Saturday, 11 October 2014

What ordinary people could wear in the 18th century

Carl Michael Bellman by Per Krafft, 1779
Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795) is probably one of the most important cultural personalities in Sweden. He wrote a number of songs, many of them revolving around a set gallery of persons, most which can be identified as real persons. In the late 18th century Stockholm these very unglamorous people dance, fight, make love, get sick, die, enjoy picnics or have children, in short, doing the things everyday people have always done. The songs vary a lot in tone, some are rowdy, some achingly beautiful. I could write a lot about the songs in general, but this post is just about one of the things that makes Bellman’s’ poetry such great snapshots of 18th century life, the clothes. In most songs there are descriptions of the clothes, glimpses of cut and colours worn by people who weren’t on society’s highest levels. The examples here are just a few of them, but I hope you will enjoy them. All the examples are taken from the collection called Fredmans’ Epistles.

Epistle n: o 13, dated to 1770. At a ball, a young woman, Jeanna, is wearing a salopp and red shoes. A salopp was a short cape, often cut round, in silk or some other lightweight fabric with no sleeves, but with slits for the hands and with or without a hood. Father Berg who is one of the musicians,  is wearing a striped banyan and is generally very old fashioned in attire according to the text with shoes “like those the forefather’s wore”, a neckcloth of leather, a wide belt and a cut, or cauliflower,  wig.

Woman's cape, c. 1775. Museo del Traje

I'm not completely sure, but I think this is the kind of wig father Bergström is wearing:

Charles-François Pinceloup de la Grange by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, 1747

Epistle n: o 16, dated to 1770. Father Bergström is playing oboe while wearing a banyan, open to show breeches in leather (probably chamois leather) and the neckcloth is unbuttoned, but he is keeping his hat on. Caisa, one of the maids at the bar “Ormen” (The Snake) is wearing shoes with white heels that have been re-painted. She is also laced into stays.

Epistle n: o 59, dated to 1770. At the bar “Lokatten” (The Lynx). Two women, not of the best class, are described. The first is called a troll with a black flannel petticoat, no stockings and worn out shoes made of taffeta with a woven pattern of flowers. She is also wearing earrings with red stones of a model called boucles de nuit, a round stone on top of a tear shaped one, with two smaller stones set on each side of the point where the two larger stones meet. The other woman is wearing a calamanco bodice over a petticoat in yellow damask and no shoes. Calamanco was a thin wool fabric in bright colours, often striped and glazed. It was very popular for bodices and waistcoat in Sweden in the 18th century, though it was illegally imported from England through Norway.

Bodice in calamanco, 1760-80

Epistle n: o 28, dated to 1771, is all about Ulla Winblad, the most important woman in all the epistles, sometimes described as a muse, a goddess, or a common prostitute. In this song she is definitely the latter, she is walking through the narrow streets of Gamla stan, the oldest part of Stockholm, trying to escape the police, and she is dressed in a black jacket, laced very tightly and with some kind of decorations. She is wearing many petticoats and a hat with a veil as well. She is also wearing suede gloves. The real Ulla was a woman called Maja-Stina Kjellström and this song have a parallel in her life were she was arrested in 1767 for wearing a  red silk cape, which poor woman wasn’t allowed to wear, though she was acquitted as she could prove she worked for a silk manufacturer.

18th century jacket in silk, Lund, Sweden

In epistle n: o 33, dated to 1771, Ulla is having a lot more fun; she is taking a boat trip to the part of Stockholm that is called Djurgården, which in the 18th century was largely unpopulated.  She is wearing a sun hat with rose-red ribbons. We are not told what she is wearing on her upper body, but we are told that it is very figure hugging and that she is tightly laced. She is also wearing a corsage at her breasts. Her petticoat is made out of nopkin, a cheap lightweight fabric that could be made of linen or cotton. The petticoat has a ruffle and she is also wearing an apron. 

The steps on Skeppsbro etching by Elias Martin (1739-1818), 1800
The woman in the middle is supposed to be Ulla Winblad.

