Saturday, 27 September 2014

Project #10. F1.6 - "Women's silk skirt and bodice with full-length pointed sleeves"

This is Project #10, which is quite similar in style to Project #6 the "Skirt and bodice of cloth with puffed sleeves", but with the exception of long pointed sleeves instead of the curved back sleeve of previous projects.

This pattern is one of a small collection of 6 patterns in the book which are all laid out for the narrow silk fabric but because of the size of the garments are very wide patterns. In order to fit these on the page they have been presented on a double width fold out page, 3 to a side. The scale of the drawings is also a little smaller than the other patterns in the book, and the pages show some damage with folds and tears. Unlike the other patterns in the book they have had minimal cleaning up to make them legible.

The Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, by Federico de Llano.
Isabella of Valois, by Sofonisba Anguissola.

Alcega states that this garment requires a length of silk fabric 18 2/3 ells long x 2/3 of an ell wide, or 15m 68cm (approx 51' 5 1/4") long x 56cm (approx 22") wide. The fabric is folded crosswise, so the full width of the fabric is used.

Some mathematics and dimensions
Read from left to right the pattern pieces are the skirt front, godet A for the skirt front, godet B for the skirt back, the bodice back, the skirt back, the front side of each sleeve, the back pointed section of each sleeve and the bodice front. The bodice back and fronts are a little hard to see (especially as the front is disappearing into the spine of the book).

F1.6 pattern as presented in the book.

I did some minimal tidying up of the pattern a little in photo editing software to try and make it as clear as possible, removing some of the fold marks and drawing in a line over the tear. A few of the codes used to show the sizing are quite hard to read, but can be extrapolated.

F1.6 pattern cleaned up a little.

Many of the pattern pieces are the same size as in Project #6.

The skirt:
The front of the skirt on the left in the pattern is "bm" or 126cm (approx 4' 1 1/2") long, with a waist of "t" or 28cm (approx 11"). The bottom hem is shown as "b", 1 full ell wide or 84cm (approx 33"). The fabric is only 56cm (approx 22") wide, which means that the bottom edge of godet A must be "t" or 1/3 ell, 28cm (approx 11") wide.

The back skirt waist is "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 B, which also takes the full width of the fabric. The back length of the train is "bbb" or 3 ells in total, 252cm (approx 8' 3 1/4") from waist to hem. As the fabric is folded crosswise, there is no centre back or centre front fold and so a seam runs down the centre back of the skirt.

The bodice:
The bodice front and back are tough to see but appear to be identical in dimensions and shape to the doublet from Project #6. 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 run off the edge of the pattern into the spine of the book but are most likely both "s" or 14cm (approx 5 1/2"). The back waist is also shown as "s", and although the shoulder and back neck opening aren't labelled they are most likely "s" or 14cm (approx 5 1/2") and for the shoulder and "o" or 10.5cm (just over 4") for the back neck opening. (Instead there is one dimension given for the total width across the upper back, "Q" or 21cm long (approx 8 1/4") wide, which is consistent with the other patterns.)

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 other doublet and bodice patterns, it can't be larger than the sleeve head or the sleeve will not fit. It is very difficult to see because a fold line runs through the middle of them, but it is also clear from the armhole of the doublet back that there are 8 tabs detailed for the armhole as in Project #6.

The collar:
There is specific mention of cutting the collar from the excess fabric, so although it is not shown in the pattern I'll use the same collar pieces from Project #6.

The sleeves:
Each sleeve is made up of 4 pieces, 2 pieces of each sleeve are detailed in the pattern layout and are cut double as the fabric is folded crosswise. The sleeve head (where it attaches to the armhole) is shown as "Q" or 21cm (approx 8 1/4"). Doubled this makes the sleeve head "m" or 42cm (approx 16 1/2"), the same size as the other sleeves in the previous projects. The front sleeve length from armhole to wrist is "QQQ" or 63cm (approx 2' 1") long, the same as the sleeves in the silk doublet. The sleeves are made up with a godet, godet C. The front edge of the sleeve, from the wrist to the bottom of the point on godet C is "bm" or 126cm (approx 4' 1 1/2") and the back curving edge is "bQQQ" to the point, or 147cm (just under 4' 10").

Developing the pattern
The most unusual and dramatic feature of this gown is the sleeves. I was scratching my head at first as to how they went together, but when you consider the 4 pieces of each sleeve it becomes a little clearer.

