Remember when I said I was waffling but was still definitely, totally, one hundred precent committed to a loose gown for my 1590s outfit?
Yup. I've changed my mind.
And it actually makes me a bit sad because I really do think that at least some of my inspiration images are of loose gowns (not all of them, but certainly the majority are) and since it's a style you almost never see reproduced I really anted to take a crack at it.
But after a few mockups and an outing to NorCal I decided had to change my plans...
Backtracking a bit...here is mockup number one, worn over a skirt which will be roughly the same volume as the final petticoat.
Not great, but not bad.
The waist is too high, which looks frumpy and weird. The collar isn't sitting well and I've got two slightly different sleeves sewn in, but overall it showed promise.
The only problem is that it didn't fit very nicely over my bum pad and the back looked a bit anemic as a result. I've since retired that pad for 16th century outfits...it's really meant for an 18th-19th century silhouette, but at the time I thought it could do double duty (why I'm not sure, since I never do 18th century anyway so there's really no point in having all-eras underwear).
So I opened the back to create a seam and sewed a large gore down the entire length of the gown, which added about 30" to the bottom of the hem (tapering to nothing at the neck). Then I wore my stays over my analog petticoat and belted the gown at the point, which gave a much closer approximation to the silhouette seen in the tomb brasses.
The collar still didn't sit right, but overall I was much happier.
Then I went to the NorCal Faire.
I had been planning the weekend trip for months and it was awesome...for all of 2 hours. Then the temperature hit 110 degrees and I got heatstroke and passed out behind the pickle-stand.
(actually I think it was a ravioli stand, but I can't remember and pickle sounds funnier)
Suffice to say that took the wind out of my sails a bit and the project stalled. Suddenly my mockup looked like a giant tent of impending wooly doom...and making a large, heavy gown seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.
It probably would have been fine in a very lightweight or tropical wool...but I didn't have that. I had 8 yards of very lovely, very expensive medium weight wool from B. Blacks & Sons (and I didn't have the funds or will power to buy more).
So I figured I had two options: I could put this project on the back burner and repurpose the wool for something else, or I could try for a similar aesthetic with different construction methods.
Wracked with indecision (as usual) I decided to switch gears and concentrate on a different outfit altogether, one specially meant for warmer weather: my linen "Greensleeves" Kirtle.
With that out of my system I return to the project with a clean slate and decide to experiment with a regular gown (i.e. bodice and skirt), reasoning that I could eliminate some fabric by cutting the extra bulk in the body...and with more control of a separate skirt I could still keep the fullness to the back while still having a narrower circumference overall.
So I mocked up the bodice and a couple of different sleeves and things are starting to get back on track!
At which point I waffled again.
Yup...I returned to the loose gown, this time removing the gore I added and eliminating all my bum support except for a small role.
SO MUCH BETTER!
At this point the loose gown idea seemed feasible again!
But I still decided against it.
So why did I even bring it up?
Mostly to show what a difference correct underpinnings can make.
I could have saved myself a lot of time and heartache if I has just tried different variations at the start. I knew the back wasn't full enough, but I didn't even think of trying a version with less foundation layers before tearing apart my mockup. Now I know better...and not only that, I think this silhouette actually looks much more period.
It was a good lesson to learn, even though I'm not returning to this style.
I'm still too afraid of possible heat issues and if I'm honest vanity played a role as well. I just prefer the more fitted silhouette...even though I'd just spent the better part of 8 months proving to myself that it might not be the more historically correct option (at least for the aesthetic I was going for, and especially in the John Dunch portrait).
Ah, well...who knows? Maybe I'll change my mind again tomorrow...