Muffs became fashionable in Italy during the early 1570’s, and from there it spread pretty much everywhere. Harrison, as quoted by Janet Arnold, records that “Women’s Maskes, Buskes, Muffs, Fanns, Perewigs, and Bodkins, were first devised and used in Italy by Curtezans, and from thence brought into France and there received of the best sort for gallant ornaments, & from thence they came into England about the time of the Massacar in Paris.” (St. Bartholomew’s Day, 24 August, 1572).
Cesare Vecellio, in the second edition of his fashion book Habiti antichi, et moderni di tutto il Mondu, published in 1598, shows a woodcut entitled "Winter Costume of Venetian noblewomen and wealthy ladies."
There are no extant muffs that I am aware of, but there are quite a few pictorial images of muffs, and documents referring to them.
According to Andre Blum, in his volume "The Last Valois," it is reported that King Henri III of France was fond of "perfumes and cosmetics, ear-rings, velvet or satin muffs lined with fur -- in fact, a whole range of modes formerly reserved for the use of women." Another reference to Parisian fashion for wearing muffs appears in Janet Arnold’s "Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (QEWU)": “Amyas Paulet was also instructed to get Elizabeth [Queen] a muff or ‘countenance (so they call it here)’ in Paris in 1579. He sent one, ‘the best I can find at this time thinking it better to send this as it is when there is some cold stirring, than to wait for a better till the cold be clean gone. I have caused this countenance to be furred as well as it can be done in this town, but have not perfumed it because I do not know what Perfume will be the most agreeable to her Majesty.”
|Venetian costume of noblewomen and wealthy ladies. c. 1598.|
|Eleanor Verney, Mrls. William Palmer. c. 1590. William Segar.|
|Detail from an embroidered valance, c. 1588-90. Victoria and Albert Museum, London|
|Illuminated miniature of Queen Elizabeth carrying a muff. c. 1586. Bodleian Library, Oxford.|
I've had this black gold worked trim for about seven years - there's only about a yard or so of it, which isn't enough to do much, but after measuring a few things out, is long enough to act as bands on the edges of a muff. The edges of the trim is not even though, as it appears that it was worked on stiffened velvet and then cut into strips. After digging into my stash though, I found this creamy braid that goes smashingly with my pale yellow tufted brocade. I will use this as vertical bands on the edges of a muff.
I have purchased a faux fur lined coat at a thrift store which I intend to disassemble and use the fur to line the muff, as well as add fur trim to my mantelline when the time comes. It is a dark brown mink-ish looking fur. I will use some buttons from my stash as well.
1. Donald King and Santina Levey, The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750, V&A Publications, 1993, 160 Brompton Road, London SW3 IHW.
2. Santina M. Levey, An Elizabethan Inheritance: The Hardwick Hall Textiles, 1998, National Trust Enterprises, Ltd, Great Britain.
3. Cesare Vecellio, Vecellio’s Renaissance Costume Book. Dover Publications, Inc., N.Y.
4 Blum, André, The Last Valois 1515-90, George G. Harrap & Co, LTD. London, England.
5. Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d, 1988, Great Britain, W.S. Maney & Son, LTD, Hudson Road, Leeds.