Sample of nopkin fabric, dated to 1731

Epistle n: o 66, dated 1773-81). An unknown woman, very possibly Ulla is being painted. She has dark hair in curls that are bound with a pearl string. She is laced and her breast is high and she is wearing a cross made of rubies which flashes as she breathes. Her jacket is made of crimson red fabric and she is wearing both flowers and gauze around the neckline. She is also carrying a fan. The painter eventually gets quite exited by all this beauty, especially after painting in her nipples behind the gauze.
Quilted taffeta jacket and petticoat, 1780-85, Collections Galliera.© EPV / J-M Manaï, C Milet

Epistle n:74, dated 1773-80. Madame Bergström, the owner of a bar is being painted. She is obviously quite wealthy, even if she belongs to the middle class. She is wearing a “bindmössa” a small hard cap which is still part of many traditional costumes in Sweden. It is made of green silk moiré and is decorated with silver lace. Underneath the cap she is wearing a "stycke" piece of finely pleated linen which goes down the sides towards the back. Her hair is braided with a rose-colored ribbon. She is wearing ruby earrings and a neckerchief with narrow stripes in yellow and green, which opens up at the front to reveal her breasts. She is also wearing a gold chain wound several times around her neck from which an emerald is hanging. She is wearing a jacket and petticoat made of white silk taffeta and shoes made of gold brocade. She is also very beautiful with black eyebrows, blue eyes, a red mouth and very white skin.

"Bindmössa", dated to 1767
"Stycke", dated to 1780-1820

Epistle n: o 80, dated 1789-90. Ulla Winblad is invited out to the countryside just outside Stockholm. Fashion is changing and Ulla’s petticoats are radically narrower than they used to be. She is wearing a jacket made of Nankeen cloth, a lightweight cotton fabric imported from China and made from a yellowish kind of cotton, though there were also cheaper dyed imitations. She is wearing a neckerchief and her she is no longer wearing shoes with a white heel. She is also making herself a flower wreath.

If you are interested in listening to Bellman in English there are two albums by Martín Best available at Spotify. To Carl Michael With Love and Songs of Carl Michael Bellman

Carl Michael Bellman by Pehr Hilleström, 1781 or 1790

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The tale of the cursed banyan and other sewing projects

The pattern, a manteau-de-lit, bed-gown from garsault 1769.
Lack of posts about sewing doesn’t equal not sewing at all. I’m trying to finish J’s banyan that I cut out two years ago. When I pulled it out again I couldn’t remember if I had abandoned it because I didn’t have enough fabric or if it was for another reasons. As it turned out, I do have enough fabric, but as the lining has a more narrow width than the shell fabric, there is a lot of piercing going around. Very period, very boring. Actually, I rather feel that this project is cursed because despite being such a simple garment, nothing goes right with it. First I managed to put in the gussets on the shell fabric (lovely thunder blue taffeta) the wrong way. Then the piercing on the lining was a total hassle as it is lightweight silk satin and therefore slippery. When done, I realized that I had measured the piercing on the sleeves too short and needed to put in another piece. And managed to cut those without seam allowances. Sigh. Well, at least the shell fabric and the lining are now ready to be sewn together. I wonder what will go wrong next…

I had planned to make a 1940’s blouse in green silk noil to have with me for our trip on the Orient Express on October 13 (and I look forward to it very much, we are flying to Venice, which I haven’t visited before and take the train to Paris.) However, it turned out that it wasn’t enough fabric for the pattern I wanted and lost heart about the whole project.

I’m slowly working away on the 1630’s bodice. I will start to put in the sleeves now and then it is just the stomacher left. I am also sewing on the collar; it is my “pocket project”, which I usually have on my bag to stitch on when I’m stuck somewhere like a doctor’s office or on the train.

Source
Working on a toile for the 15th century brassiere, I’m just about to tackle the cups.

On November 15 there will an 18th century party that I can actually go to. Apart from out of doors summer events I haven’t had the chance for that since December last year when we went to Finland, (and we will go again this year, yay!). And suddenly I feel that I want to sew something 18th century, more precisely a little jacket. It ought to be a fairly quick project as I have a good basic bodice pattern. I want to make this c. 1740 jacket from The Snowshill Wade Costume Collection, patterned by Janet Arnold in Patterns of Fashion 1.




