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Joana de Bairros

From: Southron Gaard, Lochac

Category/Level: Historically Focused/Advanced

Project Update Blog: Joana de Bairros blog

About Joana: I have been involved in the SCA for 19 years in the Barony of Southron Gaard which was originally in the Kingdom of Caid and is now in the Kingdom of Lochac. I have sewed for most of that time. Until recently I did mostly Italian dresses which can be seen here – More recently however I have wanted to explore my Portuguese heritage through the SCA and have therefore spent much of this year researching and reading about everything related to 16th century Portugal to help develop my Portuguese persona of Joana. I also love cooking and have cooked several feasts for my group, the biggest was for Midwinter Coronation last year.

Her Blog: Joana de Bairros

Her Project: I am making an outfit suitable for an upper class lady from around 1510-1530 in Portugal. This is to fit in with my persona of Joana. My inspiration is primarily the St Auta altarpiece which was painted between 1522-5 but I will also be using Garcia Fernandes painting of the Martyrs of Lisbon as inspiration for my outer layer. My pinterest board on Portuguese fashion is a good place to view these and other images I have been developing my knowledge of this period of Portugese dress recently and have made a couple of outfits already in this style. I have some particularly lovely brocade in my heraldic colours of green and gold I want to use for this project. The outer layer I have wanted to make for ages as it looks pretty and practical. I would like to cook a Portuguese style dinner as my other item using the Portuguese cookbook “Um tradado da cozinha portuguesa do século XV” which was written just before the period of my dress.

Final Photos

Her final thoughts on her C3 experience:

I feel very happy that I have made an outfit and cooked a meal that would be familiar to my persona, Joana de Bairros, a Portuguese lady of the 1520s. I was able to wear my dress to the ball at our camping event last week and received many compliments on it.

I have really enjoyed this challenge! It has been a great chance to make an outfit and I like the fact that there was the catergory to do something a bit different. Thank you for all your hard work in running it!

I don’t have photos of me in my dress eating my dinner. I did not think that the dress would go well with cooking and preparing a meal so decided to do the meal out of dress. I am very confident it would be exactly the sort of food my Portuguese persona would have eaten however.

Layer 1

This is the underwear layer of my 16th century upper class Portuguese outfit for a woman. It consists of a chemise and petticoat. The chemise is based on one worn in a portrait of Queen Catherine of Austria who was Queen of Portugal and the petticoat is made using the Alcega pattern of a ‘skirt for a fat woman’. Both items are fully hand sewn using mostly whip stitch! The chemise is made from cotton/linen and has gold trim around the neckline. The petticoat is made from an embroidered polyester taffeta.

I had to put an extra gusset in the side of the chemise as the arm was too narrow which has resulted in the sleeve sitting a bit short under the arm. You can’t really tell unless you are staring at my armpit however. I did not off set the corner of the sleeve and the body of the chemise enough so will do that differently next time.

The petticoat went very well and I also put a wool layer in the hem to add extra padding. I would have put a bit more fabric in the back and made the ties shorter but overall I am very happy with it!

Layer 2

A dress in the style of 1520s Portugal made from green silk and gold brocade. The bodice is interlined with two layers of a linen/cotton canvas that are padstitched together to make it firmer and lined with a ecru coloured linen. The dress is trimmed with a green velvet ribbon that has a very narrow gold bobbin lace style trim on both edges. The sleeves are lined with pink silk and the bottom of the sleeve folds over to show the lining at the cuff and this is trimmed with gold lace and pink pearls. The seams are machine sewn and all fabric pieces were overlocked with a machine zig-zag seam. The rest is sewn by hand, mostly using whip stitch!

Layer 3

For this layer I made a hood/bonnet. I used the headdress on the Lopes picture of Maria Madalena as my inspiration. I loved the shape of this especially the heart shaped front. I decided to make it out of black velveteen as that is what the original looked to be made of. This is also consistent with many of the hoods seen in English and Spanish portraits of this period. I lined the hood in the pink silk I used to line my dress sleeves as I wanted to link it to the dress. I bought the trim around the edge of etsy. It is gold work embroidered on to a tan velvet ribbon which gave it a similar look to the portrait. I had wanted to embroider it myself but time was short. I also made a pearl tassel for the corners of the hood out of a plastic drop pearl, a garnet bead and a earring wire.

To make the hood I used the pattern on page 51 of the Queen’s Servants as a guide. The shaped rounded back of this gave me a look which I felt fitted with the image. I edged all pieces on the machine and machined middle seam on the velvet and the silk. I machined one edge of the velvet and silk together and hand sewed the rest closed with a whip stitch. The trim was sewed on by hand.

