Friday, December 30, 2016

The Accessories Make the Outfit! (The Lady in White project)

Sometimes it's easy to get so caught up in the garment, that i forget about the look. And nothing is more true (except perhaps that you won't look period without period undergarments) than that you can't have a good historical look without the little details, specifically accessories. No Viking is complete without her brooches, no 14th century lady without her wimple and veil, no cavalier without his plumed hat.

Titian, 1555, Lady in White
Returning to our lovely lady in white She has a pair of matched bracelets, gold clasps holding her sleeves and gown front, a set of pearl drops, with matching necklace, and an amazing flag fan. She also has a sheer partlet which appears to be rouched and possibly worked with gold thread.

In this slightly earlier portrait by my new favorite painter, Giovanni Battista Moroni, we see Isotti Brembatti, in her gown of fabulous gold and green brocade, wearing several beautiful necklaces (one held up by a brooch) paired bracelets, and a girdle of what appears to be worked gold beads, either enameled or perhaps set with jems. Attached to the trailing chain end of the girdle is a beautiful zibalino with a gold mask. She has a sheer partlet with a tall standing collar worked with scarlet (probably silk) embroidery in a manner reminiscent of smocking. She holds an ostrich feather fan with a gilded handle, and also wears earrings, sundry rings, and gold hair ornaments.

Of course these are only two of thousands of portraits available for perusal, but they show the main themes of the era and area very well I think. I had already determined to match my jewelry to the Lady in White (albeit with black not white pearls) and decided to attempt making something like her awesome flag fan. Although I covet the pairs of bracelets both women wear, which were frequently a lovers gift (Lu Emily Pearson "Elizabethans at Home" pg 334) or sometimes a betrothal present (Jeffery Forgeng, "Daily Life in Elizabethan England" pg 65),  They are beyond my skill as a jeweler and out of my reach as a purchase. instead I chose a girdle and a zibilino, also common accouterments of the well to do lady.

The Armada Portrait, Queen Elizabeth, 1588
Woburn Abbey
First I would like to defend my choice of black pearls, not white, with this portrait of that icon of fashion, Queen Elizabeth herself, pictured in front of the demise of the spanish armada, wearing ropes of both white and black pearls.

Mary Queen of Scots, ca 1559, after Francios Clouet
Victoria and Albert Museum.
 And here's Mary Queen of Scots, also a period fashionista, wearing a long strand of them knotted at her throat.  Supposedly they're the same strand of pearls, which Elizabeth absconded with after Mary's untimely demise. Scandalous.

Bianca ponzini anguissola, with a zibellino
by sofonisba Anguisola, 1557
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
The zibellino is the most interesting of the remaining accessories. I've been fascinated by them since I first saw them mentioned in one of my costuming groups. I don't know why I'd never noticed them before, but now that I know what they are I see them everywhere. Funny how that is. I think the idea of anyone carrying a small dead animal around as an accessory is so odd to the modern mind, that I'd just always assumed that they were a fur stole draped over the arm, or an odd bit of fur trim. But no indeed, it was exceedingly popular in the 1500's especially in the Italian city states, to carry the pelt of some smallish weasel family member about with you, draped over your person, or hanging from your girdle. The style spread north and west fairly slowly, but they can be seen in some very late elizabethan period portraits. The style for carrying them seems to have died out in the beginning of the 17th century.

jeweled marten head in the collection
of the Walters art Museum.

Carved rock crystal Marten head
mounted as a snuffbox
Private collection
The Zibellino was typically the entire fur of some small animal, most typically a sable or marten (although sometimes other furs were used, most notably a lynx!) carried over the shoulder, or arm, or attached to the girdle. They could have jeweled collars and leg bands, pearl drops in their ears, gemstones for eyes, be mounted with jeweled muzzles, or have their heads and feet completely replaced with ornate gold "masks" or even carved semi precious stone. The most typical way of carrying them seems to have been via a chain attached to a ring in the mouth, especially on those that had full replacement heads mounted, however some portrait references do seem to indicate that they could be carried from a collar on the neck as well, although the clearest of these is dated 1522. (Portrait of Lucina Brembati, Lorenzo Lotto) .

