Knowing that Shakespeare’s father came from Snitterfield, it seemed appropriate that the ladies of the WI should be listening to a talk by historian Nic Fulcher, on the subject of Elizabethan dress.

Using illustrations of portraits and modern recreations of costumes he took us on a journey, piece by piece, through a rich woman’s wardrobe. It was no wonder that ladies’ maids were employed for the good two hours needed to complete the toilette. Dressing oneself was out of the question. The separate pieces were tied or pinned to each other. In 1559, 24,000 pins were supplied each six months to Queen Elizabeth – the cost being pin money.

Since moisture would spoil most materials, a washable linen chemise was worn against the skin, its sleeves and neckline embroidered to show beneath the partlet. This was an embroidered collar and front, worn beneath the corset. Whalebone, reeds or wood stiffened this, made in two halves and laced together front and back. A carved wooden or metal busk was added to the front.

Linen stockings were replaced when the Queen received some pairs in knitted black silk, leading, in 1589, to the invention of a knitting machine. Another invention of 1595 introduced high-heeled shoes for indoor wear.

Several types of farthingale (support for skirts) used vast amounts of material, folded, pleated and pinned, some draped over a bum-roll, many embroidered and decorated with jewels. Separate over-sleeves, pinned at the shoulder, could be slashed for chemise sleeves to be pulled through and puffed. Others were stuffed with cotton, ‘called bombast’. Topping all was a full sleeveless gown, revealing the front of a decorated skirt.

Perhaps the most unusual piece was the ruff: starched and intricately folded and worn round the neck by women and men. In later years it was supported on a metal structure that framed the face like wings.

Earlier in the meeting, Angela, our President, presented the new noticeboard and reminded us of the Remembrance coffee morning on November 12, for which donations of cakes would be needed. She also asked for nominations for two local charities, to be supported during next year.

On November 2, Norton Lindsay will be holding their annual Christmas Sale of cards and gifts. Carole, our Secretary, announced visits and activities in early January. On October 11th our speaker will be Pauline Brace, telling us about the role of our local women in wartime.