The 4 pieces of each sleeve in detail. Click to enlarge.

I decided to draft the sleeve first and draw one half of it out on a single piece of paper to check the dimensions and curves. One thing I discovered was that unless I changed the angle of the sleeve dramatically from the pattern, I actually couldn't fit the front and back dimensions of "bm" and "bQQQ" on the double width of the fabric.

Sleeve pattern draft. The black lines represent fabric widths. Click to enlarge.

However, if I continued the front and back edges out slightly further past 2 fabric widths, and drew the sleeve back with a smoother curve, then I could accommodate all the dimensions exactly as written in the pattern. I think there is a small piecing required on the far right which has been omitted from the pattern, and it makes up the sharp point of the sleeve. It also explains why the point of the sleeve looks so cut off in the original pattern above.

The Mystery of the Missing Sleeve Point.

Once I had drafted the sleeves I moved on to the other pattern pieces.

Finished pattern layout. Click to enlarge.

The skirt front is the same as the skirt front in Project #6 and Project #7, with adjustment for the narrower silk fabric. The skirt back is almost the same as the one in Project #6, it's the same length but even though the fabric is narrower the large godet B means that it is actually wider at the hem. The waist size is the same however, so the angle of the edge that forms the seam to the skirt front swings out a little wider also.

The bodice front and back are also the same as the ones in Project #6, including the tabs detailed for the front and back armhole. There is mention of collar pieces but they are not detailed in the pattern, so I'll reuse the pattern pieces I developed in previous projects. I'll also add the missing sleeve point pieces to make up the sleeves.

Putting it together
I made up each sleeve in two halves first, sewing the small point piece to the middle piece of the three pieces, and then sewing them to the piece that makes up the front side of the sleeve.

Completed sleeve detail, with seams highlighted. Click to enlarge.

This sleeve has a large opening from armhole to cuff, so once I had made up all four pieces for the two sleeves I joined them in pairs along the curving back of the sleeve first. I then just joined the front in two small sections, at the top near the sleeve head and at the bottom near the wrist. Once I had done that I neatened the front edges by turning them under and sewing them down, although if I was making this as a full size garment this sleeve would have a lining and the raw front edges would be dealt with by folding under and having the lining attached.

I then made up the bodice in the same manner as the previous projects, sewing the fronts to the back piece by sewing up the side seams and then sewing closed the shoulder seams. I then made up the 4 pieces of the collar, and carefully matched the seams to the centre back and shoulder seams before sewing it on. I then turned under the front and bottom edges of the bodice and sewed them down to neaten.

In Project #6 I had made up the similar style of garment by attaching the skirt to a separate waistband, and making the bodice separately. I decided to use the alternate approach here and attach the skirt and bodice in this version, so it is one large garment that opens entirely down the centre front. I personally think a garment like this makes more sense as a bodice and skirt that are separate, but worn together. In terms of dressing, storing and cleaning the garments it just makes a lot more practical sense to me. I present this version as an alternative, but if making this up full sized I would opt for two separate pieces.

The completed gown. Click to enlarge.

I then applied the sleeves to the bodice, making sure that the front opening of the sleeve was roughly about mid way between the bust and the shoulder seam, so that the sleeve opening would be placed at the front of the arm. This then placed the back curve of the sleeve at about shoulder blade level on the back of the armhole which seemed perfect. It's worth noting that there is minimal shaping in the sleeve head (and both sleeves are interchangeable) so although the finished result looks fine and would give fantastic freedom of movement, you do end up with some folds and extra fabric under the armpit that does not happen with the shaping in modern sleeves.

Oops. It wasn't until I had finished the entire garment and dressed the mannequin that I realised I had totally forgotten the sleeve tabs for the armholes. They aren't a major construction point, but for more detail on how they look and are applied please have a look at Project #6.

Completed back view. Click to enlarge.

I then made up the front skirt panels by attaching godet A, and made up the back skirt by attaching the large godet B to each half of the skirt back and then sewing the centre back seam closed. I then attached the skirt fronts to the back along the side seams, and turned under and finished the front edges of the skirt front.

Skirt detail, with godets highlighted. Click to enlarge.

As I will be attaching the skirt to the bodice, I turned under the seam allowance of the waist and cartridge pleated the entire back before attaching it. I measured the flat skirt fronts on the mannequin and started pleating at a point on the skirt front where the hip was, all the way across the back to the same point on the other side. I then attached the skirt to the bodice, and I found the easiest way to do this was to overlap the bodice fronts onto the skirt fronts, and match the front opening edges of both, before drawing up the pleats and attaching the cartridge pleated section first.