Source
I have wanted to make it before and even went so far as to draft the basque and sleeves, and I feel confident enough to cut the toile from the lining, thus saving even more time. The only problem I have is to decide which fabric to use. I don’t want to buy fabric, but I have enough fabrics in my stash to make it difficult to choose. At first I thought of using a piece of silk brocade, but on inspection it looked much too modern. I plan to wear it with a black taffeta petticoat and I have enough fabric to make a matching jacket, which will give me a complete black ensemble. But then I thought that I don’t have anything really warm in my 18th century wardrobe, so why not wool? Only, I have wool in black, white, dark green and red and I just can’t decide. I think all colour could go with a black petticoat. What do you think?


Source
 
I do wish, of course, that I could get my mitt on the brocade it was originally made of. So gorgeous!

Source




Monday, 22 September 2014

Costume research, a few tips and tricks

Sigismonda And The Heart Of Guiscardo by Moses Haughton
Some time ago I was asked what I think is the most important thing when it comes to making historical costumes and my answer was; research. Even if the aim isn’t to make a period correct garment, it is never wrong to know the subject. I know that many feel that research is boring and perhaps a bit scary, but I think it is fun and sometimes like being your very own private detective. When starting a new period it can be overwhelming and difficult to know what is correct information and what is not, especially with the Net which doesn’t make it hard to find information but rather to make it hard to know which of it that is useful. The ideal is, of course, primary sources, but that may be a difficult thing to do; sources can be in another language or located at a place which is difficult to get to. As I’m currently looking into the 15th century for the first time, I have a lot of things to learn and the very first step is to learn which sources to trust. And because I have been thinking about it a lot lately, here are a few pointers for finding trustworthy information. 


Woman Writing A Letter by Gerard ter Borch, c. 1655
Learn to Google. Think through what you want to learn and select a few search words. Try more than one so you make sure you catch as much as possible. Of course, this will yield a lot of information, but see it at a first stepping stone to get a broad understanding. If, for example, you want to make an 18th century Robe Française, a quick google will show you tons of pictures and links.
 
Be critical. It’s seems to be a default system that in every group there will be things seen as truths, something that everyone does and which is very easy to take for hard facts. Ask questions! If someone tells you this is the way to do it, the politely ask why, ask for sources. The same goes for blog posts and articles online, don’t just take the information for granted. So ask questions, but ask nicely. People are usually happy to share their sources, but don’t ask things like “Send me everything you know about XWY”. Get to know the basics of XWY on your own first. I don’t mind answering “I’m looking into XWY and I notice you say this or that about it and I wonder where you found that reference”, but I don’t have the time or inclination to do someone’s complete research. If you want to buy a period sewing pattern, do a little research on the pattern company to see what their patterns are based on and what kind of research has gone into the pattern. There are pattern review sites like The Great Pattern Review and a Facebook group; Costumer Pattern Review
 
Read books. There are tons of good books out there, so a trip to the library can yield quite a lot. Most of us never get the chance to study extant garments, but luckily people like Janet Arnold, has done it for us. Such books give detailed description of extant garments, usually with photographs of it as well as period paintings that depicts similar clothes.  
Man Writing a Letter by Gabriël Metsu, 1664-66
Read first hand sources online. There are several websites that scan original texts, saving you a trip to the library. For example; Google Books, Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg.
 
Read peer reviewed papers online. Well-researched papers and articles can be found at sites like Academia.edu. Some university libraries have free articles in their catalogues, though you will have to search for them.
 
Theophila Palmer Reading Clarissa by Joshua Reynolds, 1771
Browse museums online. More and more museums have their collections available and one can find both extant garments and period paintings there. A small warning when it comes to extant clothes; if you find something unusual, you may have found something unique, but it can also be due to something being re-made. For example, the Victorians were rather notorious in changing 18th century clothes for costume balls.
 
Pinterest. A bit of a quagmire, I know. If you pin yourself, try to find the original source of the pictures if you can. For example, if you find a pretty gown on Tumblr and it is originally found at Metropolitan Museum, jump to the Met before you pin. That way you can easily find the original information later. If you re-pin, take a gander on what the pinner says about the picture, it may not be the truth. For example, there is a pretty 17th century gown going round that is said to be an extant gown. However, if you go to the original source it becomes clear that the gown is actually made for a theatre production in the 1990’s. Pinterest is really good for sorting pictures as you can make as many albums you like.
 
And last; You will make mistakes. You will draw the wrong conclusions. It’s not a big deal, see it as part of the learning process and be happy that you have a knowledge bank that is constantly growing.

Young Woman Reading a Letter by Jean Raoux

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Come and sew 17th century with me!

As you may remember I recently joined the Manuscript Challenge on Facebook in the hope of finally making a medieval outfit. I thought they idea of the challenge were excellent, you choose a picture, upload it and from the date you do that, you have one year to complete the outfit. So I asked Maria who created the challenge if I could borrow her idea for a 17th century challenge and she very kindly gave me permission. So I have started a 17th century sewing challenge, which you can find here. I hope you will come and join me in creating a fabulous 17th century outfit! The rules are Maria’s, though slightly tweaked to fit into the 1600’s.

Rules:
1. Choose one picture from a painting, print or similar. The picture must be in color. Time frame: The 17th century, 1600-1699. The picture must be an original; a later interpretation/re-drawing does not count. An extant garment can also be used. State your image source. Choose carefully before you decide what image to use, since you will have less time to complete your project if you change your mind and pick another picture later on. You are allowed to use a painting/garment even if someone else has chosen it already. 

2. Publish your image and tell us which outfit (if the image contains several) you plan to make. Create a photo album for your particular challenge. The first image is the image you have chosen to recreate. In your album, add pictures of your creative process. Ask for help if you need it, we are happy to help.

3. Create your outfit according to the wearer’s outfit, as shown in the picture. This means the entire outfit! You are not allowed to mix and match garments worn by different individuals appearing in the same picture.

4. Let us in on your progress! You might upload pictures of how you proceed, or notes on your thought process. You can also blog about it!

5. Ask for help, tips and advice if you feel the need and wish to do so. We’re all here for you, to support you if necessary, and to cheer you on if you get stuck.

6. It’s entirely up to you whether you wish to use plant-dyed, hand-woven fabric, or polyester. The idea is to recreate a visual copy of your chosen image. Your level of hard core technique and materials is up to you. You set your own goals here – we do not judge or look down on anyone due to their choice of project execution mode.

7. You have one year to finish from the day you upload the picture.

Bonus – No rules, this section is optional! 

8. How long does it take? It would be interesting to know how much time you spent working on your project. 

9. What did it cost? Did you work from scrap fabric found in the trash, or did you splurge on the most expensive silk you could find? How do our budgets differ?

And here is my chosen picture:

A Young Woman at Her Toilet with a Maid by Gerard ter Boch, 1650-51, Metropolitan Museum

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Supportive underwear in the 15th century


Konrad von Ammenhausen Hagenau, 1467
Art isn't the surest source as a painter can paint what he or she want, but the clevage suggest
support and I really like the side-lacing.
As I mentioned in my previous post on 15th century clothes, my first step will be to make supportive underwear. Some comments recommended me to make a snugly fitted shift/kirtle instead and I am sure that can be a very functional breast support. Not for me, though. I have made plans for medieval clothes before and even started, trying this method and it just doesn’t work for me. I have a large bust but a very narrow ribcage, my under bust measurement is actually the narrowest part of my torso and the difference between bust and under bust is 35 cm (almost 14 inches). To give me support I need to overfit the garment up to a point that it looks silly and feel uncomfortable and it put a lot of strain on the fabric. This is why I want to solve the support problem with a separate garment so I can fit my kirtle to look nice instead of too tight. Perhaps separate supportive underwear wasn’t very common, but as there are textual evidence on some kind of support, paintings of women in garments that looks like they could have a supportive function, and, of course, the extant clothes found in Lengberg Castle, which is enough for me. Especially as I will never make any clothes before from 1500 without it.

