A spectacular dress believed to date back to around the time of the English Civil War was discovered in a chest sank aboard a ship 350 years ago off near the Netherlands
The dress is believed to have sank aboard a Dutch merchant vessel in the 1600s(
A spectacular dress rescued from a ship believed to have been sunk around the time of the English Civil War has gone on display.
The 350-year-old garment was found aboard an unidentified Dutch merchant vessel believed to have sank beneath the waves around 1650.
Its opulent design means it was probably owned by an English noble person or the Dutch merchant society.
Made of silk interwoven with silver it was likely lightly coloured until spending centuries under water and its wealthy owner would only have worn it on special occasions.
However it ended up at the bottom of the Wadden Sea, off the coast of Texel in the Netherlands.
The dress is a little miscoloured after centuries underwater(
Anne of Denmark in a similar garment in a painting from 1605(
Alec Ewing, curator of Museum Kaap Skil in Texel, where the dress is now displayed, said: “Only a few people in north-western Europe would be rich enough to own a garment like this.
“In England, we’d look at the high nobility; people who frequent court or are very close to the highest circles of society.
“And in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam and a few other cities, we see a merchant class that is extraordinarily rich – supremely successful in the Dutch East Indies and the Mediterranean.
“They would have been the millionaires of their day, and they would have been rich enough to afford a garment like this.”
The dress survived as it was buried by sediment and preserved in an oxygen-free environment until the retreating sands revealed the chest which held it.
Another dress was recovered from the wreck in 2016 while another chest was found to contain more than 30 book bindings, including one marked in gold with the royal crest of James I.
The other dress recovered from the chest in 2016(
There were other bindings of French and Polish origin too, and books – a supreme luxury at the time – were often collected from various places by the super-wealthy.
Artifacts belonging to the crew were also Dutch in origin, including West Frisian pottery, and English ships weren’t common in the area.
Mr Ewing added: “It could be either way, but we are definitely looking at a Dutch ship fitting inside a Dutch trading pattern, so my money would be on a Dutch origin.”
“Whoever wore it, the frock was built for style – not comfort.
“You probably couldn’t even dress yourself, you would need someone to dress you.
“There are several layers of frocks and things before the actual dress is fitted on the top; there’s lace accessories in the chest area, a lace ruff, and a lot of other lace accessories.
The silver detailing in the newly recovered dress(
“It’s also a fashion statement because you need so much more cloth to make the whole garment look nice and cloth is so hugely expensive.
“So it’s another way of saying ‘I am very wealthy’ to have this big construction around you, but it would not have been very comfortable to walk around in.”
Given the typical lifespan for a ship at the time, the sinking is thought to have happened between 1645 and 1670.
A bad storm known to have happened in 1665 could be to blame, but with so much of the wreck still buried, the true cause remains a mystery.
Both dresses are now on display in special oxygen-free display cases at Museum Kaap Skil.
Maarten van Bommel, Professor of Conservation Science at the University of Amsterdam, said: “It is unbelievable what we have discovered here.
“This is one of the most unique historical finds ever. There may only be two such dresses in the whole world and they are both here on Texel.”