The most popular theory currently (via wikipedia) is that persons carried these items  thinking the fleas would be attracted to the pelt instead of them, and secondarily as a status symbol, because of the cost of the fur, not to mention the embellishments. This theory was started in the 1800's by Wendelin Boeheim,  but has since been rejected by other researchers (Fleas, Furs, and FashionsKather Kerr of the Hermitage etc)  
Rock Crystal head with jeweled collar
and muzzle.
Thyssen Collection, zurich
Certainly they were a both a status symbol, and a method of displaying your personal fortune, nothing makes that more clear than the sumptuary laws written limiting their use and form (it seems to me, as a novice fashion historian, that nothing marks anything as fashionable or symbol of status and wealth so quickly as being regulated by sumptuary laws, or being blasted by the church. Bum rolls, farthingales, and boned corsets were all blasted by the church, and women who wore them were threatened with excommunication! [1] which clearly didn't stop people from wearing them any more than the sumptuary laws impeded people from carrying tricked out zibellini) It does seem to me (and a number of others) that the common conception of them as flea attractants may be flawed. The Walters art museum states in their blurb about the head in their collection:

 "The animal was associated with childbirth, and wearing its fur was believed to increase a woman's fertility and protect her during pregnancy. Since antiquity, the marten had been thought to conceive through its ear or mouth (and therefore chastely). "
And in The muff in 16th century dress:
Mart[e]n and sable Zibellini were connected to fecundity and were popular wedding gifts, and featured in dowries.  Lynx Zibellini were associated with chastity. Artist[s] of the time used the symbolism of the Zibellini in their work for patrons to convey messages.
Of course zibellini could have been popular as wedding gifts and dowries because of their opulent nature, and desirability as a symbol of status and wealth, but I think it unfair to rule out the symbolism of the item as part of its popularity. It is probably equally unfair, and perhaps a little egotistical to think that the elizabethans were so unobservant as to not notice fleas weren't attracted to lifeless furs. In the end we may never really understand the popularity of the zibellini, any more than future historians may be able to explain mullets, macrame jewelry, or jeggings. 

For my own personal zibellino, I followed the example of others, and acquired a vintage stole in good
conditions from the goodwill auction site. This was partially a cost consideration, and partially an ethical one. My costuming endeavors do not need to support the inhumane factory farming of fur! I took this apart carefully, and had THREE lovely little minks waiting be zibelenized. I used a broken vintage gold and pearl bracelet for the collar, and a piece of gold chain from the broken jewelry stash to attach it to my girdle. I got some small faux pearl charms at the craft store and put them through its ears for earrings.

I hope later to have time to replace his whole head with one crafted from paper mache paste and painted with gold leaf (since I am not a metalworker) 

In order to have something to suspend my zibellini from (and for more conspicuous display of wealth) I needed a girdle. Now this is a bit tricky. as costumers we see a LOT of beaded girdles with pearls and sparkly glass beads. This is the most accessible form for most of us to be sure, the materials are readily available at your local crafting supply store, and it doesn't require special tools or special skills to make. But I'm not sure that this kind of girdle is well historically supported. Most portraits I've looked at, and I will grant you it's not been an exhaustive study, seem to show three types: 

Type 1: Goldwork linked with clusters or strings of pearls, much in the style of the girdle seen here on a young Mary Tudor. 

Type 2: Chains, linked goldwork (including settings) or a combination of the two. The lady in green and gold at the beginning of this post has a girdle of this type. So does the lady in gold with the zibellini, and so does the Duchess of Norfolk, Margaret Audley, and Moroni's "Lady with a fan."

Type 3: single strands of beads, either in precious metals, or precious metals and pearls. Seen here on the Lady Mary Grey wearing pearls with a jeweled clasp, and Camilla Gonzaga de'Rossi, Countess of San Secondo with what look to be very large gold beads strung, not linked. 

Sometimes you do see a combination of the linked and beaded styles, where a linked belt of goldwork or goldwork set with jewels, has a beaded piece falling down the front of the skirt, as seen here on Mary Stuart, although hers is a double strand of beads

All this preview to say that I give my girdle about a 50% historical accuracy rating. Yes, it does have metallic elements linked with pearls, but the metallic elements aren't really a period shape. But darn it the enameled roses were so pretty, and (by themselves) they aren't historically inacurate! (Cheapside hoard). That is to say, I could have done better if I wasn't lured astray by the pretties in the bead aisle.

I held it shut in the front with a large worked metal brooch that is very much in a period style. Which is probably more accurate than the girdle....  However since the event my children have helpfully deconstructed said girdle (don't ask me how they managed that, but they did) so I may try to put it back together in a little bit more period way, Or I may just leave it as it is, because it's pretty, darn it!

I didn't get the fan finished before the event, although I have all the bits to make it, but I feel like the overall effect with the pearls, zibillini, and girdle was very good. You can't see the end of the girdle, it's hiding in my skirt, but it has a large scarlet tassel on it. I would like to eventually get a pomander for it, but that's a later upgrade.

