Late Elizabethan dress

During the summer there were several slightly disappointed girls because they were too small to fit the blue farthingale dress which (usually) fits 10 year olds. To rectify this work has begun on a late Elizabethan dress with farthingale and pair of bodies which should hopefully fit someone aged 6-8 years old. A later Elizabethan design was chosen to add variety and show how fashion changed during Elizabeth I’s reign. However it hasn’t been straight forward (is it ever?!) because it was necessary to adapt patterns for an adult and a 2 year old from the Tudor Tailor books which took a bit of thought and working out. Hopefully it will work ok! (The bodies and the farthingale can be seen in a previous post.)

The gown started with a mock up made from old sheets. The bodice seems to be ok, working from the bodies underneath and copying the patterns in Tudor Tailor, but the skirt started to cause a bit of grief! It took ages to work out how much was needed in width to get it looking right and not too tight around the farthingale. After that it took time again to work out the length, with and without a flounce, for the gown and petticoat. Got there in the end!

For the petticoat extra width was added, compared to the purple attempt above, and a much better result was achieved when the instructions were followed properly and the waist was cartridge pleated and not knife pleated to the waistband. The petticoat, although not an authentic Tudor material being made from an old bed vallance, is a really good colour contrast with the top skirt and will be much easier to wash than the skirt.

The skirt is longer than the petticoat so it can be taken up a bit into a flounce at the top, and will end up shorter than the petticoat so it doesn’t drag on the floor. (The photo below on the right shows the flounce just tucked in place, it will be eventually held in place with a few stitches.) The opening is at the back compared to the petticoat’s side openings so it shouldn’t be possible to see all the way through to the farthingale or smock.

Time to start on the top half of the outfit.




It’s been a while since the last post – quite a lot’s been happening.

The DIY dress up clothes in the Hayloft seem to have gone down well, although whenever I go up there it looks like a tornado’s gone through and totally disorganised.

Before the main season ended at Trerice, we helped with the spooky Trerice by Night for Halloween. Some of the dummies were dressed up in costume and put in dark corners, one was made up as a man in a large black hat echoing a poem written by one of the volunteers which was given to visitors about ghosts around the house. We also made some people for the stocks, one of which was headless with a pool of blood made from red velvet! There was also a Miss Haversham style wedding cake complete with rat and spiders for the Hall table – one volunteer dressed up as Miss Haversham and sat really still for most of the night, only occasionally moving and scaring visitors silly.



This year’s property raffle raised money for costumes for school visits as well as general visits. It was originally thought to do a set of Tudor clothes similar to what’s already been done but based on different roles and professions that might have been connected to an Elizabethan manor. However, the government have kindly changed the history curriculum for 2014 for primary age kids, so the Tudors possibly/probably no longer feature. We’ll have to somehow check what will happen and maybe alter our plans a bit.

In the meantime we’ve started on extra clothes for next spring/summer including an adult cloak in a rusty red, a small boy’s doublet in left over rusty red with yellow slashes and decoration, the old cream and pink gown is in the process of being remodelled because the cream was damaged with age- it is transforming into a goldish colour gown with cream kirtle underneath. There was a rather misshapen wired farthingale used under the old dress, that through some genius thought of one costume member, has been re-stiffened and now looks pretty good and will stand up so much better to mass usage than willow or normal wire – we used curtain wire! We’re taking a step into the 1590s after several requests from younger girls to wear our 10 year olds dress, which is far too big for them, a posh dress for 6-7 year olds is under way complete with French farthingale and a pair of bodies (slight cheating here too, because used cable ties for the boning).


I had a trip to London as well a couple of weeks ago and picked up some ideas which we might be able to use… visited the ‘Elizabeth I and her people’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery which was brilliant. There were some flat caps there which were tiny, smaller than I expected, and loads of lovely pictures which I’ve seen several times in costume books. I also stayed for the late night opening entitled ‘Elizabethans undressed’ which was amazing; I took some photos but unfortunately they came out rubbish.