1660s Dutch Ensemble
I spent quite a while waffling over this piece. I needed winter outerwear, but in preliminary research was surprised to note that women do not appear to have commonly used hooded cloaks until the 18th century. Clearly, I was going to have to find what outerwear the Dutch did use. I looked over genre paintings of ice skating and market scenes, and determined that the huik was the garment of choice for when women did wear an additional layer.
I relied on Wenceslaus Hollar’s engravings quite a bit here, but with the knowledge that they were not necessarily current to the 1640s, and again, I was doing a later decade. He depicts women of a few different regions with a variety of outer coverings – huiks, fichu-shaped capes, actual capes, fur wraps, etc. I had excuses to make a real cloak if I wanted one that badly. But given that this whole project is already quite tenuously dated, I didn’t want to skew my already ~ish~ accuracy by throwing in garments from hundreds of miles away. So, a Dutch huik it was!
These three articles/posts were very helpful to me: Wasted Weeds, The Huik, & “In Search of the Origins of the huik: Did the Spanish Play a Part in Its Introduction?”.
All of the B&W illustrations in this post are by Wenceslaus Hollar and were done around 1643. I don’t know their precise history, and suspect that some were copied from earlier prints.
Something that concerned me was the ~interesting~ huiks were most commonly seen in the 16th century, not the 17th. Besides Hollar, I was finding portraits in the 1630s that had the pom-pom style of huik, but nothing beyond that. I don’t mind using older styles of clothing, but 20 years out of date for a young woman is a little too much when there are other options. Wasted Weeds describes a chronology for huiks on her page that made sense to me, and if I continue it – it appears that the huik transformed from ‘a drape secured with a structure at the top (a brim or base)’ to a simpler draped piece of cloth, possibly by the 1640s. A 1670s painting by Jan Steen shows two women with a shorter draped style, which makes sense to me as a transition from the Hollar image. However, this could also be a separate hood, worn untied – it’s hard to say.
After a lot of thought and some polling, I decided to go with what Wasted Weeds calls the “cat toy” version. It seems to be the latest of the identifiable huiks, and I know there has to be something between the 1630s and 70s but at the moment I am at a loss for it. So cat toy it is.
There appear to be two different versions of The Cat Toy; a larger style that sits on top of the head with a full, almost floor-length veil, and a smaller one that sits on the forehead and has a very skinny veil at back. Overall, the cap size seems to vary quite a bit. Several sources call this item a “houpette.” Given that the later versions all seem to be quite small, it seems that the houpette was quite large in the 1630s and shrank over time; a 1654 watercolor by Gesina ter Borch further down the page supports this.
I decided to take the initial Hollar image as my guide and go from there. I patterned out two circles in light cardstock (from TV dinner containers – recycling!) and made a single cut to the center in each. I then overlapped the edges just enough to get a slight cone shape going. Most of the plates look fairly flat, but the Rubens chalk portrait has a dome shape. My blocking skills are nonexistent and I’m so shaky on the historicity/dating of this thing that I decided a cardstock cone would be a good enough base for what I needed.
I stitched it closed and cut two circles out of green satin (left over from my 18thc petticoat and also from the sleeves of my bodice, haha, cabbage alert) and secured them to the cardstock. I selected the satin specifically so that the inside of the plate would not pull against the coif I will have underneath it – I’m still working on making my coifs more secure.
Once the satin layers were properly sandwiching the base, I cut another circle out – this time in my final black wool. I wrapped it over the top and stitched it in pleats to the inner brim.
Next up was the ‘veil’ portion. It was hard to tell what this should be, and even after completing it I’m still unsure. Some images seem to show a smooth attachment, while others indicate that there are pleats. Given that so many other huiks seem to be rectangles of fabric pleated to the hat portion (and that I wanted a massive amount of fabric to wrap myself in if it got cold) I decided to pleat it to the cap edge.
The last question was “cartridge or knife”? I went with 1/4″ cartridge pleats due to the sheer amount of fabric (57″ pleated down to 11.5″).
The first try-on was interesting. I could tell immediately why lighter fabric was used in period; the sheer amount of cloth makes it quite heavy. My wool is somewhere between ‘suiting’ and ‘coating’ weight, and drapes well. I wouldn’t want anything heavier; I pinned it to my head through my braids on the sides, and it still didn’t feel very secure! I don’t yet have an oorijzer to pin my coif to, which might help, but in looking through all of the houpette images from Hollar, I’m not seeing that kind of support, which surprises me. How on earth did they keep them on?!
