-1560s- cleves gown, velvet

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Status: Unwearable, completely unpicked after being ruined after a house fire.

Year finished: 2006

To Do: remake in maroon silk with silk satin guards (already cut)

Updates since last photo:  unpicked and used as a template for a more accurate gown in muted shades of matte (faille) and semi matte (duchesse satin) silk, new partlet made from sheelinen in progress as well as very sheer linen suite of ruffs- in progress

Inspiration: c1560s portraits from Cologne, anonymous and by known masters.


After several years of collecting images of portraits of women from the region around Cologne I set about recreating a gown suitable to the third quarter of the 16thC of this region.
I chose velveteen as the principle material as most portraits show a very matt dappled surface that suggests a short pile velvet or fuzzy wool. I choose the colour red based on a few pieces of aftrwork from around the region, which makes this dress more suitable for the city of Cleves.

The skirt is made from unshaped panels in the back which are roll pleated to the bodice. the front skirt panels overlap at the waist (as seen in Cologne portraits of the time and most famously in Anne of Cleve’ portrait by Holbein) and are made from shaped gores to fit smoothly at the waist and flare to the hem. The skirt is entirely made as one piece ditto the bodice. The skirt is whipped to the bodice at the front and the top edge of the roll pleats also whipped to the bodice (the pleats held in rolls with a mix of whipping and stab stitch).

The sleeves are fitted to the elbow with seams up the back. the extremely wide guards make up the bulk of the  hanging part of the sleeves and are an elongated D shape.

The bodice has a square neckline as based on several obsucre and hard to see images for groups of donors and their children in paintings of the time and region.

The bodice hooks up the centre front of the skirt and there are hooks on the overlaps of the skirt to keep in in place at the waist.
After a house fire in 2007 this dress was in poor shape and is being restored currently. The headdress also requires extensive repair with a new base support and new bezants and sequins.

The new gown will be made from a maroon silk faille interlined in calico for the skirt and canvas for the bodice, the lining has yet to be bought however the sleeves will be lined in a vintage (possibly antique) fur coat with some more fur to border the inside hems of the skirt and bodice.

Framed on a very thin cotton muslin.

Tracing the shape.

Dividing the pearl sizes.


Sequins as filler make the design very rich.

The shape is based on several sources including a very few figures in profile seen in allegorical and religious paintings. While these alone would not be enough evidence there is enough conjectural support seen in painting where the stickelchen (the headdress) is made from a stiff brocade and a sharp edge is visible. 19thC folk dress shows a very similar shape and while there are a few hundred years between much foldress were based on 17thC dress of various nations. The actual shape took a lot of work to create as minor changes in angles in the flat pattern created major changes in the assembled piece.

Made from a heavy buckram sewn and steamed to shape, covered in felt and final pearled velveteen and lined in silk.

Worn over a fitted haube (cap) made from a D shaped piece of saree with a brocaded edge. Hair is pinned in plaits over the top of the head and proved a support to pin (clothing pins not hair pins) to the Stickelchen. A separate shaped piece is worn under the Stickel to help it stay in place.

Gurtel (girdle/belt) made from multiple bracelets joined with jewellery findings. Central plaque was finally made from layers of filligree brass wired to shape. Since superceeded again) with a solid cast roundel purchased as a fashion item.

The medallion is an SCA token for servies to the Arts and Sciences, an AoA level Order of the Lily. I now wear the set of necklaces with my Oder of the Laurel medallion as a weighty reminder of the charges of this title. I also wear the Lily close to my neck to remind myself of where I started.