lovetriangle: (Cherubino)
lovetriangle ([personal profile] lovetriangle) wrote2007-12-10 03:15 pm
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Costume accuracy question for the Great LJ Oracle(tm)

This came up on the Ren Faire History Snobs tribe (a wonderful place to be a history snob, BTW).

My friend John, who is quite the history buff, has made an observation that:

"based purely on looking at period portraits. My contention is that the ENGLISH GENTRY and NOBILITY wore exclusively black hats from the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign until at least the mid 1590s. I say this only because I have never seen a portrait of an Englishman in any other color hat. Yes the Germans and Italians and French and Turks wore other colors, but not the English that I can see. It looks like in the early years they were velvet, then later were made of beaver. I would gladly be proven wrong by someone who can provide a definite period source."

He clarifies:
"I don’t claim to have any special insight, but I do own Icon and Dynasties have spent more than one day walking through the long gallery at Montecute (where the NPG displays their Elizabethan portraits) and was struck by the universally of the black hats. Most women don’t wear hats in portraits, but those that do (Lady Kytson comes to mind) also wear black. Of course, tournament costume is different (hence George Clifford’s white chapeau) and the rank and file military seem to wear a kind of tomato read flat cap. Charles Howard (who I assume was mostly bald) wears a white nightcap in several of his pictures, but has a black tall hat either on his head or on the table next to him. In the procession portrait of 1601 none of the men wear hats in the presence of the queen, but all have definite hat hair."

I am absolutely fascinated by this premise and would love to know if the Great LJ Oracle(tm) can prove him wrong!

As one of my favorite examples, here is Queen Mary and Lord Darnley in a lovely black hat with a salmon pink suit (droooooooooooool). 

And a lovely red chapeau, but of course, it's French (on Margarite of Valois)

And a red French Hood on an English woman, but out of the specified period (Mary Fitzalan, c1555)

Well, what say you, Great Oracle! Seen anything that qualifies?

[identity profile] 2007-12-10 11:57 pm (UTC)(link) - 1569 - 1588

But most of them do seem to be black.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:06 am (UTC)(link)
I can't believe I missed the Unknown Girl; I've stared at that thing countless times. :-0

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:10 am (UTC)(link)
Yep, Ms. Unknown leapt imediately to mind. And there's at least a few other instances where I'm fairly certain that I've seen men's caps that were a color other than black (not counting men of the cloth).

Is he counting French Hoods in that statement? Because I'd classify them differently than a "hat", but they still count as a headcovering. So is he talking headcoverings (broader range of possibility to be wrong) or hats (which to me is a thing with a brim that sits on the head)?

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:26 am (UTC)(link)
I believe he is specifically talking about "ENGLISH Gentry and Nobility from the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign until at least the mid 1590s"

I've seen several French and Italian men in colored hats, and I've seen several french hoods with the little band of color, right below the upper bilaments.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:39 am (UTC)(link)
That's not quite what I asked... Is he lumping French Hoods into the same category as "hat"? The reason I ask is because the the English wore their French Hoods with either white, black or red crecents (pink was a possibility, as well, but I've seen most of them on French heads, not English). The veil is almost always black. Actually it is always black in every portrait I've looked at but I really shy away from making categorical statements like that out of fear of being proved wrong as soon as I say it.

But like I said, a French Hood isn't a standard hat in my world. It's more of an overglorified hood.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 01:33 am (UTC)(link)
Tricky. I knew what you were asking and that's what I was going for with the comment on the "band of color", but in my mind I don't think it would qualify as a "colored hat" unless the main area were colored and not just the crescent.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 04:27 am (UTC)(link)
Ah, ok. I was misunderstanding, then. ;)

Yeah, I don't really count FH's as hats, but that's not to say others don't...

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:19 am (UTC)(link)
I'm trying to think if there was anything in my inventories earlier this year. One reason I stopped them is that I want to copy it all to a database so I can find this stuff easy :)

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:20 am (UTC)(link)
Depends on what you consider a hat & what you consider a color too.

Like Elizabeth Brydges here -- I see a lot of gold, maybe even a gold front & base with some black on top.

Here's an unknown child with a black patterned cap.

And there's the various versions of Mary Queen of Scots in her white cap. But does that count as a hat? Don't say it doesn't count as English, bec. Hilliard painted one & it looks the same ;-)

Then again, the prevalence of black hats is something I loooove about 16th century bec. I can just use the same ol' hat over & over again.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:30 am (UTC)(link)
The E.Brydges portrait brings up an interesting point in what exactly constitutes a hat. I can find endless portraits of women with "something" on their heads that is almost always gold colored, mostly obscured by hair or jewels, and I can't definitively say that it's a hat, a crown, a veil, a teradactyl...