A couple good reads on Zibellini:

1) Corsets and Crinolines, Norah Waugh, pg. 23

Venetian gown (The lady in white project)

This spring I started hearing rumors of an event to be held in our barony specifically for fancy late period dress. It was going to be a feast of St. Nicholas in Queen Elizabeth's court, and was scheduled for the day after our anniversary. We immediately decided that it sounded like an ideal destination for our annual anniversary outing. Originally I designed a pair of tudor outfits revolving round the gown in this portrait of Queen Elizabeth (which I've been obsessed with since I found it in my mother's history of costume books as a child)
However shortly after this my husband started fencing and decided that he wanted to honor his own heritage by taking up a later period italian area persona. So then I was stuck with a dilemma, match hubby, or go tudor in spite of him. I started looking around at later period Italian area gowns (I say Italian area because this was the city states era and united Italy as we know it didn't exist) That's when I stumbled on the 1555 Titian painting. "Lady in white" I was totally hooked. I loved everything about her, and, better and better, I had a huge piece of pewter fabric, bought more than ten years before that was going to be perfect for it. In additional good fortune, on an earlier anniversry my husband had given me a black pearl necklace and earrings that could be the twin of the pair in the portrait.

This gown is almost severe compared to contemporary gowns from England. The silhouette is much narrower, and there's just so much less. Evidently Venetian women preferred to display their wealth by highlighting lavish fabrics in their gowns, silk brocades, cut velvets, and other costly materials were popular. The open ladder laced front displaying the camica (the very full venetian shift) the low neckline, and the uncovered head seem almost scandalous! The Lady in white wears a dress of what appears to be heavy silk, ornamented only with small gold clasps holding the sleeves on and the front closed, and a small pointed lace trim below the puffed paned portion of the sleeve. She also wears a sheer partlet, possibly with some sort of rouching and gold work on it. As an interesting side note, in all my looking at pictures, I haven't seen a single picture of a Ventian woman with a non sheer partlet. That may of course have partially been a function of the climate. The heavier partlet that brought welcome warmth in chilly Engalnd would have been rather stifling in Venice. With the Lady in Whit'es gown in mind, and after spending some time looking at portraits and reading about other people's projects, and finally drew up this design. 

it features a large enough to be visible shoulder strap, a slightly rounded neckline, and  girdle, all slight deviations from the lady in white In the interest of time, I also dispensed with the sheer partlet. Although many ladies did wear them, looking through books of portraits, they were by no means universal. For the Venetian woman the partlet seems to have been a fashion accessory, like her pair of bracelets or fan, not a necessity for modesty. When worn they were frequently ornamented with gold work and pearls, which is time consuming and fussy. Clearly I need to make one, but this event wasn't the time for it. 

I started drafting the pattern from my bodies pattern, ensuring a good fit This meant that I ran into the dreaded fish eye space again. I'd solved that particularly problem in the bodies by adding a side front seam. Impossible in this design. I ended up walking the space out into the center front, ending with a curved front seam. Fish eye spaces are always a problem to work out. the only sure method of getting a good fit is to put a seam where the space is, or reasonably close, but walking it into a nearby seam can sometimes work. It's a bit of a crapshoot though. In this case, thankfully, it did work, and with a few alterations the bodice was a good fit. Thankfully there was a lovely person hosting sewing nights at their home leading up to the event, so I had experienced hands to help fit the back of the bodice. In a pinch I've drafted husband to help me fit the back of things, but for something as specific as a bodice, it's nice to have someone who understands where you're trying to get to from where you are. 

 I cut the bodice from the my pewter fabric and a heavy linen blend tablecloth at the same time, to ensure the pieces would be exactly the same size. I used a half inch seam allowance to make room for boning under the seam allowances. I sewed the seams, pressed them open, and whip stitched the seam allowance down to underlining, forming boning channels. I boned the side and back seams with cable ties cut to length, and then the ends melted and rounded. One one each side of the center back, but only one side of each of the side seams. I then dithered with whether to line the whole thing, or just face the neck and sleeve openings. After a consult with my mother I decided the least bulk option was to line the whole thing with tissue weight black silk (I buy it by the bolt from Dharma Trading specifically for lining things with. The chair of the fashion department when I was at school, Mrs. Hannan, indoctrinated us all to view acetate lining as the creation of a diseased mind) I sewed in the lining, clipped, graded, turned and pressed it.

 Then I turned the center fronts a half inch back over the lining, and stitched them down through the lining and the underlining forming the front boning channels. Before I did this though, I sewed a narrow piece of ribbon down, tacking it down to form little channels to run the lacing ribbon through, a method I had seen employed in other Venetian gown recreations (The Realm of Venus was an indispensible resource during the research process for this gown. under the showcase heading they have a lot of recreations to browse) . Lacing rings are probably more period, but I had the ribbon. The other advantage of the ribbon is that it rather grips the lacing for the front, allowing you to more easily lace up and tie off without everything springing back open on you while you adjust it. I boned the front with a cable tie, and sewed the shoulder straps together, but didn't finish the lining or trim them ,figuring they might need to be adjusted again after I added the skirt. (which they did, as it turned out)

