Web Site Review: Drea Leed’s The Elizabethan Costume Page

Going hand in hand with my love of dress history and clothing construction is my interest in historically inspired costumes, and the use and wear of those costumes in leisure activity.  If you have seen my post on the Great Dickens Christmas Fair of San Francisco, California, you have some idea of an historical era being reenacted for education and entertainment.  Other examples are American Revolutionary War, American Civil War (in and outside the US), medieval Europe, Renaissance Europe, and various decades of the 20th century.  In addition to historical eras, there is also the enormous realm of cosplay, wherein cosplayers dress as their favorite film, animation, or comic book characters.  The number of students I have interested in constructing apparel for these various pastimes grows every term, and I think it is as much fun for me as it is for them to see their ideas come to life, as they learn to sew and make something they truly can not buy ‘off the rack.’

Today’s web site is one which focuses on the reproduction of clothing of a very specific time and place, 16th century Europe. By Drea Leed, The Elizabethan Costume Page is a great starting place for anyone wanting to reproduce women’s, men’s and children’s clothing of the era (do not let the early 1990s-style title of the site deter you, it is kept up to date).  Leed is the author of  The Well-Dress’d Peasant: 16th Century Workingwoman’s Dress (Partizan Press, 2003), which appears to currently be out of print, but is certainly on my personal wish list.

The web site, in addition to containing numerous thoroughly researched articles and papers authored by Leed, also has an abundant collection of well organised and worthwhile links to sources for even more information.  If you want to see period images of members of specific social classes of particular nationalities, this web site will help you find them, particularly those with the best depictions of clothing for those wishing to reproduce them, as in paintings with clear details, such as seam placement and the various layers of clothing worn.

One of my favorite things on the site is the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator.  This can even be used by those with little or no sewing experience.  The instructions tell precisely how to measure your body so that you can enter your measurements (bust, around the bicep, waist, hip, etc.) into the Pattern Generator and voila!  you immediately get a custom pattern made to your measurements.  This one, I can say I have used with success.

An article from the site that I particularly recommend is Working Womens’ Dress in 16th Century Flanders, excerpted from Leed’s book, along with the highly detailed accompanying guide, Constructing a 16th century Flemish Outfit.

If any readers are historical costume buffs, leave me a comment and let me know your favorite eras and resources, for possible inclusion in future posts.

Photo credits:

  1. Top: Drea Leed in 16th century Flemish dress
  2. Middle:  The Four Elements:  Fire by Joachim Beuckelaer, 1570.
  3. Bottom:  Peasant Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568.

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