Clunky to describe, but the end result is that the skirt edge and bodice edge are sewn together across the back from hip to hip, and the skirt fronts are tacked in place underneath the bodice point and sewn down firmly along the front opening. As I said, probably best to make this as a two piece garment, but there is historical precedent in existing garments for the excess fabric of the skirt fronts being left tacked in place behind the bodice fronts like this.

Completed gown, side view. Click to enlarge.

I think if you compare the finished gown with the portraits above you can see how extravagant this gown could be as a high status garment with trims and embroideries added, or as a more sombre garment with comparatively fewer embellishments.

I dressed the mannequin with the underskirt, fartingale, kirtle and doublet from previous projects, with the gown over the top of it all. I left the skirt open to show the layer underneath, but in reality it seems that Spanish ladies pretty much always wore the fronts closed. Some portraits also seem to show a row of ties or closures down the curving back of the sleeve, whether functional or purely decorative I'm not sure. I pinned the bottom wrist section of each sleeve to the doublet underneath, slightly up the sleeve in the manner shown above, which further opens out the flare of the front opening.

I'm pleased with the end result and I think the sleeves give a lovely alternative and dramatic effect when compared to the similar gown in Project #6.

My lovely friends clubbed together and bought me a half sized male mannequin for my birthday earlier this month, and have informed me that it has arrived from the U.S. at the same time that I am finishing up with the women's patterns in the book. Yay! So the next project will be the start of the men's patterns, and then once I have worked through those I will go back and see if there are any interesting or curious variations of the garments I have already made that are worth looking at.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Another Version of Project #6?

I'm currently working on Project #10, and while in the process of looking for images online I came across a portrait with what appears to be an interesting variation of Project #6, F.63 the "Skirt and bodice of cloth with puffed sleeves", worn in an English context. Spanish clothing styles became very fashionable in countries outside of Spain, and the portrait I found would seem to be the same garment worn by a fashionable lady of the English court.

The completed recreation from Project #6.

At the time I made the garment in Project #6 I was struggling to find other variations of the sleeve of this garment other than the horizontal opening I used above, but I felt like I had seen it worn with a vertical opening.

Lettice Knollys as Countess of Leicester, c. 1585 by George Gower

Well although it is styled a little differently this certainly seems like the same type of garment to me. (Only in this instance it is worn by an English lady of the court Laetitia "Lettice" Knollys, Countess of Essex and Countess of Leicester.)

Tight fitting, low point fronted bodice - check. Tabs at the arm holes - check. Front opening over skirt - check.

The sleeve certainly seems to be of the same size and volume as the example I recreated, but made with a vertical opening from the sleeve head almost to the wrist, instead of the horizontal opening. As in my example the sleeve is slightly longer than the under doublet sleeve, and you can see that in the unusual way Lettice wears one arm in the sleeve and one arm placed through the opening. When worn with the arm inside the sleeve the opening bulges and flares outwards slightly due to the extra length, and the other sleeve hangs slightly longer than the voluminous sleeves of the garment underneath.

The other stylistic difference is that the skirt is worn open to reveal the kirtle underneath, which is not generally seen on Spanish ladies.

What do you think? It certainly seems like the same garment to me...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Project #9. F.73 - "Mantle of serge"

The next pattern I'm tackling is a simple over garment for women referred to as a "Manto" or mantle, which takes the form of a simple semi-circular to semi-elliptical wrap. It is an extremely simple garment, but I'll also have a look at the pattern layouts for the other variations because the various methods of piecing the mantles is interesting and somewhat confusing at first glance. 

The Manto seems to be a type of external garment that performs a largely functional rather than decorative purpose, and is described elsewhere as "...the upper garment of a woman in Spaine, covering the head and body, much like a Dutch woman's huke.". Similar garments also show up outside of Spain, and generally take the form of a voluminous wrap which protects the wearer from weather, dirt and no doubt the prying eyes of strangers.

There is a wonderful collection of costume images in the volume "Kostüme und Sittenbilder des 16. Jahrhunderts aus West- und Osteuropa, Orient, der Neuen Welt und Afrika" [Trans: Costumes and manners images of the 16th century in Western and Eastern Europe , the Orient, the New World and Africa] in the Bavarian State Library the "Bayerische Staats Bibliothek".

