Apr 152011
 

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One of the helpful spirits during the making of this gown was, without doubt, Miss. Starkie.

You want to know who Ms. Starkie is, or rather, was?

In 1597 the three children of a gentleman named Starkie living in Lancashire were possessed of the devil and made accusations of witchcraft.
The eldest girl, aged fourteen, screamed and yelled to her possessing demon:

Come my lad.
Come on and set my partlet on one side as I do on the other…
Thus, my lad, I will have a fine Smocke of silke, it shall be finer than thine,
I will have a petticoat of silke, not redde but of the finest silk that is, it shall be guarded and a foote high: It shall be laid out with gold lace;
it shall have a french bodie, not of whalebone, for that is not stiff enough, but of horne for that will hold it out, it shall come, to keepe in my belly…
My lad I will have a busk of Whalebone, it shall be tyed with two silke Points,
and I will have a drawn wrought stomacher imbroidered with golde, finer than thine.
My lad, I will have a French farthingale, and it shall be finer than thine;
I will have it low before and high behind and broad on either side that I may laye mine arms upon it.
(pieced together from Janet Arnold’s “Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe unlock’d”;
the original text -according to Mrs. Arnold- was by G. B. Harrison, Elizabethan Journal, quoted in E. Sitwell, “The Queens and the Hive” (1966 ed.) p. 471.
If anyone should have either of those books, which I don’t – I would be incredibly thankful for the full version, which I doubt the above mentioned is)

Now – in my humble and not really relevant opinion I think that:

  1. Mr. Starkie should have given his daughter either more pocket money or better clothes;
  2. The young Miss Starkie was not possessed by the devil, but had a surprisingly vast knowledge about fine clothing and materials (show me any modern 15-years-old teenager who can tell various weaves and materials apart, if the whole family is not obsessed with sewing);
  3. The ‘spirit’ she is possessed by is obviously female, as Miss Starkie compares the clothing (“mine shall be finer than thine”). However – and please forgive if I make a mistake here, English is not my first language – I have never heard anyone calling a female person “My lad”. I wonder if this is a transcript error and should have been “My lady” or what else may be the reason for this.

I find these notes incredibly fascinating and sad and today one can only guess vaguely what was behind this attitude, because frankly, the least thing I believe is that the three children indeed were possessed by a spirit, let alone the devil.

Did the father want his daughter to go to a ball wearing an old dress? Did he make his children wear old clothes? I guess we will never know; but it’s very interesting reading what a young girl of fourteen years seems to have found absolutely fashionable in 1597.

While making the Pelican gown reproduction I have often thought about young Miss Starkie – you will find excerpts of the above written text in many places of the Pelican dress diary.
I wonder what became of her. I would so like to know her name.
If reading such a text we should not only think of – in this case – Miss Starkie, but also of the person who wrote this down. What might that person have thought about young Miss Starkie? Did he know what she was talking about? Because, let’s face it – today many man don’t know too much about women’s clothing… Did he care for her? Or mindlessly kept the journal, without thinking about what he was writing there?

I often think of Miss Starkie, and hope she one day got her fine garb that she obviously so wished for. Ever since I read this, I sometimes feel strange when I find myself studying a painting, when all my senses are focused on things like seams and decoration.
Then I start to think about the person that was actually portrayed and ask myself what they would have thought if they had known that one day some people would only look at their images in order to study the clothing instead of remembering the person.

And here we get to a point where costuming mixes with psychology. What was my psychological idea behind making the Pelican gown? Did I really just make it for the sake of the gown or did I wish to be like Queen Elizabeth? I can truly and honestly say that I don’t know the answer. Though I can say that I would never introduce myself with “Queen Elizabeth” when I wear this gown, but with my own name.

One thing that she and I definitely have in common is that we both like sweets and therefore our teeth suffer considerably; but I am incredibly thankful that I am living in times of modern dentists – a grace that was never given to her.
I often thought if she spent her last days standing, never lying down, with her thumb in the mouth (which she actually did – three days, if I remember correctly, and it is said that people thought she “wanted to betray death” by not lying down to die) because she was perhaps in great pain coming from the, uhm, remnants of her teeth so that she couldn’t sleep, and finally died from exhaustion. *This* is most definitely a situation I would never want to find myself in.
And this is also the reason why I *love* the fashion and lifestyle of Elizabethan times but would never actually like to live in those times, because I would not want to live without the modern inventions, like dentists, modern doctors in general and drugs, cars, other means of transportation like trains, central heating etc. – plus, what would I do without my sewing- and embroidery machine (sew and embroider by hand, I know – silly question)?
It’s nice to dream of a life in Elizabethan times, but actually living there (and then) must have been like hell. Well, perhaps I’m just a spoiled modern brat.

Many other things separate Elizabeth and me, but that might also be because she and I live in different times. There are also things that I envy her for – she (right besides Nicole Kidman, by the way) is the only red-haired woman I have ever seen who could wear red-colored clothing without looking like a total freak, for example. I would never envy her for the power she had, or for her possessions, though.

I could write down many, many more things. But perhaps I gave you a point to start from with your own thinking when it comes to the period you would like to portrait if you put on your costume the next time… If so, I have at least achieved one goal: You have started thinking because of me. And thinking is never a bad thing.

And if you would like to discuss Miss Starkie’s case – I’m most willing; my email address is given at the bottom of each page.

May you be possessed by good spirits 😉

Best wishes,
Naergi

And now you have the chance to own a sleeveband, very likely to the one I have shown on the “sleeveband” page. Please follow me…

Navigation for this costume:
IntroductionMaterialsSmockFarthingalePetticoatBodiceSkirtingsRolled SleevesOverskirtForepartRuffsPartlet and SleevesJewelry making: Headdress; Necklace; Pelican Jewel; Sleeveband; Girdle; Wristbands; FanFinished gownFunny CommentsMiss StarkieQuiz

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