Lady of the Manor: Dressing Mistress Dauntesey


Mistress Dauntesey is depicted here by a member of our Living History staff and attended by her lady’s maid who is helping her to get dressed. You can quickly see the differences in the clothing that each is wearing. The Daunteseys were wealthy landed gentry and their servants fell below the smaller yeoman farmers and the middle-class merchants in the social hierarchy of Tudor England.


Mistress Dauntesey’s servant is dressed in humble clothing made of humble fabrics. Her bodice and petticoats are made from linen and dyed in colors common to the lower classes - madder for red and perhaps oak galls for brown. The yellow petticoat would most likely be dyed with weld and not the saffron that was so expensive and used only by the upper classes.


Here we see Mistress Dauntesey in her linen chemise and coif (close-fitting cap) and bodice, or pair of bodies, made of silk. She is already wearing her hose or stockings (either woven or knitted wool or silk) and her red leather shoes with silk ribbon ties.


Notice that her bodice is laced up the back. She needs her lady’s maid to help her dress. Back-laced garments could, however, be loosened by the wearer and slipped over the head if help was not available.


The bum roll, a padded ring tied in the front, sits on her hips and gives shape to the fall of her petticoat and gown. Her coif is made of finer linen than her servant’s, though both are left undyed. A pea pod motif is embroidered onto Mistress Dauntesey’s coif for embellishment.

Next comes the red silk petticoat and silk damask gown. The red silk would be dyed with cochineal and imported from abroad. It is also used as the lining for the gown. A stomacher (stiffened triangular wedge of fabric) matching Mistress Dauntesey’s gown will be inserted into the gown's open front.

The final step before adding jewelry and girdles (belts) is to pin on neck ruffs and wrist cuffs. Mistress Dauntesey’s ruffs and cuffs might be embellished with blackwork embroidery and can be easily removed for washing. Her lady’s maid, in contrast, does not wear ruffs and cuffs but lets her chemise show at her neck and wrists. They would only get in the way of her housework.


Both women are now ready for the busy day ahead!

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