Trachten für Stände und Bräuche in Spanien
[Costumes for objects and customs in Spain]

In the section regarding Spain, a woman is shown (above) travelling on horseback wearing a wrap such as this, with a hat both holding the head covering portion in place and shading her face. These mantles seem to have been reserved for outdoors use, either for travelling (as above) or for being out and about in the city.

Tracht der Frauen verschiedener Stände in Städten und Regionen Italiens, Frankreichs, Englands,
aus Flandern, den Niederlanden und Brabant
[Costume of women of different classes in cities and regions of Italy, France, England, Flanders,
the Netherlands and Brabant]

The image above is not of a Spanish lady and her companions, but is one of the examples that shows a similar wrap in use in the section of the book covering Italy, France, England, Flanders and the Netherlands.

The variations in Alcega's pattern book vary primarily in the fabric types and finished sizes, and the layouts required to fit those various sizes on the diverse fabric widths. Initially I thought these might be transparent veils, but the fabrics specified are serge (a twilled woollen material), kersey (a wool fabric) and silk. Which would seem to reinforce that these are protective garments used as a cover up.

Although there are a number of sizes shown for the various fabric types, there is mention of drafting the pattern to suit the wearer's height in the descriptions. I would assume that the reason there are so many variations of the garment in the book is because the method of folding and cutting the strips, and the lengths of fabric required, gets quite complicated in the larger sizes cut from the narrower fabric. 

I'll be recreating F.73 which is the second of the Manto patterns in the book. I will however have a look at the fabric and cutting method for all of the Mantos because as I mentioned previously I think the layout diagrams are quite confusing at first glance.

F.72a & F.73 - "Mantle of serge". 
Both of these versions use fabric that is "bt" or 1 1/3 ells wide, or 112cm (approx 3' 8 1/8") wide, but vary slightly in length. F.72a uses 7 ells, or 588cm (approx 19' 3 1/2"), and F.73 is a little longer and uses 7 1/3 ells, or 616cm (approx 20' 2 1/2") in length.

In both cases the fabric is laid out unfolded, and then the left is folded cross ways to the length of the front section, so that the left hand pattern piece is cut double along the left side fold, and the back section and any godets are cut as a single thickness. (F.72 requires a godet, but it is not shown in the diagram.)

F.72a. Click to enlarge
F.73. Click to enlarge.

F.73a - "Mantle of kersey for a woman".
This pattern is almost identical to those above, but uses a fabric "bQ" wide, being 1 1/4 ells wide, or 105cm (approx 3' 5 3/8") wide x 7 ells, or 588cm (approx 19' 3 1/2") in length.

The fabric is folded partially over on the left to be cut double in the same manner as above. 

F.73a. Click to enlarge.

F.74, F.74a & F.75 - "Mantle of silk for a woman".
All three of these versions of the Manto are various widths and lengths, and all use silk fabric that is "tt" wide, being 2/3 of an ell or 56cm (approx 22") wide. F.74 is the largest and requires a length of fabric 14 1/2 ells long, or 1218cm (just under 40') long. F.74a is a smaller size and requires a length of fabric 13 ells long, or 1092cm (just under 35' 10") long. F.75 is the smallest of the three and requires a length of fabric 8 2/3 ells long, or 728cm (approx 23' 10 1/2") long.

The manner of cutting these versions is very different for the other Mantos above. The fabric is cut as 4 strips. The fabric is first laid flat, and then the folded over from the left to the size of the longest length and cut. Then the fabric is refolded and cut to the size of the next length, with the curve heading in the opposite direction. This process is repeated until the smallest layer is cut.

(This may make more sense in the diagram below.)

F.74. Note: the diagram is printed upside down. Click to enlarge.

(Note: the diagram in F.74 has been printed upside down. The curving hem should be on the right, and the fold on the left.) 

F.74a. Click to enlarge.
F.75. Click to enlarge.

F.75a - "Mantle of silk for a girl"
This version also uses silk fabric that is 2/3 of an ell, or 56cm (approx 22") wide x 7 2/3 ells, or 644cm (approx 21' 1 1/2") long.

This smallest version is made up of 3 strips instead of 4, cut in the same manner as the 3 versions above.

F.75a. Click to enlarge.

