Early Tudor Project — Katherine of Aragon’s Portrait dated 1502 — Part III

Well, today was the day that I stopped staring at pictures of Katherine of Aragon and started working on the outfit. In line with my own preaching, I decided to work from the inside out. I started with the smock.

The smock of this gown is barely visible, but what we can see is unpleated and lays flat against the skin. It also has a square neckline that follows the neckline of the gowns worn over it. I made my smock using stitches and construction techniques seen on later smocks, assuming that a square-necked, unpleated smock at the beginning of the 16th century would probably be very similarly constructed as a square-necked, unpleated smock at the end of the century.

I started with 3.5 oz bleached linen from Fabrics-store.com. I measured my bust, divided that number in half and added four inches for ease. Then I cut a piece that width by 90″ long. This will make a calf-length smock on me which is as long as a smock ever should be. (They were not ankle length as is sometimes seen in costume shops.) I cut two rectangles 24″ long by 20″ wide for the sleeves and two gussets 5″ by 5″ for the underarms. There are some leftover pieces for cuffs and side gores that I will add later. I assembled the smock using a flat fell stitch and left the neckline uncut. I will cut only a slit big enough to get the smock on my dress dummy until the undergown is done since the neckline of the smock depends on where the neckline of the gown falls.

My real work today was determining the embroidery stitches to use around the edge of the smock. This is four strands of black Splendor silk floss (the 12-strand floss divides in three four-strand bits and then down further to single strands. It’s lovely stuff). I did a simple picot (one backstitch, really) over eight threads with eight threads in between. And then did Greek crosses over eight threads eight threads below that. (The yellow picots and crosses will alternate with the black.)

I put my gold shells on the linen to give an idea of scale. I thought the stitches looked too tiny, so I tried less thread and also bigger stitches. Below the top row is four strands over twelve threads and the bottom row is two strands over eight threads:

Which do you think is the way it’s done in the picture? Or do you have other ideas?

Next: the dyeing the undergown. Yellow for mourning?…


© 2007 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.