Monday, December 12, 2016

A Husbeast's fencing doublet, Part 1 (in the beginning)

This is Part 1 of a two part series. Part 2, detailing making the doublet, can be found Here

This has been a project spanning the last almost four months since my husband decided that SCA Rapier was a thing that he wanted to do and there was a sudden urgent need for puncture resistant garments. That set off a flurry of research into rapier regulations, and late period garments, so I could provide him with options of what was possible while he decided on a persona. He finally decided to go the easiest route and use his own heritage, which, as he is slovenian, positions him around the north eastern corner of modern Italy. Because most of the sword techniques and sources used for SCA rapier are later period, he wanted to do later period. Well, first he wanted to be a musketeer. After I told him that a) it was way to far post period to even be stretching the guidlines (1630 anyone?) and b) showed him a lot of really silly looking outfits from that era, he decided that he could go with the later 1500's instead. This set of yet another flurry of research. As I dug around I found two things.

First I tripped over Giovanni Battista Moroni, and his beautiful almost photorealistic portraits. He painted a lot of swordsmen, knights, and soldiers. Their faces are craggy and real, and their clothes are sublime. The fashions more practical and less extreme than what I had associated with mid to late 1500's.  This portrait of  Don Gabriel de la Cueva was the first thing that I saw and thought "this suits" It's restrained by elizabethan standards, but elegant with it's rich fabric and touch of gold embroidery on collars and cuffs. Most importantly it proved to hubby that not everyone in the elizabethan era had to wear a ruff. or "silly pants"

I think that he had a preconceived notion that everyone in the elizabethan era looked like Sir robert dudley here, Or prince Hercule Francios who, while undoubtedly magnificent, would make my husband feel uncomfortable, silly, and self conscious. 
Robert Dudley, Unknown artist, 1575
National portrait gallery
Prince Hercule Francios, 1572
National Gallery of art, Washington
He had the simultaneous (and also erroneous) preconceived notion that musketeers looked more like this:
3 musketeers film, 2011 

and less like this:
The Meagre company, by Frans Hals, 1633
Amsterdam museum 
Which while also magnificent, is extremely post period, involves a lot of lace, and isn't really suited to certain body types. Once we cleared up all the misinformation, we were good.

The second thing I found on my trip down the research rabbit hole, was an Elizabethan era fencing doublet, with removable sleeves (no longer existing, but the lacing holes for attaching them are still there.) Made from padded leather and embroidered stiff, it's a thing of beauty and practicality. I immediately knew that I wanted to recreate it, or at least something like it. Luckily this is one of the pieces that's diagrammed and described in Janet Arnolds "patterns of fashion" So I had a place to start from in recreating it. With a lot of help from the folks in the Elizabethan costuming group on facebook, I made final design decisions about sleeves and construction, and set off.

The first thing I did was to make a fencing doublet for Ladybug. No. Really. She started fencing at the same time as hubby, and also needed puncture resistant garments. Making something for her allowed me to test out the patterning and construction in miniature. I shrunk down a pattern for a ladies doublet from Janet Arnold's book, and I consulted more with the Elizabethan costuming group, as well as my local Elizabethan costuming experts about padstitching collars and other details. I lined her doublet in purple silk, and made a matching shirt and knee breeches. I took everything to be puncture tested, including possible fabrics for Husband's garment.

With that under my belt I finalized the design for husband's garment. I had a bolt of lovely dove grey upolstery fabric, Since it easily passed puncture testing, I decided to use that with scarlet perle cotton couched down to  match the patterns on the original fencing doublet, and matching thread covered buttons. I decided rather sadly, that I'd eliminate the bulk of the embroidery for this go round, in the interest of him actually having clothes in the near future. I dyed some silk I had to match the scarlet perle cotton cording: a piece of dupioni to line the collar and bind the doublet with, and a piece of satin for the inner layer of paned trunkhose to match. I looked up how to make the most basic thread wrapped buttons, and started work on the estimated 30 buttons needed for the doublet.

Finally I drafted the pattern out of Janet Arnold's book, and made a mock up, altered it, and repeated until I had something that fit just right. The biggest challenges of the patterning were the collar, which is difficult on someone with a neck the size of my husband's, and the waistline. The neck required me to slash and spread the collar so that it flared from the base rather than rising straight up. It looks right when it's on him, although it's a pretty funny shape on paper. The waistline was a bit more tricky, Husbeast is built like a linebacker. He has a massive chest, thick waist, and a small gut. His waistline (where he wears his pants) naturally falls well below his natural waist. It was difficult to decide how to fit this in a way that would be both period and flattering to more modern sensibilities. I ended up after consulting with the the elizabethan costuming folks, going midway between the natural waist and his waistline and just finding a fit and line that seemed flattering, which meant gently fitting the front to his silhouette, but not going for the full blown peascod doublet look, which he might have felt awkward in.

At this point I was ready to start sewing, but decided to first make a practice doublet: sort of a more sophisticated mockup. A finished garment that he could wear to fight practice, but also a chance for me to work through the bugs of construction without being super upset if I messed up and it wasn't perfect. I used some brown heavy weight twill, bound it with fabric to match his fencing shirt, and gave it a laced front with a velcro under panel so he didn't have to lace it for every single practice. It looks like a blob without him in it, but it worked out really well. It was also an important learning experience, working with the collar, and the armhole, as well as the tabs and front binding. All of them have their own quirks. The first thing I tried for instance, for continuing the binding from the tabs to the front of the doublet wasn't the best, and left an unsightly lump. Doing the practice doublet allowed me to get an idea of how the techniques I planned to use would really work out in practice. And with a matching fencing hood, it got him out of the loaner gear. Which was a plus!

After all this, I finally felt secure enough to cut out the grey fabric and start work on the corded doublet.

Continued in Part Two

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