Some mathematics and dimensions
In all versions of the patterns the Manto is assembled in a number of strips, from 2 up to 4 in most of the silk layouts. The width of the straight front edge is achieved by folding the fabric to the required dimension, and the length of the Manto from the front to the back of the curving hem is a combination of the fabric width x the number of strips required. 

In the diagram for F.72a we know the fabric width is "bt" or 1 1/3 ells wide, yet the vertical dimensions on the left are shown as "bbm" or 2 1/2 ells. It then becomes clear that "bbm" refers to the total finished length of the Manto. The curved back section must be a little short of the full width of the fabric and when sewn to the back of the front strip will make the full "bbm" length. (There is also clearly a small godet required for this pattern that has not been detailed in the pattern.) 

The end result is not quite a semi circle as it is "bbbb" or 336cm (approx 11') wide, and the length from the front straight edge to the back of the curving hem is 210cm (approx 6' 10 3/4").

By contrast, the Manto in F.74 uses 4 strips and the end result is 315cm (approx 10' 4") wide, and 224cm (approx 7' 4 1/4") long from front to back, so slightly more elliptical.

F.74 folding and cutting detail.

The cutting diagram is a lot more complex with curves heading off in a number of directions. Each curve read from right to left relates to the subsequent folds and cuts required. Then each layer is opened out and assembled like this:

4 straight seams. Easy peasy.

Developing the pattern
The pattern for F.73 is a fairly simple thing to draft, and the only watch point is to make sure that the curves are continuous and line up nicely. It's a little easier to do that if you are drafting on paper because you can move the pieces around, however if you are drawing directly onto the fabric with soap as Alcega's contemporaries did, then presumably sketching in each curve first would make the process somewhat easier.

F.73 pattern pieces. Click to enlarge.

There is a somewhat cryptic comment in the translation for the first Manto in the book that refers to using the excess to construct ties (or bands?). Presumably this might mean a few ties which could be used to tie closed the front edge of the Manto like a cloak, but really I'm speculating.

Putting it together
This is a very easy sew, completed with just a few seams and some hemming. I first sewed the godet piece to the curving back section, then attached this to the unfolded front piece with a single straight seam. Once this was attached it was a simple process to hem all around the Manto and it was done.

The completed F.73 Manto front. Click to enlarge.

So, not the most complex or photogenic garment. Let's just state that upfront, shall we? 

My mannequin lacks a head, so I folded the front edge under a little and tried draping it on the dummy as if it was being held closed around the shoulders. The length is sufficient however to drape over the head and still just clear the ground.

Completed F.73 Manto side, showing the godet. Click to enlarge.

There you have it. Made up in a dark wool or silk this garment would be useful in keeping the wearer warm, dry and free from dirt. It could also be possible that it had a role in preserving the modesty of the wearer when out of doors, and possibly even acted as a form of security, obscuring the jewels, purse and any sumptuous garments of middle class of high status women when travelling.

Next I'll be tackling a garment from the large fold out section of the book, F1.6 the "Women's silk skirt and bodice with full length pointed sleeves". The pattern as presented in the book is a little degraded and has what appears to be a tear through the middle, but should be clear enough to use. 

With that I'm getting close to the end of the women't patterns in the book, and then it'll be time to start tackling the men's patterns. I was pleasantly surprised at my birthday party last week to find that a bunch of my wonderful friends have collectively ordered a half sized male form from the US for me as a gift. That should arrive sometime in the next few weeks, around about the time I'll be finishing the last of the women's patterns. Perfect timing!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Thank You

This little project of mine has had a sudden surge in attention over the past few weeks, courtesy of the always fascinating, educational (and polite!) Elizabethan Costume facebook group, and a wonderful mention by both American Duchess and Burnley & Trowbridge on their facebook pages. I just wanted to say thanks everyone for visiting, and a special big thanks to those who either leave a comment here or have connected with me personally on the facebook pages I mentioned. I really appreciate the feedback, and the interesting discussions that have been had.

I'm having a major birthday at the end of this week, which has morphed into a 4 day birthday extravaganza. Well, you're only 50 once (because, why would you do it more than once, frankly?). As it turns out I've been able to maintain a fairly regular schedule of these little explorations of Alcega, so just giving you a heads up that the the next one may be delayed by a week or so. Once I recover from an excess of cake and champagne, it'll be back to the (mini) drafting table.


[Here are the homepages for American Duchess and Burnley & Trowbridge.]