This post is long overdue and I apologise. I seem to be frightfully busy and have, obviously, bitten off way more than I can chew.
The 1573 garb set is done, mind you! I will not share it with you here on this blog just yet, as I am presenting it soon at Drachenwald’s Midsummer Coronation. If you cannot attend that event, you can read and see the finished garb set next week here.
So here is the info I meant to share with you earlier. Better late than never!
You may remember I have the theory that there were seperate skirts and bodices next to dresses with bodices all in one. I have opted for the first variety: a seperate skirt and bodice. I am using the word bodice here liberally, as I have yet to discover what the word ‘rijglijf’ in English is, translated properly. So, if you will bear with me, bodice it is!
The reason I chose for two seperate garments is that in those days garments lasted a lot longer than they do today. To me, it makes sense to give a new bride a decent and brand new dress, which she would be able to alter & mend herself after the birth of children. Later in her life, when a bodice needed replacement she could still use the skirt, etc etc.
I have one picture, from a painting by Pieter Aertsen, where you can see a girl baking pancakes and her chemise is peeking out under her bodice, have a look:
I was also lucky to find the last will and testament of a tailor in Leeuwarden, named Jan Douwes. The testament dates from the year 1560. It is, sadly, only in Dutch but it is full of garments, fabric and sheets he gives to family members. As I said, garments could last a very long time and could even be part of an estate.
Back to the bodice, which I started sewing a while ago. I chose a sturdy canvas as the inside. Canvas, written as CANNIFAS is mentioned in the will of Jan Douwes. I asked a friend to help measure me, that is not an easy task on your own.
The back looked very nice right away. The front didn’t make me happy…
At least we can say I was having fun!! Ha! This is similar (well, I hope…) to the many women you see on the Beuckelaer paintings, see the girl on the far left.
So, a new theory emerged: younger girls may have gotten away with a bodice with no or little reinforcement, at my age it is ridiculous. Also, if you look at this painting, the bodices seem to have some sort of structure.
I decided to be brave and contacted a student from the School of Historical Dress in London and inquired about how to do this because in no document had I found the word ‘bone’ or whatever; not even in the Douwes testament. I was told reeds were used, I was allowed to look at a photo of a pair of bodices and notices those reeds were indeed there. Sadly, I was not allowed to copy the photo. Only a few reeds if the wearer was slight and whole bundles if there was more to keep in place.
Back to the drawing board, bodice wise I mean. I started with the front plaque and created this out of three layers of fabric: canvas inside, linen lining and red silk outer layer.
I then started reconstructing the bodice, again in three layers: canvas, linen lining and brick red wool for the outside. Then it was time to be brave and add reeds… which I found but wearing them was incredibly uncomforable. Also, several reeds ended up breaking. There is (apparently) a special way of preparing the reeds, but I have no knowledge of that at this point. No pics of that, sorry 🙂 Now what? My heart sunk last month, let me tell you… How to finish this garment?!
Thinking I probably wasn’t the first to face this problem I did some new research. Breaking reeds must have happened in those days too. I couldn’t find anything, because nobody wants to document their failures and I took some emergency steps. Leather… yes, leather.
A little side step here…. do you know how the Vikings made water bottles? Out of leather! Probably not only the Vikings… Soaked in water it becomes very hard and stiff when dried. So, it was time for an experiment…
I added the stiff leather strips to the canvas and then sewed the linen lining to the inside of the bodice, adding hooks and eyes (all mentioned in Jan Douwes’ testament!). It was then time to add the brick coloured wool to the outside of the bodice. No blisters on my fingers yet…
Here I am, wearing chemise, stockings and bodice
It fits!! FITS! The leather works beautifully and is a good replament for reeds, which in themselves deserve further study.
Next week the complet garb set. Ava is happy again 🙂