 1632 and now in the private collection of John and Elizabeth Mason. 

  • ISBN-10: 1872665721

Coif, Late 16th century. Accession number 64.101.1236, Metropolitan Museum of New York

Coif, 1570-1599. Museum number T.12-1948, Victoria and Albert Museum of London

Accession number 64.101.1236, Met Museum of Art, New York City

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Florentine Hairstyles in the mid 16th Century

Eleonora di Toledo had an iconic look which she altered very little during her lifetime. This statement applies to her hair styles as much as the iconic dress style she popularized in Tuscany. Through her life, Eleonora would wear a jeweled hair net over her hair. Her daughters and other members of the court can be seen without a net. Instead these ladies would have jewels or ribbons in their hair. This tutorial is to help you style your hair in the Florentine fashion of Eleonora's court. Let's begin!
Eleonora di Toledo by Bronzino. Currently at the National Gallery of Prague.
Painted shortly after her marriage to Duke Cosimo di Medici of Tuscany in 1539.

What you Need:
Needle and Thread
Hair Bodkin with 1/4 inch tape roughly 2 yards is plenty
Hair comb
Hair net

Elenonora di Toldedo by Bronzino in the Wallace Collection, London. 

How to:
Step 1. Comb out hair until smooth and part down center with your hair bodkin. Then twist bangs from your center part to above your ear. Use hair bodkin to assist taking portions and shaping twist. Secure twists behind your ears with needle and thread. Snip thread and repeat for other side. When finished these twists will frame the face.

Step 2. Braid tail of the twists into the remaining hair, and maintain your center part. Secure ends with needle and thread for each side.

Step 3. Position braids in a circle toward the back of your crown. Tuck braid tails under your braids

Step 4. Secure by sewing braids to the hair underneath  or using the hair bodkin and tape. I prefer tape as dark as my hair so I can reuse it for many years in this case. 

Step 5. Cover braids with  jeweled hairnet. I do not have one finished yet, but will post an update when that happens. 

Lady in Green by Alessandro Allori, 1560
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California  1940.75

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Basic Turn Shoes

Shoes from the Museum of London's collection.

Paper and pencil for patterning
fabric pencil
1 foot square of thick veggie tan leather for sole- Mine are made of buffalo since I found a scrap to experiment with
1 foot square of thinner leather for shoe upper- I used goat skin
hole punch
exacto knife and cutting mat
leather needles
waxed thread

Step 1
First step to any of  project is having your plan, and in the case of  these shoes that is a pattern. My first step was tracing my foot onto a piece of paper and then drawing the shape of my shoe around it. Many of my friends who have tried to make their own shoes had toes that pinched, so my first pair are meant to have a wide toe as is seen on the examples from the Mary Rose. For the vamp and heel pieces I mocked them up with craft felt and paper to ensure I had the right shape.

Step 2
Cut out pieces of shoes. Remember to make mirror of the shoe. Now is a great time to use punches or knives to apply any decorative slashing and punching. Each one of my shoes has 2 rows of small slashes. While wearing them I have learned that the more slashing or punch work you do the looser the vamp will fit. Be careful of overdoing it on a pattern that fit well before you slashed.

Step 3
Use clips to join upper pieces to sole and punch out holds for leather needles to go through. Stitch through shoes using 2 running stitches or a cordwaining stitch. Weave string into stitches. I placed the suede side to be walked on in hopes of better traction, remembering my ballet slippers as a child. Also like those slippers the suede is becoming shiny and slick from wear.

Step 4
Flip your shoe right side out. If leather is stiff, apply a little water with a damp sponge.

And there you have it! I am surprised it took me so long to try this relatively simple process. Go make some shoes and dance!I've had a lot of fun showing these off and now have plans for several other pairs with different bits of slashing or dyes.

Slashed Vamp from 16th century. Currently at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Works consulted
Gardiner, Julie, Before the Mast: Life and Death aboard the Mary Rose, Oxbow Books,  2013.
Grew, Francis and Margrethe de Neergaard, Shoes and Pattens, Museum of London Books; 2001.
Museum of London Image # 002264. 
Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession # 29.158.893
Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession # 29.158.477

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Breaking the Ice in Ansteorra

Since March I have been living under the Sable Star of Ansteorra. My first event was the investiture of my Barony's new Baronesses for the Barony of Wiesenfeurer. All of my clothing was still created up and in transit so I dressed as an Imperial Roman lady with my Laurel. I would highly recommend Imperial Roman for anyone who needs quick and easy garb. If it had been cooler I would have used a woolen palla. Between work and unpacking I went to a few other events and have slowly started acclimating to the area.

Sitting at my booth between talking with people. 
Probably the highlight of my SCA experience since the move was traveling to Dallas for a local even called Laurel's Prize Tourney. This name confused me at first, but this event was a large artisan show case where Laurels come around and give helpful feedback. Some of the items I brought out include my hand sewn woolen kirtle, reed corsets, gable hoods, beaded jewelry, embroidery, muffs, and some borrowed hairdressing heads with Italian hair styles. I even got to dress a lady's hair when she came over to chat with me about different historical techniques. My class at kingdom Arts and Sciences Collegium was unfortunately cancelled when work sent me to Texas for 2 weeks.