For the skirt I had enough fabric to use 5 panels full 60 inch width of the fabric. That's a whopping
300 inches, or 25 feet of skirt! When we laid it out on the floor at my Mom's for basting, it took up the whole living room, folded in half. Not everyone wants or needs a skirt this full. For my height though, more fabric in the skirt gives a better look. On a more petite frame, 4 or even 3 panels could have given the same look. This fabric, although it has very much the look of a good silk, doesn't have the body of a good silk, so I underlined it completely. Ideally I would have used a cotton/poly broadcloth for this, because it's got a lot of bounce and crispness without a lot of weight but I was attempting to keep a bit of a budget on this project, so instead I used a pair of old poly blend sheets I had lying around. They were satisfactory if not quite as good. The sheets were cut to the same size panels as the skirt fabric and sewn into the seams. Once the skirt was assembled, the top edge was turned down a half inch and basted using a ruler at one inch intervals. Then I pinned it a quarter at a time to the bodice, drew up the gathering threads, spread the pleats evenly and stitched them to the bodice with super duty carpet thread. Cartridge pleating is probably one of the best things I ever discovered. it allows you to gather huge amounts of fabric into a waistband without adding any bulk to the waist, and it encourages the skirt to flare out dramatically from the waist.

In the portrait it's not super clear to me if the Lady in White's skirt is cartridge pleated or knife pleated. It's certainly not as heavily cartridge pleated as my skirt turned out to be, but
other portraits of the same time period show skirts more heavily pleated, like this venetian lady portrayed by a follower of titian, possibly Pellegrina Morosini Capello, which shows heavy cartridge pleating around the waist, amoung other interesting details. I did consider making knife pleats then attaching them as for cartridge pleats, but by the time I was attaching the skirt I was in such a time crunch, I didn't want to try anything new.

With the skirt attached, I put the whole deal on, and had my mom (bless her forever) pin the hem for me. At which point we discovered that the upper back was gapping terribly. This illustrates the problem with rushing to finish something, I'd only done one mockup of the bodice, then made the alterations and cut it. It really doesn't pay to skip steps.

Luckily, the gapping was solvable by cutting the back neck lower, which is completely period. Between that and the camica ruffle, it's not noticeable.  Because of the way the lining/boning is, the quickest least visible way to do this was to trim the gown back, cut the bones to the new length, then fold the exterior in over the lining and whip stitch it down. This doesn't give me the kind of beautiful interior finish I like to have in my projects, but it did work.

That debacle solved, the remaining chore was to put  a facing on the hem. Because of the slinky drapey nature of the fabric, I used a significant hem facing made of the stiffest icky polyester I could find in my stash.  I cut strips at 18 inches, sewed them together, folded them in half and ironed them, then sewed them to the hem. My husband, bless him, ironed the whole thing to the inside for me so I could stitch it down, while I desperately started working on the sleeves, the night before the event.

For the sleeves, I drafted a ladies doublet sleeve from Patterns of Fashion to my measurements, mocked it up and fit it. Then I folded down the cap portion of the sleeve and cut out only the bottom in both the grey fabric and a black cotton lining. The portrait shows fairly wide panes in the puffed section, so I cut 4" strips of the grey fabric, which I underlined with a strip of silk organza for bounce before sewing together and turning. Then I folded up the sleeve cap on the pattern, laid the cut bottom portion down on the pattern, and cut the panes to shape at the sleeve cap, and length at the bottom: they're the same length as the pattern under the arm, which holds the puff up some, then about two inches longer on the outside of the arm. The bottoms of the panes are pleated to fit the sleeve, and then the tops are sewn into a facing of white batiste to match my camica, which was cut from the sleeve cap pattern to give them the proper shape. This sleeve is another lesson in why you do more than one mockup (and don't finish making huge chunks of your gown the night before the event) even after altering, once I got it on with the camica (which does add bulk) the sleeve was too tight, which meant it kept trying to creep down my arm, pulling the shoulder strap with it. It was also too short, which I covered for by pulling more of my sleeve ruffle out, which sort of spoiled the look. Ideally I would have done a second mock up of the sleeve with the whole gown (or at least the camica!) on, but I just ran out of time.

All that remained was to sew on the pearl beads and make the thread loops that would hold the sleeves on. I finally finished this at 5 AM the day of the event, having stayed up all night to finish.

In a lot of ways, this is really a story of how NOT to make a gown. Don't get stuck doing the bulk of it in the last 4 days before your event. Be sure to do enough mockups, WITH the things you're wearing under. But in the end, it all really turned out fine. I'll have to do some remediation of the sleeve to be sure, but other than that the gown is a dream, sort of an instant princess dress. And for all that it weighs half a ton, it's remarkably comfortable as well.

