Check out my Pinterest board!

Hi! Last night I spent some time creating a couple of new Punterest boards. Tip: If you love costuming, GET PINTEREST. There is a wealth of resources out there, available at your fingertips. Actually, even if you’re not such a fan of costuming or history, still get it because there is something for EVERYONE. It’s good fun and you’ll never be board again! (Get it?) 

Anyway, here are some links to my Pinterest boards. They are added to regularly so do follow me!   My 18th century board     My Regency board   My 1860s board My 1870-1880s board  My Edwardian board Undergarments through history board

Have fun looking through them! 



Peasant dress through the ages – Part One 

I was researching working class clothing for my HSM Challenge, and it struck me that there is no real outline as to what the poor wore in every age. 

Well, I thought, I had better change that. So, we start in the Medieval times…

So what did the female worker wear everyday? 

 The basic garment worn by both men and women alike was a tunic. 


This image is probably much later than the other two below as the style of clothing is more complex. For women, the skirt and bodice are different colours,ms igniting that the bodice colour would be the Kirklees colour and the skirt an additional layer. The aprons worn are also different colours – White for the lady in the left and green for the one bending over. Usually, the apron was a simple square or rectangular piece of cloth, often linen and sometimes hemp, which the wearer would tie around his waist by its corners. These ones seem to somehow be fastened to the skirts at the back. Most chores that occupied the peasant housewife’s time were potentially messy; cooking, cleaning, gardening, drawing water from the well. Thus, women typically wore aprons throughout the day. A woman’s apron often fell to her feet and sometimes covered her torso as well as her skirt. So common was the apron that it eventually became a standard part of the peasant woman’s costume. Through much of the Middle Ages, aprons were undyed hemp or linen, but in the later medieval period they began to be dyed a variety of colors, which is why I believe this painting to be late Medieval. 

From this image, we can see that on her head she wore a coif (lady on the left) and then I imagine that most would have worn some form of straw hat for working out in the fields (lady in the right, sitting, back to us).

Women wore their tunics long, usually to mid-calf, which made them, essentially, dresses. Some were even longer, with trailing trains that could be used in a variety of ways. If any of her chores required her to shorten her dress, the average peasant woman could tuck the ends of it up in her belt. Clever methods of tucking and folding could turn the excess fabric into a pouch for carrying picked fruit, chicken feed, etc. or she could wrap the train over her head to protect herself from the rain.


In this case, a long sleeved shift, most likely hemp, would have been the under outer most layer (stays would most likely not have been worn for working in the fields) and a one-piece dress over the top, tied with a belt. From this picture we can ascertain that blue was popular, and the lady on the right has her gown laced at the front, for ease of dressing. 

The blue colour was a dye called woad. Other colours were less common, but not unknown; pale yellow, brown, light red and orange could all also be achieved. These colours would fade over time, as long lasting dye was too expensive. The gowns are not long, as that would be impractical, and both ladies have a head covering, the left lady has her hair tied back, but on the right it seems to just be a veil. Women usually wore veils — a simple square, rectangle, or oval of linen kept in place by tying a ribbon or cord around the forehead. Some women also wore wimples, which attached to the veil and covered the throat and any exposed flesh above the tunic’s neckline. A barbette might be used to keep the veil and wimple in place, but for most working class women, this extra piece of fabric may have seemed like an unnecessary expense. Headgear was very important for the respectable woman; only unmarried girls and prostitutes went without something covering their hair. 

In summer, shoes would not always have been worn, to save wear and tear. In winter and when the weather was worse, as well as working in stony fields, a simple style of leather shoe would have been worn, with a wooden or many-layered leather sole. 


We can tell that this lady is most likely not wearing petticoats under her dress, as the outline of her legs are clearly seen and the fabric is quite tight around her legs. Petticoats would largely not have been worn by the very poor, as the extra fabric would cost. 

Most women worked indoors and didn’t often have need of a protective outer garment. When they went out in cold weather, they might wear a simple shawl, or cape.

