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)

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