I haven’t been able to sew for weeks now due to an eye infection that’s limiting the fine, detail vision in my right eye. So I’ve made minimal progress on the actual Flemish gown — I did pleat the skirt & try to sew it to the bodice, but it kind of looks like monkeys sewed it so I may have to rip it out & try again.
However, I’ve been researching the duck-billed cloak — aka the heuke, which Michael de Bruce kindly pointed out is the proper name — more because I *can* look at pictures & do web searches relatively well. One of the most useful things I came across was this page on historical cloak styles from Ragnar Torfason that mentions the heuke. He refers to the description Fynes Moryson wrote in the 1590s of women wearing a “hoyke or veil” in Flanders & northern Germany.
So then I looked up Fynes Moryson & found that his entire works are online as PDFs in the Internet Archives, free for download. I had to go through all of them to learn that Volume 4 of the “Itinerary written by Fynes Moryson, gentleman, first in the Latine tongue, and then translated by him into English: Containing his ten yeeres travell throvgh the twelve dominions of Germany, Bohmerland, Sweitzerland, Netherland, Denmarke, Poland, Italy, Turky, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1605-17” was relevant to my interests. That’s where I discovered this description of ladies from head toe, in the section on Swtizers apparel, under the heading “Netherland”:
Women aswell married as unmarried, cover their heads with a coyfe of fine holland linnen cloth, and they weare gowns commonly of somes light stuffe, & for the most part of black colour, with little or no lace or guards, and their necke ruffes are little (or short) but of very fine linnen. For aswell men as women for their bodies and for all uses of the Family, use very fine linnen; and I thinke that no clownes in the World weare such fine shirts as they in Holland doe. Some of the chiefe Women not able to abide the extreme cold, and loth to put fier under them for heate (as the common use is) because it causeth wrinckles and spots on their bodies, doe use to weare breeches of linnen or silke.
All Women in generall, when they goe out of the house, put on a hoyke or vaile which covers their heads, and hangs downe upon their backs to their legges; and this vaile in Holland is of a light stuffe or Kersie, and hath a kinde of horne rising over the forehead, not much unlike the old pummels of our Womens saddles, and they gather the Vaile with their hands to cover all their faces, but onely the eyes: but the Women of Flanders and Brabant weare Vailes altogether of some light fine stuffe, and fasten them about the hinder part and sides of their cap, so as they hang loosely, not close to the body, and leave their faces open to view, and these Caps are round, large, and flat to the head, and of Velvet, or at least guarded therewith, and are in forme like our potlids used to cover pots in the Kitchin: And these Women, aswel for these Vailes, as their modest garments with gowns close at the brest and necke, and for their pure and fine linnen, seemed to me more faire then any other Netherlanders, as indeed they are generally more beautifull.
OK, contemporary textual description! Check.
Not sure how much this helps, because Moryson sure makes the hoyke / heuke sound funny, if not downright ridiculous. Like a pommel of a horse saddle or potlid-shaped. Awesome. And is it lightweight fabric or velvet or at least heavy enough to be guarded with velvet? But the whole effect is apparently beautiful, I guess, if you like that sort of thing.
How about some more images? Women wearing duck-billed cloaks show up in the background of a lot of late 16th-century peasant scenes (including another one by Bruegel). They seem to be common filler characters. These pictures don’t provide much detail, but they do show the relative ubiquity of this seemingly odd cloak among the lower & middling classes.
Hmm… there is one detail these images may show… pleating on the “bill” or cap portion of the cloak. As if the top edge of the cloak is pleated down to create the hard, flat portion that sticks out front over the face. This would almost make sense, as if it was a blanket being worn over the head (heuke = blanket coat) & the head portion evolving into a pleated brim for convenience & eventually fashion. It’s a stretch, but what the heck, I’ll experiment with it.