Thursday, January 30, 2020


The 1630s Dutch Thang - Badonk-a-donk, Petticoat, and Starting the Bodies

Just playing around with pinning things on my dress form
Now into the making up! I've been stitching on my big 1630 project and quite enjoying the process. There's enough weirdness here to keep my interest (and hopefully yours too as I document the project here).

I started with the petticoat, since it affects the waist length of the bodice, especially with this gnarly silhouette. Though there isn't much information available on 1630s garments specifically, not a whole lot changed between the end of the 16th century and this far into the 17th. I'm using a very large bum pad made from The Tudor Tailor for the back ba-donk paired with one of my smaller, general purpose 18th century bum pillows for the front belly.

Booty-and-belly padding to achieve the early 17th century silhouette. (Please ignore that pad under the arm - it is irrelevant, just hangin' out there so I don't lose it).
It's quite a weird silhouette and not one costumers gravitate towards today. French farthingales scare us. We don't find the preggo look flattering these days, though there are at least three periods in history where belly pads were all the rage. This is one of them - I am unafraid! (I'm a little afraid).

The petticoat is made of two panels of 60" wide silk taffeta, totally about 118" at the hem, right in the range the Tudor Tailors recommend. Just like measuring for 18th century panniers, I measured the center back, center front, and side to the floor, then shaped the top edge of the petticoat and left the hem on the straight, which helped me later on in applying the three bands of velvet trim on the straight. The top of the petticoat is pleated in pretty large knife pleats, and I've left the sides open like an 18th century petticoat. The waistband is shaped a bit at the front and interfaced, again recommended by the Tudor Tailors.

Three bands of velvet ribbon applied to the petticoat panels. This was tedious to sew on - I used the machine for the sake of sanity, though I knew I would be sacrificing perfect tension.
The petticoat is leveled from the top and the hem is on the straight, making applying these bands much easier.

I did a fairly wide, interfaced, shaped waistband for the petticoat, recommended by the Tudor Tailor for late 16th century.
With the petticoat done, I couldn't help but jump into the bodice. I draped a pattern awhile back using just any-ole-petticoat on the dress form, and a pair of very old generic Renaissance bodies to assist in shaping the bust to where I wanted it to be once the lobster bod was complete. The fronts of these bodices are heavily boned with an "S" curved center front seam/edge/overlap, while the backs have no boning at all but do have eyelets for a center back closure. The basic bodice pattern was quite simple - just two pieces, no darts.

My pattern. I originally tried to scale up the gridded pattern in Patterns of Fashion 5 but I had a lot of trouble with the grid scale, and the original bodice itself is super-duper-tiny. Having failed in that, I draped the pattern instead and referenced the patterns in both books for the shapes and grain lines.
Interestingly, the German book hypothesizes that these types of bodices were worn with another set of bodies/stays beneath. The reasoning for this is that there is no boning in the back of the originals, not even on the center back edges that lace closed, and there is no evidence of pulling or stress in the eyelets. Patterns of Fashion 5 doesn't make any mention of another pair of stays being worn underneath, but does make a point of calling these bodices "smooth covered stays."

The primary foundation layer is two layers of stiff linen with rather robust baleen strips in the front only. I'm using heavy duty zip ties. The distinct "S" curve is achieved by the "S" shaped front overlap and a fair amount of steaming.
It doesn't make sense to me to wear a heavily-boned pair of bodies beneath another heavily-boned garment, so here's where the experiential archaeology comes in (MY FAVORITE PART!). The question is the bodice laced tight enough at the back to keep the boning close-fitting to the body without stressing and pulling the eyelets out of shape at the back?

And the answer lies in the S-shaped center front seam and the properties of baleen. I am not using baleen in this project, just plain ole plastic zip ties, but both materials shape to the body by heat/steam. In just playing around with some boning in the channels, blasting some steam on the area, and lining up the center front S-shaped edges, the bodice front keeps an incredible complex S shape on its own. It doesn't lay flat, just like the originals in the photos, which means that tight lacing at the bodice back isn't necessary.

I'm jumping ahead here (don't worry, I'll write about what's inbetween the last photo and this one), but just to show the steaming and how the curves are holding with one side boned, covered, and just pinned onto the dress form.
Another theory (my own crackpot theory) is that these bodices were not worn often. The German book notes several times that this very stiff, ornate, formal, and somewhat fossilized style of dress was a wedding garment. I am not sure yet if I 100% agree with that (more research, woo!), but the evidence suggests at the very least they were for formal wear. If bodies like these were worn infrequently, maybe only a couple times, and were not tightly laced in back, would there be significant stress/pulling/wearing of the eyelets?

