Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Question from flyingwind66 - Mid-16th century French gowns

I am making a mid-16th-century historically accurate replica of a French noble gown for the SCA.

I would like clarification of how the gowns of the French court were constructed. There is no shortage of information regarding the layers and construction of English Tudor gowns though very little about the French fashions in the same time period.

I read everywhere that the English were heavily influenced by the French fashions and that the French were influenced by Italian fashions... so what was common in the French courts?

I see in portraits of the French upper class that they seem to favour the detached and slashed sleeves of Italian influence though I am most confused about the method of closure on the French gowns... I know that the English Tudor gowns were closed in the front and had a placard/stomacher pinned or tied on to cover the closure though I am unsure if this was an English invention or if the French did it too? Did the French upper class have gowns tied closed on the sides/back/front like Italian gowns? Do they pin/tie on placards/stomachers? I read somewhere that they could have hidden hook and eye closures in the front but I don't know the source.


tudor princess said...

According to Costume of the Western World - The Last Valois by Andre Blum, by the 1560s, French women at court wore a "quilted bodice, a sort of corset supported in the front by ivory or steel busks."
My guess is that they followed the lines of Eleanora of Toledo's clothes, and fastened in a similar way. One of her bodices fastens centrally, with hooks and eyes, and the other laces up, down the sides.
However, even the survival of these garments, leads to conjecture as to how the sleeves were attached. Given the scarcity of such garments, you can understand why so much is conjecture!

You could contact the Tudor Tailor, to get their input. For more on Eleanora's clothes, including their construction details, check out Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion, 1560 to 1620.

Bess Chilver said...

Recent research shows that a "corset" was not worn even in the French Court until very late in the 16th century.

The layers worn for English dress will be the same as for French - as English dress often followed and adapted French Fashions. The layers are:

Smock (of linen);
A petticoat - maybe upper bodice or with a minimal bodice which is little more than "braces".;
Likely a farthingale.
Kirtle which is skirt and bodice attached. This could be a supportive layer or if the petticoat has a bodice that would be the supportive layer.
by the 1560s, there is ALWAYS a partlet that is decorative and provides a collar which can then support a ruff. Wrist ruffs will finish the sleeves and a the head will have the hair elegantly dressed with at least jewels on it or a neat cap or a French hood.

Tudor Tailor is an ideal book to follow - Andre Blum's book is far older and does not reflect current research of 16th century Northern European fashions.