Thursday, 7 August 2014

Project #6. F.63 - "Skirt and bodice of cloth with puffed sleeves"

For project 6 I'm tackling the "Skirt and bodice of cloth with puffed sleeves". As I've mentioned before I unfortunately can't read the original Spanish text, so rely on the translation in the book. Even if it's an accurate translation (?) I find the "puffed sleeves" of the title a little misleading, because they are nothing like a modern puffed sleeve and more like a large curved hanging sleeve.

There are 3 variations of the same pattern in the book f.63, f.63a and f.64, with the only differences being the dimensions of the back train on the gown. The train lengths are 3 ells or 252cm (approx 8' 3 1/4"), 2 1/2 ells or 210cm (approx 6' 10 3/4") and 2 ells or 168cm (approx 5' 6"). Consequently each variation also requires a different amount of fabric, but the layout of the pattern pieces is essentially the same. I've elected to make f.63 which has the longest train, because let's face it... go big or go home.

This garment comprises a front opening doublet style bodice with large decorative sleeves and a front opening overskirt, most likely worn over an underskirt and a tight sleeved doublet as in the portrait below. Although the term 'bodice' has been used throughout the translation it seems to me that the skirt and bodice would be two separate pieces. Essentially a doublet and skirt. The large puffed sleeves on the bodice seem to always have some form of front slit opening to allow the arms to pass through, generally horizontal or in an inverted T shape, and with the lower part of the sleeve front pushed back to make a circular opening for the arm to pass through.

Anne of Austria, Queen of Spain by Alonso S├ínchez Coello, 1571.
Alcega states that this pattern requires a piece of cloth 5 1/3 ells long x 2 ells wide, or 448cm (approx 14' 8 3/8") long x 168cm (approx 5' 6") wide.

Specific mention is made of the nap running downwards in this pattern layout, and you will notice that the layout takes this into account as all the pieces are laid out with the nap running in the same direction (from right to left).

Some mathematics and dimensions
The fabric in this layout is folded lengthways, with the fold at the bottom of the diagram and the nap running from right to left. The skirt front and back are cut on the fold and take advantage of the full width of the very wide fabric.

The skirt:
The front of the skirt (on the left in the pattern) is roughly the same dimensions as the skirt fronts in Project #4 and Project #5, being "bm" or 126cm (approx 4' 1 1/2") long, with a waist of "t" or 28cm (approx 11"). The only difference is that the bottom hem takes advantage of the wider fabric and is "b" or 1 full ell wide or 84cm (approx 33"), without any godets. The back skirt waist is also the same as those in the previous projects, "m" or 42cm (approx 16 1/2"), and the full width of the back piece at the hem is achieved with a side piecing, godet A. Both skirt front and back are cut on the fold, eliminating centre front and back seams. As I will be making up the skirt as front opening, I'll then cut along the fold of the skirt front to make 2 pieces.

The bodice:
The bodice front and back are almost identical in dimensions and shape to the doublet from Project #2, the "Silk doublet for a woman", but with the omission of a collar (including the back collar cut as one with the back of the doublet). I find the omission of the collar a little curious, because although I haven't found many examples of this style of gown in portraits, those that I have found all seem to have a collar. I don't think it is an oversight, as all the variations of this style of gown are shown without a collar, and every other doublet style garment in the book seems to deliberately include a collar in the pattern.

The bodice front is "QQQ" or 63cm (approx 2' 1") long, the side seam is "Q" or 21cm long (approx 8 1/4"), and both the shoulder seam and the front neck opening are shown as "s" or 14cm (approx 5 1/2"). The back waist and back shoulder are also shown as "s", while the back of the neck opening is "o" or 10.5cm (just over 4"). The back length is shown as "m" or 42cm (approx 1' 4 1/2"), and although there is no side seam dimension given on the back, it must be "Q" also in order to match the side seam on the bodice front. There is no specific measurement given for the arm hole, but as in the silk doublet pattern, it can't be larger than the sleeve head or the sleeve will not fit. The other notable feature are the 8 decorative tabs indicated (4 front and 4 back) across the top of the armhole.

