Looking at the Details & The First Outfit

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.

Elisabeth of Austria 1542

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.

The Catalogs

The two main sources for this research are the Dowry, written in Poland in 1562, and the Inventory, written in Sweden in 1563. I’m using a version of the Dowry that’s translated in Finnish in 1903, so I don’t have the original -and even if I did, I couldn’t read it. Criticism must be kept in mind when using this list, because it’s a second-hand source.

The Inventory too is re-written, but it’s a copy and uses the original language. The way I see it, it can be used as a primary source.

Catalogs are divided roughly to jewelry, bonnets, gowns, kirtles and kirtle sleeves, linens and other, with few differences in between. The Dowry lists fewer items than the Inventory and doesn’t describe all of them individually. However when it does describe something, it’s much more detailed than the descriptions in the Inventory. There are only few matches between the two catalogs, and Catherine seems to have acquired loads of new clothes while in Turku. That’s another question, however, so I won’t be discussing it here.

A Short History

This is a very short history behind the ongoing project.  A longer story can be found for example here.

Catherine Jagellon (Polish Katarzyna Jagiellonka, Finnish and Swedish Katari(i)na Jagellonica) was the youngest daughter of Zygmunt I, king of Poland. Her mother Bona was from the Milanese Sforza family.

Catherine c. 1555 by Lucas Cranach

In 1562 the 36-year-old Catherine married John, the duke of Finland, who was son to the Swedish king Gustav Vasa. The couple settled in John’s home castle of Turku, but their stay there was only 9 months long. King Eric, John’s elder brother, had them arrested because of John’s too independent politics.

Now, what interests us the most are the two catalogs that resulted from these incidents. From 1562 survives a catalog from Poland listing Catherine’s dowry, and the other is written in Sweden in 1563 after the arrest. These catalogs will be referred to as the Dowry and the Inventory from now on.

About this blog (and me)

This blog is about one woman’s megalomaniac project of recreating the wardrobe of Catherine Jagellon, the princess of Poland and duchess of Finland. The research is based on two catalogs from the years 1562 and 1563 listing the duchess’s possessions and is carried out by sketches and creating actual pieces. The progress will be showcased in this blog every now and then.

I don’t claim to be an expert in any of the fields I’m meddling with here. I don’t even speak English as my first language, so you’ll have to forgive me for that too.. As a re-enactor (10+ years in the middle ages) I’m just very interested in the subject and try to do my best with the research and historical accuracy of the pieces.