Make a Beautiful 16th century Jacket with this easy, flattering pattern!
Get our full size paper patterns and detailed instructions for Women's Upper Class English Jacket and Petticote (jacket and skirt) with high or low neck, narrow sleeves, and continguous gored skirting appropriate for the late 16th and early 17th century. Petticote options include hooked or tied waistband with slits for pocket access. Historical notes. Upper class and lower class instructions included. All Sizes in one envelope. Fits bust 30½"-48" and waist 23"-41". Embellishment suggestions included.
Suggested Fabrics: linen; silk or linen for lining
Jacket " 2¼ yards at least 45" wide
Petticote " 3 yards at least 45" wide
hooks and eyes or silk ribbons for front closure
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
The English Lady’s Jacket
A New English Style
In the third quarter of the 16th century, a new garment was coming into fashion in England. Although the long gowns popular on the Continent were certainly still worn, Englishwomen were starting to take a cue from the men and wear separate jackets and petticotes like men wore separate doublets and breeches. These new jackets sometimes differed dramatically from the petticotes with which they were worn. And in so doing, they provided a canvas upon which the embroideress’ and lacemaker’s skill might be displayed.
Until recently the earliest extant garment of this type dated to 1578 and it was labeled “The Golden Doublet of Queen Elizabeth I”1 and was believed to have been a New Year’s gift to the Queen in that year. The name was misleading since this specimen is not constructed like a man’s doublet. Instead of tabs at the waist, it sports five triangular gores set into vertical slits that stop at the waist. Upon a ground of very fine white linen, scrolling embroidery is worked in silver and gold threads. The overall motif is of flowers on vines and all seams except the shoulder and armscye are heavily embroidered as well. The ground is dotted with tiny gold spangles and the lower edge adorned with gold bobbin lace. The jacket has a low front opening and no collar. Cuffs are of the soft, turn back variety. The front closure is made with hooks and a section is reinforced, presumably to provide a stiff appearance at the top of the opening. It is lined with gold silk and not boned.
Recently the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston re-examined the jacket and puts its date closer to 1600 to 1610. While we have documentary accounts of the Golden Doublet of Queen Elizabeth I and there is no doubt that such a garment existed, it is now thought unlikely that the jacket housed in Boston is that same doublet. This also clears up the confusion cause by the name. It is likely that the New Year’s gift to the Queen in 1578 was more in the doublet style and not a straight-bodied, unboned jacket as is the present example.
This redating throws a wrench in the works for Elizabethan reenactors. The early date of the “Golden Doublet” provided substantiation that this style was worn during Elizabeth’s reign. Now it seems unlikely. The pictorial record starts to show jackets of this type at the very beginning of the 17th century. But a starting date prior to 1600 can no longer be supported by the available evidence.
The Museum of London houses accession number A75942, a linen jacket embroidered with coiling stems, fruit and flowers in plaited, stem and speckle stitch. This jacket dates to 1600-10 and is in very poor condition.
Also at the MOL, accession number C21990 is a similar linen jacket embroidered with black silk in plaited stitch and gold thread in chain stitch. It is from a similar year and also in poor condition.
MOL 59.77, shown above, is a linen jacket embroidered in black silk stem and darning stitch. The jacket is believed to date from 1605-15 and shows many of the same characteristics as the Boston jacket with two notable exceptions: there are wings or epaulettes over the sleeves; and the neckline is high. There is no collar or cuffs. The seams are embroidered and the skirt is widened with gores, but there is no lace or metallic thread on this example.
Accession number 1359-1900 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (shown on the previous page) is a linen jacket dating to 1600 or 1615. Like the Boston jacket, it has a low neckline. It is also without sleeves or cuffs and sports only three gores, at center back and one on each hip. The jacket is embroidered with multicoloured silks and silver-gilt threads and lined with pale blue silk. The pattern of the embroidery evokes a garden, with various flowers and plants and even little worms picked out in trellis, chain, and backstitch. The embroidery on this jacket is nearly identical in design and skill to that on a panel in the collection of the Embroiderers’ Guild (EG 79 1982) suggesting not only that these two pieces were inspired by the same design sources, but that they came from the same workshop.
