The construction of this over-partlet was inspired by a remnant purchase and the recent bout of very cold weather in my local area.
The wool blend remnant
As you know, I am very passionate about women’s dress accessories; I love the variety in sixteenth century dress accessories and the inventive and beautiful ways sixteenth century women had of displaying their wealth and creativity. Dress accessories are usually the first thing I notice about women’s garb, and I find the history and construction endlessly fascinating. I also believe that good accessories are a way to separate real clothing from a costume. I put a fair bit of effort into dress accessories for my persona, but it wasn’t until I started to get quite chilly at events that I realised that my wardrobe lacked an over-partlet/gollar.
As someone who does not enjoy sewing and who lacks patterning skills, the reasons behind the lack are fairly obvious. I recently picked up a pretty wool blend remnant for $12, and this inspired me to try making an over partlet.
Over-partlets are a good way to be able to layer clothing to stay warm, while still having the garment be easily removable. Tudor ladies wore small outer partlets that could be pinned or tied on. They were made in contrasting or matching colours to gowns, and some were fur lined. Variations of over-partlets/gollars are seen across Europe in the sixteenth century, and figure strongly in Tudor and German portraiture.
Even within the same region and time period, there seems to be a lot of variety in style and cut of gollars or over-partlets. A quick review of German fashions in the first half of the sixteenth century shows wealthy women as well as trossfrau and camp followers wearing over-partlets in a range of styles. Decoration varies (fur-lined, figured silks, applique decoration, applied trims etc.) but the actual cut of the garment varies a lot as well. Some are worn closed at the front, some have are wider and extend past the shoulders- others are quite narrow. Some are roughly the same length front and back, others have extended panels at the front which hang down further than the back section. I chose to make my partlet quite wide as I wanted to keep the tops of my arms (where there is a gap in my sleeves) warm. I also chose to make the front panels roughly the same as the back section. I decided to save any extremes of fashion for later experiments.
Portrait of a Lady with Playing Cards by Urs Graf 1515
Image from: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/236157574187882145/
Image from: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/546061523544879141/
Portrait of a Lady by Master A. W. (active from 1536) held by The Courtauld Gallery
Image from: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-a-lady-207305
Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AnnaRegulaSch%C3%A4rer.jpg
Image from: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/459859811934181911/
Image from: https://www.boijmans.nl/en/collection/artworks/151647/an-old-woman-offering-money-to-a-young-man
Once I had the pattern, I placed the pieces on my wool remnant. I was happy with the placement, and I still have enough wool left to make a matching hand warmer or snozkyn. Next I had to place the pattern pieces on the fake fur. This was more challenging, as the fur remnant had pieces cut into it and there was not a lot there. I had four attempts before I got it right. I wanted the hair strands to all be flowing away from the neckline. One of the pieces had to be positioned slightly diagonally to make it fit, but the difference was not noticeable. I cut the wool pieces out. I had to be careful with the fur pieces, attempting to cut the base fabric rather than the hairs because cutting the hair itself makes it look shorn and unnatural.
Pattern Layout on fur – attempt 2
The next step was to pin the wool piece and the fur piece together, right side to right side. I tried not to catch too much hair inside the seam, but inevitably a lot of hair got caught. I used the sewing machine to sew a continuous seam around all the edges, leaving about fifteen centimetres unsewn to be able to turn the garment right side out.
Once the seam was sewn, I cut into the seam allowance on the corners and tight areas, giving the fabric some ease to stop bunching. I also cut away the bulk on the front centre corners. Then I turned the partlet right side out. I used a bone turner to poke the edges out and make sure the seam was sitting cleanly.
The two fabrics were quite thick, and with the seam allowance turned under the edges were quite bulky. To reduce the bulk and make the edges sit neatly, I went around the edges with a needle and thread and tried to invisibly catch all the pieces together with a stab stitch. When this was completed, I whip stitched the hole where the garment was pulled right side out closed.
Pinned and ready to stab stitch
I had some cotton bias binding leftovers that I got in a bulk pack from an op shop, and picked a cream coloured one that was similar in colour to the fake fur. I had previously washed it to make sure it was colour fast, and it needed to be ironed to make the hems sit properly. Once this was done, I marked out where I wanted the bias trim to sit, and pinned it all down. The trim started at the centre back of the neck and travelled around all the edges before finishing at the centre back neck. I hand sewed down both sides of the bias trim with cotton thread. In the sixteenth century, the tailor or seamstress would have had to make their own bias strips and join it with hand sewing. I have made my own bias before, and I am very glad to have the luxury of commercially prepared bias binding.
Portrait of a city woman with haube by Hans Baldung 1520 showing a single line of trim decoration
Image from: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/236157574187886064/
Image from: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/449726712762196713/
Marking placement and attaching bias trim
There are portrait examples of ladies wearing over-partlets with one line of trim, two lines of trim, and multiple lines of trim. I decided to go with elegant simplicity and do a single line of bias trim. I mitred the corners to make them neat; I haven’t been able to see the portraiture closely enough to make out details on whether that was done in period, but as it is a neat and logical way to make the trim sit properly, I don’t think that it is unlikely that a seamstress thought to do it in period.
The hairs that were caught in the seams had to be coaxed out gently in small amounts with a needle. There are still areas that need more hair removed from the seams- it is a tedious business.
I toyed with the idea of adding decorative wooden thread wrapped buttons to the partlet, but I don’t think it needs the extra decoration. I do have a coat hook stashed away somewhere which might be useful to add to the centre bottom of the front panels to invisibly secure the garment – only wearing it for an event will suggest whether this is necessary or not.
Wool/nylon blend remnant $12
Fake fur op shop remnant $2
Bias binding remnants (op shop) 8 pack for $2 =25c
Op shop sheet for toile $1
Lunch paper for patterning approx. $1.50/roll
Threads – already in stash
I was very happy that this garment came in under $20AU total – and probably closer to under $15. I also have enough wool left over to make a matching hand warmer, although I will need to keep my eye out for another remnant of fake fur.
Arnold, J; Tiramani, J; and Levey, S. 2008, Patterns of Fashion 4, Pan Macmillan Ltd, London.
Barich K and McNealy, M. 2015, Drei Schnittbucher, Nadel and Faden Press, USA.
Mikhaila, N and Malcom-Davies, J. 2006, The Tudor Tailor, B T Batsford Ltd, London.