Friday, 22 April 2016

The HSM 2016: Challenge # 5: Holes

The fifth Historical Sew Monthly challenge is due May 31. The theme is holes and, of course technically, all clothes have holes, at least as soon as you go from a piece of material wrapped or draped around the body to a sewn garment. You simply cannot get into a garment if there isn’t openings in it. But holes can also serve a dual purpose combining utility with decoration. Or they can be there simply as an ornament. They can be punched and cut, the can form a circle or a slit or any other shape. There can even be more open space than material in a garment. I hope this post with a small sample of all kinds of holes will provide some inspiration.

Functional holes for lacing a bodice in blue glazed cotton, 1775-1800.

Digitalt museum

Holes necessary for adjusting the size of a corset.

Corset 1875-99, V&A

The buttonholes on this coat, dated to 1725-50, are both functional and decorative.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

A sideless gown where the necessity of arm holes also becomes a way to show off the garment underneath.

From Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, 1603-08. Wikimedia Commons
Gown by Lanvin from 1938 where the neckline that also provides a design element.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
The more holes in a bathing suit, the more places to get a lovely tan.

1920s bathing suit, back view. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Red doublet with decorative slits and a row of lacing holes to keep the breeches attached.

Wool doublet worn by Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden, 1620s. Livrustkammaren
A child’s bodice from the early 17th century where the open sleeves are tied with ribbons to form decorative slits.

Digitalt museum

Yellow silk dress from 1819 with decorative slits on the sleeveheads.

Back view. V&A

Red evening gown, c 1934 with the traditional lacing converted into a design element.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Full length sleeveless negligée in pink silk satin from the 1930’s.


We wouldn’t have lace if there wasn’t any holes...

A woman’s waistcoat in drawn and pulled threadwork, 1630-39.


17th century collar in drawn lacework.


Cotton lace cap from 1829

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Linen petticoat with eyelet embroidery, 1860-65

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Bobbin lace bodice front, 1865-75.


And let's not forget shoes, that can provide many variations of both functional and decorative holes.

Chopines, 17th century. Livrustkammaren

A woman's silk shoe, 17th century. Livrustkammaren

Boots, 1920s. V&A

1930s shoes

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Scandinavian gowns in the late 17th and early 18th century.

The more I dig into fashion history, the more interested I get in what was actually worn here, in Sweden, where I live. It’s not altogether easy to find information about that. So I have been very happy in diffing into a Danish website: Dragter på epitafier og gravsten i Danmark (Costumes on epitaphs and tombs in Denmark). There are even a few from germany and more than a few from Swedish churches, dated from the 16th century to the 18th. So far I have only dug into the paintings and they are a wonderful source to what well to do, but not necessarily aristocratic, women wore in Denmark and Sweden. Here are a few from the late 17th-early 18th century, showing some really nice mantuas, caps and hairstyles.

Click on the links for more pictures.

Two great fontange caps.

Anonymous lady by Lucas Ambders, 1685

Anonymous lady by Necolaus Tych, 1695
I love, love, love these mantuas. The different patterns on mantua, petticoat and stomacher on the mother, the play with the stripes on the daughter's gowns.

Peder Jensen Lucoppidan and Anna Christine Jørgensdatter with their children. Svendborg Sct Nicolai kirke, Denmark. Painted in 1696

More somber mantuas, but the caps are spectacular!

This mantua in black is even more sober.

Frands König and Anne Lauritzdatter. Kirke Helsige kirke, Denmark. Painted in 1694.

Also very pretty with the borders.

Mathias Rubenius and his wives; Anna and Gertrud Katrina Liljengranat. Färlövs kyrka, Sweden. Painted 1700-09

And this mantua is stunning and the cap is too! I want it!

Anne Christensdatter Søe 1644-1736. Thisted kirke, Denmark. Painted 1684.

Catharina, married to Johannes Georg Alsing. Västra Tommarps kyrka, Sweden

I'm not sure if the following gowns are closed front Mantuas or some other kind of gown. And more spectacular caps!

