I've been collecting linen for a few years now, waiting for the right inspiration. I've also been meaning to make myself a new renfest costume for some time. Not that I don't already have a closet full, but it's nice to have something new once in a while, and maybe a little different than what the rest of the crowd is wearing.
I'm inspired by the research and dress diaries of others. Heather Ann Harris did a lovely interpretation of a late 16th century Italian working class dress, based on research presented on Jennifer Thompson's site. And I've recently found Sandy Kaye's site with pictures of her dress.
After some thought, and a bit of scrounging in the sewing room, I decided on using this extremely dark blue linen blend that I have a bolt of. I thought it was black when I bought it -- the light was bad in the store. For trim, I will use some butternut colored silk noil I bought several years ago. I got a yard, thinking it would be nice cut into strips for a project exactly like this. It's got a flat, rustic texture, and contrasts beautifully with the dark blue.
Most of the reference images seem to show lighter colors rather than dark ones for the dress. I don't know if that is a result of fashion and preference for light colors, or because the clothing is worn and faded, or if it is a result of the artists choice in colors -- due to stylistic influence, or his desire to evoke a mood. In other words, are the dresses the color they are because they liked that, because they were poor, or because the artist wanted to paint with pastels that day?
Regardless of the reasons for predominance of lighter colored fabric, there are a couple examples of a really dark blue, so I feel my choices are justified enough.
To start off the project I took a bodice pattern I've been using for a few years, and made some modifications. Careful examination of the illustrations showed me that the neckline of these dresses is typically low, and the waistline is a little high. Also the shoulder straps are narrower than what I currently use -- but they still have to be wide enough for trim.
As an accessory I am also making a Tudor coif out of the Tudor Tailor book. I scanned the pattern and enlarged it to scale on my computer, and printed myself a pattern. I've got a remnant of white linen to use for that.
Sept. 14 2007
Made up the bodice. I started with a muslin test shell, to make sure the neckline and shoulders were in the right place, and than transfered that to blue linen. I considered several possibilities to use as lining, the heavy black poly cotton, one of my many silk remnants, a linen remnant, or self lining. The blue linen blend is a little lightweight. It drapes beautifully, it's great for the skirt, but the bodice will definitely need lining. After some waffling back and forth I chose to use a piece of heavy white linen for the lining. I didn't really want to use bright white, but I do have a lot of it, and it is fairly stiff and will make great lining. I could dye it, but I'm too lazy to bother. At least I won't have to worry about blue crocking onto my white chemise.
I sewed the bodice shell and moved on to the skirt. I cut a 4 yard length off the bolt, and cut that to 42 inches, I think, for the length. Since the waistline sits a little high on this style, I cut the skirt a few inches longer than I usually wear. Got the side seam sewn up. Next step is to run it through the ruffler and gather up the waistband, and then sew it into the body. However, the KC Chocolate Festival is tomorrow, so that's unlikely to happen soon.
Yesterday I turned the bodice right side out, ironed it flat, inserted boning up the front, and attached the skirt. I'm not entirely happy with the waistline, I think it is too low, especially in back, but I am not taking it apart to do over. My hands hurt. I need to find a way to hotkey that phrase, because I think I am going to be typing it a lot.
Today I sewed the boning in the front, and I'm working on closing up the armholes.
Last week, before I stopped, I got as far as making the silk strips to use as decoration, and began attaching them to the body of the dress.
Yesterday I did a little more sewing on that. Most of the left side is sewn down. I also put the hooks in by machine, but I think I set them too close together. I'm not sure if I'll rip one side out and adjust it or not.
June 13, 2008
Yes, it's been a while. Due to a number of factors (arthritis, injuries, kittens) I did nothing over the winter. This week I decided I wanted to wear this dress to renfest this year, after all I didn't get it finished last year. To that end I have started sewing on the gold trim again. I'd forgotten how much that makes my wrist hurt. So I think it will be slow going for a while as I get back into the swing of things.
The "new" kitten is now ten months old and while she no longer attacks everything that moves, she is still curious and wants to 'help' any time I am in the sewing room. She still needs more training, but most days I can get something done without her being too much in the way.