In the past two years, I have entered two full Tudor outfits into the A&S faire. The first was a Tudor Lady’s outfit for myself, and the second was a Tudor Girl’s outfit for my daughter. The one accessory that I found to be the most fascinating in this process was the French hoods. Through numerous variations with these two outfits, as well as some additional samples, I have learned a considerable amount about how these hoods were likely structured. My entry for this faire is a new French Hood, using the most period materials that I can find, and reasonable substitutions where needed.

I began where most people begin with French hood design – with a simple crescent that seems that it should give you the shape that you’re looking for. This was the pattern shape provided by the pattern maker of Historic Costume Patterns, Margo Anderson 1. Generally, her patterns are well-researched and documented, and produce a period-accurate silhouette.

The first one that I made was for my daughter, and then I made one for myself. Superficially, these hoods gave the overall appearance of that shown in some period portraits, with slight variation that fell within the range of shapes seen in paintings. The biggest problem with these hoods was that they wouldn’t stay in place on the head. They tended to tip, so that the upper back edges were pulled down by the heavy veil, while the front edges were pushed forward. I added padded rolls to the undersides of the top to try to support them, as well as a comb beneath the front edge of my daughter’s hood, but these fixes never worked particularly well.



My daughter's original French hood


An Unknown Child by an Artist of the Flemish School, c.1545-55. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


My original French hood


Anne Boleyn, 16th-century copy of a lost original of c. 1533-1536, National Portrait Gallery, London.

At this point, I began researching the Tudor hoods in more depth to learn more about how they may have been constructed, in order to make ones that are more period-accurate and that approach the appearance of those shown in portraits. One resource that I consulted was a book that was published several years ago called The Tudor Tailor2, which is highly regarded as a resource for Tudor clothing. The authors, Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies have worked with important Tudor recreations such as Hampton Court, Buckingham Palace and Kentwell Hall. Another costumer named Kimiko Small has collected numerous images of French hoods in period portraits in her Gentlewomen’s Tudor Research3 site.



Thorough study of these portraits provides some clues as to how these hoods were constructed.

The first thing that becomes clear is that the French hood was not a single, shaped piece. It is evident in this portrait of Mary I that there is one white piece, wired to frame her face, to which pearls and gems are attached. There are rows of accordion-pleated gold ribbon along the front edge. Then there is a second piece of red fabric, which rises up somewhat from the shaping of the white layer. There is also a black section, which may be separate from the black veil or part of it, which overlaps the red piece and hangs down past the ears, to which the upper goldwork and jewels are attached. The veil at the back falls below her shoulders.


Portrait of Mary I, by Master John, 1544, National Portrait Gallery, London.


Perhaps more useful than portraits are three-dimensional representations such as effigies and coins. This effigy of Elizabeth Willoughby clearly shows a white forward section, to which the goldwork and pleated ribbon are attached, as well as a black rear section, which overlaps much of the white section. The upper goldwork decoration and the veil attach to this rear section.


Tomb effigy of Sir Fulke Greville and his wife Elizabeth Willoughby, St. Nicholas’s Church, Alcester, Worcestershire, 1559.


Even more helpful in determining the likely structure of the French hood is this coin of Mary I. It is a profile view, and the veil is attached slightly differently, such it is possible to see that the rear section of the hood wraps around the back of the head. This structure would provide considerably more stability to the French hood, such that it wouldn’t move or tip on the head.


Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain (medal), by Jacopo da Trezzo, circa 1555.


Now that I had some clues as to how the French hood might be constructed, I needed to choose a specific style and shape to recreate. The French hood was worn throughout a relatively long time frame, compared to the life span of other fashions in the Tudor and Elizabethan period. The French hood worn by the woman in Portrait of a Lady by Jean Perréal, circa 1520, is extremely similar to that worn by Gabrielle de Rochechouart in a portrait from 1574. It also spanned countries. These examples are Italian, French and English.


Portrait of a Lady, by Jean Perréal, circa 1520. Uffizi Museum, Florence Italy.


Portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouart, by Corneille de Lyon, c. 1574, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.


Portrait of a Lady, by Master A.W., 1536.


Portrait of The Lady Parker, a sketch by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1540.

I decided that I liked this flatter style, which seems to be worn closer to the head than some of the more angled hoods in other images. In particular, the sketch of Lady Parker appealed to me. She is believed to have been the wife of Sir Henry Parker, the son of Baron Morley. He was not a peer in his own right, since he died before inheriting the title from his father. This member of the minor nobility is the station that I prefer to recreate. At time she would have been dressed in court clothes. At other times, she would have been dressed more simply, as she is here. Since the sketch is lacking in some detail, I chose to also incorporate some details from the Portrait of a Lady, above, since the visible details are so close to Lady Parker.

Methods and Materials - French Hood

I began with three patterns from The Tudor Tailor, and made up samples of each.


