What can I say - I've been inspired! I have gotten so much information out of other costume diaries out there; I just hope someone someday finds mine to be useful.
This project was to make garb from the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella for Atlantian Twelfth Night.
I've just reorganized this site. If you find any broken links, please let me know at violante AT moorishmaiden.org!
January 20, 2005. The Beginning of the End.
I won't be making many more posts to this costume diary. Check back periodically for new pictures, additional details, and notes about how my attempt to fix the bodice is going. In the meantime, you can check out my costume research!
But here's one last picture to give you some perspective on this project: this is how much fabric I went through just to make mockups. Not including the original muslins. Even this picture doesn't do justice to the size of the pile. (That's my cat, Booger, for a size comparison.)
January 16, 2005. El sayo.
Miguel looked stunning in his jerkin. No ifs, ands or buts. With his broad shoulders and narrow waist, he looks very good in styles with lots of pleats at and below the waistline. The only thing which I wish had been different was that we ran out of time to stitch the pleats (which meant he had to move very carefully during the day to avoid messing them up) and I wanted the front to flip back to show the lining. Though from double checking the sources of the period, that’s more often a feature of the gown (roba) than the jerkin. All in all, very smashing. Honestly, there is nothing which I think I could have done better in this garment.
January 14, 2005. La saya.
I don’t have any separate pictures of how the dress turned out, because we were working on it up until the very last minute.
Long story short: it did the job. I took the tabardo off a few times during the day, so I’m glad I made the effort to make it look nice. But I already have a long, long list of changes to make. I’m actually planning on completely replacing the bodice. I think I have enough silk left over, and it doesn’t really matter what color the linen lining is.
Guards! Guards! Since I sewed the lacing ribbons all the way through lining, seam allowance, canvas stiffening, and the silk, I had to hand sew velvet ribbon over the stitching lines. (Actually, Miguel was the one who sewed them on.) The channels on the dress, as on the doublet, were extremely narrow, but since I laced the dress at home, I had more time to get the really thick drawcord through. I didn’t have a needle with an eye large enough for the cord, any other possible bodkin was too wide to go through the channels, and nothing seemed to work for pushing the cord through. I ended up making Scotch tape aglets. Plural. After a couple of passes, the aglet got flimsy, and had to be cut off and a new one taped on. A note on using Scotch tape aglets: don’t end the aglet at the end of the cord. Extend it by ¼ to ½ an inch. Make this cord-free part as tight and narrow as possible. You push it through the channel, then hold on to it to pull the cord through. Aside from the fact that I had to keep replacing it, it worked pretty well.
Because of how tightly the lace fit in the channels, unlacing the dress was especially difficult. Even just loosening the top couple of laces took several minutes. It was sooooo much easier when they were done with lacing rings. At the end of the day, when it was time to switch back into mundanes, I found a nice lady in the changing room who had a sharp knife and cut through the cords for me. Cord is cheap. But now I have to lace it all over again at some point so I can put a picture on the website.
Sleeves: The sleeves and the dress were both finished separately with bias tape. I deliberately designed the dress so that I could take the sleeves off and sew on different ones if I should want to. Or leave them off altogether. Which was a good thing. I intended to sew the sleeves on in the car ride to the event. But remember those gussets I added to the sleeve for extra ease in the shoulder? I was having such issues trying to hand stitch in that ease that I gave up pretty quickly. I sewed the pearls onto the tabardo instead, and I’m pretty happy with that decision.
Breathing is Optional: The bodice was too tight. No question about it. The Gothic-fitted-dress fit is supposed to shape and support; this bodice crushed. I never did get it laced all the way closed like I wanted. For future versions, I’m going to use this same pattern and add an inch to the side and front seams and then refit it. In fact, I might try fitting each bodice individually from here on out like the “experts” do, rather than relying on a muslin or mockup first.
In fact, I’m rethinking whether or not there should be another layer underneath the bodice. The vast majority of the paintings from the period show something else under the bodice when it was front laced. Which creates a new logistical problem: when you have an ahem biological need to unlace your bodice in the front, and the second layer doesn’t also lace up the front (and it doesn’t, to judge by the pictures), then what? Perhaps the second layer is only a stomacher, rather than a full bodice, in which case I will have to figure out how to attach it in such a way it doesn’t shift around during normal wear. In that situation, it also wouldn’t matter whether or not the bodice laced all the way closed. Hmm, now we’re getting somewhere…
So what would I do differently next time? Um…everything…
January 12, 2005. El jubón.
