Friday, August 28, 2015

Lilli Ann Fox Fur Coat for Sale!

This sumptuous coat is in excellent condition apart from some faint stains on lining, which are completely invisible when worn (see pictures). Fur is pristine, all closures are sound. It has pockets! Would fit S-M.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Elizabethan-Early Jacobean Petticoat: Not Your Mama's Corset

Probably a waistcoat worn over a petticoat.

Although the garment has been finished for over a week, I've been putting off writing this post because there is SO much to say! Support garments in the 16th (and early 17th; to the 1620s for my purposes) century are a very complex, tricky subject. Part of the problem is that there are so few extant garments, compared to the 18th century for example, to work from. Elizabethans also weren't always clear in some of their terminology, much to the frustration of clothing historians! 

One thing that is clear--or I should say, has become clear in the past few years--is that most women in the Elizabethan period probably did not wear a separate boned garment under their gowns, at least until the very end of the century (and then by mainly fashionable women--well get into that later!). I know, I know. If you made an outfit for a Renaissance faire in the past 20... 30 years, you probably made a boned corset for your outfit. I did! But current research now suggests that this probably was not the most likely garment for women to be wearing in this period. It's probably more common for a woman to wear a petticoat and/or kirtle consisting of a bodice attached to a skirt (we'll get into petticoat vs. kirtle later as well!). The bodice--often called "upperbodies" or "bodies" in period document--most likely did not rely on boning for support and shape in the way that boning is used later in the 17th century and on into the 18th and 19th centuries. Instead, layers of padstitched canvas and buckram and a proper fit could provide support for the female figure. It's certainly possible that other forms of stiffening were being used, perhaps bents (dried sea grass), pasteboard, or cording, since we see them in other applications like whalebone and bents in the large "farthingale" sleeves of the 1590s.

Today we associate "petticoat" with just a skirt, but for Elizabethan women it most likely had an attached bodice. In the written record, authors specifically mention when petticoats are "without bodies" instead of the other way around. Even though the bodies and skirt were attached, wardrobe accounts and tailors bills often talk about making the pieces separately, or enlarging or making new bodies as a woman's body changed. Bodies and skirt did not have to be of the same fabric. For example, clothing was provided for the poor of Ipswich, and this entry mentions canvas for the bodies of petticoats:

"More, payde for ii yardes iii qtrs. of canves for iii upper bodies for iii of the grete wenches' petticottes and for the strengthening of ther wastcottes, at xd. per yarde iis iiid" 

The woman in the middle of the painting with her back to us wear a petticoat with a brown bodice and red skirt. Red was an extremely common color for petticoats (but that's a discussion for another day!).

Kirtles could also feature expensive fabric for the parts that would show and cheaper fabric for those that would not.  Now let's discuss petticoat vs. kirtle. They both seem to consist of a bodice and skirt. The bodices may or may not have been the support layer. I mean to say that if you had a supportive petticoat, your kirtle didn't need to be supportive as well--or vice versa. If your kirtle bodies are supportive, your petticoat doesn't need a supportive bodice. The Tudor Tailor by Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhaila puts the issue of petticoat vs. kirtle better than I ever could, so I will quote from them directly:

 "A woman's outer clothes consisted of various combinations of petticoat, kirtle, gown, and jacket. Which of these she wore, and how many of them at one time, depended on her rank, the weather, the occasion, and the gradual evolution of fahsion through the century." (Mikhaila and Malcom-Davies, pg. 20)

"The garment worn by all women over the smock consisted of a fitted bodice with attached skirt. In the early Tudor period, this was called a kirtle. By the 1550s, the word 'petticoat' was being used to describe this item of clohthing and 'kirtle' referred to a garment that was worn over, or instead of, a petticoat by wealthier, more fashionable women."(Mikhaila and Malcolm-Davies, pg 64)

The last page of Kimiko's article quotes an online discussion with Ninya Mikhaila further elaborating the evolution of petticoat and kirtle terminology.

