Clothes Make the Man

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
                                                              – Mark Twain

Going into this, I honestly did not give much thought to clothes. I am mostly known as a costumer, of course I was going to be doing most if not all of this garbed in the period manner. As much as possible and a bit more, please.
I live near Seattle, so a lot of this will be undertaken in the Pacific Northwest. But it might well be necessary (or just more fun) to take this show on the road. Which might make costuming a bit dicey.  I’ll be traveling in places and talking to people where I am not known. Places where wandering about in trunkhose and doublet might not be taken as well as you might hope.

For all that I love making a scene, I can’t imagine my life would be made easier or the project made better if I wore costumes to the library on a research trip.

While I won’t be wearing a costume the whole time ( I do have to go to work once in awhile, you know) there will be times when the outcome of that day’s project will be altered subtly by my manner of dress. Even if only in tone. There are also times when wearing or not wearing a full costume might be safer.  I’m more than happy to take my lumps for your amusement, but dying is right out.
This woodcut is the inspiration for the workingman’s outfit I am about to make.

An English chap of the mid 1560’s stands against a tree, a working stiff of some sort, tools arrayed in a pile at his feet. I’ve heard him called a surveyor because of the dividers in the foreground, but  I’m not so sure. There’s also a pick axe, handsaw, and claw hammer. Not to mention the apron the man’s wearing, which makes more sense for a carpenter or something than for a surveyor.

I like the elegant simplicity of it. I read this as galligaskins (‘Gascon hose’, probably of wool), plus a doublet and jerkin. Worn with a vestigial ruff at the collar, probably attached to the shirt collar. Made in appropriate fabrics and with the correct accouterments, it should pass unnoticed in any tavern, field, or guildhall of the 16th century.

It’s simple and looks made to stay out of the way while working. Perfect for my needs.

The first version I plan to make will be grey wool bottoms and white fustian or wool top. A simple color scheme that works well and adheres well to what we know from the research being done into English wills of the period by UK historians and seamstresses Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies. According to their research into the wills of the county Essex, 40% of doublets mentioned were leather,  24% linen canvas, and 21% fustian.

You will note that linen was the watchword of the time — 100% cotton cloth (calico) was virtually unknown in Northern Europe at the time due to the technical difficulties posed by the short fibers of the plant.  Fustian was as close as we got, a fabric woven of linen and cotton. The longer warp threads are linen because the English didn’t have the technology to make strong enough threads of short-fiber cotton, so it was used for the shorter width-wise strands on the loom.

Clockwise from the upper left, in our fabric stash I found a nice grey wool, a heavy unbleached fustian canvas, a lighter white fustian, and a pale green linen tablecloth to use as a lining.

Yes, a table cloth. Why not?  It will make a nice lining for the Gascon hose.

The wool is a safety measure as well as being chosen for its warmth. Wool is apparently slightly more fire-retardant than most untreated cloth, which will be nice when we get to the cooking, baking, and blacksmithing portions of our curriculum. Also the Pac Northwest is typically damp and cold, so woolens are ideal.

This is the outfit you will be seeing me wear in most of the photos and videos to come.  All that needs to happen now is for me to sit down and make the things…

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