V&A accession number T.228-19943, shown below, is often referred to as Margaret Layton’s jacket. This is because the jacket and a circa 1620 painting of Margaret Layton by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger have been preserved together by the family. Both are on loan to the V&A and are displayed together. The item is a white linen jacket embroidered with multicoloured silks and gold metal thread. Gold metal bobbin lace with large spangles hanging from the points trim the front opening, collar, bottom hem, epaulettes and cuffs. It is high necked and has five gussets in the skirts, two on each side and one center back. The jacket dates from 1610-15 and was originally closed with pink silk ribbons which were removed circa 1620 when the painting was made and the jacket worn with the petticote over it, faking the higher waist in fashion by that time.
A similar jacket is housed in the Museum of Costume, Bath (sketch right). This specimen retains its silk ribbon closure and the waist is above natural level. The jacket is embroidered in a similar manner to the above example but has no bobbin lace adornment. It dates to 1618-20.
A white linen jacket in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow (left) also greatly resembles the jackets featured thus far except for the lace of bobbin lace trim and a different method of fastening. This polychrome and gold embroidered jacket is closed with hooks and eyes.
The Victoria and Albert Museum houses a particularly fragile example as accession number T.80-1924. Mythical creatures resembling images from Geoffrey Witney’s A Choice of Emblems and Devices are set inside flower or fruit motifs created in black silk thread on a linen ground. Unfortunately the iron mordant used to produce black on silk is rotting the thread and no conservation methods are able to arrest this disintegration. Sketches of the original indicate that it is similar in cut to the other extant examples listed here.
V&A number T.4-1935 departs slightly from the previous specimens and is probably indicative of the changing fashions in the 1620s. The skirts of the jacket are widened by eight gores rather than the typical three or five. This produces a much fuller skirt and higher waistline which fits with the changing fashion of the time. The front seams of the sleeves are also left open to show the shift underneath. The linen jacket is embroidered with black silk thread in speckling stitch and trimmed with bobbin lace. The seams, however, are not embroidered with metal threads as in previous examples. Instead the seams on the backs of the sleeves are inset with narrow black and white bobbin lace. The bobbin lace that trims the jacket at neckline, front opening, sleeves openings, cuffs and hem is also black and white.
A late example at the V&A demonstrates that this style of jacket did not entirely die out in the 1620s. A pink silk gored jacket embroidered with blue thread, shown at right, is dated circa 1660. It closes with dark silk ribbons and the waist is at the natural level like the earlier linen embroidered jackets. The existence of the style this late in the century is further substantiated by Dutch painters in that decade. Van Mieris’ “Brothel Scene”, Vermeer’s “Lady with a Letter”, De Hooch’s “Courtyard Scene”, and Vermeer’s “Kitchen Maid” all show this style of jacket. The lower station of the wearers in these paintings explains the lack of elaborate embroidery and bobbin lace trim. Yet the cut of the jacket is strikingly the same as in the later part of the 16th and early years of the 17th century.
In a picture from the turn of the century known simply as “Painting of the life of Mary Ward”, women are pictured doing various forms of needlework. Two well-dressed ladies with bare heads and lace trim on their garments appear to be sewing on pillows. Two lesser bedecked ladies sit on either side of them, a short distance away, one is sewing a shirt and the other is reeling thread on a floor-mounted swift. The woman doing the reeling wears a blue jacket that is not dissimilar from the extant jackets described in the previous section. Although it is debatable whether her jacket has a waist seam or it is simply creased there by her posture of sitting, it has the same shape as the extant jackets. It appears to be made of blue wool and has epaulettes and a hooked front, but the gores are missing from the jacket skirts. For accessories she wears a tilted ruff and plain cuffs without lace trim. It can be assumed that this is a common woman’s version of the jackets shown earlier. Indeed this jacket became a popular piece of clothing by the middle of the 17th century.
