I’ve loved this dress since I first saw the portrait in a book, sometime in the early 1990s. It’s the classic refutation of “pink is not period” for renaissance faire or SCA. It’s super-girly. It’s fantastic! It’s very Pretty Pretty Princess! This has been my dream gown, and dammit, I’m going to make it.
So I set the SCA’s Twelfth Night 2009 as my deadline and started gathering materials. Except I was immediately dissatisfied with what I bought. See, there are two versions of this portrait plus contemporary text descriptions, which are contradictory about the exact colors of the fabric and trims.
The best description comes from The Queen’s Image by Helen Smailes and Duncan Thomson, published by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1987:
The earliest undoubted reference to this portrait is in Van der Doort’s reference to catalogue of Charles I’s collection: ‘…The second picture of Queen Mary of Scotland, upon a blew grounded square card, dressed in her hair, in a carnation habit laced with small gold lace and a string of pearls round her neck in a little plain falling hood, she putting on her second [sic] finger the wedding ring.’
The portrait is undated but alludes to her marriage to the French Dauphin, which occurred in 1558, so it’s probably from shortly before the wedding. The V&A Museum dates its version of the portrait as 1559. Of course, there are two versions of this painting, both by Francois Clouet.
The one in the V&A ends just above the queen’s waistline. There is another in the royal collection of Queen Elizabeth II that extends below MQoS’ waistline and shows her hands and wedding ring (shown on Wikipedia). This is the portrait described in the book quoted above; that book speculates that a smaller version of this portrait was given to Queen Elizabeth I.
The book Maria R: Mary Queen of Scots, The Crucial Years by the Duke of Hamilton has chapter on the queen’s wardrobe accounts from the 1560s — when she was back in Scotland — and notes one “carnation pink” gown, so I wonder if she still owned this one.
Anyway, the two versions and the text confuse the issue of what color that trim is: gold or silver. The text says gold, but the high-resolution image from the V&A is very clearly silver with black pearls.
So I’ve bought a big old crazy mix of materials, and I don’t know what goes with what! I have 18 yards of pink silk (8 yards of one color and quality, 10 yards of another), 20+ yards of gold trim, and nearly 4,000 silver-black pearls (real ones, natch).