So, on to men


Here we see the humble tunic. Men generally wore tunics that fell past their knees. If they needed them shorter, they could tuck the ends in their belts, as seen in the image, or they could hike up the garment and fold fabric from the middle of the tunic over their belts. Some men, particularly those engaged in heavy labor, might wear sleeveless tunics to help them deal with the heat. Most men’s tunics were made of wool, but they were often coarser and not as brightly coloured as women’s wear. Men’s tunics could be made from “beige” (undyed wool) or “frieze” (coarse wool with heavy nap) as well as more finely woven wool. Undyed wool was sometimes brown or grey, from brown and grey sheep.


These men wear straw hats and head coverings, such as hoods. Some hoods had a length of fabric at the back that the wearer could wrap around his head or his neck. Men were know to wear hoods that were attached to a short cape that covered the shoulders. The colours often contrasted with the tunics, and red and blue became popular colours.   


 Here this man uses his apron to hold seeds. he wears leather boots and blue hose, and his red tunic come to his knees, with possibly a front opening and fastened by a belt. His hood is a contrasting blue. I must say, he does look as if he has the Monday morning blues….


We saw the women in this picture above, but in the background are three men using scythes. They wear no hose and two have straw hats, one a coif. Their tunics are short and two have their sleeves rolled up. All are bare feet, so we can assume that this is late summer and they are harvesting.


For men who worked outdoors, an additional protective garment would usually be worn in cold or rainy weather. This could be a simple sleeveless cape or a coat with sleeves. In the earlier Middle Ages, men wore fur capes and cloaks, but there was a general view among medieval people that fur was worn only by savages, and its use went out of fashion for all but garment linings for quite time.

Men usually didn’t wear their aprons until it was necessary, and removed them when their messy tasks were done.


Some 1860s fashion plates

So recently I’ve started taking more of an interest in the wonderful wide skirts of the 1860s.

I searched up some fashion plates, and they are so very pretty! Have a look:

I am quite interested by the pattern on the right-most lady’s dress; it’s a strange geometric sort of pattern which I’ve noticed in quite a few fashion plates.

Although blurry, I ADORE the colours and skirts of the right dress – look at the cute roses! And purple is so moi…

I’m rather intrigued as to how the left skirt works… Amazing colour and exquisite lace!

Once again, the roses delight me!

The pink dress looks to me as if it is the front of the pink dress in the plate above. At least, that is how I would imagine the front of the previous dress to look.

The purple dress just looks so fluffy! I wonder what fabric it would be made of? I also love the girl’s cute dress!

Simple yet sophisticated.

Which one is your favourite? Why?

Some inspiration

So I thought that perhaps I ought to put up a page full of inspiration for me so I have somewhere to refer to.

I’m pretty sure I’ve showed this one before, but it’s simple yet sweet and (correct me if I’m wrong) I think it wouldn’t be too hard to make, seeing as its a skirt and a jacket separately. However, anything bodice-y is new territory for me so I’ll have to do some research. But first I’d need the fabric, so this one can wait.


Two-piece gown of white cotton embroidered in silk in a delicate floral and vine design. Jacket (A) has low rounded neckline, cone-shape bodice without darts, and center-front edge to edge closure (intended to be pinned shut). Tight 3/4″ length sleeves without cuffs or ruffles. Gathered “peplum” begins over front hips and extends around back. Back bodice comes to deep v centre back where it meets peplum. Separate petticoat (B) is pleated to narrow tapes, with two 10″ deep pocket slits. Upper rear of petticoat is not embroidered, but has plain cotton piece. Hem faced with 1″ ribbon.

 2. Next, up: a beautiful petticoat – just look at that embroidery!

2009 Record shot by L. Baumgarten. Petticoat.

2009 Record shot by L. Baumgarten. Petticoat, detail.

 2009 Record shot by L. Baumgarten. Petticoat, detail.

 ‘Embroidered design consists of triangular frameworks of flowering vines with a bird perched on top of each triangle. Each triangle encloses a different bouquet of flowers. Embroidery is elaborately and realistically shaded. The entire embroidered border area is backed with red, greenish-brown and brownish-black block-printed cotton in a design of curving branches on a ground patterned with a small repeated leaf motif.’