Lady Dorothy Cary wears a jacket similar to Margaret Layton’s in a circa 1615 painting of her in the Suffolk Collection, Blackheath. In the sketch at right made after that painting, you can see how the jacket was commonly worn and with what accouterments and other garments. Her reticella-trimmed collar is held up by a supportase, she wears double edged reticella-trimmed cuffs and a lace cap on her elaborately-styled hair. With the jacket she wears a light-coloured unfarthingaled petticote trimmed with a deep border of lace and embroidered in multiple colours. The petticote material appears to be satin. She wears a dark or black loose gown with hanging sleeves over her jacket and is pictured pulling it around as if for warmth. The English jacket appears to be a casual garment, probably not worn at court or on high dress occasions. But it certainly is not what one would call “dressing down”.
A more casual ensemble is shown in a 1602 miniature by Isaac Oliver of his wife, Sarah Gheeraerts. Although the embroidery on her jacket resembles that in Lady Cary’s portrait, she wears it with her hair simply pulled back under a Dutch cap and her lace-edged shift collar folds out over the high neckline of her jacket.
An unknown lady in grey painted by an unknown artist circa 1607 in the Astor Collection shows another lady dressed to the nines and wearing an elaborately embroidered jacket (left). The jacket displays the same kind of scrolling embroidery as the extant garments but with a lower neckline visible under her reticella collar or partlet. She also wears an elaborately embroidered coif with a deep reticella border, reticella cuffs, and a loose gown with hanging sleeves decorated with scalloped edges and diagonal pinking. Her petticote betrays its cartridge pleats by its shape and appears to be both horizontally striped and have a darker brocade pattern. Although the picture is black and white, the unofficial title “Lady in Grey” as well as the balance of the picture suggests light coloured garments. The lady also wears a heavy metal necklace and what appear to be jet bead bracelets on both wrists. She holds a closed fan in her right hand. The biggest departure from the other pictorial evidence is that the jacket neckline is obviously quite low. We will see that both neckline types seem to have existed contemporaneously.
Case in point a portrait of Lady Dorothy Manners painted by William Larkin around 1615-20 (right). Lady Dorothy’s jacket neckline is quite low, although her décolletage is covered by a sheer lace partlet or filler attached to her collar. Although the sketch at right makes it appear that there is a waist seam, the original painting shows no such seam. The jacket does, however, nip in dramatically at the waist and produce a slight wrinkle there. But the skirts are widened by gores, not the attachment of a separate piece of fabric. Like the other paintings, she wears a pinked loose gown with hanging sleeves (not shown), reticella cuffs, and a lace cap over her curly hairstyle. She appears to be wearing two petticotes, the top one open down the front and guarded with metallic embroidery and possibly glass beads or metal spangles. This matches the edges of the loose gown sleeves and front opening. The over petticote is slashed diagonally at intervals. There can be no doubt that this petticote is cartridge pleated. The underpetticote is barely visible but appears not to be slashed or pinked, but possibly embroidered with a three or four inch fringe around the lower edge. Her jacket is embroidered in multicoloured silks like the others and it appears at least the upper sleeve seams are decorated with a narrow bobbin lace.
Another lady with a low neckline is the portrait of an unknown lady by Isaac Oliver, left. The picture dates to around 1605. Many of the features of this lady’s outfit are obscured by a gauzy veil originating at the crown of her head that she gathers in her arms and wraps around herself. It has been removed in the sketch, left. Her jacket is elaborately embroidered in multiple colours like the other examples. Her petticote is embroidered in a similar motif, but on a larger scale. She wears small cuffs with a narrow band of lace around them and her collar is also lace edged, though not as elaborately as Lady Cary and Lady Manners. She wears jet beads around both wrists and a necklace of jet ending in a crucifix on her breast. The neckline of the jacket appears to come to a upwards point at the sternum, but this may be an optical illusion created by the heavily decorated cross that hangs there. Unlike the other paintings showing low-necked jackets, this one has no filler. This may indicate that the lady was not married or it may simply be a different in style. She also does not wear a supported collar or loose gown, which implies that she is dressed more casually than the ladies previously shown.
