Tulip Fever – Hello, Early 17th Century

Holliday Granger as Marie in “Tulip Fever.”

Lauren here –

This past weekend, we went to see “Tulip Fever,” a film set in 1630s Amsterdam. Though the movie suffers from mixed reviews, for historical costumers it’s a feast for the eyes. Beautiful, very accurately made and worn garments, beautiful sets and lighting, excellent acting…it’s one to add to your list of good-to-sew-by costume flicks.

While I too felt mixed about the plot (being business-minded I did wish there was more focus on the wacky tulip trade and not so much on the wacky love triangles), I couldn’t help but be seduced by the clothing. Costume designer Michael O’Connor is famed for such fabled films as “The Duchess” and “Jane Eyre,” and has produced in “Tulip Fever” another insanely rich and detailed depiction of early 17th century Dutch clothing.

A very 1630s gown with the “new” broad, soft silhouette, appropriate for the scene – a portrait being painted, so the height of fashion.

So of course now I want to make my own. Although I’ve always been drawn to the very late 16th century and early 17th century, I have made very little from that span and nothing at all from the 1620s or 1630s. “Tulip Fever” takes place in the mid 1630s and the styles of garments vary just as they did then. The 1630s seems to be a very transitional period with all sorts of change in silhouette, rigidity vs. softness, volume, etc. The film depicts this very well.

Anonymous – Portrait of Mertijntje van Ceters, 1623
Portrait of Catharina van Voorst Paulus Moreelse – 1628
Elisabeth (or Cornelia) Vekemans As A Young Girl – this date I believe is a little earlier
Cornelis de Vos Elisabeth (or Cornelia) Vekemans as a Young Girl, c. 1625

This specific period of dress holds a lot of mystery. It’s not particularly well-studied and hardly represented at all in the historical costuming hobby. Angela Mombers does it wonderfully and her recently completed 1620 outfit is so inspiring that I’m feeling a neeeeeeeed to explore this period at last.

Angela from Walking Through History with Jasper and Angela 

So off I go. I have a couple books with scant resources. The two most fantastic in my library are Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book 1 and Book 2, and I also have a little help from The Cut of Women’s Clothes. The late 1620s, early 1630s are somewhat skipped by my other references. If anyone has book recommendations for me, please comment!

It feels good to be stepping into a new period of dress history. I’ve been laser-focused on the 18th century for years now, and I do love love love it beyond everything, but it’s good to step out of one’s comfort zone at time too. I’m nervous….I don’t automatically know all the stitches or what order to do things in or the proper this-and-that, but that’s all part of the fun, right? Wish me luck. <3


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