Oes or owes were metallic O-shaped rings or eyelets sewn on to clothes and furnishing textiles for decorative effect. They were used on various clothing and furnishing fabrics and were smaller than modern sequins. Made of gold, silver, or copper, oes were made either from rings of wire or out of a sheet of metal.

Robert Sharp obtained a patent to make gold oes in 1575. In July 1624, their manufacture in England was forbidden for a time as policymakers worried about the supply of metal bullion.

Christopher Shaw stitched silver "oes" on costumes designed by Inigo Jones


Oes or owes were metallic O-shaped rings or eyelets sewn on to clothes and furnishing textiles for decorative effect in England and at the Elizabethan and Jacobean court.[1] They were smaller than modern sequins.[2]

Making and metals

Robert Sharp obtained a patent to make gold oes and spangles (another early variety of sequin) in 1575.[3] They were also made from silver and copper.[4] Oes were made either from rings of wire wound around a dowel, or by punching flat rings out of a sheet of metal.[5]

Goldsmiths including Cornelis Hayes made spangles for the court.[6] Spangles or "spangs" were mentioned in connection with head dresses worn by the maids of honour, set on wires and known as "hanging spangles".[7]

Policy makers worried about the supply of precious metal bullion and restricted the making of gold and silver oes and similar products by patent to the Company of Wire Drawers. In July 1624, their manufacture was forbidden for a time.[8]


Some London hat band makers were prosecuted and fined in 1631 for the fraud of using gilt copper oes and claiming their wares employed only gold oes and thread.[9] Imitation silver or gold oes sold openly were called "counterfeit oes" or "Alchemy oes", and appear as "Olcamee oes" in the 1643 inventory of a Worcestershire mercer Thomas Cowcher.[10] Thomas Knyvett sent his wife and Aunt Bell 12 ounces of counterfeit oes and oes of "right silver" in paper wraps in 1623. He offered to buy oes of a different size if required. There were three kinds of oes available. A paper of oes contained 40 oes weighing 2 ounces.[11]


Oes were used to decorate hairnets called "crespines" or "crippins", an item of clothing worn by women of the Tudor court and Elizabeth I.[12] Some of her doublets were decorated with "squares of silver owes".[13] An inventory of 1626 mentions a white satin crippin embroidered with gold oes and a green satin crippin with silver oes.[14] As a New Year Day's gift in January 1600 Dorothy Speckard and her husband gave Queen Elizabeth a head veil of striped network, flourished with carnation silk and embroidered with oes.[15]

Edmund Palmer embroidered a purple satin suit for Prince Henry with silk thread, silver thread, and silver oes.[16] Oes were stitched by embroiderers to form patterns. The Earl of Northampton owned a sweet bag embroidered with knots of silver oes and burning hearts.[17]

Oes were used in masque costume.[18] In 1610 the embroiderer Christopher Shawe worked on the skirts for the dancers in the masque Tethys' Festival, sewing on silver "oes", and embroidering gold "oes" on tiffany fabric.[19] The grass-green and sea-green costumes made for this masque and Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly match the advice of Francis Bacon, who wrote "colours that show best by candlelight are white, carnation, and a kind of sea-water green; and oes and spangs as they are of no great cost, so they are of most glory".[20][21]

In February 1613, the character of Honor in Chapman's The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn wore a "vaile of net lawne, embrodered with Oos and Spangl'd".[22] In literature, oes and spangles could be associated with vain luxury and the glittering stars of the night sky. Henry Hawkins wrote of the sky "beset with siluer-oes" and the stars as "siluer Oes, al powdred heer and there, or spangles sprinckled ouer the purple Mantle or night-gowne of the heauens".[23]

Purchases of oes are recorded in the household book of Lord William Howard of Naworth Castle. He ordered silver and gold oes from London in 1620 for Mistress Marie, copper oes for his children's clothes in 1621, and gold oes in March 1634 for the tailor making clothes for his wife Elizabeth Dacre.[24]

Used on furnishing fabrics, oes sometimes appear in inventories. At Westmorland House in London in the 1620s, a London home of Francis Fane, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Mary Mildmay Fane, Countess of Westmorland, there was a couch in the best withdrawing room set in a canopy with curtains, embellished with embroidered slips and gold oes.[25] Old inventories describe "oes" decorating the surviving "Spangled bed" at Knole.[26]

In French, the equivalents of spangles and oes were known as paillettes or papillottes.[27] Mary, Queen of Scots, had gold and silver papillottes for her masques costumes as a girl in France.[28] She requested silver papillottes for her embroidery from the diplomat Mothe Fénélon in 1574, as delicate and beautiful as he could find.[29] 18th-century furnishing bills include references to functional "oes", round eyelets used to guide curtain cords.[30]


