The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

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Dansknecht

The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by Dansknecht »

For many years, I've encountered the concept of men's doublets from all strata
of society almost always having detachable/interchangeable sleeves in
innumerable books and websites, Renaissance Faires, and even in living history
settings (I have seen many examples of removable sleeves in photos of Jamestown
and Kentwell, etc.)

Despite this, I have encountered very few examples of this feature in extant
garments, artwork, or written sources from the period. Those places where I have
encountered detachable sleeves in men's garments appear to purpose-made for very
specific contexts.

This has led me to believe that interchangeable sleeves in men's doublets are
for the most part a myth or "renfair/reenactorism." I am still looking for
sources, and am very happy to accept anything you've got to construct an
accurate picture of the historical reality.

Detachable sleeves seem to be quite common in women's clothing from the period,
and so will not be addressed here.


Those examples are as follows…

1.) Working/Utility Class Garments. The only place I have seen examples in artwork is in
a painting of a butcher by Joachim Beuckelaer from 1568.
http://tinyurl.com/yjrhqt3 The only written sources I have found are an entry
from an Essex yeoman farmer from 1571 for a pair of buff sleeves and one from
well from well after the period (1641), in the required equipment list for
gutting fish for fishermen. The line reads... "A paire of Tanned Leather sleeves
will cost 18 pence."

The use of removable and/or additional sleeves make perfect sense for working
class men. This feature would be very useful for preventing messes or protection
while using sharp tools. I am not convinced that the garment the butcher is
wearing is even a doublet, but is instead a petticoat or waistcoat. Other
waistcoats show up in the wills of working men like seamen, a husbandman, and a
yeoman farmer.

2.) Children's Garments. One of only two male garments with detachable sleeves
in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion is a child's doublet.

Once again, this makes a great deal of sense. Children play rough and are
constantly growing.

3. Martial Garments. The only other extant male garment with detachable sleeves
in Patterns of Fashion is a jerkin/doublet intended for fencing.

Garments meant for martial, but not necessarily military, use seem to exist in
their own realm. They often have a few nuances that are rather unique. Removable
sleeves for a sport-fencing garment make sense as comfort while practicing or
sparring might be desired. Another of those nuances is doublets/jerkins having a
"lace-up" front. Martial garments seem to be the only place where those occur,
but that's for another discussion. I'm very happy to talk about that as well
though.



These few examples appear to be exceptions to the rule even within their own
niches. Cross-referencing artwork, written sources (wills, inventories, song
lyrics, sonnets, etc.), and extant garments shows that even amongst men in messy
professions, children, and martial artists, detachable sleeves are very much in
the minority.

Further cross-referencing turns up nothing else to suggest that detachable
sleeves in doublets were even remotely common. With the exception of those
examples above, they simply might as well not exist. Even amongst detailed
household inventories listing garments down to the fabric, color, or quality,
they do not appear, and there is nothing to suggest points, eyelets, lacing, or
gaps under the arm at the shoulder in any sort of artwork.

I would further question why this would be a common feature of clothing if there
was almost nothing like it in the centuries that preceded or followed it in
neither fashionable nor utility garments, especially if there was a "mini Ice
Age" on.


I should add that in all those books and websites, the authors provided no
support or sources for their slant on sleeves. I can list those books and sites
I remember if desired.

So what do you think?

-Dan

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EnglishArcher
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by EnglishArcher »

Dan,

I think you're correct: the removable sleeve is a re-enactorism.

You could argue a number of reasons for why it has come about:

Many re-enactors wear poorly fitted doublets that restrict their movements. Having a pointed on sleeve gives them some extra movement. Rather than assuming Tudor garments were actually fitted properly, they assume that Tudor tailors were inept, and people MUST have pointed their sleeves on for extra movement. I can see this argument being particularly persuasive in the case of martial garments.

Most re-enactment is done in summer. Wearing an over-made, heavy wool doublet makes you very hot. It is nice, then, to be able to remove the sleeves to be a bit cooler. The assumption is that the Tudors only had access to coarse, thick wools and heavy linens. Extending this argument, you could apply 'negative superiority' - that is, the belief that the Tudors were far smarter than us when it came to understanding clothing and so they would have 'invented' removable sleeves to get two garments out of one (how clever!)