The doublet looked great – no question about it. But getting Miguel into it was a logistical nightmare, and his movement was very limited in the arms. The collar was nice and rigid but did not hug the neck like you see in the paintings of the period. (These photos don't show it very well, so I wonder if it was from spending so much time on a coat hanger before the event.) Also, the doublet did not lace to hosen, like it would have in period.
Laces: The doublet laced shut at the center front and behind the lower arm on both sleeves. Unfortunately, the channels I sewed for the laces were too narrow for the excellent drawcord I got from cheeptrims.com. The only other thing I had on hand in black was a comparatively heavy crochet yarn. I forgot to bring a tapestry needle to the event for lacing, so Miguel cut the end off his narrowest, pointiest naalbinding needle and I had to push the cord through the channels with the tip. Since the cord did not have aglets, it had to be tied in such a way that the unfinished ends didn’t show. You can see from the photos that the center front laces ended up relatively loose and droopy. I tightened up the top two later in the day; Miguel had to round his shoulders forward to give me enough slack to work with. Making the lace channels wide enough to accommodate the heavier yarn (which can support aglets) would require taking the doublet almost completely apart anyway, so that’s a change I will make on the next doublet. (I’m not sure they were even cords, per se. A lot of the laces look like ribbon (cinta) especially where the doublet is tied to the hosen.)
Freedom of movement: Or, “What do you mean, you want to be able to lift your arms above your head?” On the next doublet, the armholes will be much closer to the arm, and the armscye will be more shallow, and hopefully that will help with the range of movement. Although often times the doublet was taken halfway off when engaging in strenuous physical activity. It was held on by its ties to the hosen. More on hosen later.
The layout of all the doublet body pieces (not including later adjustments for fit):
The collar: I really shouldn’t complain about how the collar turned out. It took three tries to get the collar edges flush with the edges of the doublet, but when all was said and done, the collar leaned out away from the neck. Next time I’ll add a seam at the center back to shape the collar better. Also, I want to try the weird v-shape you see clearly in this painting. This V-shape turns up in several pictures of jerkins as well, so I imagine there is some good functional reason to piece the doublet and collar together like this. And I plan to find out what that is!
The Hosen Few: What can I say? Miguel’s modesty is still more powerful than his compulsion for authenticity, so I couldn’t talk him into wearing joined hosen laced to his doublet. Since he wasn’t wearing the doublet & hosen correctly, he sweltered in his jerkin the whole day at Twelfth Night. Of course, if I could ever convince him to wear joined hosen, then I would have to learn how to make them!
A side note on the shirt: Miguel specifically requested that the shirt sleeves gather to a cuff. After the many pictures I’ve seen of men with their doublets unlaced and shirt sleeves rolled up, I think next time I’ll push back harder on that particular detail.
January 10, 2005. The Big Day.
I survived! Of course, I didn't get everything done. I'm too attached to my sleep for that. :-)
Note the lack of sleeves on my dress...
The lack of turban on his head (it was wayyyyyyyy too hot!)...
The smashing padded roll (thank you to Brighid "Big Hat" who was merchanting next to us)...
The crookedness of Miguel's doublet laces (Genevieve, I still have your needle...)
And I did have the cofia tranzada, though I wasn't wearing it for this picture...
I still plan on going into more detail about what got done and what didn't, what I learned and what I hope to do better next time. But at least for now I wanted to share this picture. This will be the only one for a while. We both had to be cut out of our laces, and it will be a while till I'm up to the challenge of lacing up either my dress or his doublet again! ;-)
January 6, 2005. Down to the Wire.
I don't have time for the gorey detailed updates I'd like to make. I promise that I will continue to update this costume diary after Twelfth Night to include everything else I did.
At this point, suffice to say that we will not be naked on Saturday. :-) The doublet is done, the jerkin is pleated and the hem is pinned, the tabardo is almost done though I am sad I won't have the chance to slather the neckline in pearls by this weekend. Miguel's handstitching is becoming a thing of beauty, so I may get his help when I finally get time for that.
Oh and the dress? I went back to the lacing strips instead of rings, and I'm taking a break from that right now. Guess I better get back to work...
January 3, 2005. Bodice Blues.
It’s the 11th Hour, and we are starting to make compromises. I refuse to think of it as “cutting corners”; rather, I’m choosing my battles. Any detail which can wait until after January 8th is being postponed, which unfortunately includes the embellishments on my tabardo neckline. The focus right now is getting garments done. I will NOT be taking the sewing machine to the family reunion, but if there’s still some hand sewing to be done, that’s OK.
My saya is almost done, except I’m having Issues. I’ve read Zen of Spiral Lacing over and over and over again, but I couldn’t bring myself to follow her directions. Every single front-laced saya in portraits and paintings shows parallel lines. Straight across, then diagonally down. So I decided to sew on my lacing rings in parallel pairs. There’s 11 pairs, spaced an inch apart, and that seems to be consistent with most of the documentation.
Yes, rings. I originally meant to do a ribbon lacing strip, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that work without the tacking going all the way through to the outside of the garment. The saya doesn’t have guards or trim at the opening to cover up the stitches. So I went with lacing rings instead.
I sewed 6 mm split-rings to 3/8” grosgrain ribbon, then basted the ribbon to the bodice lining. Next, I sewed the bodice to the lining along the center front openings, and stitched the ribbon again through all layers of seam allowance for extra strength. Then, just to be sure, I added sewable boning right against the seam, and stitched it through all layers of seam allowance also. I finished sewing the bodice to the lining, clipped curves and understitched wherever possible, then turned the bodice right-side out, pressed, tried it on, and…
Oh, dear…since the ribbon with the lacing rings was only stitched to the seam allowance, and not to the silk, the tension on the lacing rings was pulling the lining out from under the silk. So I added a line of stitching down the bodice front, through all the layers. (Ack!) But that didn’t fix all the problems. When the lacing was pulled tight, the lacing rings were pulled so tight they ended up sitting on top of one another and were still pulled out so far that they showed rather than the fabric meeting in the center front. And while boning prevented the bodice front from puckering when the laces were pulled tight, it flipped outwards slightly creating a noticeable ridge when I looked straight down.
On the topic of “choosing my battles” – I tried the tabardo on over the dress, and ridge is noticeable even under the heavy fabric and lining of the tabardo.
That, and when under tension from the lace, my parallel lacing rings shifted to produce a look which was more zig-zag than parallel. Which leads me to believe that the front lacing in all these pictures wasn’t actually load-bearing. When it’s pulled tight, the lace will always try to take the shortest path between rings, and a parallel line ain’t it. And it’s true that in a lot of these pictures, it’s clear there is something else under the lacing. But then we run into a logistical issue: the whole reason I decided on a front lacing gown was for nursing purposes, and another layer would complicate the issue. That, and I don’t have time to sew anything new.
I attached the skirt and skirt lining to the bodice to see if the extra weight would help with the problem at all. It didn’t, but it was really nice to have the saya that much closer to being done. It’s gathered, rather than pleated, and I spent all last night pinning the hem and stitching it with a blind-hem stitch on my sewing machine. I didn’t sew the bodice lining to the skirt yet, so now I’m ripping out the boning and replacing it with some hemp cord which will hopefully keep the bodice front opening firm without being rigid. The debate is on as to whether I will end up resorting to the “known quantity” and just sewing eyelets…
January 1 , 2005. Happy New Year!
The fact that I haven't updated in a couple of days is a Good Thing. It means I'm busy sewing. And right now, it looks like I may, in fact pull this off. But all the panicking got me to thinking: why did this project take so much more time than I originally expected? Here's a run down of where my time has been spent (or at least, how it feels like my time has been spent):
40% - Fitting / Mock-ups - everything except underclothes took longer to fit than I expected...
25% - Ironing/Pressing - my ham has been getting quite the workout...
15% - Handsewing - did I mention that I hate handsewing?
15% - Sewing (Incl. cutting fabric & machine sewing) - this is what my original time estimate was based on.
5 % - Ripping Seams - no, really. I spent a LOT of time ripping seams.
I haven't even started doing any embellishment or working on accessories. But I may be done with the machine by the end of today; that leaves tomorrow and the evenings of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because Thursday we leave town for a family reunion. Wish me luck...
December 27, 2004. Coat Tales.
It's taken us this long to work on Miguel's sayo because I wanted to make sure it fit well over his doublet. This is especially important in the neckline and sleeve area. Having finally fit the doublet to our satisfaction, it was at last time. We checked the fit of the jerkin mock up one last time, then got to work. I was sick, so Miguel took the lead in laying out and cutting the pattern, as well as doing the usual serging work.
