Wednesday, August 09, 2006
What a wonderful experience we had this afternoon at Bodelwyddan Castle. We were taken back to the mid 16th Century by two very charismatic ladies acting the part of mistress and maid. I have always loved costume and it was all so very interesting. The mistress was lower middle class, not very rich, but rich enough to have 12 servants and the maid was a girl who came in to help with the laundry and occasionally helped as lady's maid on a Sunday.
The image at the top shows them both on a washday.
They wore wool and also linen of various qualities. The poor quality linen was brown and the more frequently it was washed, it became whiter each time. They soaked the clothes in a mixture of ash in water, this turned into a type of bleach and then the clothes were washed in boiling water.
Clean linen was a sign of wealth. Only the wealthy had irons and it's surprising that the shape of the iron is still unchanged. The ordinary folk dried their linen flat on the grass to stop it creasing too much as they could not iron. It was carefully folded into parcels and then was placed in a pile in a press, so it was beautifully creased.
Here is the Mistress on a Sunday. We all saw her getting dressed and all the details were explained to us in such an interesting way, explaining how the garments were put together so that the most expensive fabrics were used where they could be seen and the parts that could not be seen were in cheaper fabric.
Apparently all the ladies wore red undergarments, which they thought was good for their health. Queen Elizabeth 1st wore red clothes to protect her from the plague.
The most surprising thing for me was the use of pins to hold parts of the clothes together on the outside. These pins were made of brass and were bought by the thousands by wealthy people.
This is how the maid was dressed on a Sunday. She wore a black apron instead of a blue one, a black hat and a black 'partlet' over the top. She had green sleeves pinned onto the short sleeves. This was such an economical way of dressing and I would not mind dressing this way myself. I loved the clothes.
I recommend anyone interested in textiles to go to their lecture if you ever get the opportunity. They are on a tour at the moment, so you might be lucky.
Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhailia have written a book called The Tudor Tailor, which I had to have after listening to them. I have learned so much today that most of you probably know already, but as I started writing, it all came back to me.