Tudor Tailor Pattern 1


Tudor Tailor Pattern 2


Tudor Tailor Pattern 3

Although the fit of these hoods were excellent, I felt that the shape of the individual layers did not match what I saw in the portraits. These patterns had the lowest layer (eg. the white layer in pattern 1) wrap around the back of the head. However, on the medals and effigies where we can see a section that wraps around, it appears to be the top layer, on which the goldwork decorations are attached. So, I decided to try a reshaping of the various pieces of the multi-part pattern so that the top section wrapped around the back of the head, rather than the lowest section.


Tudor Tailor Pattern 1 - side view


Tudor Tailor Pattern 1 - side view


Mary Tudor, Queen of England 1553 - 1558 (gold medal), by Jacopo da Trezzo, circa 1555.


Proposed Pattern - side view


In addition, the style of French hood that I wanted to create was considerably flatter than those created using the Tudor Tailor’s patterns. I used a three-part design inspired by Tudor Tailor, but I drafted my own patterns to create the desired shape to produce a look similar to the inspiration portraits. I made several test samples using cardstock, and finalized my design. I tested the pieces together on a mannequin head, as well as my own. MyPattern


At this point, I needed to decide the materials that I would use to create the hood. I wanted to discover the types of materials that were used to these hoods in the 16th century.

There are a number of records from Henry VIII’s reign that mention French hoods. Catherine of Aragon ordered a French hood for her daughter Mary in 1520, paying the sum of 11 shillings, which included the cost of 1 yard of black velvet. 4 Several decades later, Catherine Parr also ordered a black velvet French hood lined in black satin. 5

Similar records still exist from Elizabeth I’s reign concerning fabrics and other items purchased and used for clothing and accessories. There are entries in her wardrobe accounts such as “Ellin Webbe for making of sixe whoodes and six cornettes of Satten and vellat” in 1573. 6

Velvet, especially black velvet, is mentioned almost exclusively in these records and others. I believe that the term “hoode” was specifically the back section of French hood, which hangs down to the shoulders, or beyond. Therefore, I chose to use black velvet lined in satin for the falling veil section.

The appropriate type of fabric for the other portions of the French hood is less easy to determine. Warrants and inventories use a variety of terms that seem to describe the other pieces of the French hood. “Paste”, “touret” and “oreillette” are words that have been found to likely have been the stiffened piece, although other times these terms seem to describe the goldwork decorations themselves. 7 One reference for an oreillette lists “une oreillette de velous noir doublé de satin rouge, une de satin blanc doublé de toille” [an oreillette of black velvet lined with red satin, one of white satin lined with linen] 8. Another includes “an orilyeit of purpour satine” [an oreillette of purple satin] 9.

The colors and sheens in the portraits demonstrate that brighter options and satiny fabrics were certainly selected at times. I chose burgundy and white silk for the two front sections of the hood lined in linen. The detailed construction methods for the hood itself are detailed in the Hood Construction Details. MyFrenchHoodWithFabric


The next question was what the shape of the veil should be. Many modern recreations use a single sleeve-shaped veil, where the upper edge is shaped like the top of a modern sleeve.10 11 Other researchers believe that the primary, if not only, shape for the hood section of a French hood is a round caul-like piece with a separate flap attached above it. 12 In order to make my own decision, I examined the portraits, medals and effigies again for clues as to the correct shape of the hood.

In some portraits, the black veil is simply shown as a solid black area, without any clues as to how it may have been structured. Here, the veil is as wide as the billiment, and could certainly be interpreted as a sleeve-shaped veil sewn around the outer edge of the French hood.

Portrait of Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein c.1539, Toledo Museum of Art.


Certainly, some very early images of the precursors to a French hood show a veil that is attached around the full edge of the back of the hood, and it then falls softly into folds.


David and Bathsheba, Book of Hours, Artist Unknown, France, Tours, c.1515-1520


However, some other early illuminations begin to show a veil section that is, at the least, gathered upwards from below before being allowed to fall below the shoulders. It’s possible this may even illustrate a two-piece velvet veil at this early date.


Bathsheba, by Simon Bening, Leaves from the Hennessy Hours, mid 1530s.


On this portrait, I have adjusted the contrast on to better examine the details of the black hood section. This appears to show a two-piece hood, where there is a caul-shaped bag over which a long, flat flap is hanging. There is an edge on the flap which is darker than the rest – perhaps the velvet outer fabric meeting the satin lining.


Portrait of a Young Woman, Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, c 1540, Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Certainly, the Mary I medals clearly show a flat flap attached to the top of the French hood, with a caul-shaped section covering the back of the head.


Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain (medal), by Jacopo da Trezzo, circa 1555.


And finally, a much later effigy illustrates how the flat veil flap might have been pleated.