No image number on slide

I’ve always been rather partial to this dress; I just love the simple elegance, the fichu and the adorable apron!

‘white cotton, embroidered with silk in delicate design of trailing multicolour flowers arranged in stripes. Gown has low squarish neckline with drawstring; bodice front closes edge to edge, dipping to deep squared-off points below waist. Tight three-quarter length sleeves cut in one piece with underarm seam, darted to curve over elbows, without ruffles or cuffs. Open front skirt to be worn with petticoat (missing), pleated to bodice beginning about 2″ from centre front with pleats 1/2″ deep. Gown back has slightly squared neckline, with bodice dipping to a deep V at centre back, continuing into skirt at centre back. Back shaped with curving seams from armholes to centre back waist. centre back lining pocket for boning. Bodice and sleeves lined with white tabby linen; skirt unlined’

What was interesting to me was finding out that the skirt was unlined. I assumed that all skirts of this type were lined with something. Is this the case?



Look at that amazing colour! I can almost feel the crisp texture of the fabric…

‘cherry red plain-woven silk, trimmed with satin ribbon and self fabric shirring and piping. Gown has low, shallow neckline and raised waistline with inset band. Bodice front has vertical bands of piped self fabric with shirred self fabric between bands. Small puffed sleeves are trimmed with piped bands laced through piped holes, giving chain effect. Skirt front is ungathered, falling from waistband with gores at sides for increased fullness; rear of skirt has extra gathered fullness concentrated at center back. Skirt ends in decorative hem treatment consisting of piped triangles of fabric, a red satin ribbon puff extending out of each triangle and a padded hem. Bodice back has center hook and eye closure. Back bodice is trimmed with shirred insets similar to the front. Sleeve extensions tie in place. These sleeve extensions are cut as tubes, gathered into buttoned, piped wristbands, with narrow straps fastened with hooks and eyes 2″ above the wristband.’

The sleeve extensions mean that this dress could be worn as a formal day dress and an evening dress as well.



Apart from loving the fabric and shape of this dress, I love the little note that came with the description of it:

‘… Some time after the dress was first made, the wearer had to enlarge the waist by opening the side seams; the waistline now measures 26 inches…

It seems like she couldn’t keep her hands off the puddings!



This dress is so simple which is probably why it appeals to me. It’s one of those dresses in which you can imagine the ordinary person going about their day to day lives. It’s a practical dress, with the colour of fabric possibly suggesting it belonged to a more mature woman.

Gown of plain brown ribbed tabby silk with a fitted bodice and full skirt open at front to reveal petticoat (missing). Bodice has an untrimmed neckline cut in a low squared “U”, with edge-to-edge front closure and squared points at lower waistline. Bodice back has pleats stitched down extending unbroken into skirt at center. Sleeves end in pleated cuffs just below the elbows. Bodice and sleeve linings are made of tabby woven linen. Skirt, pleated to bodice, is composed of 6 panels of 19 1/4″ wide fabric. No pocket slits.

What is, again, interesting to me is the lack of pocket slits. Surely a more practical woman would want somewhere to put her things when out and about? I suppose we’ll never know.


Ahh, more brown. A very practical colour, but the fabric of this dress shows that (unlike the previous one) it was not made for everyday general use. I love, love, love the hat in this top photo. I may have to buy a large straw hat soon….



light brown silk damask woven in large asymmetrical floral pattern. Gown remade to later style with squared neckline and fitted bodice with center front edge to edge closure. Elbow-length sleeves end in pleats to create cups over elbows. Back fitted bodice ends in deep v at center back waist. Skirt is cut separately from bodice. Full skirt is open in front to reveal petticoat, which does not survive. Bodice is lined with linen; skirt unlined and faced with brown ribbon.

I shall finish this post here, simply so that I can take a break without the computer losing all of this (which it tends to do).

Please comment your favourite dress, and your least favourite!