Saturday, 1 November 2014

Project #11. F.13a - "Another pattern for a silk doublet, from open silk".

This is my first reconstruction of a men's pattern from Alcega's tailor's pattern book, a men's doublet with a characteristic 'peascod' belly made from silk. It's the second of all the patterns in the book, the first being an almost identical doublet laid out for silk which has been folded lengthways instead of crosswise as in this version. (The variations relate to a small change in the sleeve and the piecing required to construct the doublet.)

Before I could make a start I had to make a pair of mannequin arms for my dummy, in order to have him fill out his doublet properly. After this project I think I might revisit them however, perhaps by pulling out some of the stuffing, because as it turned out I made him a bit too much of a muscle man in the arm department. Just getting the doublet on and off turned into a chore, so I think I need to slim him down a bit. 

Charles II, Archduke of Austria by monogrammist "LP", 1569.

I've heard a few different theories as to how the peascod belly became a fashion, but one which seems logical and resonates with me is that the shape is derived from the silhouette of the armour of the time. Most breastplates had a central ridge, in order to create two angled surfaces that would aim to deflect a face-on thrust sideways into a glancing blow. Armour with this shape seems to predate the fashion in doublets, so I don't think it is a trend that began in the reverse.

The "Flower-Pattern Armour" of Philip II of Spain, made in Augsburg, Germany, c. 1550.
Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid

With modern eyes we may not see the slim waisted and peascod belly shape as masculine, but if it was a shape that was associated with armour, with fighting prowess, power and all the masculine associations that brings, then it starts to make more sense. It also has the effect of enhancing and highlighting the slimness of the waist, and therefore the broadness of the shoulders.

Alcega states that this doublet requires a length of silk fabric 3 ells long x 2/3rds of an ell wide, or 252cm (approx 8' 3 1/4") long x 56cm (approx 22") wide. The fabric is 'open' in that it is laid out full width, with a crosswise fold on the left hand side.

Some mathematics and dimensions
The dimensions of the doublet patterns in f.13 and f.13a in the book have some points of similarity with the women's doublets. The length of the doublet front is QQQ or 3/4 of an ell (63cm or approx 2' 3/4"), the doublet back length is "m" or 1/2 an ell (42cm or approx 16 1/2") and the shoulder width, front neck opening and front collar piece are all "s" or 1/6 of an ell (14cm or approx 5 1/2"). The rest of the dimensions vary a little:

Doublet back
The half of the doublet back width across the shoulders is "Qi" or 1/4 + 1/48 of an ell (22.75cm or approx 8 1/2"), and given that we know the shoulder seam is "s" it must make the unmarked width of the half of the collar back 7.75cm (or approx 3"). The bottom waist measurement is "Sij" or 1/6 + 1/24 of an ell (17.5cm or a little over 6 3/4"). The width across the back from the bottom of the arm scye is "ijt" or 1/3 - 1/24 of an ell (24.5cm or approx 9 5/8"). There are no measurements given for the back of the arm hole or the side seam.

Doublet front
The doublet front measures "ijm" across at the point under the bottom of the arm scye, which is 1/2 - 1/24 of an ell (38.5cm or approx 15 1/8"). The curving edge at the doublet waist from the bottom of the side seam to the low point of the peascod is "t" or 1/3 of an ell (28cm or approx 11"). As per the back, there is no measurement given for the arm hole or side seam. (The total arm hole dimension is most likely 56cm (approx 22"), as this is the size of the top edge of the assembled sleeve).

The sleeve length is "sb" or 5/6 of an ell (70cm or approx 27 1/2"), and the sleeve top edge is "t" or 1/3 of an ell (28cm or approx 11"). The wrist opening edge is "o" or 1/8 of an ell (10.5cm or just over 4"). There is no shaping of the sleeve head in this pattern.

I should mention that pattern f13 is laid out for a long narrow folded piece of silk, and uses a piecing in the side of the doublet to achieve the right width and the sweeping curve of the side seam. It also (unusually) scoops out a very small scye for the underarm on one of the sleeve pieces, which coincidentally also allows the sleeve piece to fit snugly up against another pattern piece.

Developing the pattern
The pattern has a few features worth noting, firstly the very square shape of the shoulder on the back piece and the very sloping angle of the shoulder seam on the front. What this does is angle the shoulder seam towards the front of the doublet, so that instead of following the top line of the shoulder (as on the sloper) it angles forward from the neck to a point near the top of the arm. You see this in many doublet patterns of the period, and it's quite clever in that the fabric of the back shoulder is taking most of the stress instead the stress being placed on the seam.

The second point is the shape of the doublet front, which begins to curve outwards gently from a point a little under the neckline and culminates in the larger curve at the bottom. This means there is a small amount of extra room across the chest, and the doublet swells outwards until it reaches the extreme at around the natural waistline, and then curves back under to meet the bottom of the doublet at about an 80 degree angle (or so).

The third point is the high shape of the arm hole and the very angled side seam which wraps around towards the back of the doublet.

