Sunday, October 13, 2019

Something Resembling a German Renaissance Gown

Once I decided against just picking a pattern and making myself a pretty princess-y dress to wear to the Renaissance Festival, I had to decide what sort of dress I would actually be making. Thus, I took to Pintrest. I looked at Renaissance paintings. I looked at other people's Renaissance era outfits. I found pictures of a couple different extant Renaissance gowns. I followed links to peoples' blogs and read all about how they made different styles of gowns and why. And eventually, when all was said and done, I decided to make a 16th century German gown.

The Katafalk blog was very influential in that decision. I read through all her posts about the making of her blue German dress and her birch colored German dress. The more I read about it, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked this style of dress. Plus, doing a German look just made sense as I have a lot of German ancestry on my dad's side. Thus, a German Renaissance dress it would be!

With this decided, I began to do a bit more internet research with an emphasis on 16th century German attire rather than Renaissance clothing at large. I discovered the website which features pages about dress in specific German regions throughout the Renaissance era. Even though in the end I didn't exactly recreate the look of a specific region, the information I read and the pictures I looked at here were very helpful and informative! I specifically appreciated the page on the costume of Westphalia

My dress would be wool, with a wide square neckline, trim, or guards, of wool in another color, and attached sleeves. From what I could gather reading online, it seems attached sleeves are a hallmark of a German Renaissance gown. It seems gowns of other areas often had separate sleeves which would tie or be pinned to the gown bodice. (I could be wrong on this however, as I didn't really research this project in depth, just gathered info from the internet.)

 All the materials for my gown were easily found in my fabric stash, so nothing new had to be bought other than thread. I picked a 3 yard piece of wool in a beautiful burnt orange color from the collection of wool my aunt gave me last year. This piece of wool was definitely itchy, so I'd rejected it for past projects, but I decided it would be fine for this one since the bodice would be both lined and flat-lined, and the dress would be worn over my smock, so the wool wouldn't be against my skin at all. Thus the itchiness of this piece would cause me no discomfort. 

The linen for the lining was harvested from a skirt I thrifted years ago, the cotton canvas for the interlining was in my stash, left over from another projects, as was the black wool I used for the guards and the brown cotton I used for the pockets.

I considered drafting or draping my own pattern, or sizing up a pattern from Tudor Tailor, but in the end I had less than a week to make my dress so I decided to start with a commercial pattern instead. I chose to use McCall's M7763, by Angela Clayton, and altered it to suit what I needed.

As I would just be using straight panels for the skirt, all I needed was the bodice and sleeve pattern. I traced out the relevant pattern pieces on parchment paper then set to altering them. I lowered and re-shaped the back neckline, and shifted the sleeve seam from under the arm to the back of the arm to get a more historically accurate shape. I used the "sleeve lining" piece for this, as it was a plain, straight, sleeve pattern, unlike the over sleeve pattern included in M7763, which is very, very, puffed (Not the look I was going for here with my plain wool gown).

I cut my newly altered pattern out of the linen skirt I was using for the bodice lining, then basted it together and tried it on to check fit. I decided to take it in a little bit, but overall it fit pretty well so I moved on to cutting out my dress!

I disassembled my linen lining mock-up (Which looked pretty bedraggled by this point as I'd decided to throw it in the washing machine, without finishing the edges first, just to make sure the linen had shrunk all it was going to shrink before I used it in my final dress), and used it as the pattern to cut out the other layers of the dress. I cut out a duck canvas interlining as a support layer for my bodice, then cut the bodice out for wool as well. I would not be wearing any sort of structured support garment with this dress, (Which I read somewhere is a historically plausible choice for 16th century German, but I don't know how accurate that is.) so it was important the bodice itself be sturdy and tight fitting to provide as much support as possible.

The final bit of pattern work I had to do was for the guards, or trim, around the neckline and front opening of the bodice.

I traced each section of the neckline, more or less drafting a 3" wide external facing with mitered corners. Having a seam at each corner allowed for a more economical use of fabric than a single facing drafted without seams would have. I cut the guards out of the black wool left over from my 1840's dress. I considered making the guards green, or another color, but black was the most common color for guards in the paintings and prints I looked at, so that's what I went with.

I constructed my dress with primarily modern sewing techniques, with a little bit of Victorian thrown in, as that's what I'm most familiar with. As much as I'd love to learn about historically accurate 16th century clothing construction, I didn't really know where to start with that in the limited time frame I had. The finished dress is about 80% machine sewn. 

I chose to flat line the bodice, the way Victorian bodices are done, rather than bag line it, as modern bodices are. I appreciate how the exposed seam allowances allow for easy alterations later on, where as bag lined bodices are a pain to alter! I know many people find seam visible seam allowances on the inside of a bodice to be messy and unprofessional looking, but personally I appreciate the look of exposed seam allowances whip stitched down on the inside of the garment.