Mads Christensen and Martha Bertelsdatter with their children. Bjerned kirke, Denmark Painted 1691.
Laurits Jensen Beder and Anna Cathrine Pedersdatter Dorscheus with their children. Beder kirke, Denmark. painted around 1690.

Maren Stefansdatter and her daughters. Varde Sct Jacobi Kirke, Denmark. Painted in 1677

Christen Lauridsen Rhuus and Johanne Samuelsdatter Gesmel. Saeby kirke, Denmark. Painted around 1700 by Christen Lauridsen Rhuus .

The red fabric is so gorgeous! And a nice view on the stays too.

Christiane Marie Foss 1684-1750, married to Carsten Worm 1707, Århus stift

 And here it looks like the stays are laced over a different coloured stomacher.

Knud Hauch and Sophie Brun. Ribe Sct Catharina kirke, Denmark. Painted by Knud Hauch 1703

And a few hairstyles. Big hair was a thing around 1700 too.

Edel Sophie Bille 1684-1706. Ubby kirke, Roskilde stift. Painted in 1714

Margrethe Ingeborg Hemmer, 1643-1723, married to Mathias Worm. Painting from 1700-09, Århus Stift

Unknown girl, 12 years old. painted 1690-09. Denmark

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Looking back, looking forward

So 2015 is drawing to its close and it’s probably my least productive year in more than a decade. But despite not sewing anything (almost) until June, I have managed to finish a few things during the autumn, even if I haven’t been able to take any good photos yet.. So here is this year's meagre sewing:

Look, cap!
  • 18the century coloured cap.
  • 1930 hat in corduroy (to match a coat in the same fabric which only needs hemming and buttons).
  • Salmon pink 17th century petticoat in silk taffeta.
  • 1940’s faux fur swing coat.
  • 1740’s wool jacket to go with the embroidered stomacher I made last year.
  • Ca 1700 fontange cap

The jacket before buttons and the the cuffs just pinned into place. You can also see a glimpse of the salmon pink 17th century petticoat.
Finished jacket. Well, the cuffs are supposed to be sewn down a lot more, but I have decided to wear the jacket first and see so they are in the right Place before I stitch them down permanently.
My list of UFOs are still much too long:

17th century boning channels. The thread is dark green, not black.
  • Bodice for the Swedish national gown- only needs trim.
  • Purple 1630’s gown- sleeves and hemming of the bodice, the petticoat from scratch.
  • Embroidered 1630’s jacket- this one has no deadline, it will take the time it will take..
  • Late 17th century stays- I have finally found proper silk thread for the boning channels in the colour I want, so I’m sewing boning channels right now.
  • The aforementioned corduroy coat, early 1940´s
  • 1940’s raincoat.
  • 1940’s brown wool jacket.
  • Two 1940’s dresses, one dotted and one patterned with flowers. The dotted one just need the neckline fixed.
  • And my perpetual UFO;  the 18th century embroidered polonaise.
Part of the back of the 1630's embroidered jacket. The silk/gold thread is more glittery than ity looks here.