Doublet pattern - original draft. Click to enlarge.

As soon as I looked at this pattern I was a little stumped by the width across the torso under the arm. Adding up the widths I got a super generous 126cm, or over 49 1/2" around the chest. I checked the rest of the dimensions against the measurements of my mannequin, and the sloper I made previously, and everything else checked out fine bar this one element. Because the side seam on the front angles back at quite an extreme angle, where the top of the seam joins the widest part of back piece under the arm hole

So I drafted the pattern as drawn anyway, and then tested the dimensions out as I assembled it... and the fit was well off. As I suspected all of the elements fit well until it got to the arm hole and the side seam. The side seam fit perfectly at the waist, but I had a huge mess of fabric at the top of the seam under the armpit, and the arm hole was incredibly high. I checked my measurements for the doublet back, thinking that my draft of the back armhole might have been off, and that it had to be narrower to allow for the front piece to wrap further towards the back. But, nope.

Doublet pattern - after side seam and arm hole revision. Click to enlarge.

I then did something I haven't had to do yet (except for minor fit tweaks) and I modified the pattern shapes to get a better fit. You can see above that I reduced the angle of the side seam on the front by quite a bit, and by a smaller degree on the back. Bringing this in had the end result of reducing the size of the arm hole, so then I dropped the bottom of the arm scye front and back and scooped out a little more of a curve on the front as it was bunching at the front of the armhole, all the time carefully measuring and remeasuring to make sure that the end result would still equal the size of the top of the sleeve head. This also meant that I ended up with quite a short side seam, but the length of the doublet was still ok, and sat just a smidge above the natural waist.

I rechecked the fit and this modification still left a little extra at the top of the side seams under the arm, but to a degree that would allow for movement without resulting in a disastrously sloppy fit. I decided to leave it as I didn't want to alter the spirit of the pattern any further. (See the doublet back picture below.)

Putting it together
This doublet layout has a centre back seam on the doublet, so I first sewed the two pack halves together to make the doublet back.

I've found from experience that making a doublet that has the back of the collar cut as one with the doublet is much easier if you first attach the front collar pieces to each of the doublet fronts. That way you can then sew across the shoulder seam and up the side of the collar as one seam with a sharp angled curve in it. Once I had attached the collar pieces, I sewed the front side seams to the back piece and then closed the shoulder/collar seams as mentioned above.

Completed doublet back. Click to enlarge.

At this point I also improved the fit of the back neck and collar by taking a crescent shaped dart across the back of the neck as I discussed in Project #2.

I then sewed the halves of each sleeve together, and inset them into the armhole. I rotated the sleeve as we have done in other patterns, so that the curving inner seam laid along the inside of the arm and the back seam joined the doublet back roughly in line with the shoulder blades, allowing for maximum range of movement. I left the back seam open a little at the wrists as I thought I would have trouble getting the cubby arms into the sleeves (and I was right!). If making this full sized I would also do this to allow for a nice snug wrist, and button or hook and eye closures.

Once that was done I turned under all the raw edges and sewed them down to complete the doublet, and then whipstitched the front closed in lieu of tiny buttons, or hooks and eyes.

Completed doublet front before padding. Click to enlarge.

Look upon your pouchy doublet front and try not to be discouraged at this point.

Janet Arnold and others who have had the good fortune to examine extant doublets have looked at the complex ways the understructure of these doublets were constructed to form the shape of the peascod, and still allow the doublet to open at the front. In a nutshell, two mirror image belly pieces are built up with layers of pad stitched linen or felt, padded, then shaped and formed until two sort of wedge shaped almost hemispheres are inserted behind the doublet fronts. They are also built up in such a way that they create the raised centre line characteristic of the style (as you can see in the portrait and armour pictures above). What you are aiming for is not just a rounded belly, but that characteristic shape.

I couldn't wrap my head around the complexity of trying to achieve that at this scale, and really my aim here anyway is to explore the pattern shapes rather than go into too much intricacy of period construction techniques. [If you just spotted a cop out, then well done you.] Soooo, I elected to simply place stuffing inside the doublet to fill out the shape on the mannequin and see how the fit turned out.

I wasn't even sure the shape was going to work until I started padding it, but voila it filled out nicely.

Completed doublet side. Click to enlarge.
With a carefully shaped understructure I can see how the fit would be slightly improved, but I think this demonstrates how the pattern works. The sleeve fit isn't great in the pic above, but that's more than partly the fault of the chubby and poorly bendable arms I made for the mannequin.

Completed doublet front. Click to enlarge.

If I was making this up full sized I would also probably cut away a bit at the sleeve fabric in the underarm to get rid of some the fabric bulk and creasing. With the addition of small waist tabs, buttons and appropriate trims I think this would make a useful and attractive doublet pattern. (Especially for a slim gentleman with a little less width through the waist and, ahem, natural peascod shape such as me...)

The next pattern I'll be tackling is one of a long series of men's hooded "Cloak of cloth" patterns in the book.