I sewed on the black neckline guards just as I would an exposed facing on a modern garment. I pinned it with the right side of the guard against the wrong side (inside) of the bodice, sewed along the edge, clipped corners, then turned it right side out. 

The free edge of the guards then got top stitched down by machine. Once that was done, the bodice was more or less finished.

Except for one thing, the sleeves. When I made my linen lining mock-up I found the sleeves to be rather movement restricting. This could have been fixed with some pattern alterations, but I was on a time crunch and didn't feel like dealing with that. So I improvised.

I constructed the sleeves separately from the bodice, then hand sewed them on, about 2/3rds of the way around. I left the sleeve disconnected from the bodice under the arm, as this allowed for a full range of motion.

I have no idea if there is any sort of historical precedent for this, but it worked beautifully for me. Along with allowing me to move my arms however I pleased, I also appreciated the underarm "air vents" as it was nearly 90 degrees on the day we visited the Renaissance Festival.

As you can see, I chose to make short sleeves rather than long sleeves for my dress. I was a little short on fabric once I'd cut out the bodice and skirt panels and I did not have quite enough left to make long sleeves. I'd read somewhere in my research for this project that there was evidence that some German gowns had short sleeves. These gowns could be worn over a long sleeved under gown, or separate long oversleeves might be pinned to the bottom of short sleeves. So, at a later date, I will probably make a separate set of sleeves for this dress, but I decided to just wear the dress with short sleeves on that very hot day I visited the Ren Fest. This was comfortable, and it allowed me to show off my pretty puffy smock sleeves.

Once the sleeves were sorted out, it was on to the skirt! I made the skirt from two panels of 60" wide wool, put pockets in the side seams, and cut a slash about 10" deep at the center front. The slash was then faced with some brown denim (left over from these shorts) to finish it off, and the top edge of the skirt was cartridge pleated, then whip stitched to the bottom edge of the bodice.

I don't believe that facing is at all historically accurate, but it does it's job of finishing off the skirt opening neatly and was quick and easy to do.

The hem of the skirt, meanwhile, also got a facing of brown denim. I'm not sure if hem facings were used at all during the 16th century, but they are my favorite method of finishing skirt hems, so I went with it anyway. On the outside of the skirt, just a couple inches above the hem, is a band of black wool to match the neckline guards on the bodice.

And finally, on the night before I was to go to the Renaissance Festival, my 16th century German gown was finished with hooks and eyes down the front opening. I consulted Patterns of Fashion 3, by Janet Arnold, to figure out what sort of fastenings would be best, and it turns out hooks and eyes are the most historically accurate choice here! 

I alternated hooks and eyes on either side of the opening, as advised in The Tudor Tailor, by Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhaila, which gives a much more secure closure than having all the hooks on one side and all the eyes on the other does. Now I think I need to go back and change the hooks and eyes on all my historical dresses to be like this - but I really don't relish the idea of re-sewing on all those hooks and eyes on all those dresses, so there's a good chance that will never actually happen.

The final hook and eye were sewn on around midnight the night before I was to visit the Renaissance Festival with my best friend. It was finished! I had a dress to wear!

It's a super comfortable dress to wear, and I'm honestly thrilled with how it turned out.

This orange wool dress suits me perfectly!

Historical Sew Monthly September 2019 - Everyday

What the item is: Wool German Renaissance Gown

How it fits the challenge: It's a rather basic wool gown which could have been worn for every day life.

Material: Wool - plain weave woolen orange, twill weave worsted black. Linen-rayon blend (harvested from a thrifted skirt) for the lining. Cotton duck canvas for interlining. Light weight denim for hem facing.

Pattern: I adapted McCall's M7763

Year: First half of the 1500's

Notions: Thread, hooks and eyes.

How historically accurate is it? Not very. This is my first attempt at anything even remotely correct for any era before the mid to late 18th century, so I still have a lot to learn.

Here's what I think I got right: Wool would be an accurate choice for a gown like this. (Honestly, I'm not even sure gown is the correct term for this garment, but I don't know what else to call it) The hooks and eyes up the front would be an accurate fastening. Cartridge pleated skirts were done in the era I believe, so that's accurate. Looking at paintings online, short sleeves attached to gowns were a thing, but they would have had long wool sleeves pinned to them. Due to the current heat, I opted to skip those pin-on sleeves for now. (And I wanted to show off my smock sleeves, even though the smock is from about 50 years later than the gown.)

