It can be difficult to find appropriate fabrics to make your outfits not only feel authentic and also not make them cookie cutter like the person next to you. The first thing I am going to tell you is, this takes time effort and research, once you know what to look for then you can make an educated choice as to what fabrics we can find today. I am also going to mention that the time period we are looking at had many more textures in natural fibers than we have today. The advent of synthetic fibers has really limited the modern need or what is precieved as a want. Polyesters and Rayons can create something very nice and durable, but is not something I would want to go to a Tourney in.
Okay so remember when I said Research is key? It is but don't become the "It is always this way" because, we know that the only that is constant-is change!!
Books to do Research By:
- Medieval Clothing and Textiles 4 by Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker
- Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and COnstruction of Clothes of Men and Women C1560-1620 by Janet Arnold
- Queen Elizabeth's Warderobe Unlock'd by Janet Arnold
- Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660 by Janet Arnold
- The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress by Ninya Mikhaila
So how do we find the fabrics we so need? Well again we take a look at portraits, and we do research into wills and comments people made in courts, and what people got for gifts, such as Queen Elizabeth I who recieved and was documented what she was given during 12th Night. Wills you say? Why yes because many people had wills and so it is a wonderful place to gain information regarding life of when you are studying. Lars Dattir has this online for a few of the years for New Years http://www.larsdatter.com/gifts
So let's look at a couple of things, in 1562
By the Vicountess Hereford, Dowager, six hankercheffes edged with gold Delivered to the said Lady Cobham
This means we could edge hankerchiefs with gold lace perhaps and it would be period, we would need to check out what material Hankerchiefs were made from during this period, how large they would be and then make them accordingly.
Here is another example:
By the Lady Cobham, a partelett and a peire of sleeves of sypers wrought with silver and blak silke. Re-delivered to herself
So a partlet and pair of sleeves embroidered with silver and black silk. It does not suggest what the material is that the partlet and sleeves are, however? It does suggest that many times partlets and sleeves matched. It does not mean we have our shift showing but we had interior sleeves that could match our partlet.
Let's look at one more:
By the Lady Fitzwilliam, widowe, one petycoate of purple satten cutt upon gold sarceonett, with two borders embrauderid with gold and silver, and fringed with gold, silver, and silke.Delivered in charge to John Reyner and Rauf Hope, yeomen of the Robes.
A petticoat of purple satin silk of course, cut with gold sarcenet which is another form of silk, 2 borders embroidered with gold and silver and fringed (Something people will tell you is not period, yet here it is) with gold, sivler and silk. So what is borders? And what is cut with gold sarcenet? I am still researching this personally but someone else may have this answer.
The ladies of Tudor Tailor are still going through wills and several others online are doing the same, I call it the "hive-mind" and it is very exciting as they publish their work either in books, or online. It gives us yet another glimpse into the world of Elizabethan England.
Research via Extant Fabrics
We have some extant fabrics for this time period, more in other countries, however here are what I have found for England:
This one is not as close but the images are, the one on the left is extant and is from the 1500's, it is really appliqued peices and I want to do something like that one day for a bolster for our camp bed. However? The one on the right is modern fabric and follows how the pattern is in the extant piece.
So pretty close eh? The right is my own fabric, and I purchased it a few years ago, because it was period looking to my eyes. It is a cotton silk blend and has a heavy hand, it is waiting genius.
Finding the Fabrics
So you are chomping at the bit, let me say? Finding the right damasked fabrics is really luck and money on hand. The blue/purple/green fabric was $14.00 per yard and I picked up 11 yards, to put away as stated before. The Gold fabric was 12 yards from an eBay Auction and cost me total $56.00.
So What Fabrics are A Good Choice
Remember the people of this time period could make many fabrics, Satin, Taffeta, Chambray, Twill,
Out of fibers we know as: Silks, Wools and Linens, and even Cotton. They also mixed up the fibers to create new textures.
This means if you want something, you can go with plain materials made from the afore mentioned fibers, and then embellish them yourself, with trim or embroidery.
From the Tudor Tailor's Book I can give you some of the fabrics and their extant names and some that we could use today. Some might just shock you.
Extant Name and Description Modern Fabric Substituion