Magpiecostumer's Blog

Wedding Garb, Kirtle bodice

So my current project is making a Henrician lady’s outfit based on The Tudor Tailor. This is a picture of our overall plan

As my wedding dress it actually marks a nice transition point for my SCA persona. When I was single
my persona was lady in waiting to the Countess of Worcester (as an explanation for why I didn’t
have male relatives with me wherever I went and was still unmarried in my late 20s) so this outfit
(far richer than either my father or my husband could afford) is her farewell/wedding gift to me.
This is why I have far more brocade than my groom where he has to make do with taffeta (a much
cheaper silk both in period and today). I’m also reflecting real life that I’m unlikely to ever make
another outfit this fancy again.

I’m starting this dress diary partway through the construction process as I think it may work as a
way to motivate myself to get things done. Right now I am up to a partly boned mockup of the kirtle
bodice. I’m starting this diary part way through this process as a way to keep me accountable and
make sure I keep working on this.

Today’s dilemma, how large do you make the ‘cups’ on a Henrician kirtle. The boning is laid out in
a way that leaves an area over the breasts unboned based on the corset in Patterns of Fashion as
worn by Dorothea Sabine von Neuberg

Dorothea Sabine von Neuburg`s snøreliv

The problem lies in the fact that the pattern in the book is designed for several sizes smaller than
me and I’ve had to grade it up, so I’m not sure where the boning is supposed to sit. Is it supposed to
sit below the breast in the same spot as the underwire on a bra or should it cover the bottom of the
breast so you have more of a smooth line?

As the Tudor Tailor facebook page didn’t provide a definite answer. My solution was to try it both
ways. I tried on the unboned mockup over my bra and marked where the underwire sits, on one side
I cut the bones to that length on the other I cut the bones 1 inch longer so they come up slightly over
the breast.

When I tried it on I found a more serious problem. It’s too big by about 3 inches I’m really not sure
how this is my second mockup and the other one fit well except for the length so I’m not sure if I lost
weight or I forgot to transfer the adjustments to the new pattern. In contrast to my usual situation
I’m actually hoping that it’s not because I’ve lost weight as I want this outfit to be wearable in August
2013 and I won’t have time available to do the adjustments closer to the date.

With the bodice loose like that I think the full cups work better but I need to check it when the
bodice has been adjusted to the right size.


An extant example from the Metropolitan Museum

I have finally found publicly available photograph of an extant muslin Robe à l’Anglaise from the Metropolitan Museum all  of the examples I’ve seen so far are embroidered so the fact that I’m using a plain fabric is a variation from the documentation but its a variation I can cope with.

While I was searching the met website I found a lot of portraits that could help with my search for a hairstyle I can imitate (Using the advanced search for the years 1760-1799). I just bought a wig on ebay so I can make an attempt at a good 18th century hairstyle.

My stays are now fully boned. I ran out of artificial whalebone as I didn’t allow enough extra for the fact that the boning I’m using is narrower than the pattern recommends so I ended up finishing the centre front panels with cable ties.

18th century Hair ideas

The last few days have been spent looking at 18th century hair. Watching The Duchess helps for 3D images and pictures of the back but nothing beats period images. I’ve been looking at portraits I don’t want seriously high hair but I’m looking at wigs on ebay as I contemplated styling my own hair with rats but decided that a lot of curls down the back of my head would be too much effort. Instead I’m planning to do something based on this tutorial. I’m now in the process of  going through a lot of images of later 18th century hairstyles to get some inspiration.

My list of images so far is mostly portraits so you can’t generally see the back of the hairstyle but you get more variation than fashion plates. Here’s my links roughly in the order I discovered them. I haven’t yet gone through them all properly to narrow down a single style.

On a clothing front I have nearly finished boning my stays. This is a photo of the cotton drill interlining of my stays. I bought it mainly because I got about 5 metres for $2 and the pattern is fun. This print will be visible on the inside but the outer layer will be brown linen.

c.1780s ‘Chocolate’ Robe A l’Anglais

I  know its been a long time since I updated and I promised more photos from my holiday but it seems a little late to upload pictures now.

I’ve started a new project for the Earthly Delights ‘Age of Indulgence Chocolate ball’ in July. I’m trying as much as possible to use items from my stash but I don’t have enough brown in my stash to make a gown (except for some taffeta that is set aside for another project) .

Last year I saw a yellow embroidered muslin Robe A l’Anglais at the museum of London (unfortunately this was a behind the scenes tour and I’m not allowed to share the photos) I also saw a white embroidered Robe A l’Anglais at the Hereford Museum (again I’m not allowed to share photos) The only thing I can share with you is this example from the V&A of a ‘Sack back robe’ in sheer cotton. It’s not quite the same but its an example of making a traditional style of gown in the newly fashionable muslin.

So the result of all this is that I have decided to use a purple cotton/silk blend voile as purple is also closely associated with chocolate it’s a close enough association for me.

I’m using Simplicity 3635 for the corset and Fig Leaf Patterns 101 for the Robe. More updates to come soon with photos.

the V&A mark II

Well it took a few weeks to get around to this post but these are the photos I took at the V&A when I made my return visit. I spent quite a bit of time in the textiles gallery focussing on SCA period textiles and embroidery. I also managed to find the plaster cast gallery (I could see it from the floor above when I walked along the gallery but it was difficult to actually locate on the ground) which had a lot of casts of period funeral effigies.

The Museum of London

Tuesday was spent at the Museum of London. We had a behind the scenes look at some of the costumes but I signed an agreement that I wouldn’t upload the costume photos to the web. So I’ve uploaded all my photos from the medieval gallery instead. The one disappointting thing is that the gift shop didn’t have the Museum of London series on medieval clothing and accessories so I’ll probably be putting in an order with Mainly Medieval when I get home.

Victoria & Albert Museum

Monday morning was spent at the Victoria and Albert museum, there was a lot of cool stuff to see (I could have spent a week in the textiles gallery) but it was so rushed I barely got to see half of what I wanted to see. I was also dealing with a new camera (I lost my camera on public transport on Saturday, I bought a new one on Sunday, but it sometimes disagrees with me on whether or not the flash is a good idea). So I went back for a less hurried visit during my free time today (Thursday). These are photos from Monday’s trip, photos from my Thursday trip to the V&A will follow in another post.

Tower of London

On Friday morning we met the tour group from America and after a coach tour around London we checked into our hotel and then headed out to the Tower of London, I skipped some of it (especially the white tower and the chapel) but took photos mainly in the Medieval palace section.

Hampton Court

Between the Weald and Downland museum and Hampton court I have skipped over two days because I don’t have any photos I can share. On Monday we drove up to Herefordshire to see the costume collection at Berrington hall, and the Hereford city museum, but we were only allowed to take photos for personal use, we then drove back down to Reading where Aylwen’s relatives made us very welcome and took us to see Windsor Castle on Tuesday, but I wasn’t inspired to take photos. So we’re now up to Wednesday and Hampton Court where I took a lot of pictures including a costumed interpretation of the celebrations surrounding Henry VIII’s wedding to Catherine Parr.