I wouldn't say that these can be used as proof of colored hats. But that's just me...

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 12:56 am (UTC)(link)
Ok, here's what I found on

On Elizabeth: (not really clear, but reads as white to me)

On other women:,Elizabeth(CLincoln)02.jpg (the crappy photoshopped version of Fair Geraldine)

On men: (English, Unknown Man by Nicholas Hilliard) (A little late at 1613, but there's a white hat!)

It's difficult because so many portraits are in black & white, so there may be more... That's all I was able to find at the moment.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 02:03 am (UTC)(link)
Oh Oh there's a nice pink one on a MAN in the bottom left corner of the Bermondsey fete! :-)

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 04:28 am (UTC)(link)

I get really twichy when people make blanket statements that contain absolutes like "never" or "always", especially about historical costuming. There's exceptions to every rule!

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 06:11 am (UTC)(link)
Well, I know John enough to know that he only strives for better accuracy, and he will not take being proven wrong badly at all. :-)

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 11:32 am (UTC)(link)
I agree! It applies to everything regarding costume:
Eyelets weren't ever re-inforced with rings! - except for the rust rings on 1 of the extant corsets!
Wool was only ever worn 100% for gentry! - except for the two Norwich Tailor's inventory which showed silk for gowns on the local Bacon gentry!
French Hoods are ALWAYS only ever Black, red or White! - Except for the one French Hood (on the Catherine Howard portrait) which is not red, white or black! Its brown!

So, there is ALWAYS an exception to the "rule".

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 03:19 am (UTC)(link)
Of course, there's always the consideration of the difference between what they wore everyday, and what they wore to have their portraits taken.
In early Victorian photos, for example, it was against the social rules to smile in a photo. That certainly did not mean that no one smiled back then.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 06:13 am (UTC)(link)
That's why the paintings like Bermondsey or Breuegal's etc are so important.

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 06:37 am (UTC)(link)
Ok, the Tribe discussion has been clarified to Men's hats only since we have dug up so many women's hats.

The gray Unknown Man's hat is right at the cutoff time John specified and the white hat is long past it. The pink Bermondsey hat so far is the only colored man's hat we've found within the period, but I find it interesting that it's a a big party painting and not a formal portrait. Like, colored hats were fine for wearin' out, but for your portrait the highest fashion was black.

From Marion's page:

Who knows? I am fascinated!

[identity profile] 2007-12-11 10:55 am (UTC)(link)
Ok, just to add another woman's hat to the equation:
Death and the Lady
The lady is in one of those high crowned hats (which I don't like so I didn't make it for my recreation of the gown). But "Death" is wearing a buff or brown or perhaps reddish coloured hat!

As to men's hats. What about the white leather ones in Janet Arnold? Or will your questioner say they are not English??? I don't have JA to hand as I'm at work but she seems to think its ok to use some continental clothing to apply to English useage.

I found Kat Rowberd's Elizabethan Geek Costuming Review and checked out just the men's clothing.

Where there ARE hats worn they are either in monochrome image - so one cannot tell if they are black or not. Or they are black. However there are also a lot of portraits of men who are NOT wearing hats at all! And no sign of the hat in the portrait either - which is frustrating I have to say! Even the Blackfriars Procession (QEI with lots of courtiers around her for the wedding of one of her maid's) has lots of gentleman and NOT ONE has his hat on or with him.

Just in the Elizabethan Geek there are 60 images with Elizabethan Men in them. Out of those 60:
15 (25%) are in Monochrome - so we can't tell WHAT colour the hat is.
25 (41%) are in colour (with a couple of monochrome images) and have hats on and these are definitely black.
1 (2%) colour portrait has a hat which is NOT black.
18 (30%) are of men (in colour or not in colour) with NO hat on!
1 (2%) portrait has some hats in black and some not!

Though we have the majority with Black Hats, a close second is NO hat and close behind that are images where the colour is not clear at all!

I think it is dangerous to categorically say that x colour of n is always worn and not any other colour! There will always be at least ONE exception to that rule!

Another example is ruffs. The portraits invariably show them white. But we have written evidence of them in yellow and blue! But as re-enactors, because the visual evidence shows them always as white, that’s what we wear!