Monday, April 27, 2020

A dress in the 16th c Spanish Style

The Dress
A doublet style dress in the Spanish style featuring reproduction fabric, and curved hanging sleeves, worn over bodies and small farthingale. Accessories include an Elizabethan style bonnet, ruffs and separate sleeves. 

 The Gown - Fabric
The fabric used for the dress is a silk/rayon reproduction from Sartor and is based on an extant fabric in the Metropolitan Museum of art dated to the late sixteenth century. While I haven't seen a portrait using this exact fabric, several use fabrics with a repeated pattern in a similar style just out of the SCA period,  including Margaret of Austria (1634-35) and Isabella de Bourbon (1636). Queen Elizabeth's Phoenix portrait (1575) uses a similar style of fabric, placing the selected fabric in the correct geographic location and time-frame. 

Queen Margarita on Horseback. Valasquez 1634-35. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Isabella de Bourbon, 1635, Valesquez, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Late 16th C Spanish Silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number 19.116.4.
 The Gown - Pattern and Construction Details.
The pattern for the gown is based on the Woman's Silk Doublet and the Simple Trained gown of wool in Juan de Alcega's Pattern Book Published in 1598 (p15) (please see photo in attached album). The basic bodice pattern shapes were achieved using Margo Anderson's Elizabethan Ladies Wardrobe, which was adapted to reflect the shape and proportions in Alcega. This involved:
o       curving the centre back seam,
o       making a 3 piece collar by extending the collar section on the doublet back and fitting the two front collar pieces
o       adjusting the bodice to fit.

Approximately 6 hours were spend on fitting the doublet bodice over the bodies.

Following the fitting process, the interior shell of the doublet was lined with wool felt and pad stitched to give stiffness and a curved shape to the bodice. Pad stitching was using the sixteenth century to help shape garments and contributed to the stiff look of the garments of this period. Janet Arnold had the opportunity to examine the interior of a number of garments and has included sketches of pad stitching in her book Patterns of Fashion (See photo in attached album).

Initially, the pad stitching was done by hand, however, the repetitive nature of the process did not agree with my hands (arthritis) and an alternative process was found. By curving and stretching the fabrics as they were machine stitched together with a wide zig zag stitch, an approximation of pad stitching was achieved (See photo in album).

After the bodice was shaped, hook and eye tape was applied as a centre front closure. Tape was used rather than the more historically accurate individual hooks and eyes as a matter of convenience. However, the tape also adds an additional stiffening/strengthening layer along the bodice opening, helping to eliminate any stretching over time.

The bodice is lined with gold dupioni silk, seams machine stitched and then hand sew in into the bodice. Careful positioning of the dress fabric ensured that the patter was aligned on teh centre back and centre front seams (although this wasn't necessary to be historically accurate, it appealed to my modern sensibilities and did not result in any wastage of fabric). All seams were hand basted and then machine sewn. All finishing, including hems, attaching sleeves and wings, and applying trim, has been done by hand.

The handing sleeves have been made using Margo's Elizabethan round sleeve pattern, because it closely reflected the shape and style of sleeves in extant portraits.  The back seams were machine sewn after hand basting and trim was applied by hand. The Hanging sleeve is hand basted to the finished bodice under the shoulder wing.

The skirt is entirely based on Alcega's pattern and gives a distinctive backward tilt to the skirt, and quite different to the skirts on my other Elizabethan dresses, which are based on rectangles, cartridge pleated into the bodice waist. This reflects the differences in silhouettes between Spanish and Elizabethan styles.

The Skirt is closed by way of contrasting ribbons tipped with aglets as is commonly seen in Spanish portraits of the era. Upholstery velvet has been used for the guard at the hem to protect the dress fabric. The particular fabric was selected because it best matched the dress fabric in both the shade of black and the sheen.

The skirt is lined with cotton drill to further protect the fashion fabric. Drill was chosen because it doesn't stretch and is harder wearing than the dupioni selected for the bodice and sleeve lining. It was common practice in the 16th century to use plain or lower quality fabrics in areas where it wouldn't be seen.

All of the seams were hand based to ensure the pattern aligned and then machine sewn due to time and physical constraints. To be more historically accurate, construction would have been undertaken by a lady and her Ladies in waiting, with some details possibly outsourced eg lace. Trim, lining and finishing has been done by hand.

I have taken great care to line up the pattern where possible. the angled sections of the skirt are not completely aligned, but the pattern is not jarringly interrupted. this appeals to my modern eye. Judicious positioning and cutting of the pattern pieces minimised any fabric wastage. In period judicious piecing of fabric would have made use of every possible scrap of fabric.