The sleeves:
The sleeve has a very distinctive shape, with a large curving back seam and a shallow curved sleeve head. The sleeve head (where it attaches to the armhole) is shown as "m" or 42cm (approx 16 1/2"). It's worth noting that this is the same size as the two halves of the two piece sleeve in the silk doublet in Project #2, so that would seem to indicate that the bodice armhole is also the same dimensions as the silk doublet. The sleeve length is "sb" or 70cm (approx 27 1/2") long, slightly longer than the sleeves in the silk doublet. The wrist opening is shown as "t" or 28cm (approx 11").

Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566–1633) by Frans Pourbus II

The over gown in the portrait of Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia is of a different style, but the sleeves seem identical in size and shape to those in our pattern.

Developing the pattern
As I've mentioned, the bodice for this project is essentially the same as the doublet pattern I previously developed for Project #2 (with different sleeves and no collar), so that gives me a bit of a head start. You'll note the deviation from the pattern in the book in that my pattern for the front has a curving front to accommodate the prominent bust on my mannequin. (For the process and explanations of that part of the pattern please take a look at that project.) The bodice back is also the same as that in Project #2. In the diagram the shoulder tabs are indicated in the armhole. I doubt that these were cut as one with the bodice, but I think they are shown to indicate size, number and placement. I'll make these up from the scraps.

My pattern layout. Click to enlarge.

The sleeve width is the entire width of the pattern layout, 1 ell wide or 84cm (approx 33"). Once I had the length, sleeve opening width and armhole opening width plotted it was fairly easy to draw in the extravagant curve of the sleeve. I then modified the sleeve head slightly to try and replicate the subtle change in curve between the sleeve front and back in the diagram, and checked to make sure the dimensions were still "m" along the curve. The underside of the sleeve requires a small piecing in this layout, where it overlaps with the godet A used on the skirt back.

The skirt front was an easy draft, as aside from the width at the hem change, and therefor the angle of the side seam also, it was pretty straightforward. I just checked that the side edges would be the same length as the skirt back once the godet was attached. The skirt back is very long, and was also fairly easy to draft. I drew in the dotted godet A indicated in the book, and then once I had traced that off onto a separate piece of paper made sure the angle and of the side seam would be consistent and the same length as the front piece, and that the curve continued the line of the train.

Putting it together
I first did a little prep work unrelated to this pattern by making some arms for my mannequin. I was a little frustrated when I made the doublet in Project #2 that the sleeves hung so badly because of the lack of arms on my little dummy. I just essentially made a very basic pair of rag doll arms of the right dimensions and stuffed them with toy stuffing. My mannequin's body is fully pinnable, so it was an easy matter to pin them in place at the shoulder, and then I can remove them in future for projects that don't require them.

Godet A.
I first made up the skirt, which was a fairly straightforward sew as it only has the one godet to worry about. Once I had attached the godet A to each side of the skirt back, I then attached the two front skirt halves to either side of the back. I then turned under a small amount on each side of the skirt front opening to neaten, and sewed down these edges. Then as in Project #4, the "Kirtle of silk for a woman", I made a small waistband to attach the skirt to. This skirt has the same waist dimensions, so similarly I kept the front of the skirt flat, and cartridge pleated all the fullness into the back of the skirt, starting at the side hips. The only difference being that I moved the opening of the waistband to the front, to accommodate the front opening of the skirt. By making the skirt in this way, it also means that there is some flexibility in whether the skirt is worn open or closed. In all the portraits I have seen of this style of skirt there appears to be a front opening, generally held closed with ribbon ties. Unlike the bodice and attached skirt in Project #5 where the angle of the skirt opening is fixed by the way it is attached to the bodice.

The completed skirt and bodice. Click to enlarge.

The angle of the curve on the side godet A tuned out well, making a nice transition between the skirt front and back train.

Side view, with godet indicated. Click to enlarge.

