Part 2 contains the female half of the outfits, click Part 1 for the male half!
Now on to the ladies portion of the russet red wool outfits! Just as a quick reminder, I am working on a pair of his and hers outfits, using portraits and extant garments from northern Italy, around 1560, as my inspiration.
I decided to try a boned bodice this time, instead of a firm foundation beneath the bodice. While wearing a corset/stays under a dress really works quite well, there is a enough evidence showing a lack of corsets in 16th century Europe (no extant examples, no mention in wills or inventories), and enough clearly stiffened/ flat bodices of the time (check out Moroni, Fasolo, Anguissola, Savoldo, Zucchi, or Bordone), that I figured it might be worth giving the boned dress bodice thing a go.
No point in totally starting from scratch right? I took the bodice pattern from my turquoise dress, and added a pointed front, then tried on a mock up over my stays. I trimmed up the bottom, especially over the iliac crest, and made the point a bit narrower. I considered making the straps a little narrower, but figured I’d do that later if I didn’t like the thickness of them. The result was the image below.
I wanted to try out the Pfalzgrafin corset style of boning, which involves not boning all the way to the top of the bust, but only to the underbust instead. I had heard that it tended to lend a slightly more rounded bust, and thought it might be fun to try. It’s German, and 40 years later than my aim, but extant references for this sort of thing are few and far between, so you can’t be too choosy, right?
There’s my interlining, with all the bones in place. I used a thin but strong cotton for the interlining.
I pinned the boned interlining to the wool outer fabric, to keep it from moving around too much while I sewed the edges up.
I used a harringbone stitch for most of the seam allowances. I mostly sewed the wool to the interlining, but I tried to just barely dip down and catch the outside once in a while, as invisibly as possible, to help keep the layers and edges where they should be (sort of like top stitching does, but way less visible).
You can see here that I put some ziptie bones into the center back, like the Pfalzgrafin corset did, but I later removed them, since they caused the top back to pull away from my back instead of hugging it.
With the seam allowances all in place, I cut out some light linen to become the lining. I just laid my bodice on the fabric and cut around it, perhaps a cm or two bigger.
To attach the lining, I pinned it in place like I did before with the interlining and wool, then turned the edges under and whip stitched them down. This is one of the big advantages to sewing a garment with this method (rather than machine sewn bag lining): you won’t get any bits of the lining peaking out of the edges on your finished piece!
I put the bodice on the mannequin inside out; looking spiffy!
So with my first time trying the bodice on, I noticed a few smallish problems:
- The funny little ridge just under the neckline in both front and back. That’s because I turned the edge over a little too much.
- It was a pain in the butt to get on with only one opening! I need to suck it up and do the two rows of eyelets needed for the other side-back seam.
- It’s a little too long, which is causing the sides and back to scrunch up a bit at the bottom.
I opened the necessary seams to shorten the bodice some and fix the ridges at the neckline.
The skirt is based on the trained skirt of Eleanora De Toledo’s burial gown, using the measurements provided in Patterns of Fashion 3. The length of her skirt looked like it would work for me, especially since I knew I wanted to include a tuck in the skirt hem, just like the extant dress. When I sewed the skirt to the bodice, I tried to use the same pleat sizes/placements as the original, although I did not cut the same ‘steps’ into the top seam as the original did, which meant that my skirt’s pleats wanted to hang sort of diagonally in the front, instead of straight down.
Trains are sort of sexy aren’t they?
I put a seam in the center front! Yep, totally did, and figured it was ok since the original had it too, it made the pattern fit better on my fabric, and it’s going to be covered by trim anyways.
The skirt is not hemmed or tucked, which means it is way too long (sort of looks neat though, doesn’t it?).
I was still a bit unhappy with the bottom edge of the bodice. It was still wrinkling up a bit, and had a boxy look that I was not digging. I shouldn’t let myself be bothered too much by the boxiness, since the paintings show sort of boxy looking ladies too (remember Moroni, Fasolo, and Anguissola?), but I guess I was sort of hoping for something a little more noticeably nipped in the waist.
So here we go, adjusting the curve yet again. You know what they say about it always being best to get things right the first time? It’s true. And although I didn’t think of it till much later, another way of avoiding all those waist wrinkles I had from the very beginning would be to bone the bodice on the side, instead of just in front and back. The Pfalzgrafin bodies have no side boning, but the Effigy bodies do, so that might be a thought for next time.