Without a critical eye doublets, petticoats and jerkins can all look very similar. Applying a 'law of minimalism' it could be argued that they are all the same garment, just some without their sleeves, some with their sleeves, etc.



Personally, I don't subscribe to any of these arguments.
English Warbow: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every muthaf**king Frenchman on the field. Accept no substitutes.

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zauberdachs
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by zauberdachs »

You might get more replies by asking for this to be moved to the costume section as more of the costume bods lurk there.
Do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory. For truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true - Nennius, 8th century

Jack the dodgy builder
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by Jack the dodgy builder »

Definatly not a re enactorism plenty of pictures from late 1400s, 1500 and early 1600 if you look hard enough (particularly on working men builders and the like). But not everybody all of the time .

Jack

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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by EnglishArcher »

Jack the dodgy builder wrote:Definatly not a re enactorism plenty of pictures from late 1400s, 1500 and early 1600 if you look hard enough. But not everybody all of the time .

Jack
Jack, do you have a 'for example' image?

I've seen 'no sleeves' and 'split under-arm sleeves' and 'full sleeves', but very few 'detachable sleeves'.
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Christabel
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by Christabel »

Thomas Lodge who wrote 'Wits Miserie' in 1596 described a countryman's 'holiday suit' consisting of a russet jacket, faced with red worsted, with a pair of blue camlet sleeves and a dozen pewter buttons, hose and stockings of grey kersey, large 'slop' breeches and a green bonnet.

Could the sleeves be detached ones, or ones pinned over the existing ones, or simply sewn in as a contrast?

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EnglishArcher
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by EnglishArcher »

Christabel wrote:Thomas Lodge who wrote 'Wits Miserie' in 1596 described a countryman's 'holiday suit' consisting of a russet jacket, faced with red worsted, with a pair of blue camlet sleeves and a dozen pewter buttons, hose and stockings of grey kersey, large 'slop' breeches and a green bonnet.

Could the sleeves be detached ones, or ones pinned over the existing ones, or simply sewn in as a contrast?
You can't tell from that description; and all are possible. I suspect the sleeves were a permanent attachment to the jacket.

We know sleeves were a bequeathed item in wills since the medieval period. This has led many people to argue they were detachable and merely pinned/pointed in place. However, using a medieval/Tudor construction technique it is perfectly possible to detach a permanently-fixed sleeve by unpicking the sleeve head stitching.

Once again, our 21st Century mentality seems to preclude garments as things that can be dismantled and re-constructed as needed; something that appeared common in period.
English Warbow: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every muthaf**king Frenchman on the field. Accept no substitutes.

Dansknecht

Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by Dansknecht »

It's been quite some time since I've checked this, and I'm afraid I don't have much time to write right now, but is there any more information out there on that Medieval/Tudor construction technique? I have heard several people mention it, but have found little about it.

Thanks!

-Dan

Jack the dodgy builder
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by Jack the dodgy builder »

Hello ,

I have found a few images but I have no idea how to get them onto here it doesnt seem to be quick or simple ?

So I'll take slight issue with your childrens clothes thought is it not the general view that childrens clothes and inparticular posh one where a copy of adults? So laced in sleeves in a childs garment would be a copy of whats going on in adults garments?

Cheers

Jack

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EnglishArcher
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Re: The Myth(?) of Detachable Sleeves in Elizabethan Doublets.

Post by EnglishArcher »

Jack the dodgy builder wrote:Hello ,

I have found a few images but I have no idea how to get them onto here it doesnt seem to be quick or simple ?

I agree - it's a painful process to get images onto any forum.

I use Photobucket (www.photobucket.com). It's free and it allows you to upload multiple images in one go. Unfortunately, you then have to cut an paste HTML from their website into your forum post, which is both time-consuming and error-prone.

Still, I suppose that's the price we all pay for all this 'free' stuff on the web.
English Warbow: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every muthaf**king Frenchman on the field. Accept no substitutes.

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