As for what I know is wrong: The lining should be 100% linen, not a linen-rayon blend, the interlining should also be linen, not canvas. Actually, I'm not even sure interlining would have been a thing, but as I was wearing this without a supportive undergarment, I decided to add an interlining for the support it gives. This is about 80% machine sewn, and I know almost nothing about construction methods from the era. I do not believe a hem facing is accurate. The sleeves are sewn to the bodice around the top of the sleeve, but left free at the bottom for ease of movement, and I don't believe that's accurate for sewn-on sleeves.

All in all, no more, and quite possibly less than, 40% accurate. I don't know enough about this era to make something very accurate yet!

Hours to complete: Not sure on hours, but it took 3 evenings of work.

First worn: 9/29/19 for the Renaissance Festival.

Total cost: The orange wool was gifted to me, the black wool cost $6 a yard and was left over from another project. I used less than half a yard. The lining started out as a $3 skirt from a thrift store. The duck canvas cost me 50 cents. The hooks and eyes were about $2. I spent $2 on a spool of orange thread. The denim used for the hem facing was left over from another project. It originally came from thrift store, and I don't remember how much it cost. The pattern was picked up for $2 on sale. So all together, under $15 for this project.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Black Linen Parasol Trousers

I made myself a pair of black linen pants, and I really, really, like them!

That's more or less the summary of this blog post, but I guess some details about the pants and why I really, really, like them would be good too, huh?

And so, back to the beginning. . .

It was the pockets which originally caught my eye.

Over a year ago, I saw a testing call from Ensemble Patterns come across Instagram. They were looking for testers for the Parasol Jumpsuit and Trousers. As I don't wear or make jumpsuits, and currently have no desire to do so (though they are cute, I'm just really more of a dress girl) I scrolled right on past that testing call.

After the pattern was released however,  I saw multiple different versions of it on Instagram, and I really liked the trouser version of the pattern. I'd been so distracted by the bodice, I hadn't paid much attention to the bottom half of the jumpsuit in the original testing call. However, apparently the bottom half of the pattern could be made up on it's own as a pair of trousers. The pockets on those trousers were just fabulous!

A patch-pocket type thing, with an angled opening and one edge sewn into the front leg seam. More natural looking than most patch pocket designs, but more interesting than plain ol' inseam or slanted pockets. I really liked the look of these pockets! The overall look of the trousers was nice as well, and definitely something I would wear.

And so, mostly because of those pockets, when Ensemble Patterns decided to upgrade the Parasol pattern this summer, I eagerly jumped on board to test the trouser upgrade! I needed a pair of pants with those pockets in my wardrobe!

I decided to make my parasol trousers from a heavy black linen I had in my stash. Last winter a friend from church gave me a half-circle cloak type thing which was black linen, lined in green linen. It had been part of his garb when he did SCA events. As he no longer did SCA events, he wanted all the beautiful linen in the garment to go to good use, so he gave it to me to use as fabric. As I began to seam rip apart the two layers I felt a little guilty about disassembling the costume piece. But as I'd been given the item so the fabric could actually be put to use and appreciated once it was no longer needed for the original purpose, I forged on. 

I decided to use the black linen for my parasol pants and save the green linen for some future fabulous project. It really is beautiful fabric and was a delight to work with!

After cutting out, I made the pants in one morning and afternoon, and wore them to an event that same evening.

After wearing my new trousers for a few hours, I found them to be a bit loose in the waist. So I took them in a bit at the center back seam until they fit just right!

(Pictures were taken before the waist was taken in)
The slightly unusual seam placement on this pattern (front and back leg seam, no side seams) gives a striking silhouette and makes it very easy to perfect the fit on the finish garment!

(The "bubble" of fabric right below the waist seen here disappeared when I took in the waist at the center back seam)
After taking in the waist a bit, I decided to use these as my travel pants for my trip to Uganda last month.

They remained super comfortable for the entire 24+ hours of travel each way. I think, along with being worn regularly in daily life, these will be my travel pants from here on out. The pockets are even the perfect size to fit a passport and a boarding pass when those things need to be kept handy in airports.

 And so, that is the story of the black linen pants I made myself and really, really, like!

*If you're interested in the Parasol Pattern, it can be found here.
*I received this pattern free of charge in exchange for testing, but all thoughts and opinions presented here are my own. I was not required to write this blog post or share about this pattern at all. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Mary Queen of Smocks (How I Began My 16th Century Ensemble)

For my Renaissance Festival outfit this year I had grand plans of just picking a costume pattern I liked and making myself a pretty vaguely historical-ish dress, mixed with a dash of fantasy-ish, and princess-yness. Historical Accuracy and the Renaissance Festival honestly don't even know each other. The Ren Fest is a fantasy-ish type of event, mixed with a dash of vaguely historical-ishness. There would be no need for me to fall into the pit of somewhat obsessively researching the clothing of the era before sewing a single seam for my costume for this event. No need at all.