Effigy of unknown weeper from Montagu monument, St Mary's Church, Sussex, 1592


After evaluating these images, I decided that a caul-like covering for the back of the head, plus a pleated flat would be the best alternative. I generally strive to use natural materials rather than man-made ones, in order to best approximate the fabrics that were used in period. However, the natural fabric velvet that I could find was cotton velveteen, and didn’t have the sheen and drape that I felt approximated the fabric seen in the portraits. Therefore, I chose a velvet fabric made from man-made materials because of its drapey feel. For the construction details, see the Hood Construction Details.


My French hood with caul and flap


Methods and Materials - Billiment

Historically, the French hood was generally decorated with pearls, jewels and gold settings. For example, when Mary I came to the throne, she quickly upgraded her clothing to that befitting a queen, such as that worn upon entering London: “rich apparell, her gowne of purple velvet French fashion, with sleues of the same… and a riche billiment of stones and great pearle on her hoode.” 13

I chose pearls sewn to the lower section as a simple decoration. The pearls are glass pearls, rather than natural, but since there are extant directions for making faux glass pearls from the Renaissance 14, I felt this was a realistic substitution.

The front edge of the French hood is often shown edged with an accordion-pleated gold ribbon. I used a crimper to create the even edging that I wanted, and sewed it onto the front edge of the French hood. For the details of this process, see the Billiment Construction Details.


My French hood with crimped ribbon and pearls


For the upper billiment, I wanted a custom-made piece of jewelry, since many of the wardrobe accounts refer to billiments separately, as though they were items that could be separated from the hood. For example, Catherine Howard’s wardrobe accounts list “upper habiliment of goldsmith’s work enameled and garnished with vij fair diamonds, vij fair rubies and vij fair pearls” 15 


Catherine Howard, a miniature attributed to Holbein c. 1540-1, Royal Collection, Windsor, England.


I am not a goldsmith, nor do I have access to one, and this project was not a metalworking project. But I did decide to make an upper billiment of my own design, using metal casting and gilding techniques. Gilded items were certainly used during this period, as numerous gilded items have been recovered from archeological finds, such as a gilded brass watch that was found as part of the Cheapside Hoard 16 in London. Extant gilded items that have been found are mostly brass and bronze. However, pewter is much more realistic for a hobby metalworker to work with, since its melting point is around 450°F rather than approximately 1700°F for brass. I tried a sample design by carving molds out of soapstone. Although the result was pleasing, I didn’t feel it gave me the dimensionality that I was looking for in the billiment. So, I instead used a modern method that is somewhat analogous to the lost wax method, using resin putty to make the mold. I fused the individual pieces to a wire, and then I gilded the complete billiment using gold leaf. This was sewn to the upper section of the hood, which completed the French hood. The detailed construction methods of the billiment are described in the Billiment Construction Details.


Completed billiment


 TotalHat1  AandSFrenchHood2



Overall, I am extremely pleased with this newest version of the French hood style of 16th century headwear. I feel that it fits well, doesn’t shift on my head, and has the shape that I was trying to achieve, based on examining numerous portraits, effigies and medals. I believe that my techniques, choices of materials and the finish product are all reasonable approximations of those that were found in the mid-16th century. In the future, I plan to try different shapes for the paste and hood sections, as well as other arrangements for the pleats of the flap, with and without them being stitched down. I would certainly recommend that other enthusiasts of the Tudor era make their own versions of the French hood, and evaluate my methods versus those of other researchers to make their own decision about what might have been done in the mid-16th century.



Anderson, Margo. Historic Costume Patterns,

2 Malcolm-Davies, Jane and Ninya Mikhaila. The Tudor Tailor – Reconstructing sixteenth-century dress, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 2006.

3 Small, Kimiko. A Gentlewoman’s Tudor Research,

4 Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Maney Publishing, 2007.

5 The National Archives, Exchequer: King’s Remembrancer, Accounts.

6 Arnold, Janet. Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d, W. S. Maney & Sons, 1988.

7 Schuessler, Melanie, French Hoods: Development of a Sixteenth-Century Court Fashion, in Medieval Clothing & Textiles, Vol. 5, Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker (editors), Boydell Press, 2009.

8 Gay, Victor, Glossaire Archeologique du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance, 1928, quoted in Melanie Schuessler’s French Hoods.

9 Cotgrave, Randle, A Dictionaire of the French and English Tongues, 1611, quoted in Melanie Schuessler’s French Hoods.

10 Malcalm-Davies and Mikhaila, The Tudor Tailor.

11 Dreher, Denise, From the Neck Up – An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, Madhatter Press, 1981.

12 Schuessler, French Hoods.

13 Wriothesley, Charles and William Douglas Hamilton. A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, from A. D. 1485-1559. Works of the Camden Society, 1875.

14 Neri, Antonio, L'Arte Vetraria quoted in Conciatore - The Life And Times of 17th Century Glassmaker Antonio Neri,

15 Inventory of Catherine Howard’s Jewels, Stowe 559, British Library.

16 Cheapside Hoard, Museum of London.