Apr 152011

In case you came here looking for the fabric that you can see on the skirt in the portrait:
I have made a reproduction of that fabric available here on Spoonflower.
And in case you’re generally interested in Tudor / Elizabethan reproduction fabrics, browse my Medieval / Renaissance / Tudor / Elizabethan design collection on Spoonflower.
Then again you could also browse all the fabric collections I’m offering on Spoonflower 😉

Here’s, once again, the original portrait so that you can always compare it to the detail pictures I will show on this page:

A few notes on the historical accuracy of this portrait:

In ‚Queen Elizabeth‘ wardrobe unlock’d‘, Janet Arnold cites A. F. Kendrick:
„It must be confessed that the pattern on the Queen’s dress is at times so fanciful that one hesitates to regard it as a faithful representation of what the painter saw with his own eyes.“

Janet Arnold objects to this, saying that some of the descriptions of fantastic and elaborate pieces of embroidery in the Stove Inventory make it clear that this is not the case and that the painter carefully observed a richly decorated gown.
She furthermore elaborates that the main problem lies within the interpretation whether the petticoat or forepart is embroidered or stained (painted) – a subject which I will discuss later on this page. Methods of staining were well known to the Elizabethans, as other historical sources prove.
Unfortunately, the petticoat / stomacher / dress seems to be either missing from the inventories or has been poorly described, there are, however, a velvet French gown ’stained like clouds‘ and a ‚cloak lined with straw colored ’stained‘ velvet‘ described (but their designs are not).

But no matter if the designs are stained or embroidered, it seems as if the Countess of Shrewsbury, Bess of Hardwick, being a notable Elizabethan needlewoman, made it as a New Year’s gift to Elizabeth.
It seems as if she embellished the fabric – be it by staining or embroidering it – and then the petticoat was made up by William Jones, one of the Queen’s tailors – a payment of £50 from the Countess to him was made in 1601.
The painting seems to have been commissioned by the Countess to commemorate ‚her‘ fabric; it’s been at Hardwick House since it was painted.

So – now that we clarified the historical background, let’s analyze the dress a bit 🙂

Good. What do we have here… well, several items of late Elizabethan clothing, of course 🙂

  1. The petticoatElizabeth is wearing an off white (*very* off white, tending to gray!) petticoat which is painted with different sea animals and mythological beasts as well as flowers. The same fabric was used for the front middle of the bodice, which, as strange as this might sound for Elizabethan clothing, much resembles a Rococo stomacher.
    The fabric seems to be a shiny satin; perhaps duchesse satin as it falls so heavy yet seems to have some stand.
    That this petticoat is painted and not embroidered is obvious from the sheen of the satin that covers the entire skirt, not only the light areas of the satin, but also goes over the animals and flowers in the skirt. I’ve pointed the shiny areas out in this picture:

    The bottom hem of the petticoat sports a line of small pearls:

    A very interesting thing is the pleating and fanning of this petticoat.
    While there seems to be a *lot* of pleating going on around the pointed bodice bottom…

    …the animals and flowers in this place are obviously barely effected by this pleating – contrasting to any other place on the skirt, where they *are* affected.

    My conclusion would be that because it’s practically impossible to achieve such a pleating along the stomacher (except if the petticoat was cut in a *most* unusual way for Elizabethan times!), this is the part of the gown that was not painted true to life. I guess that the petticoat would *slightly*, but not like this, pleat along the stomacher.
    Another proof for this theory is that if the skirt would pleat this way, the fabric would have to run diagonally to the stomacher. But the beasts depictures there – a whale and something that I would identify as a wild boar – would also have to be diagonally to the stomacher, but they’re horizontally.
    So the deep excessive pleating must have been the artist’s invention.

  2. The overskirtOver the petticoat, Elizabeth is wearing a front split overskirt in black velvet which is beaded with double pearls in a diamond pattern.
    This overskirt sports the typical ‚french farthingale‘ ruff at the edge where it falls down from the top hoop of the farthingale:

    The edges of the overskirt are decorated with an overcasting slip stitch of silver or golden thread (1, green), a line of smaller pearls (2, yellow) and some gold / red stone / pearl jewels (3, pink). These decoration don’t just cover the front sides of the overskirt but also seem to go around the entire hem.

  3. The bodiceThe already mentioned bodice, of which the front resembles a stomacher, is extremely pointed and long. If you go back one page and look at the virtual comparison of my model and Elizabeth, you can see that the stomacher points down to almost 1/3 of her thigh.
    This stomacher piece must be boned with a busk – wood, I presume – because it doesn’t bend the faintest bit even if it has to press down the french farthingale.
    The fabric – black velvet, just as the overskirt – is, again beaded with double pearls in a diamond pattern, but more dense than on the overskirt.
  4. The sleevesThe sleeves attached to that bodice are again made of black velvet, but decorated with motives of pearls alternating with red jewels in rows.
    They also sport an interesting feature: Pointed triangle spikes, painted with flowers and decorated with pearl drops seem to stick out from them.

    These points are obviously made from the same fabric as the petticoat and stomacher, this is why I assume that the flowers are painted, not embroidered.

    The sleeves have the same shape as the ones in the ‚Phoenix‘ portrait. If you look at the virtual comparison from the last page again,…

    …then you will see that the sleeves are *very* full around the arm without any wrinkling. This must mean that they, being heavily beaded, have some kind of support beneath to have them stand out like this.
    Also note that at the shoulder the sleeves don’t go ‚up‘, but extend to the sides.

  5. The lace ruffElizabeth is wearing a very unusual standing ruff with her dress.
    While the ‚usual‘ Elizabethan ruff ends at the bodice’s bustline, this one goes down almost to the bottom point of the stomacher.

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