A Stitch in Time: Tudor Clothes and Home Crafts
with From Time to Time
Thursday 30 May 2019
The May meeting of the Society was entitled “A Stitch in Time; Tudor Clothing and Home Crafts” – and the speakers, “From Time to Time” were two “Tudor” women; Hope, a lady of the “middle sort” and Gilly, a woman of the “lower”, both of whom spoke in the tongue of the age and dressed accordingly.
Originally there had been a very few of the wealthy “upper sort” and many of the lower and poorer but the importance of the trades led to a new middle. Differentiation of the sorts would have been apparent in their dress, for example the “middle” ladies wore gloves to keep their hands soft and white, to differentiate them from the “lower” whose hands would be hard and red through labour. Similarly the type of head covering: “middle” ladies would wear dark felted hats, similar to those worn at court, and could wear peacock feathers, the “lower” would wear white caps or simple hats. One’s family emblem may be on the hat of the “middle”, made of silver plate or pewter – but not gold which was confined to the upper sort, the sumptuary laws of apparel made it illegal to dress above ones station; thus the “lower” could wear only bone, pot or wood. The law also applied to the colour of the clothing and materials used; the “lower” were allowed only to wear linen or wool single dyed with cheap plant dyes from such as nettle (and were unlikely to be able to afford more), the “middle” wore silk and satin as well as linen and wool,but double dyed giving a much stronger colour (usually from more expensive mineral or organic dyes such as indigo. Purple was only legally worn by royalty although black was the most expensive dye.
Both male and female wore a white linen shift as a base garment to absorb perspiration, the “lower sort” wore it for a week before washing it, the “middle” only a day. Royalty may wear several in the course of a day. For women a kirtle (skirt) and bodice followed by an apron. The apron of the lower was practical but for the “middle sort” it would be embroidered and kept clean. The “middle sort” would wear a cloth about the back of the neck, known as a pinner – to prevent suntan, and probably the kirtle would be silk lined. Sleeves were separate and tied to the bodice with braid. No buttons were used except for ornament, a laced bodice was straight-laced if done properly, a slattern’s would be crossed, thus the expression.
An excellent and well-received presentation, and thanks are due to one Society member, Mary, for modelling the costume.