Monday, November 12, 2012

Question from Katie - Women's hunting outfits

I have trying to research hunting outfits in early Tudor England. I came across a note in a book that said women occasional would wear men's breeches and boots while hunting or hawking, but I have been unable to find any other reference to support this. Is this true? Would women of standing ever wear breeches or pants of some sort.


Foose said...

I did find a reference in John Guy's recent biography of Mary Stuart, in which he states that Mary took up hunting and adopted the "daring fashion of wearing breeches in florentine serge underneath her skirts. The fashion was introduced by Catherine de Medici from Italy [Mary's mother-in-law] ..." I don't know whether this was the practice in England, but I think the key point is that the breeches were worn beneath skirts, so that the lady's physical outline would still conform to genderwear norms, although of course conservatives would be scandalized. Although, technically, you would think breeches-plus-skirt presented an even greater enhancement of chastity, that prized female virtue of the period.

tudor princess said...

That's interesting because in the film, Mary Queen of Scots, Vanessa Redgrave wears breeches and a cap in the scene where she is riding along the beach with Darnley.

Perhaps if breeches were worn underneath, they allowed you to ride astride a horse, as opposed to side-saddle?

Just goes to show that Catherine de Medici loved to wear the pants!

Foose said...

I just noticed a reference in John Guy's biography of Mary Queen of Scots to the queen's wearing men's clothes.

"... she had a passion for frolics and high jinks that inverted sexual or social stereotypes. Almost six feet tall, she could pretend to be a man and liked to roam incognito with her Maries through the streets of Edinburgh wearing men's clothes."

I'm kind of surprised at this, since I would think a yet-unmarried queen would be more circumspect, especially with John Knox running around breathing hellfire at Catholic whores, and what I have read elsewhere leads me to believe that women wearing men's clothes in the 16th century was taboo.

Guy doesn't cite a source for this in his narrative, however. I did find the contemporary "Diurnal of Occurrents" noting that the married Mary and Darnley banquetted the French ambassador, and "the Queenis grace and all her Maries and ladies were all cled in men's apperell..."

She also apparently wore men's clothes when she escaped from Borthwick Castle, but this is a bit more understandable. However, it's difficult to envision Queen Elizabeth adopting men's clothes. Possibly Mary, as an indubitably legitimate queen, of respectable parentage, recognized throughout Europe, felt able to push the boundaries more than her English counterpart. Or her French upbringing, where she frequently performed in the elaborate masques presented at the Valois court, gave her the confidence (or experience?) to adopt male clothing.

However, I did find an interesting remark in "Temple Bar, Volume 33," a 19th-century journal online which stated:

"...Scotswomen ... were accustomed in the latter half of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries to go about in men's attire. Indeed the sexes would often change clothes. This was sometimes done at bridals, sometimes at burials, always in a spirit of jollification ... The magistrates had infinite trouble with the women ... In March 1576, certain women 'tryit presently as dancers in men's claiths, under silence of night, in houses and through the town.'"

Mary Stuart is cited in this passage, but she and her ladies are described only as dressing up as market women, not men.