I wore it over a camica made of cotton batiste, since this was a "use fabric you already have" sort of project. Hopefully I will replace that camica with one of handkerchief linen in the near future, which will be more comfortable and look better. I used the pattern from the really helpful italian ren clothing site  which worked out great. one small change, next time I will make the back of the camica longer, and set it higher than the front. I ended up having to twist the whole thing forward to get it evenly out of the top of my gown, and it wasn't the most comfortable way of wearing it. I also bought a pair of red knit stockings to wear with a basic pair of black flats that were at least not obnoxiously un period.  The stockings were amazing because they actually were long enough for me to wear up to my knee and stayed up without me resorting to garters, which I find uncomfortable if I tie them tight enough to do any good.

In keeping with the theme of being late, we were almost late to the event because we were running late and getting dressed took a long time, so I didn't get posed photos of us at my mom's house like I had hoped. But a good friend of mine working in the kitchen took a couple shots of the gown, and they had a photographer at the event that got some shots of me and hubby.

A Pair of Sort of Elizabethan Bodies (The lady in white project)

The why of this particular project is somewhat dubious. I'm making a front laced venetian gown inspired by the titian portrait "A Lady in White" While this is mostly a fairly straightforward operation, it does have it's own pitfalls. Since there aren't any surviving gowns (That I've been able to find) to solve the issue, there's a lively debate on the internet about what layers they were actually wearing, Is it a boned bodice? it is there a stiffened undergarment? What exactly is going on here? The plausible explanations seem to be these: a) a stiffened or boned pair of bodies under the camica, probably with a slip underneath them. b) No bodies, but the gown itself is boned/stiffened c) bodies over camica, and then a pleated stomacher, d) some sort of stiffened pleated undergown. Of these options, I find A and B the most plausible based on the bulk of the pictures that I've seen. They just don't seem to have the stiff front line that a stomacher or undergown would give you, although in most cases SOMETHING is clearly giving the gown a shape.

There has been a lot of discussion about this painting, by Bernardino Licinio "A Woman Combing Her Hair" This woman is clearly wearing some sort of stiffened overgown over her camica which appears to possibly be pleated. This does solve all the construction difficulties quite neatly, like "how do you wear petticoats" and also "What about a bum roll" But I just don't feel like the majority of the portraits and engravings show the distinctive bustline given by this sort of undergown. So while it obviously did exist, I don't think it was necessarily the norm. In the end, without any existing garments or real period descriptions, all we have is paintings and speculation. My final decision to make a pair of bodies was based on two things: First,I thought  it would most closely recreate the shape in the Titian portrait, and second, the fact that I could wear a pair of bodies under other late period gowns. A tertiary consideration was that a friend pointed out to me that boned gowns tend to show the boning after you wear them a few times, no matter how many layers you use, which obviously doesn't match up with the portraits. Which isn't to say that some of those gowns weren't stiffened with something else. More on that later.

There's really only two sources for Elizabethan bodies patterns: The queen elizabeth effigy bodies, which are very late period, and the 1598 pair of bodies (still very late period) belonging to Pfalzgrafin Dorothea Sabina Von Neuburg found in Janet Arnold's patterns of fashion. For my purposes the Neuburg bodies are a better shape, so I drafted them to my measurements and mocked them up. This is where I hit the first snag. I have a very large difference between my rib measurement and bust measurement. Especially since I'm breastfeeding right now. 10 inches to be exact. and the straight cut of these bodies just couldn't handle the curve. There was a large diagonal empty space from my armpit under my bust to my center front. Worser and worser, it was the dreaded "fish eye" space: pointed at both ends, impossible to walk out of the pattern.  Now, when drafting any conical shaped boned garment, stays or bodies, there is going to be some gapping, because the human body is not cone shaped. Some of this works itself out when you lace up: flesh squishes around to fill the voids. Some of it can be solved by small pillows under the bust (particularly this is in either very small chested or larger chested women, where the bust tends to sink into the the body of the garment as wear goes on) But this gap was really not one that could be dealt with by padding, and it didn't go away with lacing. So I was faced with a conundrum: Stick to the absolute period pattern, and be uncomfortable, plus possibly have my boobs migrate down into my bodice over the course of the evening, or alter the pattern out of strictly proveable period boundaries. My decision was to opt for comfort. I borrowed patterning from a later pair of stays, and made them five pieces rather than three, with a diagonal seam along the side front. Since I was already altering the pattern, I just went ahead and made attached tabs that the boning runs down into to keep the boning from stabbing me in the hips.

