Saturday, 30 November 2019

Middle-class women in Sweden during the 17th century

This is a reference post for a future project, put here for easy access when the future

I have, thanks to several interested relatives, a rather good knowledge of my own family
tree. And sometimes when I can’t sleep I dig around the Net, and have found several
portraits of my ancestors. One of them is this grim-faced lady, Kristina Olofsdotter Spak.
(1616-1676). , who was a great-grandmother eleven generations removed from me.


She was the wife of Johan Börjesson Carlberg, who as the mayor of Karlstad, which is the
biggest city in the province of Värmland, Sweden. Her father and her mother’s father had
previously also been mayors of the same city, so it can safely be said she belonged to the
upper-middle classes. When I saw this portrait I was struck by a feeling I had seen a lot of
similar clothes on the excellent site Dragter på epitafier og gravsten i Danmark (Clothes on
epitaphs and graves in Denmark) The focus is, of course, on Denmark, but they have also
included a fair number of pictures from Sweden (and also Germany). The time periods
stretch from the late 15th century to the 18th century, but most are from the 17th century.
There is also a heavy focus on priests and their families.

I went through all the Swedish sources (Apart from those from the provinces Blekinge,
Halland, and Scania, as those were Danish up until 1658, and I thought it likely Danish
customs when it came to clothing would likely hang around. As it is the female clothes are
pretty similar, but there are differences in details I wanted to catch.

A general overview of these dresses, married women a white shift, worn under a black
gown with an oval neckline, edged by a plain white collar. Sometimes a white apron is worn,
and sometimes a neckerchief covering the decollete. They wear a white cap, often worn
over either another white cap, or a forehead cloth, and nearly always with a black cap on
top. On several portraits from the regions around Lake Mälaren, red caps are worn with a
rather intricate veil. Lace is very rare, though sometimes the shift sleeves have a little frill,
and jewelry are worn sparingly, and mostly consisting of heavy metal chains. Sometimes a
black mantle is worn over the other clothes

As you can see Kristina Olosdotter Spak fills in most of the slots. She is on the plain side with
no frills and jewelry. It also seems possible she is wearing a jacket, which may mean she is
wearing a more gown-like bodice underneath.


Here are a few similar portraits.



Even if changes in fashion occurs, they seem to have been much slower than high fashion.
Here is Elisabet Persdotter who died in 1674 and her daughter Margareta Höijer who died in
1700, looking rather similar. Margareta is more fancy, though, with earrings and showing a
bit of hair.




Of course, some portraits are posthumous, which may explain the stagnant fashion. Dead
wife has plainer cuffs, a back ribbon around and arm, and less visible hair. I also think wife
#2 looks like a real person, while #1 looks stiffer and more impersonal, so I suspect #2 was
actually painted from life.


There are more fancy examples, but they are in a clear minority.



And with white aprons and mantles. I need to hunt down my source, but from what I have
read, you wore mantles and aprons for church.

Black mantle, and a somewhat surprising colourful bodice. Also those red caps with veils I
mentioned earlier. I'm so curious about them. Starch only, or some kind of wire construction?

More mantles and red caps. It also seems red or gold belts were often worn in this region.






With the black cap.



A little unusual; no white cap under the black one, and another kind of collar, (or should I
say partlet?)

Here’s the oldest picture I found, from the 1580s, but the main elements are all there: 


There must be some kind of padding, or a very high bun because on many portraits the
black cap is placed very high.

If anyone wonders about the difference between Swedish and Danish customs, here are the
main ones I’ve noticed. Black caps which have extremely deep curves. Black caps which
are flat and wide. And white aprons with a distinct V-shape at the front. At first, I thought
it was because they were worn under a bodice with a dipped front, but on some close-ups,
you can clearly see that they are worn as a top layer. I assume the shape comes from
pinning the apron- they don’t seem to be tied in the back, and very possible also starched.


My future plan is to make a gown with a boned bodice, ca 1660 in black wool which I could dress up a little, and then the more jacket-like bodice my ancestress wears. I also want to make the white and black caps, though I don’t know if I can manage that strange high crown. I also need to work on my disapproving frown!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The finished closed-front robe à la française

I only now realised I never posted pictures of my closed-front robe à la française. Well, it was finished (sort-of)
and worn at the ball in June, and I had an absolute blast:

Now I need to change a few things. The bows on the sleeves are set on the wrong place and need to be moved
(that is what happens when you attach them five minutes before you really should leave…).  And the decorations on the
robe needs to be sewn down along the edges and not only with basting stitches in the middle. I also plan to make
a pair of winged cuffs and an embroidered stomacher so I can use the gown for an earlier date than the 1760s.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

1913 and 1762

It’s been a bit of the quiet sewing wise this autumn. I’m hand sewing an early 16th century
shift; it’s sewn together, had the seams felled and it’s hemmed. I’m currently gathering the
neck and cuffs.

