|1630 suit in the V&A Museum|
On 26 August 1630 Alice’s son, Nicholas Le Strange (1604-51) was married in Norwich to Anne Lewkenor of Denham, Suffolk. The previous year his father, Sir Harmon Le Strange, had purchased one of the new baronetcies for him at a total cost of £400. (Kyle, 2004) In preparation for his wedding Nicholas was bought a range of clothes and accessories spending an astonishing total of £161 12s 1d, which includes £16 12s 6d for a diamond ring and earring. The annual expenditure of the Le Strange family in the 1620s was around £2,000 a year, and after his marriage Nicholas received from his father an annual allowance of £200 a year. To place this in context the average day wage for a farm worker in the 1630s was just over 8 and a half pence.(Clark 2007). This figure is reflected in payments made by the Le Stranges to their day labourers. Those who worked for them frequently could gain an annual income of between £6 and £10 a year. So these clothes are definitely the haut couture of the seventeenth century.
The suits and coat
The three suits were made by a tailor who charged, “for making the pearl coloured suit, the scarlet suit, the cloth suit and the camlet coat - £18 16s -0d.” The three suits were:-
A pearl coloured suit of satin, lined with carnation satin, and with a cloak lined with carnation plush. The suit was trimmed with silver bobbin lace edging and chain plate lace, the weight of the lace is given as 21 ounces. A white satin doublet and breeches of a similar date survives in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The fabric, lining fabric and lace for the suit cost a total of £36 17s 2d. This would put the cost of the suit at nearly the same level as some of those made for the King, as is shown in an analysis of the King’s wardrobe accounts for the period 1633-35 (Strong, 1980), where “everyday” suits cost between £45 and £60, while expensive suits cost upward of £200. A suit of c.1630 comprising doublet, breeches and cloak, which is in the Victoria and Albert collection is shown above right.
The scarlet suit may well be red as it is edged and lined with crimson satin, but this is not necessarily the case. The term scarlet was used in the medieval period to indicate a cloth dyed with expensive kermes, the term then became used for any expensive cloth, so that by the sixteenth century you have references to black scarlets. (Munro, 1983) The cloak for the suit is lined with pearl coloured plush.
The cloth suit is made from “fine Spanish cloth for doublet and hose”. The colour isn’t given but the doublet is lined with crimson satin. The 35 ozs of gold and silver lace is spilt across the suit and coat, so we don’t know how much was used on each.
The coat was made from Turkish camlet. What camlet was is a little difficult to pin down. As Beck said of it in his 1900 Draper’s Dictionary, “‘In production the changes have been rung with all materials in nearly every possible combination; sometimes of wool, sometimes of silk, sometimes of hair, sometimes of hair with wool or silk, at others of silk and wool warp and hair woof..” The cloth was 5s 8d a yard so nowhere near as expensive as the other cloths.
As well as the suits themselves all the accessories necessary to complete the outfits were purchased.
Points: There were three sets of points each containing 20 points, for attaching the breeches to the doublet. The sets came in gold and silver, crimson and silver, and scarlet and silver. The total cost for the points was £4 1s 8d.
|Lace collar c.1635, Bowes Museum|
Waistcoat: Nicholas also paid £5 13s for a silver and gold waistcoat. This is very expensive and it is speculative to say that it might be a knit waistcoat, of which several survive including one purportedly worn by King Charles and now in the Museum of London
Neckwear consisted of 3 falling bands, 2 cloth work laced bands and a ruff, there is listed separately 6 pair of Flanders strings, presumably to go with these 6 items. In addition a falling band is listed with band strings. The 2 cloth work laced bands mentioned are far more expensive, £5 17s 6d, than the others because of the lace, and also because the cost of starching them is included. A superb example of this type of lace collar, dating from c.1635 is in the Bowes Museum. The ruff came with a pair of cuffs.
Stockings and boot hose, etc: The 2 pair of boot hose Nicholas purchased were listed with the falling bands, but apart from these only one pair of silk stockings were bought, at a cost of £1 12s. There was a great increase in the availability of knitted silk stockings in the seventeenth century as has been described by Thirsk (1973), though as early as 1585 Stubbes was complaining about the cost of them, saying that, “The time hath beene when one might have clothed all his body well for less than a pair of these.” The price is not unreasonable as Lord William Howard paid £2 for pair (Cunnington & Cunnington, 1972). In fact Nicholas purchased 2 pair of boots, 1 pair of pumps and 1 pair of white shoes, for less than the cost of the stockings. To keep the stockings up a pair of garters were purchased for £4.
Boots and Shoes: The 2 pair of boots cost Nicholas £1 3s 6d, and a pair of spurs to go with them a further 2s 6d. The pumps and shoes together were 5s 6d. A pair of white shoes from the early 17th century survives and is in the Ashmolean Museum. Although they have been described as women’s shoes there are portraits of men wearing similar heels, such as Richard Sackville. A pair of roses were purchased to go with the shoes, and although at £1 2s these cost more than the shoes, they might be considered cheap as Peacham (1618) spoke of, “shoo-tyes that goe under the name of Roses, from thirty shillings, to three, foure and five pounds the pair.” Pumps are described by Holme (1688) as “shooes with single soles and no heels” and are often associated with dancing.
Hats: Nicholas purchased two hats both of beaver. Beaver felt made the best quality and most expensive hats. The felt was originally supplied mainly by the Russians using European beavers, however by the mid seventeenth century North American beaver wool had taken over, and the process of making the beaver wool felt is described by Carlos and Lewis. (2010) One beaver hat came with a band for £3 14s, the other was described as black and dressed and lined for £2 18s, for this there was a silver hat band for 7s 6d. A beaver of c.1650 is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Gloves: Eight pairs of gloves were purchased: 3 white, 3 cordovan, and 2 unspecified, the total bill was 15s 6d. Gloves were incredibly popular at this time, the Marquis of Hertford’s accounts shows that family purchasing at least 150 pairs in the course of one year (Morgan, 1945). There are many survivals of the gloves of the rich from this period in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers. Cordovan leather is a Spanish leather as first appears as a description in English in the last decade of the sixteenth century (Minsheu, 1599).
Girdles: Two girdles were purchased, one silver and one gold and silver for a total £2 4s. In this sense they are belts to go around the waist.
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