There is more to be discovered!

My progress so far. I did that "dangerous" thing where you go zooming ahead on one side of the bodice without catching up the other side. Now I have the entire other side to do and I know how time consuming it is, lol. But it's looking *COOL* so far!

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Thursday, January 23, 2020


The 1630 Dutch *Thang* - Beginnings

A still from "Tulip Fever" (2017) - outstanding costuming by Michael O'Connor.
As so often happens, after a no-sew period of downtime and feeling phlegmatic about costuming, I was struck by a small bolt of inspiration and have jumped into a new project.

It's often nice to stick with the familiar...or I should say it's "easy," rather. Sewing another 18th century Italian gown is easy. Sewing another vintage dress is easy. But sometimes you just want to get stuck in to the nitty gritty of a totally alien time and place. My alien planet this time is the Netherlands in the early 1630s.

Though this image is a little earlier than my 1630 date, it shows details of the "vlieger" costume in detail. This costume did not change much (the sleeves are a little different), from the earlier 17th century onwards. Dirck Hals, Jacob Matham, 1619 - 1623 Rijksmuseum
I'm saying the Netherlands because that is where, generally, this style of dress comes from...but the surviving garments I'm referencing are all from Cologne, Germany. Cologne is quite close to the Netherlands and was heavily influenced by Dutch fashion in this period through trade and immigration. There is a very clear link between the styles in a variety of primary sources - portraiture, inventories, and other records - and several of my secondary references connect these two, so while I'm calling this my Dutch Thang, I reserve the right to call it my Cologne Thang in the future if I find there is actually too much differentiation.

One of several of these bodices in the Darmstadt collection, featured in "Kölner Patrizier".
Mooooving on.
I first came into contact with these eye-popping basque bodices in "Tulip Fever," a film I've written about here before. The costumes in this film are outstanding, and as with anything weird and brightly colored, I was drawn to the "lobster bod" like a magpie. It wasn't until Patterns of Fashion 5 came out, though, that making one of these ensembles was a "must do," for in that incredible book there are two such bodices from the Darmstadt collection. Supplied with the drug of gridded patterns and detailed notes on all the layers and padding, the Thang started to make much more sense.

I draped my pattern over a pair of hemp-boned bodies, comparing it to the pattern shapes in Patterns of Fashion 5.
Plus my bestie gave me a length of searingly-bright imperial yellow silk for Christmas.

Down the research rabbithole I went, and took the pains* (yes, pains) to import "Kölner Patrizier- und Bürgerkleidung des 17. Jahrhunderts Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt" (Cologne patrician and civic clothing of the 17th century: The Hüpsch costume collection in the Hessian State Museum in Darmstadt) on the recommendation of Angela Mombers.

This book, though written in German, comes with an English translation of the first three chapters, which discusses each of the garments in the catalog in detail, including construction notes, as well as the tailor's trade and sumptuary laws in Cologne in the early 17th century. There are excellent photos of men's and women's 17th century garments, including several basque bodices and women's upper garments, complete with pattern diagrams and photos of details and interiors.

The German book works brilliantly with Patterns of Fashion 5, which features the same photographs (licensed from the Darmstadt collection, I assume) but with significantly more information on the pattern and construction from a maker's perspective.

So to get down to brass tacks, here are the pieces of this ensemble:
  • Shift/Shirt - linen, high necked, simple.
  • Skirt Supports - I'm using a ginormous Elizabethan style bum pad for the back and a smaller bum pad for the belly
  • Petticoat - referencing Tudor Tailor
  • Lobster Bodice - the coup de grace!
  • Vlieger/Surcoat Robe - referencing Janet Arnold, Norah Waugh, and portraiture
  • Sleeves - made separately and tied onto the vlieger
  • Millstone Ruff - dear lord save me
  • Rabato/Ruff Support - referencing Janet Arnold
  • Cap
  • Cuffs

My goal/deadline is Costume College in late July 2020. Wish me luck!

The German book and Patterns of Fashion 5 cross-referencing each other, and the smooth cover of my basque with the trim lines drawn out.

*This book is only available in Germany and at the time of my ordering it could only be paid for by wire transfer. While this method of payment is common in Germany, it is abnormal, inconvenient, and expensive in the US. The book is large and comes with an invaluable English translation of the first three chapters, but be prepared to pay close to or upwards of $100 USD for it.
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