Making lemonade out of lemons — since my hair fell out from chemo, this seems like a good time to go for one of those freaky-cool shaved-forehead styles that has popped up in various points of history. Go big or go home!
At first, I though of Burgundian 1470s. It’s a period I don’t know anything about, but Sarah said she could help me some. Then I got a minor obsession with this laced-front style of gown, much prettier than the typical band-under-the-bust style.
However, I suspect that only bright young things wore it. See, in the imagery I found, this style of laced-front gown seemed to be worn by mostly unmarried women (such as the daughters of donors’ who sponsored the paintings). The gown was also worn by the virginal handmaidens of St. Ursula who accompany her before her marriage (which never took place because the women were all slaughtered), St. Margaret the Virgin, & the young maiden depicting ‘true love.’ Mary Magdalene was shown wearing this type of gown, & at this point in history she had the dual role as fallen woman & witness to Jesus death & resurrection. The only portrait that may be of a responsible married woman is that of Margaret of York, & this painting appears to date from about the time she married Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.
So, this may not be the most appropriate dress for *me* to wear, given my actual age & my SCA persona (even if we set aside the fact that I usually portray a different time period). Not sure if I’d look like mutton dressed as lamb with that one.
As I mulled over the idea, I was gifted with a gorgeous pink ruff from Laina. I planned to wear this with a pink English fitted gown for October Crown (more in a future post), so I styled up a little wig to go with it. And that’s when I realized, whoa, my baldness really works for that super-late Elizabethan high-forehead thing! A quick selfie sent me all a twitter about the idea, & I mulled it over for the next few days. By the end of the weekend & several convos with costumer friends, I was convinced. I needed to make a late Elizabethan gown.
Not just any late Elizabethan — a white wheel-farthingale gown! It’s kinda been my dream gown. I’ve wanted to make a white dress since waaaaay back in my renfaire days, & I’ve always loved the ridiculous shape of the wheel farthingale, the seriously bizarre proportions, the standing-in-a-table look with the exaggerated long waist, topped by a high plucked forehead with a widow’s peak. Aw yeah! Weirder is better.
Now, this is pretty damn ambitious to create by the first weekend in January. The under-structure, the ruff, the wig, that’s a lot of pieces to build. But I do have some of the main materials in The Stash. Most importantly, I already have 9.5 yards of gorgeous white silk woven with a Tudor-esque rose pattern. And I have a red curly wig. Plus I’m stocked on basics like 15 yards of linen for linings, scads of canvas for interlining, batting, & a roll of white millinery wire for a supportasse. But I’ll need ruff materials (linen or organza? what kind of lace edging?), reed for the farthingale, even white shoes (found some reasonable fakes on eBay already, can dress them up with pompoms).
While my initial inspiration was the iconic Ditchley Portrait of Queen Elizabeth, that one is heavily decorated & has other design elements I simply won’t have time & energy for. The 1959 portrait possibly of Elizabeth Southwell, a maid of honor to QEI, is more suitable to what I can do & want. There are several ‘maid of honor/lady in waiting’ portraits that are fairly similar — white gown, big ruff, feathered headdress — & I love the style. Of course, the “maids” do indicate a more youthful age, ehem, but screw it, if the Virgin Queen can dress like that in her 80s, I can in my 40s 🙂