As we were laying out the pattern, The Question came up again: how can we get more, deeper pleats into this garment? Miguel is very fond of large, deep pleats in any and every garment he wears. I proposed two options, both of which were rejected. The first was to cut the pieces so that the center front and center back were on the bias. This is the approach given in the Medieval Tailor's Assistant. The other idea was to add more fabric at the center front in a triangular shape, so it didn't add too much fabric in the neck / chest area, but added substatially to the hem. Well, Miguel has a good medieval eye, and he pointed out that either option would mess up the brocade design down the center front - and a gentleman of means would have insisted on a perfectly matched design.
I also suggested canvas interfacing as a way to make the pleats more pronounced, but that was turned down also. The jubón already had the extra layer, and poor Miguel will be sweltering under a total of SIX layers - sayo brocade and lining; jubón wool and interfacing and lining; and a shirt.
And in case you, were wondering...yes, Miguel will be wearing a turban with his garb!
And while it's too soon to be hopeful...things have been going at a good pace over the holidays. Much better than I was expecting. I may just get to sew some accessories as well...
December 24, 2004. The Mysterious Spanish Tabard.
Like they say, "España es diferente". That goes for medieval garb along with everything else. Everyone knows that a tabard is one long rectangle folded at the shoulders with a hole for the head; if you want to get fancy, you add long rectanges at the shoulders to serve for sleeves. But not the Spanish, no. The tabardo of the late 15th century opened up the center front and center back, rather than the sides; and the sleeves opened at the top of the arms rather than underneath them.
Compared to the doublet, sewing the tabard was a piece of cake. Sew the lining to the brocade along the slits in center front and back, sew the lining to the sleeves, and attach the sleeves to the body. For a layout of the tabard, click here. The body had to be 40" around to go over my shoulders, so I had to angle the top of the garment in so it didn't hang down my arms at all. And I cut the front to be an inch longer than the back because - let's face it - I have more real estate in the front. Here are pictures of the almost-completed tabardo from the front and side.
To finish the neckline, I'm going to use a reverse facing of the same gold fabric used to line the sleeves and body. Time permitting (hahahahahaha) I'm going to put pearls on it...
December 21, 2004. Doublet Doubts
Vitha came to the rescue yet again this past weekend. I had added the gusset into one of the doublet sleeves, and when I attached the sleeve to the body I was horrified by the weird gaping that was going on in the doublet back. I was in tears, so we called in the big guns: yes, Hrosvitha. She drove all the way out to our place to look at it in person. And she recommended some changes. Little changes: take the shoulder up some, and take it in a little at the sides. Since the doublet is an inner layer, it needs to have a fairly small profile so it doesn’t create a bulky look under the jerkin. Another change: make the sleeve gusset somewhat smaller. Apparently, the “1 ½ inch ease” is for outer garments, and again, the doublet is an inner layer.
It all looked very doable, except for one BIG problem. These changes mean I have to take the doublet almost entirely apart.
I made two fundamental errors with the doublet. One: I should have sewn the lining together all the way first, for one last sanity check before starting on the final product. Two: I sewed the sleeves to their linings, and the body to its lining, and I was going to join the pieces at the shoulder. To make the adjustment at the shoulder and side seams, I have to take the body of doublet apart. Miguel helped with the seam ripping – I must say, we are both getting very good with the seam ripper – and tonight I’m going to mark the changes, trim the canvas interlining away from the seam allowance, re-serge the edges, and hopefully get the darn thing put back together!
This whole process has gone much more slowly than I was expecting. As I was ripping out stitches to make yet more adjustments, I started wondering why I had made mock-ups in the first place. Wasn’t the mock-up supposed to prevent all these modifications so late in the game? Sigh…
December 17, 2004. Sleeveless in Seattle
And I quote: "The actual top curve of the sleeve, however is about 1 1/2 inches larger than the top curve of the armhole. The extra fabric in the sleeve creates the cap that fits over the top of the shoulder and permits the upper arm to move." The Costume Technicians Handbook, 3rd ed., pp 215-216.
In my mind, this little snippet of information epitomizes the major drawback of being a self-trained tailor. No one ever told me that the sleeve cap needed to be bigger, and why. And while I had noticed the sleeve caps on commercial patterns always needed to be eased in between the notches, it had never occurred to me that this little detail might make a huge difference in the fit of the final garment.