So what about the Elizabeth I "effigy" bodies, or the Pzalgrafin bodies in Patterns of Fashion? Yes, boned support garments did exist. But you'll notice that both of those garments come from the very end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th century, and they belonged to royal women. The Tudor Tailor notes that in their survey of Essex wills, only four pairs of bodies are mentioned in the last quarter of the 16th century, almost all of them belonging to women of the upper classes (Mikhaila and Malcolm-Davies, pg. 23). At that time period, boned bodies are becoming fashionable among the elite and working their way down through society. Those bodies could be tied or "pointed" to a skirt-only petticoat (also becoming more fashionable in this period).  If you zoom in on the portrait of Elizabeth Vernon en dishabille, you'll be able to make out the pretty matching pink points tying her bodies to her gorgeous petticoat. It's a bit tricky because she has a sheer apron tied around her waist, but they're there! I did this on my silk bodies and scarlet broadcloth petticoat, which will be the foundation garments for the silk 1610s gown I have fabric for...

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There are paintings of women in the early 17th century, just about all Flemish, working in kitchens with bodies that clearly have stitching lines to possibly hold some kind of boning. It's been pointed out in discussions in the Elizabethan Costuming group on Facebook (a really excellent community, by the way! Lots of very knowledgeable and kind folks) that these are often allegorical paintings. And many of the women are also wearing pretty fashionable neckwear which doesn't seem terribly practical for doing kitchen work! I do want to acknowledge those images, although I don't feel they are the norm for common women of the period. That is of course not to say that lower and middle class women couldn't have had such a garment, but it seems less likely than their having a petticoat or kirtle.

Other lovely folks have written some great stuff on this subject, so I will post links to their work at this time:

If you want more primary accounts describing petticoats, search "petticoat bodies" in the killer Elizabethan wardrobe account database!

And please check out the amazing people at The Tudor Tailor for books, patterns, supplies, information, and inspiration!

Petticoats didn't disappear with the new century, though. They were definitely worn into the first few decades 17th century by common women. The women who came to Jamestown in Virginia in 1621 were provided some clothing by the Virginia Company, including one petticoat, one waistcoat, and two smocks. There is no mention of a separate pair of bodies, though, so it's my belief that they were given typical petticoats with attached supportive upperbodies. 

So of course I had to have one! This will serve as my supportive layer for my forthcoming 1560s ensemble, and for a set of common woman's clothing for my interpretive work at early 17th century Virignia sites like Henricus and Jamestown. I have a 17th century event coming up next month, and I hope to have a low-neck smock, partlet, and waistcoat finished for that! Easy, right? ;-)

My petticoat is made of wool and has two layers of heavyweight, coarse linen padstitched together for the bodies, then lined in linen--no boning! Skirt was squeezed out of two yards of red wool flannel (yay piecing!) and bound in black wool tape. 

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Eyelets and skirt opening.

The skirt top edge is folded over and whipped to the bottom edge of the bodies, which have been completely finished by stitching the lining in.

More eyelets :)

A bit of the piecing, and the wool tape binding. I purposefully chose to do all of the stitching in unbleached linen thread.

A shot of the "guts". The seam allowance is stitched down with a herringbone stitch. I only did padstitching on the fronts, and then only on half of each side. I could have done more, but... meh!
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Monday, July 6, 2015

I Made a Thing: The Kirtle Dirndl

Because of My Stupid Wrist (TM), I've been focusing more on "modern" sewing projects that don't have to be entirely hand sewn. I've made curtains for the kitchen, a maxi dress that I should take pictures of, and now this. I've been very inspired by modern, high fashion dirndls, particularly some made of African fabrics. I had resigned myself to being good and using stash fabric, when I came across this amazing fabric that was grown, woven, and dyed in Mali at Joann of all places. I couldn't resist, and flitted around the store picking up other things to make my dream a reality. Originally, the bodice was going to be made of a navy cotton twill, but I made some cutting boo-boos and now the bodice is made of denim. But I'm actually VERY pleased with the change, as the denim has more depth in color and texture than the twill. So yay, happy accident!