And 2016? well, I have started to help modding The Historical Sew Monthly on Facebook, so I need to be a good girl and make challenges. And this year will be the year i finally get some 17th century done. So, a tentative plan is to work on my UFOs and try to finish as many as possible. Several of them have very little left to do before they are finished. As for the 17th century, I plan to start the mantill very soon as it’s not fitted and ought to be rather uncomplicated to make. I also have my 1940´s wardrobe project. As for the HSF challnges, the current plan looks like this:
  • January –  Procrastination – Finish the bodice for the Swedish national gown. It only needs to get the pleated trim sewn in place, but I have been not doing that for a long time...
  • February – Tucks & Pleating – Make the petticoat for the Swedish national gown. It has a lot of pleated trim.
  • March – Protection – A 1916 coat in black wool with blue details.
  • April – Gender-Bender – I’ll make it easy and go the obvious route; a pair of 1930’s linen trousers.
  • May – Holes – The 17th century stays. Lots of lacing holes in them.
  • June – Travel –No idea. I want a pair of 18th century mitts in embroidered wool and I guess one can claim it’s suitable to have for travelling.
  • July – Monochrome – make a garment in black, white, or any shade of grey in between. The robe for the Swedish national gown, as the whole gown is white. Or a new shift.
  • August – Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better. An early mantua in striped wool.
  • September – Historicism – I haven’t got a clue. Any ideas?
  • October – Heroes – I’m not much given to hero worship, so I don’t know.
  • November – Red – 1930’s dress in red wool.
  • December – Special Occasion: I don’t know, but possibly the embroidered 1630’s jacket as I think it will look very festive with its glittering silk thread and spangles.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

17th century stays and boned bodices, part 2

Part 1 can be found here.
Stays after 1650

Salmon pink stays, 1660-1680 at V&A. Made out of ten pattern pieces, giving it a slightly more curvaceous shape than earlier stays and making the waist more round rather than oval. One layer of watered silk and one layer herringbone weave linen, possibly ticking, bound with silk grosgrain ribbon. Laced in front over a boned, T-shaped stomacher. The boning channels are stitched with silk and boned with whalebones. Ten skirts with six gores inserted between the front ones. The gores are not boned. The stays are not lined, but the seams are covered on the inside with silk grosgrain ribbon. 3/4 -length sleeves are attached with ribbons to the shoulder straps. Though they are more advanced in cut than previous stays and probably also made in a different country, they still have similar construction method.

Silk and wool stays, dated 1671-1680. The front is covered with silk brocade and decorated with silver gilt braid and spangles. The back is covered with blue wool and it is lined with linen.

Yellow silk stays, either late 17th century or early 18th century. The cut of stays didn’t change abruptly at the turning of the century and it is difficult to say exactly on which side of 1700 they were made. These are covered in silk, making the boning channels invisiböe and is decorated with silver lace.


Boned bodices

The 1630´s ivory silk slashed bodice in V&A has a boned lining, but it is different from other extant bodices. It is open in the front it is probably that there was originally a stomacher as well. The foundation is built from several layers of buckram and linen canvas, reinforced, not fully boned, with whalebones. The boning is wider than in other extant stays and bodices, about 12 mm and in the back the boning is put in horizontally. It also differs from other bodices in that it cut above the waist and has no tabs, which is in keeping with the current fashion which had a raised waist.


Pale-coloured silk satin bodice, 1660-1669, V&A. Decorated with parchment lace. The boned foundations is made from twelve pattern pieces, reinforced at places with up to three extra layers of linen. The middle side panel is unboned but stiffened with buckram and wool and may be a later addition to increase the size. The foundation is made by two layers of linen and has ten skirts. Boned with whalebone, at the back are four horizontal bones placed on top of the vertical ones. A pocket for a busk is placed at the center front. Lined with ikat woven silk.

Green silk bodice, Museum of London, 1650-1670. Decorated with silver bobbin lace and silver alloy spangles and heavily boned.


Silver tissue gown with a boned bodice from the 1660’s, Fashion Museum, Bath. Photo by Ludi Ling

Iron stays

Several iron stays have been preserved, most of them dating to the decades before and after 1600. They are usually rather elaborate and elegant in shape, the metal perforated in patterns and the shape follow the form a fashionable female torso should possess; a cone. When worn they would have been padded on the inside and covered with fabric, making them a bit more comfortable than they look at the first glance. Their purpose is not completely clear though and there are more than one theory to their function.

Iron corset, 1580-1599, York Castle Museum

The rigidity of their shape could have served a medical purpose, like correcting scoliosis. Children were certainly fitted with stays to correct mis-happen body’s and it is not impossible that grown women could be in need of corrective help as well. It is also known that Eleonora of Toledo, who suffered from rheumatism and tuberculosis, had metal stays made for her, They were not listed among her clothes, which indicate that they were used for medical purposes.

