Tuesday 26 March 2013

Leather stays in Sweden

Are leather stays controversial? I sometimes encounter that view online, which have always puzzled me as I know there are extant ones around. Perhaps it is due to regional differences, what was common in Sweden wasn’t common elsewhere. There are several extant ones in Swedish museum collections and they seem to have been popular as working stays and for children. The ones in this post are all located at the museum Nordiska in Stockholm, but they are not the only one. There are, for example, a pair of children’s stays in Gotland who are cut and boned like adult stays and have also decorative stamping that mimics the look of fully boned stays.

The stays in this post range from fully boned stays, half-boned and what are more unboned bodices, though they shape is similar. In the 18th century women in the rural areas of Sweden wore what in the next century would be called folk costumes. They varied from place to place, but an essential look was a shift, several skirts and a sleeveless bodice. In fact, quite close to what is sometimes called “wench-costumes”. These bodices were, and are, cut like stays and could be quite heavily boned, or not boned at all. Not all of them were made out of leather, of course.

Dated to 1750-70, though my personal view is that they are earlier.  Made of chamois leather with lining in coarse linen. Much mended with linen in various qualities. Fully boned with whalebones. Enforced with sturdier whalebones around the waist and across the bust. Cut with a front that narrows down to a point and is laced in the back. The shoulder straps are sewn to the back and tied to the front. There are traces of silk at the seams on the inside, which may indicate that this was originally a bodice in silk that has been covered with chamois leather.

Nordiska also have a pair of leather stays that are, so far, not photgraphed (NM.0109352). They are, according to Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen in Underkläder, made for a young girl. The museum dates it to 1720-29, though the stays itself are marked with "Anno 1687", ie, the year 1687. They are front-laced and in dark brown leather, edged with chamois leather. Made out of four pattern pieces with a seam at the center back and side-back. 12 tabs. It's a bit unclear if there are any boning left at all.

Stays in light-coloured chamois leather, 1750-60. Front-laced, 10 pattern pieces with 20 boning channels. Boned with whalebone. Has been altered to be smaller by a new seam in the back and the front folded back with new lacing holes made. Possibly originally boned with iron boning at the lacing. Lined with unbleached lining. Has been owned by a Sara Hazelius, wife of a dean.


Stays in brown calf skin, ca 1750. Front-laced, six pattern pattern pieces and 18 boning channels. Boned with iron at the lacing holes and reed. Eight tabs, overlapping each other. Lined with coarse, unbleached linen with leather reinforcment where the boning channels end.

Dated 1750-1799. In brown stamped leather, but no bones, though the shape is similar to boned stays. The stamps are very decorative and depicts, for example, straight and wavy lines and bows.

Bodice in brown calf skin, 1780-1820. 12 boning channels, 10 overlapping tabs. Lined with unbleached linen.

These are undated and lack other information as well, but due to the high waist I think that they are from the 19th century. I have included them anyway because of the boning that harks back to the 18th century and for the bummroll attached on teh inside, under the tabs.

Bodice in pale chamois leather, 1750-90. Boned at the lacing with iron, the diagonal channels are boned with reed or something similar, so are the three boning channels in the back. Overlapping tabs. Edged with white leather. Front,, neck and armhole decorated with pinked white leather. Lined with unbleached linen. Said to have been made as an engagement gift.

Bodice in leather, seemingly unboned, but cut like stays, 1763-1773. Worn by Helena Olosdotter, a farmer's daughter, as a young girl.

I would like to make myself a pair of leather stays, because they seem to be quite comfortable. Front-laced with a few bones at critical points seems to be the most common ones. Well, I have time to think about it, I have plenty of sewing projects to make first.

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Saturday 23 March 2013

A Robe Piemontaise it is


Basically everyone asked says that I should do the piemontaise and I must confess that I feel most inclined to that one as well. So a piemontaise it is. I need it to be finished in May and have everything I need when it comes to fabric and lining material. What I do need are additional decorations. I would like something in gold.

 Of the scant handful of extant piemontaises around, there is, the one in Denmark is available as pattern. The cut is really quite simple, a narrow back, a wide front, sleeve, the petticoat and the pleated panel for the back. I already have a fitted bodice pattern that looks like that, so I will start with cutting out the lining and fit it. I also need to think a bit about the front closure.

