Late Medieval Fashion Redressed

An English noble lady’s outfit circa 1480

Teaching slides in PDF format

Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort of Edward IV of England
Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort of Edward IV of England

In fall of 2009 I became enamored of a famous portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort to King Edward IV. This portrait shows a deceptively simple outfit probably made of black velvet and either a gold voided velvet or a gold lampas. The hat, which appears to be an elongated pillbox style extending straight off the back of the head, supports gossamer-fine veiling, worn in a widow’s configuration (covering the forehead).

I set about creating a similar outfit and had marvelous fun in the process.

I put together slides documenting the process and some of the historical fashion facts I learned. Click the PDF icon to view:

PDF link

4 thoughts on “An English noble lady’s outfit circa 1480”

  1. Wow! I just love your work and it really inspires me to learn how to sew and re-create garments like this. I expect that I’ll learn a LOT from reading more of the content of your site. Thanks so much for sharing your process so accurately!

  2. Eleanor of Ashley

    Many many years ago I found a piece of a manuscript from about 1460 with a picture of a woman in what was most likely her boudouir, as she was not entirely dressed, sitting beside what may have been her fiancee. Her hair was down, but she had a small beanie-like cap on the back of her head with the attached forehead loop. The edge of this cap fell right where the edge of the “overcap” would, and would be the ideal way to keep a hennin on! It would be a very similar solution as an underband, but would have an additional benefit of keeping the hair tamed. As long as the undercap was large enough to hold all the hair, and one fastened it on securely, it works excellently. I have used this style for decades.
    Just wanted to pass this on.

    1. I think that has a lot of merit for hat styles that perch at least partially on the top portion of the head, like most hennin styles do, but I hesitate to imagine it would work very well for the style that juts straight off the back of the head. I found gravity really wanted to just topple the hat off, even if I could perch it on the hair gathered in a bun back there. There needs to be something that holds it tight to the head and I’m not sure a beanie style would do that on the very back of the head.

      Just the same, I’m always open to seeing experiments and results in this area! Thank you for the tip, too.

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