A portrait of a young lady (at left) from much later (1624) shows the change in fashion well. Instead of a standing collar or filler, this lady wears a gollila, a type of soft ruff popular at the end of the first quarter of the 17th century. It is deeply decorated with lace as are her epaulettes, the hem of her jacket and two rows of cuffs. She is bare headed and her hair undone.
This type of jacket went out of favour among the aristocracy and fashion conscious in the 1620s, but this general shape persisted in common women’s dress well into the 1660s all over Europe. In the beginning of the century, it was elaborately embroidered with multicoloured silks and precious metal threads. However, when this style trickled down to common wear, the jackets were more subdued. In both cases, jackets were closed with hooks or ribbon ties and worn with shifts, cuffs, caps, and neck cloths.
The word “petticote” was used in the 16th and 17th centuries to describe any type of skirt, upper class or lower class, underskirt or overskirt. The word “skirt”, by way of contrast, referred to the bottom half of a woman’s gown or jacket.
Narrow bands of braid or embroidered decoration often trimmed the bottoms of upper class petticotes. Multiple bands of trim started an inch or two above the hem and followed it around to the center where the decoration turned 90 degrees and continued up to the waistband. Often three or more bands paralleled each other in this fashion.
Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1560-1620 describes a petticote in the Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen that dates to 1615-20. It appears to have been cartridge pleated, but Arnold thinks it was originally sewn to a bodice. It is now knife pleated and sewn to a waistband which dates to the 19th century. It is lined with pink silk taffeta. The taffeta is turned in towards the outer layer and sewn down, much like an 18th century quilted petticote.
It is hard to discern the original waist treatments of petticotes because they were often taken apart and remade as the styles changed. Indeed, a petticote is often nothing more than rectangular pieces of fabric sewn to a waistband, so remaking the garment is rather an easy task. Contemporary evidence suggests that waistbands may have been closed by hooks and eyes on occasion. But there is reason to believe that this was not the most common method of closure.
In the Renaissance and Early Modern Period, married women of reproductive age were in a constant cycle of pregnancy and nursing. In the centuries before maternity wear, garments were too expensive to acquire new ones every time one was pregnant. One might go so far as to say a woman wore maternity garments all the time. The fluctuations in women’s bodies necessitated garments that could change with them. The solution may have been a waist treatment we see in many 18th century petticotes. The front panel of the petticote is pleated to a tape or waistband and the back panel pleated to a separate tape or waistband. After the side seams are sewn to within 8” of the top (to allow pocket access), the waistband can be tied in a number of ways. The ties can be knotted at either side, just above the pocket access slits. They can also be arranged so that the back panel waistband ties in front and the front panel ties behind. This arrangement offers a little more security when the waistline is shrinking. And, of course, the front panel could be tied more loosely than the rear to accommodate the pregnant belly without causing the pocket slits to move forward.
A pregnant woman could still wear the jacket of this period until very late in her pregnancy because the unboned construction wouldn’t interfere with her changing shape.
Although we cannot know for certain, it appears that the typical method of pleating petticotes was cartridge pleating. Of all the pictures studied in connection with the English Jacket, the petticotes worn with them fall in folds that could not have been created by knife pleats or simple gathers. The petticotes hang as if cartridge pleated. So we assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This author’s cartridge-pleated petticotes replicate the silhouette of these paintings.
Petticotes were worn in multiple layers for warmth and security. Single petticotes were often a sign of abject and desperate poverty so even if doing the lowliest impression, you should wear at least two. It is common to see women with their top petticote tucked up to show off a brighter under layer. See Wencelaus Hollar’s engravings for pictures of tucked-up petticotes.
1 Figure 334 in Payne
2 Plates 1 and 2 in Halls
3 Figures 362 through 364 in Arnold, PoF
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. 1985: Macmillan, London.
Arnold, Janet. Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d. 1988: W.S. Maney & Son Ltd., Leeds.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion. 1987: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis. Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. 1972: Plays, Boston.
Halls, Zillah. Women’s Costumes 1600-1750. 1969: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London.
Hart, Avril and Susan North. Fashion in Detail. 1998: Rizzoli International Publications, New York.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.
Waugh, Norah. Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930. 1968: Faber and Faber, London.
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This information © 2004 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History