The next question is one of materials. We know that period women wore colorful undergarments in linen and silk, boned with reed, or whalebone. There's also growing evidence of stiffened undergarments made of layers of glued together linen. It's looking more and more likely that many tudor gowns owed their shape to kirtles stiffened by this method, and that boning was a later invention all together (The folks over at the Tudor Tailor have done some interesting work on this theory). Again, we run into the problem of surviving garments and primary sources. We can't be 100% sure at what point in history the boned bodies showed up, or how universally they were adopted. The venetian gowns could have been stiffened with paste and linen in the gown itself, avoiding the boning showing through the gown. Or they could have been worn over a paste stiffened linen undergown or pair of bodies. It's impossible to know. Certainly some of the portraits show wrinkling of the gown along the sides that wouldn't be typical of a garment worn over a whaleboned or reeded pair of bodies.

With this information in mind, I set about choosing my own materials. Since I was already straying from historical accuracy with the pattern, I did think for about ten minutes about just giving up and using coutil, but decided instead to try and stick as closely as possible to period fabrics. I used an inner layer of heavy linen, and an outer layer of silk underlined with horsehair fabric. What you ask is horsehair fabric? It's a stiff fabric typically made of horsehair and linen used in modern tailoring to give shape to collars and lapels. It is a period fabric, and it's ideal for corsetry because it really doesn't stretch. For the silk, in spite of period women's love for color, I chose white for the front, to keep it from showing through the camica, and pulled some lovely peach from my stash for the rest of it. I used 4 metal bones in the front to simulate a busk, as well as two in the back to firm up the lacing edges. The rest of the bodies is boned with heavy duty cable ties, which seem to be an excellent modern aproximation of whalebone. Unlike the evil flimsy plastic boning, they do not buckle and stab you, and they're easy to use and cheap.

After cutting the pieces and putting them together, clipping the seams where necessary and pressing them open, I stay stitched all around the edges of the silk and horsehair linen to keep them from sliding. Then I sewed the center front and center back and graded the seam to reduce bulk. You can see the single sew on tab in the brown linen here, all the rest of the tabs where cut into the piece. On the sewn in tab it is really important to be SURE that you press the seam allowances down towards the tabs. Resist the temptation to press one layer up and one down to reduce bulk, because if you do that when you try to slide the boning in it will get stuck and there will be a lot of muttering. Judicious grading of the seam reduces bulk greatly without catching your boning.

 With everything flipped right side out, I sewed the edge boning channel (which keeps things flat and still) and then marked all the rest of the boning channels. The original garment has no boning over the bust area, which is something I had never seen before, but decided to try. The original garment also had vertical boning from busk around to the side seams, but that was going to be tricky with the new curved side front seam I had added. I perused my corsetry books, and decided to use the boning pattern from the same (post period) pair of stays I had taken the side front seam from, which has vertical boning in the front, then a piece running along the seam, and the rest sort of fanning from the armpit the side back seam. I then pinned through the seams to make sure everything was really thoroughly lined up before I started sewing the boning channels.

I chose a dark plum 30 weight cotton thread to sew the boning channels on the peach silk: I thought it provided a nice contrast. I sewed the channels in the back side first, moving from the center back towards the front. Then I carefully hand stitched "in the ditch" of the stitching line, through the side front seam, stitching the two seams together so that everything was absolutely lined up, and providing a stop for the boning in the front that ended on the seam. I used a small backstitch for strength and because it's easier to work small through thick fabrics. Then I sewed the front boning chanels.

with all the boning channels sewn, I bound the bottom tabs (which is far easier on an unboned garment: It's easier to wrangle, and there's not the risk of breaking sewing machine needles on bones) This was where I had my big oopsie. I had decided to quilt the unboned bust areas while I was sewing the front boning channels. It occured to me this would be much easier with an unboned garment. I had quilted one bust area when I realized that I had already bound the bottom of the garment, and it would be impossible to put the bones in. At this point I just went to bed.

When I got up and was ready to face the boning, I started with the metal bones, 4 center front, and one on each side of the center back opening. These are spring steel, which I buy by the roll from corsetry supply. After cutting it with my own personal bolt cutters (For corsetry only. Husband get your own!) I wrapped the end in plumbers tape. This brilliant little hack keeps the edges of the metal from rubbing through the fabric. With the metal bones done, I set about boning the rest of it with the cable ties. Although it is possible to cut these with scissors the bolt cutters are easier. I then use a lighter to slightly melt the end and roll them against a heat resistant surface to gently round any sharp edges that might abrade the fabric.

I boned everything possible before I had to face up to the place where I had cleverly closed off both ends of the boning channels. I had to slit the top of each boning channel with a sharp seam ripper, slide the bone in, then sew the top of the channel closed, using very long stitches to keep them from tearing out. I will go back later and put a small patch of linen over the area on the inside to further reinforce it. I muttered a lot.