Now for the best part, embellishing!
I knew I wanted to have lots of pretty black silk trim all over the place. It has such a nice contrast to red, and there’s something damn sexy about guards. Don’t know what it is about them, but I have some serious guard/trim love. I thought it would be cool to have the small-big-small pattern like the portrait above, but my laziness won out in the end, and I only made one size of trim, about 1/4 of an inch wide. It seems to have been a popular size in Italy at the time.
One more bonus image that I found recently:
I sort of like the sleeve with the puff at the top. Which is good, since almost all the images above have them. I particularly like the spiral sleeves of the mysterious brown dress lady, I think I’ll make something similar. But first, I need to trim the bodice.
The back of the bodice is all pinned up! It looks about even, so time to stitch it down.
I am not sure what to call this stitch. I tend to think of it as the ‘invisible whip stitch’, since the basic motion is still that of whip stitching, just a little longer, and as carefully hidden as possible.
You can see here that I opened the other side-back seam and put in a row of eyelets like I said I should. However, I will later discover that since I shortened the bodice and had to remove the lowest eyelet, the bodice will no longer lace up evenly at the bottom edge, so I have to sew in a new eyelet to help it do so.
Remember that if you have to make fitting changes, like shortening a bodice twice, you should reflect that change on the pattern you made/used. Or make a whole new pattern since you lost the first one.
Just for giggles, I measured my new pattern, and checked it against the measurements in POF3 provided for Eleanora di Toledo’s burial gown bodice, since she was the main inspiration for the shape of the bodice in the first place.
This is a mostly accurate comparison of the two patterns. The right side of the burial bodice is a little funny because it’s actually still laced up to the back piece, so the side seam looks slanted when it should actually be parallel to the other side seam. Mrs. Toledo was little smaller than me, and possibly longer in the torso. Or that might just be a higher neckline than mine, and a much smaller armscrye.
Now the skirt is nearly identical to Janet Arnold’s measurements, but the angles look off since I could not take the picture from a perfectly birds-eye vantage point. Or because one of us measured wrong.
I lined the skirt in a light weight linen. I smoothed and pinned as much as possible before sewing, doing my best to prevent bagging. Of course, over time the two different fabrics may ‘grow’ or sag differently, so I may have to redo the lining in the future.
I only did two lines of trim at the bottom, but I think I’ll add more at some point, since they are so small.
I added an extra strip of fabric for pinking (seems like most of the extant garments that have pinking at an edge, like the edge of the collar, or at the wrist, tend to have a separate piece of fabric for that purpose), and for a bit of extra stiffness. Check out Anea Files for more on stiffened hems.
I used the ‘sort of a running but sometimes a back’ stitch to attach the extra hem, then began attaching the lining down at the hem.
I made sure to keep the lining away from the very edge, since I knew I would be cutting that next.
Big stitches again, no reason to make them small since they don’t need to be terribly strong, and I may have to undo them anyways if I find that the outside fabric and lining aren’t playing nice.
I used a folded up bit of paper to keep my pinked edge consistent. They are about an inch apart.
When the cutting is done, sit back and admire your hem. Because it’s a damn fine hem.
With the lining all done, it’s time to attach the skirt to the bodice. With all my skirts before now, I have used a long rectangle shaped skirt, which meant figuring out how to attach a huge seam to a small one (like this), but this time since the skirt is gored, I had to sort of space out my pleats to get the look I wanted at the waistline.
Yay dress! You can sort of see what I meant about the back and front pieces not lacing up evenly at the waist, but don’t worry, I fixed it after these pictures.
The hem is still too long; I hemmed the bottom edge, but the skirt pattern had an additional bit of length so I could add a tuck near the hem.
Based on the way it was looking at this point, I decided to sew the tuck only at the top end (the line that only has three pins) instead of top and bottom, and that made it pucker much less.
I stitched through all the layers of the tuck, using a sort of invisible back stitch. We will see how long it stands up against people accidentally stepping on my train. (Little update: I only had two people step on my train at 12th Night! Woo!)
Before starting this, I imaged that it was going to be interesting to add a tuck around a curved hem, and indeed, it was interesting trying to get it to lay flat and look neat, but I think I got it in the end. You can see a few examples of tucks on this pinterest page, there’s a few Italian examples, but a bunch more Spanish.
Next up, sleeves!
