To begin my recreation of a French hood, I decided to start with some patterns that are available from a well-regarded source – the authors of The Tudor Tailor 1. They provide three options for French hood patterns. Each is a lower section which wraps around the back of the head, and an upper section which attaches to it. There is a black strip to which an upper billiment could be attached, plus the veil. For each option, I found a portrait that I believe it is attempting to approximate.



Tudor Tailor Pattern 1


Tudor Tailor Pattern 1 on me


Catherine Parr, attributed to Master John, circa 1545, National Portrait Gallery.


Tudor Tailor Pattern 2


Tudor Tailor Pattern 2 on me


Queen Mary Tudor of England, by Anthonis Mor Van Dashorst (aka Antonio Mor), 1554 Museo del Prado, Madrid.


Tudor Tailor Pattern 3


Tudor Tailor Pattern 3 on me


Elizabeth I when Princess, Attributed to William Scrots, c.1546, The Royal Collection.


The wrap-around design of these hoods is a huge improvement over the single crescent-shaped French hood. These French hoods stay on my head without additional padding or combs, and although a chin strap could be added, since it is seen in numerous portraits, it is not necessary to hold the hood onto my head. However, the specific shaping of these layers didn’t seem to match what I saw in the portraits. The Tudor Tailor version of the hood has the layer that is closest to the head wrap around the back. However, in looking at the effigies and the Mary I medals, it looks to me as though the topmost layer, the one with the billiments attached to it, is the one that wraps around the head. And then the black hood is attached to the inside of the round opening created by this wrapped piece. I decided this was going to be the structure that I was going to use in my recreation.


Effigy of Lady Jane Montagu (née Ratcliffe)died 1552; 1592, Tudor Effigies collection.


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



Tudor Tailor Pattern 1 - side view


Tudor Tailor Pattern 1 - side view


Proposed pattern - side view

The inspiration portraits had a much flatter appearance and a different shape near the ear, compared to this version. Therefore, I used this new design concept to draft my own set of patterns. There is a front section which has a slight curve in front of the ears, to which the crimped gold ribbon and pearl billiment will be attached, and a second piece which is a relative flat crescent that will sit on top of it. Finally, there is a third piece which will have the upper billiment attached to it, and which will wrap around the back of the head. The black veil will be attached to this as well.


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


My pattern pieces


My pattern


I traced each of the three pattern pieces onto heavy-weight buckram and cut them out. I left some additional area behind the center back of the main piece to allow it to overlap for strength. For each piece, I then rough-cut a piece of millinery wire to the approximate length of the outer edge and used a whip stitch with heavy thread to attach the wire to the buckram. Although our materials now may vary slightly from those used in period (e.g. the glue used to stiffen the buckram is not the same as that used in the Renaissance time period), these millinery techniques have been used for centuries. Although, to my knowledge, we don’t have extant millinery manuals, we have a few surviving metal headdress frames2, and certainly the shape of these French hoods seem to indicate that wire was used to form them.

 BuckramTrace  BuckramWire


The next step was to cut a piece of flannel that was slightly larger than each piece so that it could wrap around onto the back and also be whip-stitched in place. The flannel serves to slightly soften the appearance of the hat pieces and hide the grid of the buckram from being visible through the outer fabric. I applied flannel to all three pieces, but the velvet is so thick, it would be better to not add flannel under this section.

The outer fabrics could then be applied. The white and burgundy sections were covered in silk. The black section was covered in velvet. All of the sections were lined in linen. Since I didn’t want any stitching to be visible on the right side, I wanted the fabric to wrap towards the wrong side of the piece, such that a lining fabric could then be applied. To keep the fabric in place on the right side of the fabric, I used a running stitch, taking care to not pierce any of the fabric threads themselves such that it might snag and leave a mark on the fabric once the running stitches were removed. I could then take a piece of linen for the lining, snip the curves and fold the selvedges inward. The linen lining could then be sewn in using a slip stitch, so that minimal thread was visible from the inside. Finally, the running stitches used to hold the fabric onto the right side of the piece were removed.



Flannel applied with whip stitch


Silk basted with running stitch


Lining attached with slipstitch

Some researchers who have attempted to recreate the French hood believe that the various layers were not stitched together as a single piece of headwear3. This particular researcher’s recreation has a white linen caul with a gold ribbon edging, a crescent-shaped wired paste and a black hood with a billiment placed on top, each as separate items. I find it reasonable to believe that the pieces were, in fact, stitched together. I don’t believe that a fragile crimped gold ribbon would be permanently attached to a linen caul, which would need to be washed frequently, while the paste and hood were kept separate. And, as with sleeves, which were inventoried separately, but likely stitched onto a garment for wearing (but removable to move to another garment when needed), I believe the paste, hood and billiment of a French hood could have been stitched together for ease of wearing. Therefore, I chose to layer the three pieces together and attach them using small stitches through the forward edge. I chose to wait and attach the lining for the white section until after the pieces were stitched together, so that the lining would hide the stitching on the inside.