And yet. . . even with this decision made before I began anything. . . once Erentry and I started talking about what we would actually wear to the Ren Fest, the historical costumer in me took over. All intentions of "quick, easy, fun, fantasy-ish, not historically accurate at all" flew out the window. I pulled out books. I started googling. I ordered more books. I ordered 6 yards of linen. I looking at paintings from the 16th century online. I read 16th century re-enactors blogs. I starting reading my new books as soon as they arrived in the mail. I made lists of all the different elements my costume needed. And I had to talk myself out of hand sewing everything. 

Now the Renaissance era is a good 300 years earlier than my standard costuming era (Victorian), and 200 years earlier than the earliest I'd gone with my historical costuming thus far (Georgian). Thus, this was new, uncharted territory for me, and my costuming library, which I've been building up over the last few years, was sadly lacking in books to help me on my way. I owned one book featuring clothing from earlier than 1600 - Patterns of Fashion 4, by Janet Arnold. So, as mentioned above, I ordered a couple more books, then dove into the pages of Patterns of Fashion 4 (PoF4, from here on out) while waiting for the rest of the books to arrive in the mail.

Now PoF4 is all about the linen clothing items of 1540 through 1660 - shirts and smocks (The under garments, worn beneath all other clothing) and ruffs, and coifs, with a few other accessories thrown in. I began reading it July and learned a whole lot about linen garments and their construction in the second half of the 16th century. Soon I knew the first thing I needed to make for my Renaissance ensemble was a linen smock (what is known as a shift or chemise in later eras) to wear underneath everything else.

Looking through PoF4, I fell completely in love with the "Mary Queen of Scots" smock (Photographs found on page 57, pattern found on page 115). With cutwork lace and very full sleeves, this smock was definitely more high-class than what I intended my other garments for this ensemble to be, but it made me happy. As mentioned earlier, historical accuracy is not a top priority for the Ren Fest (so wearing a fancy late 16th century smock with a basic wool gown from the early 16th century would be permissible in this instance). Thus, the "Mary Queen of Scots" smock I would make! Those incredibly full sleeves were too delightful to resist.

I cut my linen (pale pink due to a laundry incident) into squares, rectangles, and triangles according to the pattern diagram in the book. I cut out the neckline with my rotary cutter, which proved to be a mistake, as I accidentally cut a bit too far on one side while cutting the back neckline. So, I had to patch that before I could even begin constructing the smock in earnest. At least it was the back neckline, not the front neckline.

Crisis solved, next I picked out what lace I would apply to my smock. Lace which would be historically accurate to this era does not exist anymore (unless you make it yourself I suppose, but that is not in my realm of expertise). Honestly, the most historically accurate option probably would have been to skip the lace entirely, but the lace trimmed neckline and sleeve ruffles were one of the things I loved about the original smock, so my smock would have lace. I went through my lace stash and picked a daisy lace to use.

The square shape of the motifs reminded me of the lace on the original, so I decided it would evoke the right feel, even though it wasn't historically accurate.

I narrowly hemmed the edges I wanted to attach the lace to, then sewed the lace on with a zig-zag stitch.

Around the neckline and onto the sleeve ruffles the lace went!

The remainder of the smock was constructed with flat-felled seams - all on the sewing machine.

The sleeves and sleeve ruffles were tightly gathered into a narrow band at the wrist. This band pins closed, which would be this historically accurate fastening choice.

The finished smock feels quite luxurious to wear! Almost queenly, one might say.

Full and flow-y with puffy sleeves!

When my sister saw me wearing it she said it reminded her of a ghost.

Thus, when we went out to take pictures one morning last week we had to play with the light for a more ghost-ish effect!

Ghost-ish or not, I'm very pleased I fell down the historical costuming rabbit hole for my Ren Fest outfit and made this smock!

The puffy sleeves and lace make it a fabulously splendid garment to own, and I plan on using it in daily life as a nightgown, as it's too fantastic not to wear regularly! 

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge 9: Everyday

What the item is: Renaissance Smock

How it fits the challenge: Smocks were the base layer which got worn every day underneath all the other garments.

Material: Linen

Pattern: The "Mary Queen of Scots" smock from Patterns of Fashion 4, by Janet Arnold.

Year: 1560's - 1580's

Notions: Thread and lace

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate, as is the fiber content of the material. It's all machine sewn however, so that's not accurate. Also the lace around the neckline and cuffs is modern, nothing like the cut work lace on the original. So, all in all, maybe 6/10

Hours to complete: 5 or 6 I think, gathering the sleeves into cuffs and attaching the lace took a while.

First worn: 9/29/19 for the Renaissance Festival

Total cost: The linen was $8 a yard and this took 3 yards. I got the lace for free. Add a dollar for the thread used for a total of $25