Bodice, sleeve, overskirt and the separate backpleats.
I have never made sleeves with that cut before.

The petticoat made out of three panels of fabric
and waistband.

I will, of course, ogle other extant piemontaises for inspirations. They are really pretty.The Danish one is quite simple, but the others are much more extravagant. All three gowns below are Spanish. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Gorgeous creme coloured gown with embroidery.


The pleated back panel is really just applied on top of everything.

A somewhat less embroidered one.



Unfortunately no picture of the back.


A piemontaise, probably from the 1780’s and altered in the 19th century

Scroll down for a modern interpretationof the piemontaise in green stripes, the only one I have ever seen.

Monday 18 March 2013

Stays with tie-on sleeves

Front- and backlaced stays with tie-on sleeves, ca 1750, Italy
Gustafs Skål's big jubilation party will take place May 9 (Do come, it will be fabulous!) and will be a full day event. I will need a ball gown for the day, but also something and would like to have something a bit simpler for the day. I recently stumbled on these brocade covered stays with tie-on sleeves.

There are a few of them around, all, as far as I know, have been from the first half of the 18th century. It seems to me that it was an informal fashion, being a bit more dressed than just wallowing around din your stays. Most extant examples I have seen have been Italian or French, so it might have been a pretty local fashion as well.

Stays, 1735-50

And the sleeves to go with it

Stays with tie-on sleeves, 1760, possibly France

I don't know anything about these, but they are beautiful!

There are also a few paintings.

Well, I admit that you can't see what it looks like underneath the neckerchief, but the sleeves are tied on.
A Young Lady With Two Dogs by Giacomo Ceruti

Watch the reading girl!
Women Working on Pillow Lace by Giacomo Ceruti, 1720's

Portrait of a Lady by Francesco Zuccarelli

I have a pair of stays that I made a couple of years ago that fit well, are structurally sound, but have started to look pretty shabby. They are also strapless, which I don’t like. If I cover them with a nice shell fabric I can add straps and if I make a matching petticoat I think I will look quite presentable, if undressed. Also, for evening I could just lace myself in a bit better, loose the sleeves and don my evening garb without much fuss.

For some reason I am stuck with thinking it should be pink. Why I do not know, as I’m not a pink sort of person. Though with a green ball gown accented with gold, a glimpse of a pink petticoat underneath would probably look quite nice. I have been drooling at Pure Silks and I’m now stuck with these three.

I confess, my heart beats a bit harder for this pink/gold silk brocade. But would teh fabric work for the 18th century. I want to say yes, but perhaps it is just because I want it. Any takers?

Pinkish lavendel shot with gold is pretty nifty too

On the other hand, my skin tone is better with cool shades.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Unveiling a secret project- A wild man masquerade costume, anno 1778

Livrustkammaren in Stockholm have several masquerade costumes from 18th century. Some of them have belonged to the future Karl XIII, among them this one, "a wild man's dress" dated to 1778. I have always wanted to make it and this past month, or so,  it has been my very secret project. So secret that I haven't even told you that I was working on one. I was a bit afraid that it would turn out looking awful. But here is how J looked last night at a masked ball Gustafs Skål held and I think he looked great!

The original is in three parts, a close fitting jacket in white silk, a printed "leopard skin" kilt in silk and a "bear skin" in cotton flannel with claws made of tin. It is also decorated with leaves in silk. The lack of pattern, good pictures and written information made it impossible to truly copy the suit, so I opted for closely inspired. Instead of silk I made the jacket and leopard skin in the same cotton flannel as I used for the bear skin, I bought several yards of white  flannel and then died it brown and sandy brown yellow to suit.

Making claws out of tin was not an option, so instead I sculpted them out of paper clay, painting them silver. They each have a wire skeleton, ending with a little loop, making them easy to sew on. Having no real idea how the skin was shaped I drafted a, in my opinion, likely shape, directly on the fabric.

The original has a seam down the middle, but my fabric was wide enough for the whole skin. I then lined it with common red polyester lining- very unhistorical, but there was a time restraint so I couldn't hunt up a suitable silk lining. And last I attached all the claws. Even if paper clay is pretty lightweight, the combined claws gave the skin some weight. It was pinned discreetly into place to prevent slipping of J´s shoulders.

The jacket was drafted using Pattern Cutting Men's Costume by Elizabeth Friendship as a guide
and lined with plain white cotton. The original has no collar and invisible, and therefore unknown, closure. As I got the flu in a very untimely fashion I got rather behind on my schedule, so yesterday I just sewed the jacket shut. I plan to fix that.

I found a free pattern for a leopard spot stencil online and cut it out on a plastic sheet. Then, being possible mad, I spent quite some time printing the spots. Of course I could have bought faux leopard skin, but as the original is in fabric, I wanted the same. Unfortunately I bought too little of the brown fabric paint, so I had less fabric in making the kilt than I had anticipated. I don't know how much fabric that went into the original, but the skirt looks fuller. The hem is also cut uneven, making the red lining show. I did, however, add a tail, even if it doesn't look the same as the original. The kilt is lined with the same red fabric as the bear skin.

The leaves are cut from silk taffeta, green shot with red. The size of them was a guess and I think they got a bit bigger than the original leaves. Again because of lack of time, my wild man's suit doesn't have as many leaves attached as the original, but I have a lot of leaves left and will add more of them. I also attached several leaves to hair pins, to decorate J's wig.

As I liked the idea of going as a matching pair I used the scraps left over of the leopard skin and made a small skin for me, lined with red. There are a number of paintings of ladies dressed as Diana where they wear a white dress, a small leopard skin draped around their bodies and usually a half-moon decoration in their hair. There are a couple of them in the Pinterest album I made about 18th century masques and theatre costumes. As I was going as a wild woman I omitted the moon and just dressed my hair with a few leaves. I also made a sash from the same fabric as the leaves.The gown is the 1790's linen gown I made a couple of years back. I think we made for a nice couple, don't you?

My friend Marianne wearing the same type of dress and a leopard skin came as Diana, but I'm sure that everybody who saw us noticed her moon tiara and my leaves and spotted the difference... Well, perhaps not.

Lithia went as a Harlequina and I just love her waistcoat. The lattice pattern is made out of velvet ribbons and perfectly done. I should have got a better picture of her hair, because I put it up and I think it came out pretty well. Her hair is dark red and with white hair powder on it turned into a very pretty dark pink.She is also using the Spanish white I made. As she is very pale it was hard to say if it really made her whiter, but it gave her a lovely pale glow. I used my Marechale powder which you can't really tell, because the colour of the powder matches my own hair very well. it did get a nice powdered look though, and it smells divine.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Needed, an 18th century ball gown

I never really made a fancy 18th century gown, though I have been a member of Gustafs Skål for 12 years. (Yikes, is it that long?) This year Gustafs Skål turns 20 and there will be celebrations and it would be fun to have something really nice to put on and a gown like that have been on my to-do list for a long time. So it wouldn't make me deviate too much from my plan to not starting a lot of new projects this year, especially if I use fabrics from my stash and not buy new. This leaves me with two options.

First, a green/blue (dominantly green) shot taffeta that was bought to the express purpose to make a ball gown. I have been dithering to and fro on cut and eventually ended with my first plan, to make it into a piemontaise. In case you have missed this rather uncommon 18th century gown I can tell you that it is basically the love child between a French and an English gown. The back-pleats is actually a separate pattern piece, mounted on the gown.

It would be fun because it would be a new pattern and also because I could decorate it along the lines of this dress, which I have always liked, though I think I would like some gold details.

Court gown, 1775-1780

Then there is the option in doing something 1790's along these lines.

Dress, ca 1795

Dresses, 1790-1800

As for fabric, a couple of years ago I made this 1790's outfit with a taffeta skirt and velvet jacket.

I actually have enough of the blue-grey taffeta so I could make a matching bodice. It would mean that it would be in two parts, which probably isn't truly period, but with a sash it wouldn't be noticeable.

It would definitely be the easiest option as I have a true and tried 1790's bodice pattern. However, I would need to embellish it, which would take time as well. So at the moment I'm undecided on which one I should make. What do you think?

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