Since I was ready to sew the sleeves onto Miguel’s doublet, I thought I would put this concept to the test. Sure enough, the test sleeve fit quite awkwardly over the top of his arm. But worse than that, the doublet arm hole opening was apparently too large for the sleeve, so I had to ease the doublet to the sleeve rather than the sleeve to the doublet. We got out the measuring tape, and the difference was 3 ¼ inches. A gusset would need to be 4 ¾” long to make up the difference, as well as add on the extra 1 ½”. Currently, I plan to sew the gussets as two layers – linen and wool – without the layer of canvas in between. We’ll see whether or not that works. At least I know now to make adjustments to my dress sleeves before I even try to sew them on. Or maybe I should give more thought to sleevelets…
The funny thing is: the sleeve started out as Duchess Kyneburh’s adaptation of the one shown here - complete with gusset in the center back of the sleeve. I adjusted the pattern so the gusset wouldn’t be necessary…and now I have to add a gusset back in to make the sleeve large enough. Oh, the irony!
December 12, 2004. Project Fatigue Sets In
December 12, 2004. Skirting the Issue
All of a sudden, I have a skirt. In a frenzy of sewing, I cut and sewed not only the black silk satin for my skirt, but the silk habatoi for the lining as well! I used a rectangle-and-triangle layout, and since the skirt needed to be about 43" long, I cut both layers out on the crossgrain, instead of the grain. (Both pieces of fabric were 45" wide.)
I never imagined that the silk satin would be such a joy to work with. I've sewn outfits of poly acetate satin (back when I was and innocent - back before I was bitten by the authenticity bug!), and it was a slip-slidey nightmare. Aside from a tendency to unravel if you look at it cross-eyed, the silk satin behaved itself very nicely. I used the technique where you pull a weft thread to give yourself a straight line to cut. I learned two great lessons:
- When you pull the thread on a satin, if you see puckers but not the thread sliding through the fabric, check the other side!
- I like to pull the thread all the way out, instead of cutting along the puckers. After the second time, it occurred to me...why not save these 45" long pieces of silk thread, and try hand sewing with them later? Miguel has started making and selling thread winders, so I "borrowed" one from inventory and started using it to save the pulled threads. Everyone always talks about using a piece of thread from the fabric to handsew with for a perfect match in color and weight...this is the first fabric I've come across where I thought the thread would stand up to it.
The pieces are laid out so the front of the skirt has less fullness than the back. If you look at this picture by Juan de Flandes, the lady's skirt does not appear to have any pleats or gathers in the front, and I really like the smooth look.
December 10, 2004. Disaster Strikes!
OK, so it’s not a total disaster. There is one distinct advantage to a history of screwing up major sewing projects, and that’s built-in failover devices. Which is to say, I bought a ton of extra fabric, just in case something went seriously awry. Guess what!
Everything was going smashingly with Miguel’s doublet. I was finally making progress! I quilted the canvas interlining to the linen, and it turned out quite nicely. The pieces had the right amount of stiffness, without being too thick or heavy. The next steps: sew the linen to the wool at the center front on the two front pieces, understitch the seam allowance, then sew on the straight-grain tape which will make the channels for his laces. I was beginning to sew the tape on the second front piece when I realized what had happened.
Forget two left feet – I had two left front pieces! This particular tragedy was made all the more ironic by the fact that we had caught that very mistake earlier! Miguel was about to start machine quilting that piece when he noticed it was backwards, and we fixed it…or so we thought…oops?
Yes, we could have spent an evening or two ripping seams to salvage the fabric. But remember: we’re talking about a seam, understitching, and quilting. It would have been labor-intensive and error-prone. It was simpler to cut new pieces, so I did! The cost in fabric wasn’t too big a deal. I have enough wool and linen left that I could even cut another sleeve if (knock on wood) something went wrong with one of the current ones. (I’d have to buy more canvas though.) What really hurts is the night I lost when I could have been pad-stitching the doublet collar while watching Survivor…sigh
December 2, 2004. Keeping Score
“She who dies with the most fabric, wins!” For those of you who are interested in keeping score, here is a run-down of all the fabric I have committed to our 12th Night garb.
7 yards – blue/gold velvet/brocade upholstery fabric for sayo & tabardo
4 yards more of the same, since the sayo will probably use all of the original seven
9 yards – gold cotton-nylon blend for imitation cloth-of-gold, to line the sayo & tabardo. May have to purchase more.
5 yards – white linen for chemise and shirt (fortunately, I already had this in my stash)
6 yards – black silk suiting for saya (with extra left over for sleevelets, I hope!)
