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…how 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!


  • Sarah Walsh

    January 31, 2020 at 6:37 PM

    Lulz, I still have my belly pooch from pregnancy 6 (!!!) years ago. It's so frustrating that my 18th century bodices don't just lie nice and flat. Maybe I should do 17th century!!

  • The Time Traveler's Guide

    January 31, 2020 at 9:00 PM

    I so identify with the zooming-ahead-on one-side-of-the-bodice thing. I never can seem to work one step at a time.
    I am always so anxious to see progress that I sort of get ahead of myself, too.

  • Unknown

    March 15, 2020 at 9:10 PM

    Cannot wait to see this on! Much respect for delving into an unknown time, and something you weren't totally comfortable with!


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