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Garments of Ladies of Lesser Degree during the reign of Henry VII

I was able to find some references to garments worn by ladies of lesser degree during the reign of Henry VII in Wills and Inventories from the Registers of the Commissary of Bury St. Edmund’s and the Archdeacon of Sudbury, edited by Samuel Tymms, Treasurer and Secretary of the Bury and West Suffolk Archaeological Institute, Printed for the Camden Society M.DCCC.L in London, J.B. Nichols and Son, Printers.


No fabrics are specifically mentioned for these gowns. The colors mentioned are russet and sanguine, both varieties of red. All three gowns are furred - one is specifically mentioned as being furred with beaver. One gown is described as a “standing gown”.

Will of Margaret Odeham, of Bury. - 1492 (pp 74-75) 

  • “I bequethe to my systyr Isabell my best stondyng gowne furred wt bever” 

Will of Anne Barett, of Bury. - 1504 (p 98) 

  • “I bequeth to Kateryn my russet gown furryd” 
  • “I bequeth to Kateryn Cook my sangweyn gown furryd”


Only one kirtle is mentioned, but no details are given about it.

Will of Margaret Odeham, of Bury. - 1492 (pp 74-75)

  •  “I bequethe to my systyr Isabell…my best kertyll”


The ladies of Bury are far more specific about their girdles than Elysabeth of York. One girdle is velvet on satin, one is velvet, and for the rest the material is not mentioned. One girdle is harnessed with silver, two are harnessed with silver and gilt. I still don’t know what harnessing is. I conjecture that harnessing may refer to the buckles or fastenings of the girdles, but elsewhere in Elysabeth of York’s Privy Purse Expenses buckles are referred to as buckles. Colors of girdles are red, green and red, purple, blue, and black. One girdle is gilt, and one girdle is gilt and enamelled. Girdles were also bequeathed to men in these and other wills.

The girdles are described as narrow, little, “corse”, and broad and “corse”. I don’t really know what “corse” refers to. It could mean “coarse”, as in “made with coarse cloth”, or some other such. “Corse” is also a word that refers to a person’s body or torso, so that in this case a corse girdle could be something resembling a corset, except that the descriptions of the corse girdles all sound like they are meant to be seen, and in all of the pictorial sources I’ve looked at there isn’t anything even remotely resembling a corset-like garment worn on the outside during this period. Conclusion: corse must refer either to the type of fabric or weave of the girdle, or to something else I haven’t even thought of yet.

Will of Margaret Odeham, of Bury. - 1492 (pp 74-75)

  • “I bequethe to my Lady Hogard my narowe gilte gerdyll and innamyld”
  •  “my gerdyll that ys velvet vppon saten”
  •  “my lytell gylte gyrdell” 

Will of Anne Barett, of Bury. - 1504 (p 98) 

  • “I bequeth to Kateryn…my rede corse gyrdyll harneysyd wt sylu’ “ 
  • “I bequeth to Kateryn Cook…my corse gyrdyll grene and red” 
  • “a brode corse gyrdyll of purpyll color harneysyd wt syluyr and gylt”
  •  “a brode corse gyrdyll of blewe harnesd wt syluyr and gylt” 
  • “my gyrdyll of blak veluett”


Anne Barett bequeathed strings of coral beads to three different people and a string of white amber beads to her church. I think “beads” in this situation probably means rosaries.

Will of Anne Barett, of Bury. - 1504 (p 98) 

  • “I bequeth to Kateryn Cook…my corall bedys, the biggest”
  •  “a payr bedys of corall of thryse sexty”
  •  “my corall bedys of thrys fifty” 
  • “my grete bedys of whyght ambyr”
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