These are some of my girdles.  Since these photos were taken I have made more for my collection.  Each of these are in a single length with an ornament like a tassel of pomander at one end and a small hook at the other end.  Wearing them is simple, you just wrap it around your waist and hook it back onto itself at the point it sits best for your outfit.  Historically gems, lengths of chain, glass and metal beads would have been used.  For reasons of practicality I have used a combination of materials.  Chains, gems and metal and glass beads, and plastic beads.  The plastic beads make the girdles lighter and more affordable.  

Historically these style of girdles can be seen in many portraits of the 16th century.  Tassels, ornaments and pomanders can be seen adorning the ends of these lovely dress accessories.  While they are a lovely addition to a dress they are not always necessary, occasionally a cord or tie can be seen at the waist.  Some times the waist is left completely unadorned.

To make a girdle I either look to the dress I want to compliment, or look at what beads are available, or somewhere in-between o the two. 

These  girdles are a shorter variety.  These ones are designed to sit in along the waist line of the dress.  The have no extension or ornamentation at the ends.  This variety also are much more practical for working or crowded areas as they don't catch on furniture..  All of these girdles are made with glass beads and are quite heavy.


As to the beads used for girdles, I tend to mix my materials for 3 reasons:


    Cost. Plastic beds tend to be more cost effective than glass or metal, but not always.

    Weight.  Glass beads are my favourite for girdles but are extremely heavy.  The addition of hollow metal beads or plastic beads lighten the over all weight of the girdle. 


The sizes of the beads range from 1 mm to 3cm.  Usually the 1 - 3 mm size are used for spacing and accents.  The amount of beads varies according to a few variables also:


    Size of the waistline of the dress.  This can be significantly different to your natural waistline, especially if your dress has V fronts and V backs.

    Wether you want the girdle to sit only a the waistline, or to have a hanging extension.

    What style girdle suits the dress you are creating.

I have on occasions used a fishing swivel at the end of long girdles.  These have no join in them that the wire can work it's way out of.  Additionally they allow the ornament, be it pomander, tassel or another kind of ornament to move independent of the girdle.  This is just my little innovation in the evolution of girdles but it means that long girdles are less prone to twisting and losing the fancy end bit.


Other things to consider in your choice of beads and materials.


    Fake pearls are always good.  Either on their own or mixed with other beads.  Fake pearls have been around for more than 500 years so they are more than fair game for our purposes.

    Bell caps can look wonderful and really lift the over all effect of a girdle.  However they can also blow your budget, and be careful of the type you buy.  I have one really lovely girdle, but the bell caps make it horrible to wear because they are continually catching in either me or my surroundings.  And these particular caps keep getting bent.

    Ebay.  One of the cheapest places for buying glass beads.  If you win multiple auctions from the same seller then your postage cost is reduced also.  Buy in at least half pound lots if at all possible. 

    Remember that you will normally use over 100 beads in a single girdle.

    When you find an old necklace, keep all the bits from it.  You never know when those little annoying beads could be used as spacers and give you that little extra length you need to finish your creation.

    NEVER turn away a well intentioned bead or pearl.  You never know when you might find it handy.

At some stage in the future I will also do a write up on how I make my tassels.  Pomanders are really nice additions to a girdle, but alas there is no hard or fast rule for their acquisition.  Except to say that Christmas is normally a time when they are most prevalent.



The girdles are as a rule a sequence of beads that are strung together.  Usually arranged in repeats of the same sequence.  If I am using glass in a girdle I will use tiger tail to string them on.  Tiger tail is a fine stainless steel cable that has been nylon coated.  Recently I have found a very strong synthetic cord on the market that is available in a range of colours that is more than strong enough to hold a glass girdle, and is easy enough to work that it doesn't require crimps. Sometimes if the girdle is lighter I will use only beading thread.  Both have their pros and cons.  If using tiger tail metal crimps must be used and if using thread well tied knots, (occasionally a drop of glue on the knots is a good idea to help stop them coming untied.)  At the ends there is placed a hook at one end and a ring at the other end.  Neither the ring or the hook should have any joins in them, and be one complete piece.  If you choose to use hooks or rings with a split in them then the thread will eventually work its way off.  Thus ruining your good work. 

At the end where there is a ring I place an ornament of some kind, like a tassel.  The other end with the hook, well it just hooks back into the girdle where ever it need to be to sit right.

I decided to made a suit of jewels in RED.  That is, a girdle, necklace, set of bracelets and earrings.  It is a simple recipe that can be found here.


Villa Barbaro, a fresco.   Painted by Veronese, he was accredited with introducing the 'trompe l'oeil', this is the doors painted on the walls to give the effect of symmetry, which is so important in a renaissance building. The new, [well to my eyes at any rate] lady, is in such a doorway. She is said to be
Veronese's favourite model and his mistress. Veronese painted himself in another doorway that faces this image.  She is a very Italian looking woman, fair hair but a darker look to her.
Venetian Courtesan as She Appears at Home 

Album Amicorum of a German Soldier 1595 Los Angels County Museum of Art

Cesare Vecellio's Costume Plates Circa 1590

Young unmarried Venetian woman.


On the odd occasion a sash is seen worn in the place of a girdle.  I am not aware that there is any social significance to it, but wearing a sash in not as common or as status inspiring as a jewelled girdle.

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All intellectual content, composition, layout, designs and photographs copyright 2007 to Deborah Lane , 2003 to Deborah Murray or Mistress Oonagh O'Neill . All Original renaissance art works and artefacts are not copyright to Deborah Lane, and are shown for educational use only.  If you see something you'd really like to use, please contact me!


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