I couldn’t find my sleeve pattern from my last doublet, but it’s not hard to pinch up a new sleeve. It did not need to be super tight fitting (since none of the portraits show tight sleeves, only lightly fitted to the arm), nor did I need to make sure it would work with the armscrye of the dress, since they were not going to be sewn together, only tied at the top/back. Easy!
Remember these portraits?
I was aiming for a similar ‘poofy bit on top, slim for the rest of the arm’ look.
Sometimes I like to draw things out before I start making them, like the sleeves above. I thought I would make a pattern like the pieces on the left, but when I saw how high up my arm the spiral pieces went, I changed it to the left, for a smaller poof.
As always, I pinned all the trim pieces into place before sewing them down. I compared all the different spiral embellished sleeves I could find, 14 had the spiral pointing down ‘toward the body’ and 6 had it pointing away from the body. I went for the more common style. On a fun note, you can see from the two random seams that I did not have enough fabric left at this point in the project to make the sleeves out of one piece of fabric. Yay piecing!
The ruff and cuffs I made for this outfit are behaving nicely with the dress and sleeves. Like I mentioned under the drawing, these sleeves were already almost long enough, without the poof even added yet! I thought about leaving the sleeves as they wore, a rather tempting thought when you are hoping to be finished in time for an event quickly approaching, but once the top seam was turned over, the sleeve would go from barely too short to definitely too short. They need a top poof.
More piecing at work here. The poof above was originally twice this width, but that was too much. The flat side is attached to the bottom sleeve.
The poof is gathered and pinned in place.
Makes a poof!
I cut the lining out of silk, which makes it much easier to slip on sleeves over voluminous camicia/shift sleeves. I stitched the seam joining the upper and lower sleeve pieces down to the lining. I figured that the poof would behave more consistently this way.
After stitching, I cut the off white silk down to just an inch past the red wool, I did not need the 3+ you see above.
After pinning the binding strip down, I sort of top stitched through all the layers at the top, hoping to encourage the fabric into laying flat there, rather than roll into a rounded shape at the edge.
The wrist of the sleeves were whip stitched together, with the silk a little bit back from the edge to keep it from showing when worn.
With the sleeves done, I decided it was time to tackle some of the accessories. I made a quick girdle, lots of store bought stuff that I just rearranged. Many of the ones in the portraits appear to use slightly bigger ‘beads’ but you have to use what you have sometimes. The little pearl tassel/squid at the bottom is a bit of a nod to Eleanora di Toledo’s rather impressive girdle pearl tassel.
I had hoped to make a new shift with integral ruffs on the cuffs, but time did not permit that, so I just pinned the cuffs to the end of my dress sleeves. I should have basted, but the pins worked well enough for one day.
I ran out of time to properly sew eyelets into the top of the sleeve and into the shoulder of the gown before the event, so I used an awl to poke holes where I needed, then threaded a big tapestry needle with some ribbon and put them through the temporary awl hole. Those will have to be made into sewn eyelets later.
Aside from the quick makeshift eyelets, the outfit was completely done in time for 12th Night! I did not have a set deadline for this dress to be finished, but it was nice that it was done before a snazzy dress up event.
I have got to say, I am pretty danged pleased with how this outfit came out! I am also stupid pleased with the glass cup I bought at the event. My previous Maiolica style painted cup suffered a fall, and while I had been hoping to buy a prunted beaker (like these german ones, another german) I got a claw beaker instead. I feel that it is visually similar to prunts, but as it turns out, that style of cup is about 1000 years earlier than I wanted. Oops. My husband ended up buying two, one for each of us (from Vandy Hall) because he also liked the look of them.
So I spent a lot of time looking at my inspiration portraits, getting an idea for common elements. For giggles, let’s see how close I got.
Similarities to the paintings:
Can you see what’s glaringly different about my picture?
It’s the big ol’ ruff on my partlet!
Technically I did this on purpose; not out of some desire to rebel against my inspiration pictures, but simply because I did not have time to make a more appropriate partlet before the event. I am sure that I will get around to creating one, and then take pictures to share here. It’s sort of funny though that this ruffed partlet would actually be just fine for this outfit … provided I wore a doublet style over dress on top of it, like these lovely 1560-1570ish women:
Just adding a few more pictures, now featuring a back view!
And other views!
If you like the white apron, you can read lots more about it on the Ascension Day Apron post.