They could also have been worn as an expression of piety, an unyielding sister to the hair shirt, that a noble woman could wear for religious reasons while at the same time retaining a fashionable shape. It is also possible that the extreme rigidity could be something sought after for the most ceremonial and formal occasions. A woman in full court wear was a display, an ornament or a showcase of wealth and then iron stays may have provided the perfect frame for it. They must have been quite heavy to wear but considering the weight of a farthingale, several  petticoats and a heavily decorated gown, perhaps the extra weight of a metal corset wasn’t too much of a burden, especially if they were just worn for special occasions.

Anonymous, Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton, c. 1600

Despite the small sample material and the difficulty in finding information, some conclusions about stays and boned bodices can be drawn. Hopefully there will one day be more in-depth research on the subject which undoubtedly would provide more and better information than this short article can provide.

  • Stays and boned bodices in the 17th century moulded the figure. The pattern pieces fit like a jigsaw puzzle, making the stays two-dimensional. Later, in the 18th century seams started to curve on each other, creating a garment that to some extent adapted to the female body’s natural curves. In the 17th century it was the body which had to adapt to the stays, pushing the breast up and stomach down.
  • Stays and boned bodices were always fully boned and the boning channels, when they can be seen, are vertical. There is one exception to this; the ivory, slashed satin bodice in V&A. Apart from this example, stays and bodices both from the early and the late 17th century are heavily boned.
  • The shoulder straps on the stays are placed in correspondence to how the fashionable neckline was cut. The Effigy stays have shoulder straps that cover the shoulders as fashion dictated in 1603, later stays have straps that are off the shoulders.
  • Stays from the first half of the 17th century are front-laced, both with or without a separate stomacher. They have few pattern pieces.
  • Stays from the second half are a bit more varied. There are the front-laced stays from V&A, which has a stomacher and attached sleeves. Most of the extant stays are back-laced, however, and they are covered so the boning channels are invisible. The front are decorated and sometimes the fabric that covers the front is more expensive than the fabric in the back. Stays are made of several pattern pieces.
  • All extant boned bodices, apart from the slashed satin one, are back-laced. They too are constructed from several pattern pieces. Most of the extant stays are decorated and/or covered with expensive fabric, indicating that they were meant to be visible and not solely regarded as foundations underwear. Stays with attachable sleeves further blur the line between stays and bodice.

Gerard ter Borch, The Concert, 1655


Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion: Englishwomen's Dresses & Their Construction, London: MacMillan, 1977

Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes For Men and Women c1560-1620, London: Macmillan, 1985

Arnold, Janet “The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey”, Costume, vol 41, 2007

Hammar, Britta & Rasmussen, Pernilla Underkläder: En kulturhistoria, Stockholm, Signum, 2008

Kunzle, David Fashion and Fetishism: Corset, Tight-lacing and Other Forms of Body-sculpture, New ed., Stroud : Sutton, 2004

North, Susan & Tiramani, Jenny (ed.) Seventeenth-century women's dress patterns. Book 1, London : V & A Publishing, 2011

North, Susan & Tiramani, Jenny (ed.) Seventeenth-century women's dress patterns. Book 2, London : V & A Publishing, 2012

Pietsch, Johannes Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Bestandskatalog der Männer- und Frauenkleidungsstücke; Studien zu Material, Technik und Geschichte der Bekleidung im 17. Jahrhundert, The Hüpsch Costume Collection in the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, 2008

Ribeiro, Aileen Fashion and fiction: Dress In Art and Literature in Stuart England, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005

Sorge-English, Lynn Stays and Body Image In London: The Staymaking Trade, 1680-1810, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011.

Steele, Valerie The Corset: A Cultural History, New Haven; Yale University Press, 2001
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Online sources

To Stay or Not to Stay..., Anèa Costume

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