The foundation garments
The bodies are a hybrid in style between the Dorothea bodies described and patterned in Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion and the Tudor Kirtle in Ninya Mikhalia & Jane Malcolm-Davies's The Tudor Tailor. The Dorothea bodies supplied the shape required for a nice flat front of the Spanish gown while the kirtle pattern supplied the ease and convenience of side lacing- the ease of side lacing for someone who dresses without the aid of a maid cannot be understated and has the added benefit of allowing for some fluctuation in weight.

To achieve a combination of comfort/flexibility and a smooth front, a combination of spiral steel and flat steel bones were used. the flat steel bones were used in the centre front to act as a busk and to support the lacing at the sides, while the more flexible steel bones were used in areas that required more curving or movement. Both the kirtle and the Dorothea patterns have an absence of boning across the bus, which I find comfortable.

The bodies have been constructed from two layers of suit weight linen and a top layer of red taffeta, bound in black satin bias binding. Eyelets have been machine sewn with a round eyelet stitch. The bodies were designed as a 'demo' version to see how it would wear, but several years later I am still wearing them without any adjustment.

Historically, boning would have been from whalebone (baleen), reeds or even rope or cording, all of which are recorded in wardrobe accounts. However, I had a stock of steel boning on hand and decided to use what I had instead of making another purchase.

The farthingale is approximately 12 years old and was made following the pattern and instructions from The Tudor Tailor, with the exception of using flexible curtain wire for the hoops because it can be worn to drive.

The Accessories
The dress is worn with a neck and wrist ruffs. The Ruffs are constructed by applying purchased lace to a finished band of linen and cartridge pleated to a neck band. The ruff is heavily starched and set to form the 'figure 8's'. Once set, the ruffs can be worn repeatedly without loosing shape.

The Hat
Spanish ladies are often depicted in portraits wearing small bonnet syle hats. The bonnet has been made from wired buckram and covered with velveteen. The top of the crown has been padded with wool felt to give a more rounded appearance. All fabrics used were available in period. The hat is finished with a small broach and jaunty feathers.

Juan de Alcega Tailor's Pattern Book 1589. Translated by jean Pain and Cecilia Bainton. Originally published by Ruth Bean Publishers.

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion; The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c 1560-1620. 1985. Drama Publishing.

Nina Mikhalia & Jane Malcolm-Davies The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress. 2006. Costume and Fashion Press. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Outlander Costume Updates

The original petticoat/underskirt for this dress needed a little bit more fullness and a slightly stiffer hem. However I didn't have any more of the fabric, so resorted to the age old technique of using the fashion fabric where it was going to be seen (the skirt front and back hem) and filled in the rest with a quilting cotton of a similar weight. This allowed me double the amount of fabric in the back of the skirt to add desired fullness. The hem was faced with a 4 inch wide band of the same quilting fabric, machine stitched along the bottom edge and hand hemmed along the top. The machine stitching wont be seen and adds a little more stiffness.

Plain quilting cotton filling in the back of the under skirt.

Front view of the updated underskirt and stomacher.
 The original stomacher has also been updated using a pattern from Patterns Of Fashion 5. If you are at all interested in historic clothing patterns, then I would highly recommend adding the series to your collection.
An excellent reference series for the historic costumer.
As you can see from the front view, the new stomacher has small tabs sewn onto the sides to make it easier to pin onto the stays underneath and a more decorative tabbed finish on the bottom edge. It was constructed using a top layer of fashion fabric, a layer of courtil and two layers of quilters homespun. It has four pieces of boning to help it sit straight/without wrinkles. The boning is long plastic cable ties.

Inside view showing position of boning channels.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Outlander inspried dresses.

While the poor Eleanora de Toledo dress has been sitting around waiting for attention I have still been sewing. Inspired by the Outlander series and the local Highland Gathering and Quilt Run, I whipped up a dress and hat to wear.

I used the Simplicity patterns for the dress, which was easy to follow and didn't need any adjusting over the stays I had on hand. The amazing Jacobean style fabric for the underskirt and stomacher came from a local quilting shop in Mandurah called 'Sew Connected'. The hat started life as a $7 straw look sunhat in a discount store and was unpicked and restitched to suit the dress.

I wore it to the event and had a ball meeting people. So many people wanted the dress I ran a series of classes on how to make a similar dress at a local arts centre.

Eleanora de Toledo dress....yes its still going.....but getting closer

It has been a long time coming (over 2000 hours) but finally I have finished the black couching on the gold motifs on the skirt....levelling up and moving onto all of the gold couching on the black motifs. There is still a lot of work to do. There are 56 black motifs like the ones above my hand in the photo and they take about 15 minutes each. After that some more work on the large circular motifs before I can move onto the sleeves.

