Monday, June 18, 2012

Mary of Hungary

I'm in the process of planning my garb for 12th night this year, which is set at the court of Henry VIII early in his reign before he went all nutso and cranky.  Straight Tudor has very little appeal to me, and I had run across the Mary of Hungary gown awhile back so this seems like a good excuse to make it.  Plus there is smocking!  Yay smocking!

Anyway, the dress is supposedly dated to 1520, however the only other artistic representation of this style of gown I've been able to find so far is dated 1490.  It does sort of look like a cross between a late 15th century Burgundian gown and an early 16th century gown, so I'm wondering what the correct dating is.

I'm also not sure what the correct supportive undergarment would be for this.  My initial thought, given the 1520 dating, is a pair of bodies maybe with an attached petticoat, work under the smocked chemise.  Someone else suggested a 15th century style kirtle, and yet another person has suggested that the chemise is actually the body layer and the kirtle would then go over it.  Given the limited source material I have on this style, I'm not sure.  Wearing a chemise with silver embroidery on it next to the skin seems a little strange to me, as you can't really wash the embroidery.  Plus the stove tile that is my only other reference at this point appears to show the chemise without anything over it.

Has anyone seen any other references to this gown that might solve the dating/underwear questions?  So far I have the following-

Original article on Cynthia Virtue's site, with the stove tile image
Image gallery on Flight of Fancy
Project Diary/notes from Flight of Fancy - she mentioned two books as additional sources which I do not have access to
Hungarian National Museum description
Frazzeld Frau write-up
Pintrest board by Marion McNealy - the portraits here suggest an earlier dating (1475-90).  Marion has also told me that the museum is now dating the fabric to 1475, which given the images we have so far makes more sense.


  1. I have nothing to add, but I have always found this a very interesting gown and I look forward to see what you come up with. 1475 sounds like a better date to me, though the period isn't my strong point. :)

  2. I don't have any other sources either, but I do enjoy a good session of speculation! If we are to believe that this gown was worn by Queen Mary, and was made for her, it could only be dated to the early 16th century, since she was born in 1505. I have always seen it as more of a dress done in a "historical" manner (like how the Victorians reimagined medieval dress because they didn't fully understand it). It is not a typical Burgundian-style V-neck. It's too open at the front, it's missing the front panel (placket or flat-front kirtle), it has no fur (a very essential element of high-class style), and it has the wrong type of sleeve style (a loose, long cuff like that is wrong for a late 15th century overgown). It smacks of someone playing at Burgundian from a later period. It is also possible that it was worn with a low-cut kirtle that is now missing, but the embroidered smocking on the chemise kind of indicates otherwise- it would be different if the neckline were higher. It looks similar to some of the late 15th century German styles (which makes sense for someone in Hungary), so I'd look to those for support ideas. Also, what were the early 16th century German women doing for shape and support? Were they wearing simple chemises under decorated/smocked/visible chemises to protect them?

  3. Greetings from the Midrealm!

    I just wanted to stop by and say how much I love your blog. I have been in an out of the SCA since 1998 and when I came back for good three years ago, I decided to try my hand at all things fiber. Reading your blog inspires me and I thought you should know that. Thank you so much!

    Lady Ása Farbjörnsdottir

  4. I'd be less inclined to believe it is a later re-imagining of an earlier style. I think a more likely explanation for it's oddness is that it is (presumably) Hungarian - so, it's not going to necessarily match one's pre-conceived ideas of dresses of that particular era if your ideas are predominantly based of Western European (English, French - even German) dresses. I'd be interested to see how it compares with, say, Polish, Czech or Byzantine dresses of a similar age.

    As for an alternative method of support, and of protecting the silver embroidered shift from the body - well, one could always guess breast binding.

    1. Very good point. (I admit that my research is primarily western!) Taking your suggestion, I did some looking and found the Babenberger Geneologie (sorry, can't paste the link, but a google image search will find it), which has several v-neck style gowns of a similar nature. From what I can tell, the Babenberg family ruled Austria before the Hapsburgs, of which Mary was a member. If the extant dress is a real example of the styles depicted, it would possibly date the dress to 1480's-90's, from the dating of the Geneologie.

    2. Oh, the Babenberger Geneologie images are quite interesting! Thank you. The Mary of Hungary dress looks quite a lot like the one worn by the woman in the centre of this image:

      I always think with images like those, it would be great to know who the women were meant to be - you could then attempt to figure out if dresses, details or accessories were different on different ages or backgrounds of women. With the image I linked there is that possibility if one could find a large enough copy (and read German)!

      I also agree with you that the dating is likely to be off. It almost always seems to be with garments that are attributed to specific individuals.