3 yards – black silk habatoi to line skirt of saya
3 yards – black wool suiting for jubon (hopefully it won’t require all of that…)
3 yards – black linen to line the bodice and sleeves of the saya, and the body and sleeves of the jubon (I already had this in stock too, I just hope it’s enough)
1 yard – white cotton gauze for the neckline filler on the saya
1 yard more of white linen for the cofia tranzada, the quintessential female headwear of 1490s Spain
Now, before you start trying to guess how much all of this cost, let me go on record as saying I did not pay full price for ANY of the fabric. It was bought on sale, or I had a coupon, or I bought it in bulk to get a lower per-yard price.
…of course, that’s not including all the fabric I went through while making mock-ups…
November 30, 2004. All About a Bodice
Oh, the tangled webs we weave! What was I thinking, making something completely new and completely different out of very expensive fabric for 12th Night? Argh! We’ve bought even more fabric – black silk habatoi to line my skirt and some new black wool suiting for Miguel’s doublet. It’s LOVELY stuff; I would have made my saya out of it as well, if I’d found it before the silk. I need to take Miguel fabric shopping with me more often – he’s the one who found the wool.
Since the bodice is the most complicated thing I’m making, I’m procrastinating (a lot) on getting started. No, really, I need plenty of time to think about how I’m going to tackle it. Some background: I was going to use a hemp-boned corset for the bodice shaping. As I did more research about whether to make the corset a separate garment or a layer of the bodice, however, I began to rethink that approach. Although not all the terms from clothing inventories of the period are fully understood, none of them can be positively identified as playing a corset-like role. Pictures from the late 15th century also don’t show a lot of evidence for a corset-type garment. So I scrapped the idea of a corset and decided I would get all my support in the bodice using the Gothic Fitted Dress approach pioneered by Robin Netherton. Hence all the effort I’ve been going through to fit the bodice – the fit is everything.
…not that I have any more experience making a Gothic fitted bodice than I do making a corset, mind you…
So after all the fitting, I finally cut the bodice pieces from the silk this past weekend. I left an inch seam allowance at the shoulders and sides in case any more adjusting is necessary. I cut the pieces on the bias because my favorite dress diary said that was what to do with a fabric that had no stretch at all. I missed the part where she said she only cut the FRONT on the bias. DOH! I might have enough left over to cut a new back if this proves to be a problem, but it might be OK. Cutting the back on the bias means the back shoulder straps are more-or-less on grain, and that might be a nice side effect.
Here is my plan of action for the bodice: using a zipper instead of lacing strips, fit the linen lining for the bodice. Note any adjustments and transfer them to the silk. Remove zipper, and sew the silk to the linen at the center front. Sew the lacing ribbon to the lining through all layers of seam allowance – I’m hoping this provides the extra stiffness I want for a clean, smooth, front opening. Sew the linen to the silk around the neckline and the arm holes, much the same way that Jennifer does in her dress diary (figs. 5 – 7), except I’m going to finish the bottom of the bodice with bias tape. Make any last adjustments at the shoulders, then sew them shut. Voila – a bodice!
(I may use two layers of linen for added strength, but I will just flat line the pieces and treat them as one.)
Miguel’s quote of the day: “But no one will even see the bodice! It’s completely covered by the tabard!”
November 28, 2004. The Other Reason I Don’t Do Late Period.
