[livejournal.com profile] nuranar recently contacted me to ask me for research suggestions/inspiration for a friend of hers that is interested in starting to make historically accurate clothing for a middle class woman in Elizabethan England. I asked Ginger if she minded me asking my friends list, since so many of you do make 16th-century clothing for middle-class people in England and are way better at it and more well-informed than I am. And she said yes! So . . .

Dear LJ brain trust,

What books, websites and dress diaries/blogs do you recommend to a beginner who is interested in creating historically accurate clothing for middle class people in Elizabethan England? I believe I'm correct in thinking that [livejournal.com profile] nuranar's friend already has some sewing experience, perhaps considerable. If you do other eras or geographic areas, please feel free to weigh in with research strategies!

What I've recommended is under the cut. I've added and refined my earlier suggestions, [livejournal.com profile] nuranar!


Arnold, Janet. Patterns of fashion. Costume & Fashion Press, 1987. Print.

Mikhaila, Ninya and Jane Malcolm-Davies. The Tudor Tailor. Costume & Fashion Press, 2006. Print.

Alcega, Juan de. Libro de geometría práctica y traça. -- Available partially on Google Books here. You can buy this one at AbeBooks UK. The price/shipping isn't too bad for a costuming book.

I know that Tudor Tailor is a controversial suggestion to some people, and I agree that the pattern diagrams are a little disappointing. But! The text introduction is great, and if you use the pattern shapes in conjunction with tailors' books like de Alcega's, then you can get clothes that fit with period pattern shapes. The bibliography and footnotes are also excellent. It is a great, reputable resource for someone who is new to 16th-century clothing. Beats the hell out of Winters & Savoy, OK?

I stayed away from recommending things like Moda a Firenze and Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd because they are SUPER expensive, and I feel that they shouldn't be purchased until you're at a point to make that investment. They're also hard to get through ILL, I've discovered. But if you've got a friend who has them and is willing to share . . .


  • Elizabethan Costume Page -- Especially these parts:
    1. 16th Century Fabric Consumption by Susan Reed
    2. A Tour of 16th Century Costume
    3. Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion
    4. Smock Pattern Generator -- Though I should point out that this is optimized for machine sewing -- the underarm gussets shouldn't be split in half -- and the pattern in Tudor Tailor is easy to size up.
    5. Pictures of Middle Class European Costume
    6. Check out the links in the Costume Books & Manuscripts section
  • Extreme Costuming -- Especially the articles! Read the articles!

  • Mode Historique -- Especially the research section! And the links section! Sarah is savvy!
  • The Elizabethan Compendium
  • Karen Larsdatter's Medieval Material Culture Linkspages
  • Reconstructing History Blog
  • Renaissance Tailor -- Especially the selections from tailor's manuals
  • Semptress
  • Festive Attyre
  • Kimiko's Website -- Especially the costume myths section.

  • [livejournal.com profile] nuranar also thought of [livejournal.com profile] demode's website, which has lots of good links, though most of her 16th century clothes are Venetian courtesan, which might not be very useful for middle-class English clothing.

    Places to look at pictures/portraits:

  • Wikimedia Commons on Elizabethan clothing: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Elizabethan_clothing -- With caution! Some stuff there is not Elizabethan; it's ren faire or Victorian interpretations of Elizabethan. But there are lots of portraits. Of especial interest are these two:
    1. Joris Hoefnagel, Fete at Bermondsey, 1569
    2. Lucas de Heere, London Gentlewomen and a Countrywoman by Lucas de Heere, c. 1570
  • Tudor & Elizabethan Portraits
  • Portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Tudor England: Images

  • I also suggest Googling for the names of Elizabethan artists as you come across them to find more images. The big miniature painter is Nicholas Hilliard, but the two mentioned above, Joris Hoefnagel and Lucas de Heere, are good choices too. But because they're both foreigners, you have to be sure you know that the subjects of their paintings are English and not some other country. Or, uh, plants. Hoefnagel did botanical illustrations, too. Wikipedia (noooo, not Wikipedia!) has a nice list of artists at the Tudor court to help find images. Unfortunately, most portraiture is of really, really rich people, so it might not be much help in putting together middle class clothing. But it can help with seamlines and stuff.

    Anybody else have any suggestions? I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of things I should have in there! I am trying to stay away from modern sewing pattern suggestions, since those aren't actually as helpful as texts/websites if you're trying to do research yourself.
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