Once the skirt was completed I sewed together the bodice sides and shoulder seams, up to the point of adding the sleeves. I then made up 8 small fabric tabs to be added to each armhole from small folded strips of fabric, and basted them into the armholes. I've found the best way to do this is to baste them in place on the right side, matching up the raw edge of each tab with the raw edge of the armhole.

Sleeve and shoulder detail. Click to enlarge.

After adding the tabs, I made up each sleeve by folding each in half along the centre line and sewing up the curved outside edge. I then turned under the edge at the cuff to neaten, and sewed down this edge. I tested the hang of the sleeve on the bodice and marked a point equal to where the inside of the elbow would sit. I then cut a horizontal slit across the front folded edge, to allow the arm to pass through. (If I was making this as a full sized garment I would probably mark this point before sewing up the sleeve, and then it would be easier to turn under a small amount along the edges of this slit to neaten.)

The best hang of the sleeve seemed to be with the back seam placed at the back of the armhole, a little under the line of the shoulder blades, and so the front 'fold' edge sat at the front of the armhole, about a third of the way down from the shoulder. I then set in the sleeves, taking care to align the shoulder tabs as I went. Once the sleeves were in I folded under all the raw edges of the doublet to neaten and sewed them down.

Completed skirt and bodice back. Click to enlarge.

I love, love, love how this looks from the back. Those sleeves are major.

When I dressed the mannequin I kept the layers of the underskirt, farthingale and kirtle in place, and added the previously made doublet. I then added the skirt from this project, and I couldn't help myself but make some little bows to hold the skirt front closed. (Pretend they are neater and there are more of them, and the ends have cute little aglets.) I then added the bodice from this project, taking care to place the arms through the slits in the sleeves, and push back the front edge of the lower part of the sleeve to make a circular opening for the arm to pass through, as seen in the portraits above. I whip stitched the front of the doublet closed almost all the way to the top, but decided to leave some open at the tops so that a little of the under doublet and collar could be featured.

Side view full, with train. Click to enlarge.

This is clearly a fairly high status garment, especially in this version with the longest train. The portraits above give a good indication of the extravagant trims and fabric treatment that could be applied to this stye of garment. There is a mention in the translation of additional trimmings that can be made from the scraps, and I would probably include items such as tabs around the bottom of the doublet edge.

One suggestion for possible trim placement. Click to enlarge.

It would be lovely in a velvet, as seems to be indicated by the mention of nap in this pattern layout. I'm always a little surprised at how wide a 2 ell wide fabric is, wider than even modern fabrics are readily available in. Making this up as a full sized garment would require some modifications to the piecings required no doubt.


  1. Hi Andrew!

    Did not know her and am surprised. It is wonderful! Congratulations, your work is amazing. I will follow your blog carefully.

    A big hug!

  2. I love the skirt on this one, the almost 'duck-billed' effect on the train. We saw this in action recently. We picked up a copy of "Twelfth Night" when we were at The Globe theatre (did I mention we went to the Globe, Andrew :) and the frock on Olivia had exactly the same kind of train. It was interesting watching it move and made me want to try it out even more. My train's have always been much more in line with your Project #8 one and this option here give me new thought. I'll show you the DVD when we're back home - I think you might find it interesting.

    1. I think the duck bill is a good way to describe the shape. I'd be interested to see how it drapes in a full sized garment so it's cool that you got to see one in the flesh. (At the Globe! ENVY.) It's a date for DVD viewing. :-)

  3. Hello,
    I love your project. Do you know this shop? It´s from Czech republic, but you can buy all their fabricson the e-shop. They have very similar fabrics like your reconstruction dress! :)


  4. Hi! Love your projects! I've found the absence of the collar a bit puzzling myself. I've been trying to solve the mystery of this gown from ca. 1553: It is catalogued under her undergarments in her polish dowry list and described as a dress that "reaches under the neck" and "done in the spanish style". The painting doesen't seem to be showing any seams - front seam or otherwise. This might be a stylistic choice the painter has made, but it does make me wonder. The only obvious option would be back lacing, but I have not found enough contemporary evidence to support this./Elina

  5. Love it! A Lot of hard work developing a pattern. You have done an amazing job.