So, the Lengberg brassiere. Or, rather, one of them as there were actually four found in Lengberg Castle in 2008 among a whole cache of textile fragments. Two of them have been carbon dated to the 15th century. So far no close examination have been published, though one can hope that it will be available in the future along with, of course, patterns. Here is a quote by Beatrix Nutz from Medievallingerie from Lengberg Castle, East-Tyrol

Four linen textiles resemble modern time bras. The criterion for this classification is the presence of distinct cut cups. The two more fragmented specimens appear to be a combination of a bra and a short shirt. They end right below the breast but have additional cloth above the cups to cover the décolleté, and no sleeves. Both “bras” have decorated lower ends. Finger-loop-laces (laces worked in loop manipulating braiding technique) are sewn onto the hem with lace-stitches resulting in simple needle-lace. Besides its decorative function - one that cannot be seen anyway when worn under a dress - this also serves as reinforcement for the hem and adds further support to the breasts.
The third “bra” looks a lot more like modern bras with two broad shoulder straps and a possible back strap, not preserved but indicated by partially torn edges of the cups onto which it was attached. The knot in the shoulder straps is secondary. This “bra” is also the most elaborately decorated with needle-lace on the shoulder straps, sprang-work between the two cups and, like the two aforementioned “bras”, a finger-loop-lace and needle-lace at the lower end.
The fourth “bra” is the one that resembles a modern bra the most.  At the first assessment this garment was referred to in German as “Mieder” (= corselette in English) by the excavating archaeologists. It can also be described with the term “longline bra”. The cups are each made from two pieces of linen sewn together vertically. The surrounding fabric of somewhat coarser linen extends down to the bottom of the ribcage with a row of six eyelets on the left side of the body for fastening with a lace. The corresponding row of eyelets is missing. Needle-lace is sewn onto the cups and the fabric above thus decorating the cleavage. In the triangular area between the two cups there might have been additional decoration, maybe another sprang-work.
 
She has also written Medieval Underwear which contains some more information. 
 
However, the most detailed information by Beatrix Nutz can be found in Bras in the 15thcentury, A Preliminary Report. You will need to register at Academia.edu to download the article, but that’s pretty easy to do. 
 
Medieval Silkworm has two interesting articles at her blog with lots of quotes and pictures:

 
 
By My Measure also has an interesting article: On cleavage and Breast Mounds

I don’t know, yet, if this kind of supportive garment will work for me, but I think there are good chances. Katafalk has a similar figure to mine and her version of the Lengberg brassiere seems to giver her good support as well as being comfortable. 
 
A few other recreations:
 
By My Measure: Breastbags and Kerchiefs
 
Crafty Agatha: 15th century Lingerie 
 
Renikas Anachronistic Adventures: All dressed up Housebook style 
 
Deventer Burgerscap: Making My Bra Shirt, part 1 
 
Mady’s SCA Sewing Thingy: Under There!

 

 

 



 

 

Monday, 25 August 2014

A tenative step toward the 15th century

My weekend plan was to work on J’s banyan that I almost finished cutting out a long time ago. An old UFO in other words. I had a nagging feeling that I hadn’t cut all the pieces because I didn’t have enough fabric, but as it turned out I do have enough, only I have to pierce the lining. And the lining is in very slipper silk satin, hence my lack of enthusiasm. I have now finally cut out everything and started to sew it all together, currently muttering over the gussets over the arm, but then a looming cold drove me into the arms of a welcoming sofa instead. So instead of sewing I spent two days under a blanket draped with a cat, or two or a stray dog. 

I also joined The Manuscript Challenge on Facebook. The idea is to choose a garment from a manuscript, or similar from any medieval period up until 1500. From the day you upload the chosen picture to the challenge you have one year to complete the complete outfit and you have to make visually as close to the picture as you are able to. There are no rules about material though. This is very challenging for me as I find it extremely hard to keep to one visual source when I make my costumes. So that alone will be a new experience. I am also venturing into a completely new time period, which is why I joined the challenge. I have wanted to make a late 15th century outfit for some time and I hope this will make it happen and a year seems to be plenty of time. (We’ll see what I will say about that in ten months…) I’m not a complete novice in the 15th century in theory, I do know quite a lot about fashion history outside my comfort zones, but I don’t have the fine-tuning. So I want to make something that a) I like and b) is something I can pull off. So I decided on this outfit.

