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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment