I have been a longtime fan of English history, and this portrait of Elizabeth Woodville (Queen of England from 1464-1483, and great-grandmother to Elizabeth I) is one I’ve wanted to replicate for years.
For developing the pattern I used The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, a wonderful book by Sarah Thursfield. The silhouette for women in the high medieval period was to create an elongated, fitted figure, and so I started by making an underbodice out of canvas to give support and the desired shape (essentially it’s a medieval sports bra). The underbodice opens at a side-seam under the arm, and originally I had planned to do a more period grommet-and-lace closing. However, as I was making the costume and I frequently needed to try it on myself to make sure the fit was right, I tried putting in a zipper to make taking it on and off easier. I’ve used underarm lacings on other garments and they’re definitely a pain, so the convenience of the zipper grew on me, and ultimately I decided to just leave it in, since it would be hidden by the gown.
I decided to make the main part of the gown out of a dark brown velvet. Finding the gold-and-black patterned fabric was one of the catalysts for this project as it immediately made me think of Elizabeth’s portrait. The technique for making up the sleeves was new to me, as according to the book the seamline is in the back instead of under the arm. I still ended up having to take some fullness out of the front of the sleeve cap, but the extra fullness in the back ended up being exactly enough for me to have good shoulder mobility. The gown opens down the front; Thursfield’s book states that they would have laced the front closed, but I opted for hook and eye closures instead.
The hat is a simple fez shape with buckram, muslin, and fashion fabric layers. Originally I was thinking I would need to put horsehair tabs for pins to hold it on, but I discovered that as long as my bun was in just the right spot on the back of my head, the hat actually stays on surprisingly well (well enough to take pictures without any problems, at least).
Her gold choker necklace was a bit tricky, but I got lucky while searching online vintage stores and found a thick, chevron-linked chain (it’s so close I’m wondering if it was directly inspired by this portrait), and I was able to add a square jeweled pendant that I got at the Tower of London several years ago.