The next step was to create the velvet veil and attached it to the back of the hood. I chose velvet because it is the fabric mentioned consistently in surviving wardrobe accounts. I chose a man-made fabric rather than the cotton velveteen that was also available because I felt that it better approximated the dark drape that is seen in portraits.

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 Howardby 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

I decided that the two-piece velvet hood was the correct choice, given the various images that show this portion of the French hood. I measured the circular opening on the back of the French hood, and added several inches to it to allow me to create a neat edge as well as to let it have some dimension, rather than being flat. I turned over the seam allowances on the velvet bag and a satin lining, placed them with wrong sides together and ran a loose gathering stitch around the outer circumference. Next, I tested out various arrangements of pleats to create a pleasing appearance, similar to those seen in the effigies. I decided that I wanted the pleats to be stitched down to maintain their shape, so I cut a piece of canvas, arranged the pleated velvet on top of it, and slip-stitched the pleats to the velvet. I then cut a solid piece of black satin in the shape of my final flap. Modern linings are generally applied using a bag lining technique, where the two pieces are stitched with rights sides together and then turned right side out. However, we don’t see this method on extant garments. So, I instead turned back the seam allowances on both the pleated velvet piece as well as the lining, and slip stitched the lining. I pinned this completed piece to the upper edge of the French hood opening, and then pinned the gathered caul bag as well. I then stitched the entire velvet hood together.



Gathered caul


Pinned pleats


Pleated flap

Many of the portraits also show a pleated gold ribbon along the front edge of the hood. In previous versions of French hoods, I have attempted to pleat the ribbon by hand prior to attaching it to the hood. This has always produced a rather inconsistent result, unlike the very small, even pleating seen in the portrait. I found it very believable that they would have had a specific tool for doing this pleating. We know that a number of specialty tools that would have been useful to the 16th century have faded into obscurity. For example, ruffs were shaped using heated poking sticks, as described by Philip Stubbs in his pamphlets concerning the excesses of Elizabethan society4 and illustrated in satirical engravings of the time. There are extant fluting irons from several centuries later that were used to produce the fluted fabric designs popular in that age (below center). So, I felt it was reasonable to believe that a tool existed for created these fluted/pleated ribbons on the French hoods. The tool that I found that was most able to give me this small, consistent folding was a crimping iron intended for styling hair. I slowly worked across the length of gold ribbon, crimping small sections at a time. Once the ribbon was completely crimped, I sewed it to the inside of the front edge of the hood.


Laundry (detail), Pieter van der Borcht, c 1562, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.


Fluting iron, 19th century, The Quintessential Clothes Pen (blog)


Crimping iron



Crimped ribbon


Crimped ribbon sewn on


French hood with crimped ribbon and pearls

At this point, the nether and upper billiments were next. For the lower (nether) billiment area, I chose a simple decoration of pearls. I felt this was a reasonable choice since the Portrait of Lady Parker, which was one of my primary inspirations, appeared to have a simple detail of a line of small pearls on the white portion at the front of the hood. I could have strung them on a wire and attached the wire. However, I instead chose to simply sew the pearls directly to the hood. To achieve straight lines of pearls as well as secure mounting, I worked in sections of eight pearls. I brought up a thread in the desired location, added eight pearls, and then brought the thread back down to the underside of the hood. The pearl thread was then run back through the final pearl of the old set and through another set of eight pearls. Then, I took a separate needle and thread and couched down the pearls’ thread in between each pearl.



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


Pearls added to thread in groups of eight


Pearls couched onto hood


For the upper billiment, I wanted a piece that could be separated from the hood if needed (for example, to move to another hood) and would be appropriately described as a complete piece of jewelry. I chose to custom make a billiment of gilded pewter. The description of the process for making this piece of jewelry is included in the Billiment Construction Details. Since it had been put together into a single piece, it had to be sewn on in numerous spots to hold it in place. I chose not to add holes or loops for sewing it on. Instead, since it was made up on individual sections, I chose to make use of the slight spacing between them to secure the billiment to the hood.


Billiment being sewn to hood


Billiment attached to hood


French hood with billiment



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

2 Museum of London, Headdress frames, Item numbers Z640, A27909, A27910.

3 Lorraine, Sarah, Reconstructing the French Hood, 06-2009.pdf

4 Stubbes, Philip, Anatomie of Abuses, 1583.