After last year’s success at Sudeley castle , the Black Knight Historical team were invited once more – and that meant we were hired to entertain the visitors. The theme changed however – whereas last year we were inside the castle, doing 17th century stuff ( lace making, apothecary/early science), this time it was all about Richard III.
Which meant Lucas was one of the Richard’s cronies, Ratcliffe, and I was his wife Agnes. Which meant – posh stuff, posh tent, poshness galore, even more so since Eleanor (as Cecille Neville, Duchess of York, mother to the king) was to reside in our tent too.
And all of which meant that I needed to update my wardrobe. I had one posh frock but needed another one, plus a new kirtle, posher than the woollen ones I already had.
And as it happened I just managed to grab some lovely silks at the last market. They were supposed to go towards stock items, but I just couldn’t resist… not only that, I simply couldn’t afford much mid-season ( we had spent a bit on updating the tent’s interior), so I simply had to make do with whatever I had in my silk stash.
So, for a late 15th century I decided on a kirtle in this style, from the Marie of Burgundy portrait – especially since the silk I had, from Watts&CO, was almost exactly the same ..
I did not have time for the trim, belt and a new henin, but since it wasn’t meant to be an exact copy, the rest of the details could wait their turn ( I wonder how long will that be..). The rest however worked well.
The style is almost a transition gown, when the flat fronted kirtle started improving in cut and began to fit nicely, slowly transitioning into the kirtles of the early Tudor style.
Mine is lined with brown silk ( gold/orange for the sleeves), and the bodice section is strengthened with one layer of fine linen canvas – more than enough to keep one’s assets in place; Indeed I quickly discovered that it was giving me much more of a cleavage than I had reckoned for! At the event, for modesty’s sake, I covered the bosom with a placard or a linen neckerchief, but the frock will need to be adjusted so that the neckline will go up a bit. Heaving bosoms are not exactly the way to go in high medieval fashion… (more on silhouettes across the ages here)
The sleeves are funky. I laced up mine with lovely points made by Lucy the Tudor; the dress fastens at the back with a longer lace too.
The kirtle worked wonderfully – I wore it on its own ( that is with a chemise, hose, headgear, etc) when inside the tent. The tent represented my household so it was still proper to be on a slightly more relaxed footing, without the overgown. I was at home, weaving, while my important and recently-made-very-wealthy husband was discussing important business with the king. And the queen mother just happened to pay a visit…
So a great compromise, posh enough to be seen indoors – and, for one day at least, it was a blessing since it was incredibly hot! 3 layers is not much, but it just wasn’t too nice to be sweating!
I was mostly sitting in the shade, and demonstrating weaving – both on a rigid heddle and on tablets, and both styles proved to be very popular with the visitors. I enjoyed long and detailed chats about the history of weaving narrow wares, textiles etc, and it was a pleasure to exchange views and information with a very polite and well informed public. A few ladies had actually had a go at the weaving themselves 🙂
As far as the gown was concerned, I had a length of black damask and was hoping it would be just enough…
After some serious calculations ( yes! maths happened!), measurements, and drafting, trying to plan how much of the fabric I could use, and still match the pattern, it transpired that it was just enough for a voluminous gown with a modest train. I didn’t mind the modest train, my other frock has a long one, so a variety is there – plus I planned to posh this frock up with some fur…
The fur was purchased from GH leathers – 2 plates of white rabbit ( oh, and one of black for Lucas – didn’t I mention he was getting a new robe too?)
The gown was cut and made, lined with red silk and then the purfells were prepared – fur was cut to shape for the hem, collar and cuffs, and the borders were secured with tape.
Then they were studiously attached to the garment, by hand – it takes some time, but the whole process of preparing and attaching the purfells was worth it – the fur lies flat and neat!
I put on the gown next morning and we had a mini photo-shoot in the castle grounds before the public stormed in 🙂
I must admit that I like the comfortable, shorter gown without a huge train to lug behind, and the basic colours looked elegant – with just a hint of clashing reds and vibrant greens from the kirtle:-)
We found some nice windows for an atmospheric shot…
The grounds of Sudeley Castle are breathtaking, and the event went well the next day too – it was cooler, so I got to wear the dress most of the day, but it also rained rather a lot. However, Brits are used to this weather so we still had lots of visitors, though instead of sun hats and sandals they came armed with wellies and umbrellas:-)
The king ( Jason Kingsley) was around on both days, taking part at ceremonies, public dinners, shows and also entertaining the public while giving short demonstrations of exquisite horsemanship on ‘White Surrey’ (actually Warlord)
There were a lot of things to see – soldiers, kitchens, craftsmen, camp followers, storytelling, a whole bunch of Richard’s many cronies, a fashion show – in short enough to occupy a family for a day ( plus for the visitors nice food, the castle, medieval market, ice cream, and beautiful gardens to roam around).
In short, an exquisite event, probably the most enjoyable tented event of the year – and indeed staying in a posh medieval tent was very much like glamping… all the things we have accumulated over the years, fur covers, woven mats, tables, tapestries, lanterns, etc – it was all worth every penny; not only to see the pleasant surprise on the public’s faces – but for our own comfort!
Despite the rain, the tent was dry, and the mats got lightly wet at the edges only. The bed with its layers of sheepskin and wool bedding, with coverings made in wool and fur was not only warm but comfy ( Lucas may have a different opinion, as I got the bed before I knew him – so it is a tad too short for him). Me, I enjoy sleeping under the canvas, especially in the rain – so I loved every minute!
Tapestries made a real difference too, as well as all the paraphernalia – lots to talk about to the visitors. Some of the items were provided by Eleanor (the games table, religious items, a chair, etc. Still, there’s an ever growing list of what we need for the tent – more chests, more wall coverings, more chairs.. I now want a standing loom too… So, it looks as if we may need a trailer… or a van….
Oh, and did I mention that Lucas got a new robe? There it is, in the same silk as my kirtle, so we were matching 🙂 I still have enough of it to make another short robe, I may yet make a stock item after all…
And the usual facts and credits…….
Green kirtle – fabric – 4m of green silk, £115 per metre from the website if I remember well, but I managed to grab a roll at the market at a £80 per metre:-)
4m of taffeta for lining, £25 per metre
silk laces, £25
overall cost of materials – £450
Black damask – 7m @ £60 per metre,
Red taffeta for lining – £6m @ £25
Fur – £150
Overall cost of materials: – £650
…and the article on how to make Burgundian dress and a kirtle here...
With more medieval inspiration here –
Clothes – Prior Attire
Lovely bling (I got a hat gem specially for the event) – as always, by Gemmeus
Belt – Bayley Heritage Castings
Shoes and pattens – NP Historical shoes
Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery
And the good news is – it looks like the event will be back next August, 20/21st!! 🙂 a new page has been created for the event, so keep your eyes peeled! 🙂