With the boning done, I only had to quilt the second bust area, bind the top and armpits, and set the grommets. I had originally planned to work hand eyelets over metal rings, but I needed to finish so I could start working on the bodice of my gown, so I just used metal grommets, set with the usual bodkin and grommet setting tool method. The silk did tend to rip rather than spread when i used the bodkin, and has since started to pull away from the grommets. I think it's mostly because this silk is old, and it may be a bit fragile for this usage, but if I set grommets in silk again, I will use fray check after I make the hole with the bodkin.

The only further problem I had was that the first time I laced it up one of the side seams popped. I don't know if I just didn't backtack it enough, or quite what, but the end of that seam is under a lot of pressure when you lace up. I repaired it with a lot of hand satin stitching over the seam, and secured the other side with a little bit of flossing, and it hasn't moved. Next time instead of ironing those seams open I will iron one left, one right, then when I sew the boning channels it will secure through the seam allowances and the pressure won't just be on a single seam end point. 

Over my camica, which I typically wear it under.
A big advantage of the boned tabs is that on me they make
a bumroll unecessary. 

you can see where the silk ripped out of the shoulder seams and around the grommets.
I have a pretty big gap in the back. I am slowly losing baby weight,
and wanted this to still fit in a year or so. You can also see the incredible bend the zip ties make without buckling on my side back tabs.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Husbeast's Fencing Doublet, Part 2 (construction at last!)

This is Part 2 of a two part series. Part 1, detailing the design and patterning process, can be found Here

With trial construction safely done, I felt ready to finally cut husband's first Proper Doublet, complete with all the bells and whistles. Inspired by Giovanni moroni's fantastic portraits, and an extant fencing doublet, I had patterned, drafted, and tested to death. There was nothing left but to start in earnest. I had decided at some point along the design process that this would be an ideal garment for him to wear to the fancy elizabethan event we were going to for our anniversary, so I was on a bit of a deadline, and with my own gown yet to make. Still, with six weeks to the event I felt comfortable getting everything done.

I had already started making the buttons, so they were well in hand, but I still needed two strips of
eyelets for the sleeves. I made those out of a fold of the the exterior fabric with the ends sewn in. It was my first time making hand eyelets and at first they went very slowly, but it quickly picked up speed as I got the hang of the process. The first strip of 15 eyelets took me three episodes of star trek, the second, half that. Then  I cut the collar and sleeve wings, and padstiched them to a layer of felt.

For the body of the doublet I used a layer of upholstery fabric, a layer of batting (Dream Angel, is a manmade fiber batting that i keep a roll of on hand. It happens to be fire retardant, in case husband ever decides to stand too close to a bonfire) I sewed the side seams of the doublet preparatory to marking the cording out. This is where I first discovered that this was, in fact the devils upholstery fabric. Ironing the seams open (after clipping the batting back to the seam line) had no apparent impact. They had to be ironed open and then whip stitched down to the batting. Once I'd done this I lined the seams up with the seams of the black Kona Cotton lining (dyed black cotton. very nice) and pinned through the seams to keep everything stable.

And started marking..... and marking, and marking.....

With it all marked I sewed the shoulder seams (which have continuous lines of stitching over them), whip stitched the seam allowances down, and started couching down perle cotton with  cording foot.  Although I knotted off the couching threads with the sewing machine, the long ends of perle cotton had to be run into the body of the doublet with a blunt needle. I soon found that it was more effective to double over stitching lines I'd already made than to start and stop continually.

With most of the cording on the body done, I corded the lines on the collar (which had already been padstitched.) that did not continue onto the doublet, then attached the collar to the doublet to finish the cording on the back neck.
Like in a modern tailored jacket, what you do with the seam allowances makes a big difference in the final result. Because I needed this collar to stand up, even though it's wide enough to flop back (large necked husbeast problems) I carefully whip stitched all the seam allowances (after some grading and clipping) down to the inside of the doublet. The mess is all covered by the collar lining later. This is where I discovered feature #2 of the devil's upholstery fabric. If you clip it (you have to clip it unless you want bunchy seams) little bits of it will then proceed to ravel OUT THROUGH THE SEAMS. Yes. Unheard of in my entire sewing life to date. The solution? as soon as I made any clips into the fabric they had to be thoroughly and immediately fraychecked.

With the collar firmly attached I could finish the last of the cording on the body of the doublet, and work all the ends in.
And move onto cording all of the tabs. They're two layers of evil upholstery fabric with a layer of batting between. After they were corded they had to all be bound with the silk dupioni bias tape, and then the bias tape hand stitched to the back. 10 minutes per tab.... 16 tabs.....

This is where I discovered another wrinkle. What looked like an enormous amount of bias tape when I made it up wasn't going to be enough to bind the tabs, the front and around the collar, much less the sleeves and armholes. I had to adapt the plan, because there wasn't any more dupioni. I scrounged enough scraps to make it up to the collar. So that meant I had to just find alternate methods for the wings, armhole, and collar.

