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RH211 - Elizabethan Feminine Doublet

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Make this beautiful ladies' doublet with our pattern!

Buy our full-sized paper pattern for a beautiful women's doublet dating from 1585 with hidden laced closure, buttoned front, high collar, skirts, and padded epaulettes. Lacing holes inside the armscyes are for the attachment of decorative sleeves. Front of the doublet is boned so wearing a separate paire of bodies may not be neccesary.

Scoop-necked, sleeved, pointed-waist version also included in the same pattern.

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Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.

Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:


The Feminine Doublet


Girls Wearing Boy Clothes

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.  Sometimes the jackets matched the petticotes, making it difficult to tell if what was being worn was separates or a conginuous gown.  In portraiture, however, jackets most often contrast greatly with their petticotes, giving a very different look to women’s clothing in this period.

Some of these jackets were so alike to men’s doublets that they were, in fact, called doublets by their wearers and makers.  Philip Stubbes in his 1583 Anatomie of Abuses even takes time out of his critical schedule to scorn them.

The women also there have dublettes and Jerkins, as men have here, buttoned up the breast, and made with winges, welts and pinions on the shoulder pointes, as mannes apparell is, for all the worlde, and those this be a kind of attire appropriate onely to man, yet they blushe not to weare it.1

Extant Evidence

In light of the above quote, it is no surprise that the first doublet we will discuss, shown at right, was for years mistakenly classified as a young man’s doublet.  The extensive boning in the front of the garment, the slim waist measurement, and the lack of lacing holes through which the breeches point to the doublet belie that classification.

This doublet, housed in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nurnbery, Germany (accession number T832), is made from alternating panels of embroidered black velvet and the same velvet decorated with couched black silk cord.  These decorative strips are laid over a firmly-woven blue linen foundation and lined with black satin.  The front of the doublet has a double layer of linen between which are sewn six bones on each side, the longest at center front, descreasing in size to the shortest directly under the arm.  The bones do not continue onto the back of the garment.

The doublet fastens center front with 16 passementerie buttons and matching buttonholes on the left side.  Inside the doublet, there are two satin strips worked with 19 thread eyelets each.  These are laced and drawn to, like a set of stays, and tied and then the doublet is buttoned closed.

The collar and skirts are made from a bias-cut piece of canvas to which wool felt is pad-stitched and the panels of velvet are mounted on top of this.  Both are lined with the same black satin as the rest of the doublet.  The collar has an additional layer of black satin folded down at the top and pinked decoratively.  Because of the width this adds to the skirts and collar, neither have buttonholes but rather a button on each edge that join with loops.

Over each shoulder is a padded roll, made from a burlap-like fabric and covered with felt.  Over this is stitched the same kind of decorative strips as on the rest of the doublet.  Inside the armscye is sewn a satin strip with 20 thread eyelets to which decorative sleeves are attached.  A strip of linen covered with satin on one side and velvet on the other is stitched inside the armhole, presumably the hide the eyelet strip.

The cosntruction techniques used to make this doublet are almost identical to those for contemporary men’s doublets.  The only missing element is a eyeleted band at the waist to which breeches point.  This waistband is an essential element of men’s dress in this period and even common men’s garments seem to have had it.  Therefore, this is indeed a woman’s doublet.

A black voided velvet doublet of Spanish origin lives in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is sketched at right.  Blanche Payne’s History of Costume discusses the doublet in the section on 16th century men’s costume, but it is clearly a feminine doublet.  Again, it is missing the eyelets needed to point the breeches on and it contains boning at center front.  While stiffening appears in many male doublets, boning all the way down the front edge does not.  Additionally, although this doublet appears to fasten at center front with 29 3/8” buttons, it has a separate fastening at center back through 15 thread eyelets.  The body is interlined with heavy linen and the outer edges of the collar and wings are wired and the visible interior lined with satin.  Gold lace and silk tufts provide adornment.

Until recently a garment in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston 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.  Recently the MFA re-examined the jacket and puts its date closer to 1600 to 1610.  We do indeed have documentary accounts of the Golden Doublet of Queen Elizabeth I and there is no doubt that such a garment existed, though it is unlikely that the jacket housed in Boston is that same doublet.  

Pictorial Evidence

The lady at right is wearing a white silk doublet with red ribbon points at the waist and a red velvet petticote.  Her doublet is low cut in front and the neckline filled in with a large lace open collar and a lace edge covering the top edge of the doublet.  The front of the doublet closes with buttons.  The sleeves appear to be of the same fabric as the doublet and therefore can be assumed to be sewn on and not decorative sleeves pointed on.

Like a male doublet of the early 17th century, there are ribbons around her waist, these a contrasting red.  Breeches of the time laced to eyelets under the doublet, sometimes emerging to the outside of the doublet and ending in decorative bows.  As the 17th century progressed, breeches began to make use of hooks to attach to doublets, but non-functional decorative ribbons were sewn to the outside of the doublet.  That may be the case here as there is no reason a petticote would have to lace to a doublet.

A German card depicting a lady playing the virginals shows a doublet strikingly similar to the one in the Germanische Nationalmuseum and discussed on page 1.  Her black doublet is decorated with black braid arranged in chevrons and following the seams of the garment.  The shoulder rolls are large and further decorated with passementerie buttons and tufts of silk.

She wears her doublet with a simple pink petticote guarded with three black guards toward the bottom hem.  Instead of the elaborate silk sleeves we might expect, she wears linen sleeves with her doublet and this might lead us to the mistaken impression that she is letting her smock sleeves show.  This is not likely the case.  There are extant white linen sleeves from this time period as well as inventories enumerating white linen sleeves.  The detail on this small card is not great, but a small amount of blackwork can be seen at the cuffs of the sleeves.  It is possible that the sleeves are more elaborately decorated with whitework as were many linen items in Germany decades earlier.

Around her neck, she wears a ruff.  The thick, pad-stitched collar of the extant doublet from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum is made for the purpose of holding up a substantial ruff.

A survey of portraits from the 1580s through 1610s will reveal a great number of doublets that may have been previously mistaken as the bodices of gowns.  When looking at period portraiture, look for the telltale signs of a doublet -- buttons down the front and typically a contrasting petticote.  Doublets matching their petticotes are also seen, though not as often.  Many of Elizabeth’s hunting outfits may have been doublet and petticote combinations.


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.

Hart, Avril and Susan North.  Fashion in Detail.  1998:  Rizzoli International Publications, New York.

Payne, Blanche.  History of Costume.  1965:  Harper Collins, New York.


1. Stubbes, Philip.  Anatomie of Abuses.  1583 edition.

For more, purchase this pattern.

This information © 2007 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History


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