I feel like I have been working on these outfits forever, and I still don’t have anything to show for it. I spent my whole Thanksgiving holiday sewing, fitting, and resewing. Here’s the rundown of where everything stands:
Miguel’s Jerkin (Sayo): My goal was to have the sayo completely done by the end of the weekend. But he asked me to do one more mock-up first, with the pleats this time, and I have learned (the hard way) that it’s usually a good idea to listen to his instincts. So we bought some heavier, stiffer fabric so the toile would more closely mimic the drape of the lined brocade. I cut the body pieces wider and cleaned up the armholes, as well as cutting new sleeves. The pleats, however, still aren’t as deep as he wants. As I see it, there are two different ways to fix this. I can try cutting the pattern pieces out so the side seam is on the straight grain and the center front and center back are on the bias, as shown in the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant. Or I can add another layer to the garment, so it’s thicker and stiffer, so the pleats will appear more pronounced without adding any more width to the sayo. Miguel’s response to both suggestions: on second thought, these pleats are fine! He doesn’t want to add any more layers – the sayo is already two layers (the brocade and the lining), then the doublet is at least another two layers, and then there’s the shirt. He’s going to die of heat exhaustion if I add any more to it, which will really be something to explain in the ER in January! As for cutting the pieces out at a different angle – the pattern on the brocade is very large, and it’s very important to Miguel that a) it be upright throughout his garment and b) that the design matches up perfectly at every seam. Which is apparently a period concern, at least for some garments:
"[For a doublet] Brocade was to be cut lengthwise of the goods, the design right side up in collar and sleeves as well as in the body..." (Anderson, p. 55)
"Tailors making this garment [a lady's brial], as well as others of figured material, were required to cut the pieces with the pattern right side up and with the figures matched." (Anderson, p. 200)
By creating another mock-up, we could also guesstimate how much fabric the sayo would require. The toile was cut from 54” wide fabric – the same width as the brocade – but since it didn’t have a directional pattern I was able to cut half the pieces upside down to conserve fabric. I used over four yards (not including cutting a new sleeve after some further changes) so – taking into account directional designs and matching up the design motifs – the sayo will probably take every bit of the 7 yards we bought when this fabric was on sale at Hancock’s. Fortunately, it was on sale again for Thanksgiving (woohoo!) so Miguel dashed out and got another four yards, which should be adequate for my tabardo.
Mind you, the sayo is still not done. I want to make sure this last toile fits correctly over the doublet, especially in the shoulders. Speaking of which -
Miguel’s Doublet (Jubon): Since I couldn’t finish the sayo over the weekend, I thought maybe I could do the jubon instead. I had fitted the doublet to my satisfaction, and marked the placement of the laces in the front and at the back of the arm. The toile looked quite smashing – even in pink. ;-) (That’s my criteria for a “successful” fitting: the garment looks smashing despite the tragic fabric I used for the toile!) Unfortunately, Miguel had bullied me into cutting into the silk for my dress (more on that below). At which point I realized my most grievous miscalculation to date: the silk was only 45” wide. Sure, I had 6 yards, but Miguel is not a small man. His doublet and sleeves would have used 2.5 yards, and my skirt would have been really, really, really short. So back to G Street Fabrics I must go, and hope they have more of the silk. Or maybe I will get a really fine, light weight wool. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Now, the doublet should really have four layers: the “fashion” fabric (silk? wool?), a layer of white linen, a layer of canvas, and a layer of linen of a color to match the fashion fabric. (Anderson, p. 55) Out of respect for Miguel’s internal thermostat, his will be made of just the fashion fabric and matching linen lining.
Violante’s Dress (Saya): Hrosvitha’s suggestion for my shoulder issues fixed the problem fabulously. A little bit of tweaking at the sleeves, and I had a toile I was finally happy with! I’ve decided that for 12th Night, I will just have “regular” sleeves which open up the back to allow the chemise sleeve to poof out. Later, I will develop the sleevelets which I adore so much. They just won’t be right without a ton of embroidery and pearls, and that’s NOT going to happen in the next 39 days! But as long as I was fitting, I did a mock-up for the sleevelets as well. You can see in the picture that they still need some work: the lower arm piece especially, since it is way too long. And yes, the neckline still needs a little touch-up work.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Miguel bullied me into cutting the silk pieces for the saya. My fault, I guess, for complaining that I had nothing to show for all the time I’ve spent on the garb! This silk is a black suiting weight fabric with the exact drape and amount of shine I was looking for! I paid way too much for it (even though it was on sale), and apparently six yards was NOT enough. Even once I admitted that there was NO way I would be able to cut out Miguel’s jubon from the same piece of material. As carefully as I laid the pattern pieces for the bodice, there wasn’t enough left for the skirt I wanted. At least, not using the semi-circular pieces I had cut for the toile. Alcega shows circular skirt panels, and while there’s no guarantee the same shape was used in the 1490s, I thought I would give it a shot. OOPS. Guess not. I will be using the rectangle+gore approach, apparently.
I still need to figure out the lining for the skirt as well. (The bodice and sleeves will be lined in the same black linen which will line Miguel’s jubon.)
November 22, 2004. The ADHD Costumer.
There’s a good reason why I have so many sewing projects going on at once. I always have something else to work on when I run into a wall on a project.