I had already cut the collar lining, so I did have that to work with. I installed it schooched up about half an inch, and sewed the bottom edge down to keep it in place.
This gave me enough extra to fold the lining down over the outside of the jacket.
and then very carefully fold the edge under, ease it in, and sew it into place. Thankfully silk dupioni is pretty amenable to being eased, or this would have been rather a nightmare.  With that done I sewed a piece of black bias (cut from the same fabric as the lining) down over the exposed bits of collar on the inside. That had to be done all by hand so no stitching would show on the outside.
Then it was time to deal with the wings. I had sewed and turned them rather than binding them. Of course they wouldn't stay put OR flat but rolled and puffed like crazy (devils upholstery fabric strikes again) so i used some of the perle cotton and ran a line of herringbone stitch through the lining and into the padstitched felt underneath around the seam allowance on the inside. Then I pinned them down, along with the eyelet strips for the sleeves and sewed them down.

With them tacked into place, I sewed a strip of black bias tape around the entire armhole, and (you guessed it) turned the seam allowances to the inside, graded what of it I could to reduce bulk (the felt and batting, and the jacket lining were safe choices) and whipped it down to the inside of the jacket. If you don't do this your wings will have a distressing tendency to not stay that the angle you intended for them, and may even tend to stick UP from the shoulders rather than out.
 Then I turned the bias binding to the inside, and sewed it down all around. Here you can see the finished lacing strips hiding under the wings.

With the wings on it was time to turn to the tabs. They had to be sewn on, the seam allowance turned
up to the body and stitched down, then a wide folded piece of bias tape sewn over that.  If you don't stitch the seam allowance to the body the tabs won't stick down, but instead more out, tending to look like a demented tutu. The wide folded bias tape is left free at the bottom edge, and grommets fitted in it for the points of the trunkhose. Ideally these wouldn't be grommets but more hand bound eyelets worked over metal rings. But by this point in construction I was hugely past my estimated labor time of 50 hours (5x what it took me for the practice doublet), and not even counting the making of the eyelet strips or the buttons I had more than doubled my original time estimate. I was beginning to cut corners out of desperation. I can go back later and work thread over the grommets to make them look better if I decide I care about it that much.

With the tabs on I bound the remaining front edge between the collar and tabs, and began affixing buttons. These are knotted on with the two "tails" left from construction, and then the knot fray checked, and the ends buried in the doublet.

then all that was left of the doublet proper was to work all button loops, alternating sides, all down the front of the doublet.

Then back to square one for the sleeves! The original doublet was missing the sleeves, but there's another padded, corded doublet in Patterns of Fashion that Arnold notes as a close cousin of the one I recreated, and it has sleeves. I drafted these to husband's measurements, mocked them up, pinned them to the lacing strips, and altered them.

Once altered the pattern was so funny looking I almost did a second mockup just to double check. but I decided to trust the process. I mean, none of his other patterns look like things that belong to normal humans, why should his sleeves?

I cut them out from the upholstry fabric of doom. seamed them,
sewed the seam allowances down carefully so as not to have stitches showing on the outside, and then fully lined them from the top, and finished the bottom with a scrap of the silk satin left from cutting his trunkhose out. I added a pair of buttons and button loops to each sleeve, and was finished. Ideally I would have put coordinating lacing eyelets on the top of each sleeve, but by this point I was beginning to feel desperate about getting it done, so I used a large blunt needle to sew the lacing ribbon straight through the sleeve. I'll later enlarge those holes with a bodkin and make proper eyelets.

Then I had to finish off the last details of the doublet, working any leftover threads in, and making up the tiny tassels that decorate the points of the back neck cording on the original. Using a hack I saw some time ago (actually for making miniature bows, but tassels are the same principle)  I made the tiny tassels around the tines of a dessert fork, That way you can tie off the neck between the fork tines, and just slide the whole thing off the end They turned out beautifully fluffy, and perfectly even, although I may have to use a little stitch to make them lie down flat, since they don't seem to want to do that.

And it was finally, finally, done. This thing was a true labor of love. I figure 200+ hours into the doublet once you start counting time spent making  buttons. A lot of that was extra time spent dealing with the devil's upholstery fabric, or flailing because I ran out of bias tape. Still, just the basic labor in creating this kind of extremely tailored garment is nothing to be sneezed at. I will take what I learned from this one to the next one (Which will NOT be corded and quilted) and hopefully improve my time. I have to say though, seeing husband in his suit, it was worth every minute I spent. This makes two suits done, of the four he needs, plus a proposed black velvet and blue silk court outfit.........
Doublet back

for some reason it will only let me load this photo sideways, but here's the doublet front! 
The husbeast, handsome dog that he is.