This is the webpage of a group whose aim is to improve the kit and clothes of a UK seventeenth century Civil War reenactment group, using the most up to date references and research. Feel free to comment on any of the subjects raised here and return often as I want to keep the discussion lively and ongoing.

Please look at the extra tabs on the right hand side. The newbie section is the place for basic kit if you're just beginning to reenact the 1640s. Haberdashery has lots of detail about colours, buttons, tapes etc.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Top Traders

I’ve been asked for a list of suppliers, so here are my recommendations. They are all UK based and most do mail order, though there’s no substitute for handling the goods (as it were) and asking advice. All the traders know their stuff, have done the research and are more than happy to advise. Most listed below have contributed to this blog.
The maxim is “if in doubt, ask”


Stuart Peachey
Selection of sadd (natural) coloured authentic fabrics. No broadcloth for soldiers but everything else you’d want. On the expensive side, but if you want to get it absolutely right, Stuart is your man.

Bernie the Bolt
Supplies wool and linen at very reasonable prices. Massive selection of stock too. I’ve been to his house. You’ll find him at most musters and fairs, but he also does a fine mail order service.
Tel 01480 453390
Email         berniethebolt3(at)aol(dot)com

Cloth Hall
Lindy Pickard has a good range of authentic wools in 17th century colours.
 Tel 01484 512968

Herts Fabrics
Ali has a large variety of authentic fabric and will give advice. Recommended.

Time Warp Textiles
Aidan Campbell provides small amounts of authentic textiles. He will also source whole rolls of cloth if you want to equip a whole company, but he also has end of roll remnants for sale. His expertise is mainly pre Norman conquest, but worth a look as he occasionally has other fabrics more suited to 1640s.

Wolfinn Textiles
 Unbleached Belgian linen - extremely good European-grown linen. Not cheap, but also very wide and nice stuff.

Whaley's of Bradford
Great for fine wool and linen and fabrics to be dyed. They are expensive but worth it.


Chris Thomas is highly recommended for all the little bits you need for finishing off, buttons, tapes, thread, beeswax etc. His range of pewter buttons is unrivalled.

Nick Jones
Nick also sells authentic pewter buttons from his website. The buttons are researched and field tested.

Gina B
Gina hand makes all kinds of ties and passamentarie (thread woven) buttons. Her stuff is very nicely made and her service is excellent.

Made Up Clothes

Peggys Necessities
Sundrie apparel for soldiers and goodwives of the middling sort. (their description). The clothes are also very good and well researched.

White Rabbit Lynens
Alice makes and researchs clothes from all periods, but her 17th century shirts and smocks are superbly made.

Sally Pointer
Sally supplies a large variety of knitted hats and patterns for making your own.

Historical Caps
Very decent and affordable knitted and felted headgear: labourers' caps, Monmouths, statute caps etc.  Gloria hand dyes and knits everything herself.

Kirstie Buckland.
Also makes top quality knitted hats of many periods.


Mulberry dyer does a period dying service. If you source the fabric they can dye it to any period colour you like using authentic methods. Also supplies linen thread and embroidery silks and wools.

Sarah Juniper is the best historical shoe and bootmaker around. Her shoes are well made and well researched. Not cheap but they will last for years!

Chris Thomas also makes top quality shoes, boots and startuppes.

Foxblade Trading
Tod Booth is also a good contact for serviceable latchet shoes and boots.

Leather Stuff and Miscellaneous

Karl Robinson is recommended for leather bags, belts and accessories. His work is of the highest quality

Christophus (see above) also makes leather items to order: Authentic buffcoats, baldrics, belts, footwear, pouches, hats etc.

Foxblade Trading
Tod Booth is knowledgable and supplies most of your 17th century leather needs.

Tod's Stuff

Not to be confused with Foxblade trading, Tod’s Stuff supplies all the bits and bobs you might need, cases, belts as well as knives and other Living History accoutrements.

Six of One
Belle and Richard at produce some of the most astonishingly beautiful bits and pieces you've ever seen.

Tom Aldwinckle
Leather bottles handmade to order.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

17th Century Women's Dress Patterns

I've got to recommend this book, it's becoming my bible. It's a kind of follow on to the Janet Arnold series of books, but has built on those publications and has become something much better.