I did a fast and fun project, completely from stash,  a couple of weeks ago; a 1913 evening
trousers with a simple kimono top. The top was simply drafted on the fabric; an off-white
dupion which once was the skirt of my first wedding gown. The trousers were made after

LACMA helpfully have the pattern online in this PDF. As I was unsure of the original wearer'
size but deduced she was probably more slender than I am, I simply used the width of the
fabric for the widest part and then used that measurement as the first leg on scaling the
pattern proportionally. It worked really well, apart from the fact that the original wearer must
have been a tall woman. I’m above average, and the trousers were a tad too long. But I
loved the way it draped; the fabric is a cotton/rayon blend which I bought on sale almost
twenty years back. It was perfect for this project.

Apart from a need to shorten it, I want to find tassels with a bit more oomph! I also need to
change the button eventually as these are actually meant to go on my Victorian bathing suit
when I get around to make button holes at the sides of it. But I love this outfit and want to
wear it more. I was also very pleased with how my hair and makeup turned out. And I’ve
found a picked apart lace dress among my grandmother’s things, so I plan to reuse that for
something similar to this:

But my next project will have to be a robe de francaise. On June 8 there will be a grande ball
at Svartsjö Castle, close to Stockholm. Here is the event on Facebook. And here is Menuett
Akademien’s invitation:

Chers Monsieurs-Dames de la noblesse Suédoise.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.

The year is 1762, an evening in the promising month of June.

His Majesty King Adolph Fredrik would like to invite You all to a pastoral evening, une vrai fête champêtre, a grand yet intimate event for those members of the Swedish nobility still loyal to the Monarchy, at His Majestys charmingly beautiful Hunting Lodge Svartsjö Palace. Svartsjö is located at Färingsö, just outside the town of Stockholm.

This gracious fête takes place on Saturday the 8th of June, starting at 6 o’clock in the evening.

The event is arranged to provide amusement for Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden, Lovisa Ulrica.

As a mark of love and of gratitude for her successful personal contribution to the peace negotiations with her brother His Majesty the King of Preussia, thus securing advantageous conditions for Sweden following the Pommeranian war.

• A true Minerva of the North •

The evening will provide You with wonderful entertainment, such as excellent music, song and dance (of an International quality ), a rich Souper with delicious foods as well as sweet treats, etc. And possibly some other sort of surprise peut-être..? The whole evening is meant as a surprise for Her Majesty the Queen herself.

All this for the price of only 1550 SEK per person. You do not want to miss out on this fête champêtre. His Majesty does not want you to miss out either…

* Please note that only payment equals a ticket. Kindly make the payments to the bank account: 122-4989

If you reside abroad, kindly use the following details: IBAN : SE06 6000 0000 0006 8949 7288

* When payment has been duly made, kindly send an email containing your full name (and stating if you have any special food preferences) or allergies, to the following address:

* Included in the price is some refreshments, such as a few glasses of wine or beer, and a drink upon arrival. There will also be a bar available, if You wish to purchase any further drinks. (!We do only accept swish at the bar!)

* Please do note that You will need to bring your own appropriate cutlery, glass and dinner plate. This in order to preserve the historical feeling of the event.

As Svartsjö Palace is located some distance away, there will be a bus leaving from Stockholm Central Station (at a small extra cost), providing easy transportation both there and back.

The Dancing will be organized in three different levels of dancing:1: advanced, 2: intermediate, 3: beginner. Kindly choose your own level. (Dancing is naturally voluntary)

There will, of course, be a prize awarded to the best dressed guest at the ball. (Dresscode: 1755-1765)

His Majesty expressly wishes this Fête extraordinaire to be a complete surprise to Her Majesty up until her arrival (just like at the inauguration of the Pavillon Chinois at Drottningholm Palace some years ago), so please do not reveal the secret beforehand as that would spoil a part of the amusement.

A warm Welcome to You all!

I’m very excited over this! Menuett Akademien is known for their spectacular balls; last year
it was the 1680 ball I made a mantua for. Now I plan a closed-front robe de francaise. It may
not have been the height of fashion in 1762, but you do see them all through the 1760’s, and I want to sew something I haven’t done before.

Monday, 3 September 2018

17th century frog purse- done!

I finished something during my vacation! And a UFO of long standing too- namely the 17th century frog
purse. I fell in this frog purse five(!) years ago and decided I wanted to make one. Apparently, frog
purses were quite a thing in 17th century England, and there are several extant ones. You can see a
post about them here.

I almost finished mine, but then I realised the back legs were too heavy and long, and I balked at re-making them. Until now.

It’s not a perfect replica of the original one. For one I had very few construction details, so I had to
guess a lot. What I did know was the measurements of the body, and how the legs and arms were
made, as well as the stitched on the body and the eyes. I tried to follow that as close as possible.

The body was made in green silk taffeta covered with needlepoint stitches made from gilt silk twist.
It’s padded with felt.

The arms and legs are made of wire and very thin millinery wire, which was first covered with linen
thread to bulk them up, and then they were covered with gold thread.

The eyes were made of vintage glass beads.

I attached the arms and legs on the front, then lines both front and back with gold silk taffeta, before
sewing it together. I still need to find a suitable cord.

It’s very small- I guess I could fit a lipstick inside it. Maybe.
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