Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Project

The Challenge

I'm not quite sure where to begin.
It's my hope that this will someday be a Dress Dairy, but for what exactly I'm not entirely certain.

Let me back up a bit...

Last year I moved to Los Angeles from Ottawa, ON (Canada) and after attending the SoCal Renaissance Faire in April I began to feel the itch to start a new sewing project (after a 5+ year hiatus).
With my sewing machine in storage some 3802Km away I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to learn to properly sew an entire outfit by hand and perhaps to make something reasonably historically accurate as well.

Let me be clear...this can only end in tears.

I am notoriously lazy and sloppy when it comes to sewing by hand and I've probably forgotten everything I once knew about fitting a garment and following a pattern.
Nevertheless, after some hmm-ing and ha-ing I finally settled on an outfit for a Middle Class English woman.

English Women, Lucas De Heere c1570

In retrospect this was a fairly obvious choice.
Given the already ambitious scope of this project (considering my near total lack of ability) an Upper Class ensemble would have been completely unreasonable and would have required far too great an outlay in material cost and time especially when measured against the very real possibility of...well, failure.

Inspiration & Ideas

Having settled on a middle/merchant class outfit I didn't have to look too far for inspiration...

In addition to the De Heere image above, one of my favourite images was that of the Nonesuch Women from Braun and Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum (1572-1618).

Illustrations of Social Hierarchy, c1582

I was especially fond of this lady.
The overall silhouette is spot-on but most of the details are too grand for my purposes.
What I assumed is either a brocade forepart or front panel of the kirtle wouldn't be appropriate (not unless I planned change the scope of the project) and some of the accessories are a little too fine.
However other elements, such as the slashed sleeves and what looks like a hood with bongrace are really nifty. I also liked the large sleeve caps.

(Realistically I'm probably nearer the mark with the second woman from the left in the above image...but clearly I already have illusions of grandeur)

But some of the best inspiration I found was from other costumers.
(~All images link back to the original websites~)

I've been a fan of Melanie's Schuessler's work for years and her Flanders gown is no exception (in fact it may be one of my favourites).
This is a great example of how much richness you can get from a limited pallet.

And of course you can't mention fitted gowns without referencing Ninya Mikhaila's wonderful ensemble (modeled here by her sister).
Realistically this is probably as much detail work as I can muster and even at that the sleeves are a little intimidating.
Of course the obvious benefits of heading in this direction are the extensive instructions found in her book, The Tudor Tailor.

Emily Knapp (of the invaluable Tudor Costume Page) looks fantastic in her version of a fitted gown. This is one of the few examples I've seen of a cooler rather than a warmer pallet.
It's tempting to go in this direction if only because it seems so rare by comparison.

I love Laura Martinez's grey herringbone kirtle. I hadn't planned on doing contrasting sleeves but this is certainly an argument for it (and the matching guard along the bottom is a nice touch). It's also good to know that if I have a complete breakdown and can't finish the fitted gown I might still come away with a nice working class outfit.

The Pattern

I'd already decided on using some sort of commercial pattern where's been a long time since I'd put anything together and I definitely need a bit of hand-holding.
Naturally, the 'Big Three' are out so that left the smaller, more historically correct pattern companies, and I very quickly narrowed it down to the following options:

Margo Anderson's Historic Costume Patterns
Margo Anderson's products are amongst the most popular Elizabethan pattens on the net and are very popular at Faires. She's recently released a Working Woman's package, but you can achieve the same result by altering her original Elizabethan package.
This isn't quite the look I was going for, but it comes with extensive documentation and instructions.

Reconstructing History
Of the historic pattern companies Reconstructing History is amongst the oldest. Their 'Flanders Gown' pattern is pretty spot on, however I've heard their products aren't the best for...shall we say less then confident sewers.

The Tudor Tailor
The Tudor Tailor now offers a pattern line based on their wonderful book. I have yet to find reviews for the pattern packages themselves, so I'm not sure how they and/or the instructions differ from the book (except for the fact that you no longer have to scale them up).

In the end I oped for the Tudor Tailor. I love their book and found the instructions clear enough (after I'd read them over a sufficient amount of times) and the photos very helpful.
But what tipped the balance was of course Ninya Mikhaila's fitted Gown. I can think of very few if any alternations that i would need to make, and if I could follow the instructions and come up with something half so nice I would be extremely happy.
(but I also picked up a copy of Margo's Working Women's page to see me through the underpinnings and accessories)

Now...onto the Design!

No comments:

Post a Comment