Monday, February 6, 2017

dusts off some cobwebs.....

Well it looks like I may have neglected my blog just a little bit....ok, just a lot. Lets try again shall we.

I am still working on the Toledo gown, and am now down to the last half dozen large gold pieces in terms of the couching, then a few of the smaller pieces and then its on to the gold on black couching. I can actually see that there is an end in sight. Aiming for the SCA Lochac May Crown event, which will be held near Perth, Western Australia. So if you want to see the dress finished and worn, this is the event (and Anealan/Abertridwr hospitality is famous).

Can't wait to start assembling the dress.

Monday, January 19, 2015

January Update

So, as promised, a new month a new blog post...with pictures even.

I am participating in the Historic Sew Monthly Challenge (  and the first challenge is Foundations, so I thought I would make an 1865 elliptical Cage Crinoline using the Truly Victorian pattern TV103. The pattern was super easy to transfer onto Vilene (to preserve the original pattern for future use) and construct and some 20 hours later ...voila, one lovely crinoline. Now I just need to finish a corset, some petticoats and a dress to wear over it. The dress will have to wait till the March challenge.

Over the Christmas break I also did some work to a couple of Disney princess costumes I am making for a costume group I am joining that does a lot of charity work, visits hospitals etc.

Snow white is progressing, but the skirt is just too full when compared to the original Disney version, so I have taken two panels off the back and am reshaping the skirt panels to give less fullness at the waist without loosing too much fullness at the hem.

There has also been progress on a tulle petticoat for under the Cinderella dress. 20m of silver bridal tulle in 9 layers.
I have also been making a cotton under dress similar to the 16c kirtles I wear under my Elizabethan clothing. It makes it so much easier to fit over bodices when you have a consistent shape underneath - does that make any sense? The bodice will be boned, probably with a mix of flat and spiral steel to give the support I am after. The skirt is in two layers cut in a full circle trimmed with a frill on each layer. I am hoping that this will help hold the over skirts out a bit more. Pictures of this one to come.
After fitting the under bodice, I will have to take in the blue Snow White bodice a little, between 1.5 and 2cm depending on seams. the shoulder seams will have to be dropped a little as well. 

And because it was coming up to a new year, I thought I should try a new dress pattern. This is the Vogue Badgley Mishka pattern V1374 and literally took me 4 hours to transfer pattern to Vilene and get to this stage (hems and binding left to do) it has a lovely cowl back and the fit is just amazing....did I mention 4 hours? At this point I threw it in the washing machine and left it to hang so any stretching can take place before I finish the hem....nope, still haven't finished it lol. But I did make a second version in blue jersey, knee length and I raised the back a little so I can wear it to work.

In an effort to be organised, I have also created a table of all of the projects and events I would like to either make or attend this year. The other thing I am doing is keeping a sewing diary to keep track of what I do or don't do on a daily basis, so I can get an idea of how much time things take and cost. Both are already starting to have benefits. I remembered what I have done so I could do a blog post and I have ordered some supplies for future projects, although this year I am going to try and work my way through some of my existing stash.

And lastly, one of the projects I finished off in November was a sad clown tutufor a lovely ballerina.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What do you mean it's December already!

Well it seems like the year has flown by and I haven't posted anything since January....ooops. I have been busy doing all sorts of exciting sewing projects, moving house, working my daily 9-5 job and just watching the year scream on terribly sorry if you have been checking in regularly, because apparently I haven't.

New Years resolution. ..... Blog at least once a month.

I read a few blogs and find the, so useful and inspiring, I really should be sharing more of what I'm doing in return.

Some of the things I have been doing/learning this year, making tutus for a friends daughter and one for myself for a figure skating competition ( small, end of term class comp, don't expect to see me in the Olympics any time soon), learned stretch sewing for my figure skating costumes, a sixteenth century German dress and hat, remaking some Italian style dresses into Elizabethan ones I'll actually wear, and at the moment making some Disney princess dresses.

But if your worried you have missed the great unveiling of THE dress, yes the never ending Eleanora of Toledo gown, never's still not finished. I really must get stuck into that again. I'll get it set up on its frame again to finish the couching as soon as I sort out the new sewing room.

Next year really should be about finishing off some long term projects, making the Fairy Godmother's dress from the new Cinderella movie, a Melisandra dress for a Game of Thrones cosplay with friends and probably whatever else takes my fancy :) there will definatley be more ice skating costumes and tutus :)

So again, huge apologies to everyone who has been checking in. I'll try to write more next year. Till then (I may post some pics if this years projects later) stay safe and have a fabulously creative festive season x