In My Stupid Wrist (TM) news, the cortisone didn't seem to help, so I'm waiting on authorization to have an MRI. Hopefully that will tell us something and my doctor can decide on the next step. I've reached the point where I feel I'm d----d if I do and d----d if I don't, so I may as well start hand sewing a little bit again and be less miserable. It's been a rough month since I got back from my trip home to CA.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Changes for the Couture Courtesan

It's been quiet around here...

And here's why.

I'm about to embark on four days of doctor's appointments (wrist-related and otherwise), followed by a week and a half with my family and friends in California and Hawaii. I'm hopeful that things will pick up after that, but it all remains to be seen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Rumor in St. Petersburg

This outfit is rather a comedy of errors...

A couple months ago I got the insane idea that I needed a WWI-era outfit for Military Through the Ages this year. It didn't help that Nicole was all for it! Even though I should have been using the time to thoughtfully finish my Felicity sack gown for the Francaise Dinner, I went whole hog and started from undergarments out.

I made an envelope chemise (no pictures, sorry...) and a corset, based on the 1917 pattern in Jill Salen's "Corsets." Unfortunately I got overzealous in taking it in because my mockup of the pattern straight from the book was too big, and the corset ended up a tad small. Still wearable, but I also got the stomach flu days before the event (more on that later...) so I actually decided not to wear it because I was still recovering when Nicole and I went to MTA that Sunday.

I bought a reprint of an original pattern and had perfect fabric in the stash for a darling dress. And then it snowed like CRAZY and I was terrified of being cold, so I begged Michael to give me some wool plush from his stash so I could make a nice warm suit instead. He conceded, and I drafted my own pattern for a 1916 skirt and "Russian" or "cossack" coat, although Michael kindly did the sleeves for me as the deadline drew ever nearer.

Things were going well until I got the stomach flu, at which point all bets were off. But after getting some amazing  anti-nausea medication, I jumped back in the game with two days left. As a result, the finishing is rushed and there are things I want to finish properly before wearing this again. There are no pictures of the blouse that is under the coat because it has no buttons!

I wanted more than just to be a WWI civilian, so I decided to add "suffragette" to the impression. I designed and ordered "Votes for Women" buttons to hand out, and Michael hand lettered my "Votes for Women" sash (bless him!).

And as for the title of this point, I realized my outfit bore a resemblance to 1997 Anastasia... ;-)

Here are some pictures!

A couple that Angela took:

Monday, February 2, 2015

1815 Ball Gown for NOLA

I am so pleased with this gown. It was one of those rare projects that turned out exactly as I had envisioned it. And I got to use some of the silver spangles that were originally for my not-a-wedding-dress!

The gown is made of cotton tulle and cotton lace over pale pink lightweight silk. Each spangle was sewn and knotted individually because the tulle is transparent, so I couldn't cross from one spangle to the other using one thread. It took, but was well worth it. Luckily skirts from this period are not very full at all, and the bodices are tiny!

The construction methods I used drew from a variety of similar drawstring gowns, which have accumulated on my Pinterest. This well-documented gown served as a main resource, however. I chose to make the tulle and silk as a single gown instead of doing two separate gowns, to save myself time and sanity. This gown in the Met was constructed this way, and was very helpful when making my ball gown!

 The paper flowers are from Dames a la Mode!

The bottom of the sleeve is finished with a drawstring

The back of the bodice. The side back pieces are top stitched to the back pieces, as are the shoulder straps.

Inside the bodice. Only the shoulder straps and side pieces are lined (in linen), as these are places that receive a lot of wear and stress from the arm.

Another shot of the lined pieces.

The front gathered section has a drawstring along the top and is gathered to fit the skirt along the bottom. 

Inside of the bodice back. The gown closes with drawstrings at the top and bottom of the bodice back pieces.

View of the drawstring channel from the outside of the back.

The skirt. I just love how ethereal and feminine this combination of materials is!