1550s Bess of Hardwick by anonymous follower of Hans Eworth (Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire UK)

Bess married four times. She was married to Sir William Cavendish between 1547 and 1557. Her Wikipedia article is here.

Bess of Hardwick shows off beautiful blackwork - in red - on the sleeves of her dress as well as on her triangularized French hood.

She wears a wonderfully decorated garment with mildly puffed sleeves crimped just behind the cuffs beneath a fur-lined gown. Her French hood is squared off like those of Queen Mary. Ashelford in The Art of Dress, p. 27 (1996) comments, "Her loose gown is lined with soft white fur and fastened down the front with aglets. The fur is also revealed through aglet-decorated slits on the short upper sleeves and sides of the gown, and it forms a neat collar. The bodice sleeves are embroidered in a geometric pattern of interlaced circles, and the design too is visible on the standing collar of what is either her smock or partlet. The ruff is still in its earliest state, merely an embroidered frill attached to the collar. Her French hood has a nether billiment of pearls, set on a border of crimped cypress, wired so that it curves onto the sides of the face, whereas the curve of the top edge of the hood is defined by a billiment of engraved gold set with gems.

Bess always wore a rope of pearls in her portraits; in this one they are twisted around her neck, as dictated by the fashion of the time. Two interesting accessories are the enamelled link bracelets worn around the wrist."

Elizabethancostume.net describes the origins of the ruff, "The Elizabethan ruff began modestly enough. During the time of Henry VIII, Men's shirts and some women's smocks had a simple band around the neck, which was decorated with cutwork, blackwork, embroidery, pulled-thread work, and a variety of other treatments. Beginning in the 1550s, neckbands begin to show up in portraits sporting a small ruffle of gathered fabric, 1/4 an inch to 1/2 an inch wide in most pictures, around the top. During the same decade, women's partlets and fall-back collars also acquired a ruffle at the top; Katherine Parr's portrait shows one example of this. This ruffle, gathered or pleated, stayed relatively small during the 1550s.

It was during the 1560s that the 'Elizabethan ruff' as we know it truly began to emerge. It was at first quite small in size, no more than an inch tall and an inch deep, and hugged the neck closely. At this point the ruff was still part of a smock, shirt, or partlet, and was pleated or gathered closely into the top edge of the neckband. In some cases the ruff formed even figure-eights; in others, the ruff curls were irregular in shape. Starch was unneccessary to create these ruffs, and they were for the most part of fine linen, undecorated save for a buttonhole-stitch edging in black or colored thread. Some portraits show two pleated ruffs on top of eachother to provide greater height and full.

By 1568, there are many portraits which show the ruff as a definite costume accessory in its own right; still relatively small, but in more fashionable circles it began to increase in height, breadth and depth, not to mention in decoration. A thin edging of lace was sometimes added to a ruff, as was cording, braid or piping of silk or metallic colors."

Keywords:  Bess of Hardwick, Hardwick family, Cavendish family, English, straight coiffure, high enclosing neckline, jeweled headdress, neck ruff, necklace, aglets, fur, long puffed sleeves, black work, high puffed over-sleeves, rings, gloves

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