It would be so tempting to start with the richly decorated, more complex gowns that are made of expensive fabrics, for example the one of red damask that’s decorated with gold and silver passements and lined with two kinds of fur. However, given that I’ve never sewn a renaissance gown before (and that I don’t have the money for the damasks and brocades), it would be wise to start with something simpler. And it would also be wise to start with the underpinnings, because the outer layers have to fit properly.
A whole outfit consists roughly of underpinnings, kirtle, gown, headwear and accessories, all of which can be found in the catalogs. My aim is to wear the outfit next summer, so I’ll be looking at the “summer clothes” (as they are called in the Dowry) lined with fabric, not fur. A detailed description of each layer will follow.
Before the sewing can start, the cut of the clothes have to be determined. It’s “common knowledge” in Finland that Catherine introduced the Spanish fashion here, and also that her wardrobe was full of Italian gowns. However there are only three kirtles listed in the Dowry that state the origin or preferably the style of the dress: two of them are German, one is Spanish. Italian dresses are not mentioned, but there are veils, gurgiellas and nightcaps described as Italian.
Because German, Spanish and Italian items are specially mentioned, they must be exceptional in Catherine’s wardrobe and the basic cut of her kirtles has to be something else. This needs to be researched still, but we can already make some conclusions based on Catherine’s other clothes. There are only ten petticoats and no frontlets, so there probably are no front openings in the skirts. Catherine also has a vast amount of partlets, so the neckhole is probably square. A kirtle like this is actually depicted in a portrait of Catherine’s sister-in-law, Elisabeth of Austria.
There are also few other similarities between the portrait and the catalogs. Elisabeth is wearing a gold net or caul on her head and over it a velvet bonnet, both of which are represented in Catherine’s wardrobe. She also has a gold embroidered partlet like Catherine who owed total 58 of them, and the sleeves of her kirtle are slash-and-puff like the multiple kirtles Catherine had.