My current wall: the chemise (camisa) for my dress. I really need to have the camisa done before I fit my dress toile any further, because the shape of the neckline and the size of the sleeves could make an enormous difference in how the bodice fits. I really like the v-shaped filler you see in the sketch, and to read Anderson’s Hispanic Costume, that v-shape is probably created by a separate piece of fabric draped around the shoulders with the ends tucked into the bodice. I just don’t understand why it needs to be a separate piece of fabric – why can’t the cut of the chemise neckline achieve the same filled in v-shape? Well, today I turned up a picture on Mistress Jessamyn’s website which appears to show a woman wearing both a chemise, and the filler. But I’m not 100% certain.
My other chemise issues include the black stripes (tiraces) which transform a regular chemise into a camisamorisca. Detailed pictures in Anderson show the elaborate embroidery that would have gone into the tiraces, which often covered the sleeves and chest of the chemise (example). I would love to lavish that sort of attention on my chemise, but it would be much easier to do before the pieces are sewn together, and unfortunately, I need that done now. Maybe someday I will sew a new chemise of finer linen and embroider the tiraces then. …or maybe not.
The other thing I found playing around on Jessamyn’s website was LACE. No, really. Go here, and blow the picture up if you have to. You will see lace on the edge of her sleeve hem. I believe this lady, Mencia de Mendoza, was Catalan, which may explain her trendy fashion taste. This is one little detail I may have to include in my garb. Maybe as a compromise, instead of the tiraces.
Until I decide for sure, though, I’ll just have to work on Miguel’s outfit!
November 17, 2004. The toil of the toile!
Before I get into the issue of toiles, let me first explain The Dress. I have wanted to make myself a 1490s Spanish dress for a very, very long time. And I have always felt intimidated about the amount of work which would be involved. This sketch dates back to March of 2001!
Very little in the gown has changed since I first dreamed it up. The overall shape of the saya (dress) is unchanged, though now it laces up the front. Discretely. Front lacing is definitely the exception in this period, but I've got a biological imperative (i.e., a new baby) that requires it! And I'm still waffling about whether to go with sleevelets, per this drawing, or a regular sleeve open up the back to allow the chemise sleeve to poof out.
The fabric for the saya is a heavy black silk suiting, and the tabardo is a blue velvet and gold brocade material. The theme for 12th Night is "blue and gold" and I would hate to disappoint anyone!
Oh, and I will eventually load the "figures" which are referred to in the sketch. One thing at a time!
Fitting the bodice has without doubt been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. The first muslin fitting was done by MaestraGiulianaSalviati based of her Florentine bodice. It had the usual s-curve shape up the center front. Why do I mention this? Because I decided I wanted a straight-seamed front opening instead, and that’s where all the trouble began.
See, if you look at the many paintings surviving from the 1490s, there are very few front-opening dresses. Sure, some paintings show the Flemish-style brialwhich laces up the front; but it’s much, much less common to see it in a saya. So the bodices were fit with no center front opening, and to achieve the same look, I wanted mine fit as though there were no center front opening. Which meant making it a straight seam instead of an s-curve.
So I tweaked the pattern from MaestraGiuliana, and did a second mock-up. Then I did a third mock-up with a few more changes. Then I cut and sewed a mock-up out of a heavy cotton twill, hoping it would simulate the stiffness of the final silk. And, oh, was it a disaster. I attached sleeves and everything – you never know how it’s really going to fit until you’ve added sleeves – and I could have cried. It was way too tight, for one thing. Apparently muslin relaxes slightly when it gets warm, so it had more stretchiness and give to it than the twill. And the sleeves and shoulders were just a mess.
It looks like I should only have to take some more fabric out at the shoulders, but I wasn't convinced that would fix the upper arms to my taste. I received many suggestions from the SCA-Garb list, including adding fabric to the back, taking fabric out of the back, and putting the s-curve back in the front opening. Finally, my dear friend Hrosvitha von Celle straightened me (or rather, my shoulders!) out. Turns out the problem is that back is forcing the shoulder straps in towards my neck, instead of letting them lay wide on my shoulders like they want to. Her advice: take of the sleeves, lace the bodice up tight, and cut open the shoulder seams. Watch where the shoulder straps want to lay, then adjust the back to meet their new position.
Did it work? Stay tuned to find out!
November 15, 2004.
I've been working on these outfits for about a month now. And those of you who know me know that this is WAY outside of my realm of expertise. That's why I've given myself so much time to get them done.
An inspiration picture:
For Miguel: A shirt, doublet, and jerkin. For myself: a chemise, dress, and tabard. So far, I'm almost done with the chemise and shirt. Both dress bodice and doublet have gone through several mock-ups, and the tale of their evolution will be what I put up next!