For some time now, Ninya and Jane have received requests for a pattern for women’s headwear characteristic of the 16th century, especially the headdresses worn by the lower class. These appear in the many crowd scenes and genre paintings of the time to have been created by inventive use of linen headrails or head cloths. A new Tudor Tailor pattern aims to satisfy this demand.
On investigating the wills data for an initial insight into linen items, it became clear how much simple headwear was sufficiently valued to be named in women’s bequests to family and friends – often with its ranking in the testator’s wardrobe indicated: Alice Harris left her “best yard kercher” to her cousin Anne Howland in 1596.
Of the 40,500+ items of dress, accessories, armour and weapons left by 6,000+ testators in The Tudor Tailor’s database, there are approximately 3,800 linen items left by 942 testators from 1485 to 1603. Of these, 2,700 or so items belonging to about 650 testators are potentially women’s head coverings: 813 kerchiefs, 281 rails, 206 crosscloths, and 129 quarters. Sometimes, prices for the different grades of linen are indicated, as was Joan Vaffan’s 1558 bequest of “a rail of 8d the yard” to her daughter, Frances.
Linen items are sometimes further described – the most common terms are holland (160 items) and lockram (95 items). Agnes Digbie (widow, 1599) left “a yard lockram kercher” to “Joan Robison my daughter”.
So – by popular demand, The Tudor Tailor presents a new pattern for a yard square headrail.