  1. ^ Arnold, Janet (1988). Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd. p. 368. ISBN 0-901286-20-6.
  2. ^ Ninya Mikhaila & Jane Malcolm-Davies, The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress (Batsford, 2006), p. 44.
  3. ^ M. Channing Linthicum, Costume in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Oxford, 1936), pp. 152-3.
  4. ^ M. Channing Linthicum, 'Oes', Review of English Studies, 7:26 (1931), pp. 198-200 Archived 2022-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Katy Werlin, 'Spangles', Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe, vol. 1 (ABC Clio, 2016), p. 270.
  6. ^ Maria Hayward, Dress at the Court of Henry VIII (Maney, 2007), p. 335.
  7. ^ Jane Ashelford, Dress in the Age of Elizabeth I (Batsford, 1988), p. 138.
  8. ^ Mary Anne Everett Green, Calendar State Papers Domestic, 1623-1624 (London, 1859), p. 297: Foedera, 17, p. 605.
  9. ^ John Rushworth, Historical Collections, vol. 3 (London, 1686), p. 43.
  10. ^ R. G. Griffiths, 'Cowcher Inventory', Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, 14 (1938), p. 56.
  11. ^ Bertram Schofield, Knyvett Letters (London, 1949), pp. 59, 64, 67.
  12. ^ HMC Calendar of Manuscripts of the Marquess of Salisbury, vol. 1 (London, 1883), p. 131.
  13. ^ Fanny Bury Palliser, History of Lace (London, 1865), p. 277.
  14. ^ James Orchard Halliwell, Ancient Inventories (London, 1854), p. 97.
  15. ^ John Nichols, The progresses and public processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. 3 (London, 1823), pp. 456-7.
  16. ^ Maria Hayward, Stuart Style (Yale, 2020), pp. 67-8.
  17. ^ Evelyn Shirley, 'Effects of Henry Howard', Archaeologia, 42 (London, 1869), p. 362.
  18. ^ Jane Ashelford, The Art of Dress, Clothes and Society (National Trust, 1996), p. 59.
  19. ^ W. H. Hart, 'Expenses for Masques in 1610', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, vol. 1 (London, 1861), pp. 30-1: Barbara Ravelhofer, The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music (Oxford, 2006), p. 147: Jane Ashelford, The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society (National Trust, 1996), p. 59: Paul Reyher, Les Masques Anglais (Paris, 1909), p. 507
  20. ^ Samuel Harvey Reynolds, Essays: Or, Counsels, Civil and Moral of Francis Bacon (Oxford 1890), p. 270: Andrea Stuart, 'Court Masques: Tableaux of Modernity in the Early Seventeenth Century?', Christopher Breward, Caroline Evans, Caroline Edwards, Fashion and Modernity (Berg, 2005), p. 91: Maria Hayward, Stuart Style (Yale, 2020), p. 73: Jemma Field, 'The Wardrobe Goods of Anna of Denmark, Queen Consort of Scotland and England (1574–1619)', 51:1 Costume (March 2017), p. 16.
  21. ^ Jane Ashelford, Dress in the Age of Elizabeth I (Batsford, 1988), p. 126.
  22. ^ John Pearson, The Comedies and Tragedies of George Chapman, vol. 3 (London, 1873), p. 94.
  23. ^ McGann, Claire (2021-03-04). "'"To print her discourses & hymmes": the typographic features of Anna Trapnel's prophecies'". The Seventeenth Century. 36 (2): 244. doi:10.1080/0268117X.2020.1721312. ISSN 0268-117X. S2CID 213000965.
  24. ^ William Howard, Selections from the Household Books of the Lord William Howard of Naworth Castle (Durham, 1878), pp. 144-5, 189, 295.
  25. ^ Katie Carmichael & Kathryn Morrison, 'A Great House of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Westmorland House', The London Journal (2018), p. 24.
  26. ^ Annabel Westman, Fringe, Frog & Tassel: The Art of the Trimmings-Maker (London, 2019), p. 26.
  27. ^ Randle Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (London, 1632), 'Parpilottes'.
  28. ^ Alphonse, Baron de Ruble, La première jeunesse de Marie Stuart (Paris, 1894), p. 292.
  29. ^ Labanoff, Lettres de Marie Stuart, vol. 4 (London, 1842), p. 222.
  30. ^ Annabel Westman, Fringe, Frog & Tassel: The Art of the Trimmings-Maker (London, 2019), pp. 111, 243.