The book sets out to show several actual extant garments in the V&A Museum in much closer detail than you could ever see should you go and look at them in the cases. Each garment is described and shown in detail with photographs. In many cases there is an attached portrait from the period showing the garment or something very similar being worn. Following on you get a detailed pattern, cutting out guide and step by step illustrated guide to the making of the item in question. If it was decorated, you get close ups of the embroidery or lace and more details of the stitches used or a pattern of the lace edging or insert. A few examples also have been x-rayed to show internal construction detail, such as boning on the silk bodice on the front cover.

The clothes are all from the approximate date range 1600-1630, so the styles are early for our period, but you can take a lot from this book, especially from the introduction which shows the typical tools used and all the stitches needed for making the garments. They range from waistcoats and bodices through to jackets, a mantle, shift, caps and accessories. There are even patterns for embroidered gloves.

If you are interested in how clothes were made in the 17th century, you really need to see this book. The best part is that this is book 1.  Men's patterns coming soon? I hope so.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Coifs and Cross Cloths

Unless you were rich and had someone to dress your hair fashionably, as a woman in the 1640s it was normal to cover your head, possibly with a hat but almost always with linen, even if you wore a hat on top. There were probably thousands of ways to achieve this, from a simple knotted piece of cloth to a lace edged cap, in fact images show a variety of weird and wonderful concoctions, although surviving examples are few and far between, especially from this period. Several earlier decorated coifs survive in museums but as we get close to the 1640s there aren’t as many, possibly because embroidery became less fashionable and a plain cap could be recycled more easily. Even if it was lace edged you could remove that and you were left with a useful rag. This picture, Visiting Grandmother by the le Nain brothers has a row of four female heads of varying ages wearing different coverings and illustrates perfectly how different fashions would have been worn simultaneously. The girl left, has a shaped coif, possibly over a flappy-eared coif, Grandmother has an old-fashioned fitted coif showing its pointed flaps by her ears but seems to be wearing a cap over her coif, the baby is wearing a close-fitting coif, tied on and the mother, right, is wearing a cap of the kind which is typically 1640s 
However, comparing contemporary images with what survives in museums we can produce at least a few reasonably accurate reproductions. This one for example is in the costume collection at the Museum of Manchester. Most of the actual examples like this one are made from a flat piece of linen cut to a recognisable shape, hemmed and fitted with a drawstring along one edge. The side edges would be whipped together and hey presto you have a coif to cover your head. The new book on Women’s Dress Patterns from the V&A has a particularly nice example from just before our period. However this now presents a few problems, there are flappy bits around your ears that seem a bit odd, the coif can tend to slip around and not be particularly comfortable and what do you do with the strings?
Perhaps part of the answer comes when you notice that many coifs are exhibited with triangular forehead cloths that are obviously embroidered to match. Also several coifs come up in wills and inventories in connection with cloths or “crosse cloths”. It’s obvious that these cloths were worn somehow in conjunction with the coif and that in just wearing the coif without the crossecloth you are missing something. Extreme Costuming has an interesting article about fitting a coif and forehead cloth that is very interesting, if a bit too early for 1640s but to summarise it seems that the triangular cloth can be secured using the tapes around a bun (if you have enough hair). That’s what the strings are for and that the coif will then sit comfortably on top without slipping. It still doesn’t solve the flappy ears, but if you look at pictures from the period, they all had that problem! It doesn’t help if you don’t have enough hair to make a bun at the back of your head either!
Various images seem to show that the cloth could be worn under or over the coif and also with the point facing forwards and backwards. Maybe there was some significance to the different orientations, perhaps different fashions. Sadly we just don’t know. In fact the fashion suggestion is not too far fetched. A theory has been advanced that he coif was such a small easily made item that it could have been remade several times, maybe to copy some rich lady that may have passed through from London. Maybe this explains why there are so many different shapes and patterns in the surviving pictures.
So, we have one actual coif, even if it’s a bit early that can be worn for 1640s, it would be perfect for the older, less fashionable woman. There are more contemporary styles, as I’ve mentioned before. It does seem that a more shaped cap was beginning to come in by the 1640s. There is a nice example in the V&A of such a cap and a portrait of Hester Tradescant wearing one from 1645. I took the photo on the right during a visit to the museum. The cap is dated  1600-25 but does look later.
Other easily made versions include this Dutch example from 1650s, which could be constructed from a rectangular piece of linen hemmed with a drawstring at the back. Pull the drawstring tight and you have a covering that will sit nicely on your head with a turn back front to frame your face, possibly pinned to your hair.

I did say that there were some weird examples. We still don't know what this woman is wearing on her head, or why. It's not the only one in the woodcuts either!