I left the cat toy part (the houpette) until the end because I genuinely did not know how I was going to accomplish it. The lovely Myrthe of Atelier Nostalgia very kindly went down the rabbit hole of Dutch sources at this point to see if she could find anything to help (either recreations or primary sources) and determined that very little research has been done. She did find that ‘quispelken’ appears to be the old Flemish word for ‘houpette’, and that it translates approximately to ‘brush’ or ‘plume’, so it’s literal. From what we’ve both come up with, it looks like the larger version faded out in the 1630s, but the smaller one persisted in the 1650s with a smaller, lighter, ‘veil’ style of huik possibly called a ‘sluierhuik’. All in all, my version will not be precisely accurate to the 1650s-60s (if it’s even accurate at all!), but a slightly outdated style. (Myrthe also found the lovely watercolor below, which is the latest art I’ve seen with a houpette so far.)***
I had initially hoped that I could just roll up some wool, make a rosette, and sew the whole thing on, but upon trying on the huik I realized that perhaps the cat toy functioned as a weight in order to counterbalance the veil. Experimental archaeology, my friends! This theory makes sense to me because as the hat portion shrank, it also migrated towards the forehead, and something had to hold it down.
After much discussion with friends and followers, the popular consensus is that the cat toy appears to be a carved wooden stalk or dowel with a raw wool pom-pom on top. However, I was wary of carving a large hole in my cap, and was hoping for a less invasive attachment at this late stage, so I ended up with a rather different setup.
I rummaged through my drawers and found some armature wire – light, thick, and easy to bend. I gave the bottom a little spiral to sit around the tip of the cone, and the top a little pinchy bit for the eventual pom-pom. I guesstimated the length; images showed a variety.
I found a wool scrap and cut it into a rectangle, and from there into thin strips. Keep in mind that I’ve never actually made tassels or pom-poms before – this was a rough process. I bound the whole hunk of them at the middle and folded them up, securing with a (here invisible) thread. There we go – fast and dirty pom-pom.
I then placed the contraption atop my little hat and went to work securing them together with stitches around the bottom of the wire. Most of them only go through the top layer of wool, but I was sure to put a few anchoring stitches all the way through the cardstock. To cover up the metal spiral, I cut a small circle of wool and then slit it to the middle, allowing the stem through. That was then whipstitched down. (I’d like to say I used brown thread so that you all could see the process better, but I took this project on a trip and forgot to bring black thread…..)
Then I made a skinny rectangle the height of the stalk to cover it. I basted one side down to facilitate the wrapping process, and then whipped it to itself around the stalk.
Once that was complete, I realized that too much of the metal showed for my liking, and made another little circle as a sort of vase bit for my pom-pom. I stitched it on in the same way, and voila! A sturdy young stalk for my houpette!
It’s definitely not perfect. I think a carved stalk makes more sense, as well as a real pom-pom of wool roving or something similar. But I was at the point with this project where if I worried about impossible accuracy any more, I wasn’t going to finish it – clearly, time to buckle down and lean in to the weirdness. So, without further ado: my huik!
And a slightly more distant view – it’s floor length; I was on my tip-toes in this last picture.
Overall, this took only eight hours of work. It’s definitely not method accurate, but given that I can’t find any other attempts to make this style of huik, I’d say it’s a good first step. Please do let me know if you use any of my research or silly mistakes to make your own and improve – I’d love to see!
I gathered all of the depictions that I was able to find of this garment in/from the 17th century on a Pinterest board here.
***Extra extra side note: Floor-length huiks were mourning garments by (at latest) the 1730s. The fact that a lot of the 17th century art with them features women in black, especially when the people around them are in color, makes me wonder if the connotations of mourning – or perhaps piety, as Hollar notes that one of his 1640s behuiked women is very religious – had begun by the late 1630s. (This article agrees.) It’s so, so possible that this was a very specific garment that sent a message to passersby, but I don’t have enough information to know yet. Just covering my butt here in case I learn later! The point of this blog post is “I needed an overcoat/cloak/garment and this one looked interesting and not terribly out of date”.