Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Project #4. F.58 - "Kirtle of silk for a woman"

This is my fourth project, an overskirt for a woman. 

The patterns for "vasquina" or kirtles as they are described in the book seem to fall into two categories, those with an accompanying bodice and those without. Of those that are a skirt only, such as this one, the variations are shown as a pattern for a child, several for a "fat woman" (as it states in the translation) and several variations to allow for wider fabrics. With the exception of the child's kirtle, the skirt lengths seem to be pretty much all the same, with some small variations in the fullness of the skirt depending on the fabric widths.

There is no narration in the translation as to whether this skirt is worn as an outer or intermediate layer. In portraiture of women wearing high status clothes there is often an outer layer worn over the doublet and skirt or bodice and skirt, usually with a front opening skirt that is frequently worn closed. The centre front seam of this skirt would mean that it could possibly have been sewn closed as an intermediate layer skirt (over the farthingale but under any form of over gown) or worn open.

Anna of Austria by Martin Kober. 

Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633), Infanta of Spain,
by Pourbus, Frans the Younger (workshop of)

This skirt requires a length of silk fabric 6 1/8 ells long x 2/3 ells wide , or 514.5cm (approx 16' 10 1/2") long x 56cm (approx 22") wide.

Some mathematics and dimensions
Alcega states that the fabric for this skirt is folded across ways rather than lengthways, resulting in pattern pieces that use the full width of the fabric, and therefore there is no centre front or centre back fold. The skirt front is cut on the left, and the skirt back is cut on the right. If damask or a fabric with a nap is to be used, the fabric should be laid so that the pattern and/or nap run in the same direction (presumably by cutting the fabric in half and rotating one half, rather than folding it).

The length of the skirt is given as "bm" or 126cm (approx 4' 1 1/2"), which the same length as the farthingale in project #1, and pretty standard for most of the overskirts in the book. (This is fairly long, but as I discussed in previous posts I think most of the patterns in the book are intentionally fairly large in size to allow for maximum fabric usage required, as the book is primarily a guide for pattern layouts and fabric amounts required.) No mention of a finished waist size is given, and the pattern pieces are shown with a half waist front of "t" or 28cm (approx 11") and a half waist back of "m" or 42cm (approx 16 1/2"). This results in a waist of 140cm (approx 55"), so presumably the waist allows for gathers or pleats to reduce this to the wearer's actual waist size.

No specific dimensions are given for the godets A and B which are used to increase the skirt's fullness. However, the hem dimensions for the front and back pieces include the bottom width of the godets at the hemline and as we know the fabric width we can determine this dimension. The front hem is given as "sb" or 70cm (approx 27 1/2"), and as we know the fabric is 56cm wide that makes the bottom edge of godet A 14cm (approx 5 1/2"). The back hem is given as "b" or 84cm (approx 33"), making bottom edge of godet B 28cm (approx 11").

Developing the pattern
The pattern for this skirt is pretty straightforward. The only issue I noticed is that the angle of the godets are drawn slightly off from the angle of the pieces they are attached to. Not majorly so, but it would result in a slight change of angle in the bias edges during construction. The bottom edges of godets A and B are not cut to follow the curve of the edges they are attached to, but instead hang down a little below the hemline. This is the same issue I noticed with the godets in project #1, and it is quickly fixed during hemming.

Godets A and B rotated into position. Click to enlarge.

No mention is made in the translation of a waistband or any other other trimmings. There is enough straight grain fabric on the far left, centre and far right where the curves leave a little waste fabric to piece together several pieces to make a waistband. There is also no mention of how this skirt is pleated or gathered, but a quick survey of this type of skirt in portraits shows a very flat smooth front lying close along the farthingale front. As there is a deliberately large waist, this could only mean that the fullness is dealt with at the back of the skirt.

Putting it together
Similar to the previous pattern I reconstructed, this is a fairly simple sew.

The finished kirtle. Click to enlarge.

The first step is to attach godets A and B to their respective front and back pieces. If the skirt is to be worn as an intermediate layer as I am constructing it here, the front seam is then sewn closed and the back seam needs to be left open at the top enough to be able to slide the skirt up over the hips once it is attached to a waistband. (Conversely, if the front is to be left open, then the centre back seam can be fully closed and the waistband opening moved to the front instead.)

Side, showing shape and location of the godets. Click to enlarge.

I had cut my pieces to the exact dimensions of the pattern, resulting in a little bit of curving side seam weirdness from the small change in angles of the godets. Not dramatically so, but if I was creating this at full scale I would either amend the angles of the godets as much as possible, or trim the pieces straight after the godets were attached. You would lose a small amount of fullness but only a little.

The cartridge pleated back of the skirt. Click to enlarge.

Once the main construction seams were all closed I made up a finished waistband, and turned the seam allowance of the skirt waist to the wrong side and tacked it under. I had measured the front of the skirt flat across from hip to hip and discovered that there was still a large amount of fullness to be incorporated into the back of the waistband, so I decided to cartridge pleat the back of the skirt. The easiest way to deal with cartridge pleats is to finish the edge, gather the fabric into regular folds with a gathering thread, and then oversew the edge to the finished waistband.

Cartridge pleating on a tiny (and slightly insane) scale. Click to enlarge.

I started the cartridge pleats at the side, but you'll notice how the first pleat or two pull forward towards the front. If I was remaking this, or making a full scale version, I would experiment with starting the cartridge pleats a little further forward and see if this eliminated this pulling. The important thing is to preserve the flat front, and to allow any doublet, jerkin or other over garment to sit flat over the front of the skirt.

One suggestion for trimming with braid. Click to enlarge.

In all of the pictures above I dressed the mannequin with the underskirt I made in Project #3 first, then the farthingale I made in Project #1 before placing this kirtle over the top. This could make an attractive middle class outfit in combination with the doublet in Project #2, perhaps done in a silk, linen, wool or velvet. Made up in a rich fabric, perhaps a damask, with heavy braid trim, this would make a lovely underskirt to be worn over an open gown or second open fronted skirt.

Next up we are still in the land of the kirtle, but this time it gets a little more interesting with the addition of a bodice in the "Kirtle and low-cut bodice of cloth rash for a woman". There are a number of kirtle and low cut bodice combinations in the book, but I've picked the "cloth rash" layout because it is unusual and interesting.

UPDATE: Oops, on closer inspection the dimensions of the "cloth rash" version are a little different, shorter skirt and much wider waist. So in order to use the underpinning I already have, I've decided to go with one of the other alternate layouts, F.59a "Kirtle and low cut bodice of silk". It is essentially the same garment though.

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