To create the shaped back I hand gathered the centre back as indicated on the pattern. I pulled the gathering stitch which gave me a tight frill which I hand sewed together on both the velvet and silk. On top of the velvet side of the gather I sewed a ouch I bought from Steve Millingham pewter replicas.

To make the shape around the face I sewed some millinery wire inside the front seam between the silk and velvet. I then bent the wire to give the shaped front. Wire was used in early 16th century English headresses and I have seen several examples of these frames at the Museum of London.

The jewel at the front was bought from Armour and Casting. I sewed it on to a strip of black velvet and then sewed that to the front of the hood at the centre front. I have done something similar with hennins in the past and found it gives a good anchor point for the hood.

When I make Mark 2 of this I will make the hood much bigger, especially between the top of my head and ear as it doesn’t cover my head as much as I would prefer. I found getting the correct shape for the wire difficult and while it is ok it requires frequent rebending.

Layer 4

Dinner!  I invited a Spanish friend of mine over for dinner as the final element to compliment my dress.  There is only one surviving Portuguese cookbook from my period in time which dates from the late 15th and early 16th century so would have been used around the time of Joana.  It is called Um tradado da cozinha portuguesa do século XV or O Livro de Cozinha da Infanta D. Maria de Portugal.  Both are modern titles attached to a book of recipes that was written around the turn of the 16th century and then taken by Maria, the niece of the Portuguese King João to Naples when she married Alexander Farnese.  

From this book I cooked:

Galinha mourisca (Moorish Chicken)

Pastéis de leite (Milk pastries – really a Portuguese custard tart)

Unfortunately it is a fairly limited range of recipes with a focus on meat dishes and sweets so vegetable options were limited.  I therefore decided to use the 1520 Libre del Coch by Robert da Nola.  This is a Spanish book rather than Portuguese but allowed me to keep an Iberian flavour to my dinner.  The date of 1520 is contemporaneous with Joana too.  My guest for the evening has a Spanish persona so this was a nice way to acknowledge her too.  

From this book I cooked:

POTAJE DE CEBOLLAS QUE DICEN CEBOLLADA (A Pottage of Onions called Cebollada)


Both the Portugese and Spanish recipes can be accessed via the Medieval Cookery website –

Final comments:

The food was all delicious and was very pleased with how it turned out.  The eggplant was my favourite, the onion my husband’s and my guest liked the sauce from the chicken on the bread.  The custard tarts were everyone’s favourite!

(A PDF containing further commentary about this layer is available at the bottom of the page)

Layer 4+

Additional Layer One: I decided once I put on the dress that I really, really, really did not like the first chemise I made. It didn’t sit right and it itched! I decided therefore to make a new chemise using a much lighter-weight cotton. I constructed it exactly the same as the first one in that it is all handsewn. The trim is in the same place but a different trim. It keeps to the source image though of alternating wavy and straight trim. I made the ruffle around the neck much narrower than in the first version to be more in keeping with the Catherine of Austria painting. The other main change I made was off setting the sleeve and the body of the chemise much more to provide more room under the arm of the chemise. This was an area I particularly disliked in the first one and I find the sits so much better.

Portguese coat: This is based on the overlayer worn by the lady in the green dress in Garcia Fernandes’s painting of The Martyrs of Lisbon. Happily she wears it in two panels so we have fairly good view of it. I made mine out of the same black velveteen as the hood and lined it in the same silk. For the trim I used a gold/silver woven braid. The fur collar I bought from an antique shop. It had a rip in it so I glued it on to some suede I had and then lined it in more pink silk. I have issues with using real fur but I feel that repurposing a vintage piece is respecting the animal by allowing its fur to be used for a bit longer.

I was going to close the sides with ties but it didn’t sit well so I sewed it together at the sides and sewed fake ribbon ties which I finished the bead and garnet aglets I used on the sleeves.

To pattern it I cut out a tabard shape from some scrap fabric and added more to the sides when it was obvious that this was necessary. I tried to preserve the lovely curved front and back of the garment although this was difficult with the velvet being quiet bulky.

I am moderately happy with this garment. The front doesn’t sit as I had hoped. In a future version I might try an interlining to give it more shape and then sew the velvet around this. I love the fur collar though! It is very lush and snuggly

Sash: I made a sash out of the pink lining silk. It is a strip of fabric machined together and then hand sewn at the ends. I sewed a small amount of the gold lace trim I used around the cuff.

Necklace: I had a cross I bought from Raymond’s Quiet Press many years ago. It had the perfect green enamel but the pearls had fallen off. I glued some of the pink pearls I used on the necklace back in to hollows. I made a necklace out of alternating pink glass pearls and green coloured freshwater pearls on some jewelery wire. This isn’t based on any portrait in particular but I wanted the colours to reflect the colour of the dress and I am very pleased with the match I managed here!

Bonus Points

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