French Hoods

After a bout of distraction with the Glee season premiere and the Martha Stewart Halloween Handbook last night (is it too early to decorate for Halloween? No, I think not), I was able to settle in and start constructing the French hood for my Anne Boleyn gown. The pattern I'm using for the dress, Simplicity 2589, includes the hood, but I’m just not a fan of it. It generalizes the parts of the hood, which went through several transformations throughout its time, and the style of this particular pattern is not exactly what I have in mind when I think “Anne Boleyn.” So, I’m winging it.

I’m taking pictures as I go and should have a tutorial of some sort by next week at the latest, in case you want to jump on the headdress bandwagon of the sixteenth century. Meanwhile, let’s discuss the French hood just a bit.

The French hood is recognized by its rounded, crescent shape, compared to the roof-like angles of the English or gable hood. It has been called the mini-skirt of its day, as it shows off several inches of the wearer’s tresses along the hairline. Scandalous indeed! Tradition has it that the ever-fashionable Anne Boleyn introduced this variety of headdress to England upon her return from France. It’s lovely to think so, but period portraits show plenty of other English ladies sporting this style, even Katherine of Aragon. It was, however, Anne’s preferred style, and she certainly did help its popularity during her short reign.

The French hood consists of five parts: the coif, crepine, paste, veil (the actual ‘hood’), and billaments.

The coif was a simple linen cap worn as the base layer. It was usually white, though some examples of red coifs can be found. It was tied under the chin but may have also been pinned on, as evidence of chin ties is absent in some portraits, such as Anne’s. In fact, in Anne’s most famous portrait, one can’t see the coif at all. It usually peaks out on the sides in a curved fashion around the ears.

The crepine refers to the pleated linen or silk, usually white or gold, along the base of the hair. It is unsure as to whether this is actually attached to the coif or not.

The paste is the crescent one sees. It was made of rich fabrics of white, black, or one corresponding to the gown, placed over stiffened buckram and wire. It has been proposed, however, that it was actually far straighter in shape, the curve resulting from the piece piling against braided hair pinned at the crown of the head.

The veil is nearly always black wool, silk, velvet, or satin, reaching somewhere between the shoulder blades to the waist.

Billaments are simply the decorative elements. Metalwork, jewels, pearls: they range from the extravagant to the simple.

For Sarah Lorraine's amazing article on the construction of the French hood, go here. You won't be disappointed. If you are interested in purchasing a beautiful French hood, go to The Anne Boleyn Files. Gorgeous!

A Collection of French Hood Portraits
Anne of Brittany

Anne Boleyn

Katherine of  Aragon

Princess Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

Princess Margaret Tudor

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth Seymour-Cromwell (sometimes Catherine Howard)


Project 8: Dress Revenge

 2008: The dress in question, in its original, infuriating state.

It stems from 12 years of wearing a school uniform, I’m sure, but no matter how I fight it, I have a conniption when I find myself wearing the same thing as somebody else. I simply cannot help it. This is why I started sewing, why I started beading, why I stopped shopping at Target and Old Navy for anything other than a basic.

The gem of my matching-outfit crown came two years ago. My mom had bought the above Mossimo sundress from Target, but didn’t like the way it fit her, so to me it was passed. I was oblivious to its popularity until I wore it a month later to the Wheatland Music Festival.

Wheatland is a bluegrass extravaganza in mid-Michigan that my family has been attending for the past 14 years. An unusually high concentration of hippie hopefuls crowd into a huge wheat field for three days of fiddles, clogging, and outright debauchery. It is a breeding ground for Target sundresses.

It was Saturday of the 2008 Wheatland festivities, and I was merrily frolicking without a care in the world, my blue sundress on. Then I spotted it: the same dress. I fought my fit-habits and pushed forward. There were thousands of people. It was bound to happen.

Then I saw it again.

And again.

Yes it was spotted three times in one hour and has been seen at every Wheatland since. I threw up my hands in defeat and walked back to the campsite to change into a homemade dress, knowing that I was at last safe.

The infamous blue sundress still haunted me years later, as my family and friends enjoyed revisiting the incident, teasing me about changing my outfit, as I repeatedly saw it elsewhere. It sat hanging in my closet reminding me of that moment when I was bested. I needed my revenge.

And revenge I had.

Who knew it would feel so good?

The complete hoopin' ensemble.

The halter altered.

This year’s Wheatland Music Festival was this past weekend, September 10 – 12. Last Tuesday, I settled in and altered the dress. I removed 17.5 inches from the bottom, making it knee length. From this, I was able to add four triangular inserts to the skirt, making it fuller and flowy. I also added a few inches of pleated fabric to the halter straps, stitching them down to a far more comfortable position.

While the weather left something to be desired, Friday was momentarily sunny enough for me to debut my revenge. Take that, Target!

And now for a slew of other Wheatland pictures.

Jameson thought she was tough enough for any kind of weather. "Bring it," she said.

 While the sun was out, layers were needed and winter hats made their appearance.

Good bye sunny skies!

Then the cruel temperatures dipped deeper.

And the rains came.

We had to find new ways to entertain ourselves.

On the third day, the waters receded and the sun emerged.
(Please note Jameson's Target sundress, third in from the left.
Yes, she too saw repeats. Bah! Will the madness never end?)


Fabric Store Discord

It's nearly time to start the french hood for the A.B. gown, and this meant a trip to my local fabric store for some trim at lunch today, an act I always delight in. I found my way to the notions and selected two: one a gold braid, the other a thin gold piping. Well, much to my joy, the latter was on sale for a whopping twenty cents a yard. Are you kidding me? Twenty cents? Sweet Jesus! I upped my yardage from three to five at the last minute. Hey, hey big spenda'!

This is where things get iffy. Apparently, somebody at the store made a mistake because that particular cord was discontinued and should have been thrown away. Yes, I'll repeat. Thrown. Away. The entire, FULL spool of trim should have gone to the trash, and now she didn't know how to ring me up.

I would have blamed it all on shotty hearing had I not just had a conversation with my aunt on Sunday where she recalled the tales of her employment at a fabric store that went out of business. What did they do with all those glorious things? All the patterns? Legally, they had to throw them in the dumpster. That's not to say employees didn't leave work only to return and do some dumpster diving, but still.

In whose mind is it okay to just discard perfectly good, beautiful items? Who made this policy? Is there somebody out there in the textile/sewing business that would care to explain this to me because I'm fairly disgusted right now. This is what is wrong with the world. It's wasteful. It's gross.

I should have bought the whole damn spool.


A stitch in time...

"From the manner in which a woman draws her
thread at every stitch of her needlework,
any other woman can surmise her thoughts."

Honore de Balzac

During a weekend visit celebrating my brother's upcoming birthday, I inherited three sewing trinkets, including an antique silver thimble and tracer, once belonging to my Great Great Aunt Hilda. They are simply divine. The pin is one of the most delightful accessories I've come across, and I'm wearing it on my hat as I type.  Thank you, Aunt Shelia!


Project 7: Anne Boleyn Gown - Part Five

Last night, the Anne Boleyn gown reached an important benchmark. Several yards of fabric were pleated, gathered, basted and finally sewn into place, giving the dress a sense of completeness. Don't get me wrong, there are still hours of work ahead of me to complete the overall costume: hemming, fore sleeves, french hood, kirtle, possible farthingale (hrm?)... but it feels like a gown now. I can walk around and not get poked by pins. I can twirl frivolously, flaring the luxurious silk all about. At this point, when I slip it on, I can feel my inner Anne Boleyn coming out. Sass, intellect, sensuality, strength. I like it.