Clothing from the 1520'a in Venice and English.
Thank you for your help setting up to all my friends and laurel who carpooled to the event with me. I got to meet lots of lovely people and helped spread some information on basic partlets, Tudor clothing, and hair dressing. Thank you Valley Copley for letting me use your photos of my display at Laurel's Prize Tourney here.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trunks are Unpacked

Being released from my oath of fealty in Atenveldt. February 2016
After a year hiatus I am back to blogging about what I love! Thank you all for the kind requests for updates on my Strawberry Hill miniature project. I have completed the gable hood needed for the outfit and will post updated Gable Hood research in the coming weeks.

In other exciting news I have moved across the country for work. While I have missed my friends and companions from the Tudor Project, I am happy to share my information with new people in Oklahoma and Texas. My promotion at work has lead to me cancelling some classes, but I have more in the works. Stay posted for more info on classes this winter through the local SCA branches in Oklahoma City.

Site token for the Fall Coronation in Ansteora.
The SCA groups here have been warm and I am making new friends who love 16th century clothing on a regular basis, but a small part of my heart will always stay in Atenveldt where I "grew up" for lack of a better term. It was hard to keep my composure  as I was release of my fealty oath in February of this year to the crown of Atenveldt. At the time HRM Casca said,"This day our kingdom is a little poorer..but wherever you are we know that the Dream will happen." as reported by the Virtual Herald. Today I was given the opportunity  to swear a new oath to my new kingdom. 

Goals for the upcoming months? Update you with the projects I have worked on through 2016, Re-cut some of my dress bodices to reflect the changes in my figure since starting this journey 7 years ago. Spend some serious time wrapping up projects before the end of the year to start 2017 with something fresh!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Costumes in Wolf Hall

Many of us who love historical costume were completely smitten with the production shots we saw before Wolf Hall aired earlier this year. Now the series is available for sale through PBS, BBC, and even national retailers like Target. With the popularity of this series I want to take a moment and give those new to Tudor fashions a few notes before you take everything in the series as gospel. This is one of the most accurately costumed historical dramas that I have seen in years. The color palate, cuts, underwear, and fabrics are impeccable. But don't forget to do your own research into the clothing as you make your own ensembles.

Odd Piece #1: French Hoods

  • I appreciate the costume designer here for acknowledging French hoods need veils. I doubt though that you will find a single portrait from the 1520's or 30's in England or France that uses fine silk chiffon. Typically you will see a solid black veil on the French and English hoods. Medals done in profile from the time period and illuminated manuscripts also suggest these are hats, not pretty head bands. 

Odd Piece #2: Infamous Cod Pieces

  • The internet was a buzz with interviews from the cast and production team about these being a choice. Yes the cod pieces in period were larger, but the designer didn't want to distract from the story. Modern audiences just can't seem to handle a good cod piece. 

Odd Piece #3 Wrinkled bodices.

  • Several of the productions shots on Anne's airy silk gowns that were build for Claire Foy show wrinkles across the front of the bodices. It does create a fun visual with the light playing with the fabric, but is not historically accurate. I have had this happen even with velvet if I don't use enough tension and pins on my placards. Practice makes perfect!

Great thing #1: Men have correct hats!

  • All of the men have beautiful hats. The designers put so much energy into sewing , knitting, or felting these hats from the correct materials they add a new dimension of texture to the screen. check out all of the different shapes which are specific to clergy, scholars, nobility, common people. The range is also stunning.

Great thing #2 Jewelry!

  • Many of these pieces were researched to extremes, and then used appropriately. Jewelry wasn't just thrown on anyone of rank to make them look wealthy. The designer uses it for impact and with class. The jewelry also has the correct styles for the period instead of being modern baroque jewelry from a costume jewelry shop. (Anne Boleyn still shouldn't be wearing earrings based on my research, but at least these are tasteful drop pearls typically.)

Great thing #3 Middle Class Clothing!

  • Very few productions show middle class clothing without disappearing into ren faire stereotypes. Thank you for doing research and even setting the primary styles of clothing on the middling sort back 10 years from the royal court, and in correct fabrics. Elizabeth Cromwell's costumes are actually my favorite of the whole production!

Great thing #4 Table manners

  • The actors and directors added a fun Easter egg into their stage business for well researched individuals. Take a gander at their table manners. Napkins are not in their laps but on shoulders or other easy to reach places and there are very few forks floating around. 

Great thing #5 Pregnancy Clothing

  • Woman of the time did not have clothing they only wore for pregnancy. There are styles that are more comfortable than others women may gravitate to, but most of the accommodations for the growing belly were done by lacing a garment looser, adding placards for modesty, or altering clothing. Anne's coronation scene shows her very pregnant, which is consistent with historical accounts. Rather than wearing a tent to hide the baby bump it is triumphantly displayed and the gown is pinned to the kirtle with a gap. Bravo!

Great thing #6 Pins
  • For ease of use there are so many times small details are over looked. Dressing pins are an essential part of the Tudor wardrobe. Everyone used them and they used them by the pound each year. Rather than stitching turn backed sleeves into place or solely wiring bonnets the wardrobe crew used period appropriate dressing pins. Thank you! I noticed and I appreciate it so much!


I love this mini series and can't wait for season 2 to hit the small screens. The research in the fine details shows through on the costumes and accessories. I will always encourage people to do their own research before hopping in to build one of these ensembles. This is one of the most historically accurate dramas for this period I have seen in many years, so if you need cinematic inspiration please do start here!