It is from a depiction of The Massacre of the Innocents, part of The Adoration of the Magi by Hugo van der Goes dated to the 1470’s. You can see the whole painting here. It is not from a manuscript, but the challenge to add or similar and no one has protested about my choice, so I guess it is all right. The outfit seems quite simple with some interesting details and is giving me a few things to puzzle over. I guess those of you who know the period finds it all very easy, but remember, for me it is all new. Another point in its favour is that it would be fairly easy to build up a small wardrobe from it. Another set of loose sleeves, an apron, other headdresses. I also quite like Burgundian gowns, which I figure would work well to wear over the kirtle.
Found at On Cleavage and Breast Mounds
 
What kind of pattern should I use for the kirtle? On the painting it seems virtually seamless, which of course isn’t possible. A fitted garment like that need seams and other paintings show them. Being much curvier than the woman on the painting I need to figure out what would be the best pattern for me. 
Add caption
 
How do the blue sleeves stay put? I confess that I didn’t realize until after I choose this outfit that the sleeves aren’t pinned on top f the short sleeves of the kirtle, but goes underneath. My assumption is that they are basted to the kirtle, or possibly, to the shift.
 
 
The artist, the girl in White have sleeves that seems to go underneath the short sleeves.
Diptych of The Fall of Man and The Redemption by Hugo van der Goes, c. 1480
 
What about the shift anyway? They seem to have had long sleeves and there are pictures of women with no loose sleeves. But there are also this version with a sleeves and snug bodice.
Friedrich von Schwaben, origin: Stuttgart(?), Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. Germ. 345, f 247r, c. 1470 found at Medieval supportive underwear
One of the reasons I have balked for pre-corset fashion is that I really need breast support. I have tried the snugly fitted shift-method and found it both uncomfortable as making me look like a sausage. After the Lengberg brassiere was found a new vista has opened up for me and Katafalk has made a really lovely version that seems to give good support as well as looking remarkably like the pictures. She has smaller breasts than I have, but I still think this would work for me and as she so kindly offer her pattern for free, I have a pattern to start from instead of doing it from scratch. What I’m wondering about is if this brassiere was worn instead of a shift or with? Obviously the pictures of women in just shift and kirtle shows long sleeves on the shift.
Bat-Sheba bathing
Except this one...
Source
And on “my” painting the shift is obviously a bit more disarrayed at the neckline than something that fits tightly. As for now I’m inclined to make booth, opting to make the long sleeved shift in finer linen to avoid bulk.
 I also Think that it's pretty clear that the kirtle should be laced up properly, I'm not going to go around half-laced.
I also wonder what the black that is visible under the blue sleeves are. Another pair of sleeves? Black cuffs? Though not cuffs for the blue sleeves and I have never heard of black cuffs on shift. There is also a possibility that we are seeing liberties of the artist, I guess it is possible that the black is there to really make the hands pop out. It might also be meant as a shadow from the blue sleeve, but I mighty odd shadow, if you ask me.
 
The headgear baffles me as well. Is it a sewn cap or is it just a piece of fabric that have been pleated and pinned? Oh well, I have some time to figure it out.
 
Then there is the belt, which seems pretty straightforward, but what is the most likely object hanging from it? A purse?
 
You see that I have a few things to ponder. I also need to figure out stockings and shoes, even if we can’t seem them on the picture.







Wednesday, 30 July 2014

18th century in sveltering heat

One week of my vacation is over, three more to go. As I only worked four days the forthnight before my actual vacation, I feel like I have had vacation for three weeks already and is pleasantly surprised when I remember that I have a lot of vacation time left. Stockholm is in the middle of an unusually hot heatwave, so last week was spent at the summer house in the archipelagio with lots of bathing and reading books in the shade. Very restful. We also spent a weekend at Skansen at their annual 18th century weeks, naturally on the two hottest days of the year. My clothes were decided after the need of NOT wearing a wig and as my batante isn't finished so I decided to "play dairymaid" and went without a gown. Yes, I was practically naked in just shift, stays, three petticoats, apron, cap, hat, stockings and shoes. Quite shocking, wouldn't you say?

I swear, if it is as hot next year, I will make myself a bathing shift and place a tub in the garden!

J went back to nature as well and scraped daikons for dinner.

While the wife had fun with the workers in the hay. I also realized that I badly need a busk.
Then the master arrived...

But evidently the oppressed workers rised in revolution.


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