Blue Bee 9
If you've ever paid attention to the wide variety of outfits, costumes, or garb at a renaissance festival, you may have noticed that the most complete looking costumes all have one thing in common - appropriate head-wear. We've written about this before. This was not something we were going to skimp on for our Blue Bee dresses either.
Choosing a more English Tudor look for our dresses meant that we were kind of starting from zero for the hats. Before, our costumes had been Italian or German, and the hats strongly reflected that! Not unlike the wulsthaube, steuchlein, and hat combo for German costume, most English Tudor costumes have a combination of coif, (sometimes veil), and hat.
Most coifs seem pretty similar at first glance, but they can actually vary quite a bit in the details. Some are meant to cover the hairline, and some sit pretty far back on the head. Some leave the ears exposed, some cover just the tips of the ears, and some completely enclose the ears. Some are fairly curved to follow the contours of the face, and some look more like a fitted kerchief, and some have a separate forehead cover (not unlike a renaissance version of a sweatband). They can be lined or unlined. While most are white or off-white linen, they can go from very plain, to trimmed in lace, to some blackwork embroidery, to heavily embroidered with metallic thread, pearls, and even jewels!
I found this blog post to be a good combo of easy-to-follow, and middle-of-the-road in style. I drew a rough pattern, and cut two layers - one out of a very fine and high-quality linen for the top layer, and one of a lightweight cotton lawn for the lining.
I added a strip of cotton lace for a bit of interest, and gathered the top point by hand, so we wouldn't look like little lawn ornaments if we were just in the coif and not the hat. I left the bottom edge open to make a casing for the ties.
The coif, 1.0 version is modeled by the newest member of my sewing room (insert introductory fanfare here): Ms. Styra Foame! If you think she looks a little, well - masculine - that's because I tried first with a female styrofoam head, and found the head to be waaay too small. Frankly, even the male styrofoam head is a little on the small side for my fat head, but it was an improvement for fitting purposes. As a concession, I gave Ms. Foame eyeliner and lipstick with magic markers.
One thing that most coifs have in common is that they rely on the wearer having a good deal of hair, coiled into a bun, at the back of the head for the coif to hold on to. The ties cinch the bottom of the coif, under the bun, into a little poof at the back of the head. Then the ties may be tied at the back neck, pulled forward and tied under the chin (not unlike later puritan bonnets), or drawn up and tied on top of the head. The latter was most common for our period.
After speaking with Rachel and looking at more coif designs, we decided that plain coifs were a little too plain, so I added a strip of embroidery at the front where it would be most visible. I also took the chance to use a little gold lame thread in with the honey-brown for the flowers. A little extra tasteful bling never hurt anything!
Because both Rachel and I have short hair, we knew we were going to face some challenges getting the coif to stay in place, especially if we needed to pin a hat onto it also! After muddling over the problem for a bit, I decided to give wig clips a try. After all, if they can be used to secure some of these luxurious and no-double heavy hair pieces, surely a little coif would be no problem! I stitched them on the underside, right next to the front edge. As we had decided on embroidery after the coif was assembled, this also meant that it would protect the back of my embroidery a bit from sweat and hair oil as well.
And there she is! Phase one of the head-wear done! It seems almost a shame that most of it will be covered and/or outshone by the second half, yet-to-come in the next blog post...
Blue Bee 8
And now we finally come to what inspired the creation of this whole costume: the coat. Or, as Kate has dubbed it, the frock.
For a previous project I sourced a copy of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3, and was quite taken with her illustration of a loose kirtle. It looked comfortable. And I hadn't ventured into the English style in years.
I had a bolt of fabric picked out in a blue and light grey color - it was a polyester brocade and I found it on clearance years before and saved it for a special project. The first fabric I ordered to go with it was the blue linen that would become the base dress. But I was having problems matching the silvery color, plus the tan background wasn't khaki, or sand, or really tan, but a lighter version of taupe. It was worse than trying to match a red tone.
It a fit of desperation I actually went through the tubs and stacks of fabric and found the stuff pictured above. It was linen! It was already embroidered!
Kate had a small issue with the actual fabric design, and she was right. As it was the embroidered design would lend an Italian flair to the dresses. After browsing English fabric styles of the day we agreed that putting a geometric pattern on top would tone down the Italian feel.
It took longer than one might think to mark everything with a yardstick.
We were limited on the fabric available, and it was already cut into two pieces. At the time of purchase I had gotten several yards, and Kate separately purchased what was left on the bolt.
Good thing I was drafting my own pattern, right? That sounds impressive, but I was using a shirt yoke pattern to start with, and from there it was an angled line to the floor. Sleeve openings were taken from the mirror of the sleeves I'd already made. The neckline would be turned out to help form the collar. The back and sides would have pleats.
I was used to working in miniature, so drafting wasn't that bad. I wasn't concerned with down-to-the-inch accuracy. Matching the pattern and direction of fabric was the hard part. But, in the end I had a little extra to use for Ryan and Xander's outfit!
You'll notice above the ribbon embroidery isn't in place yet. I got a little excited to see if my pattern would work. Kate and I agreed we were using Ina Garten as inspiration for the collar.
The lining of the coat was done all in a low quality Dupioni silk I found at a retailer online. I ordered the general off white color, which turned out very nice.
After I got the ribbon sewn on, but before I ironed the garment Kate saw it and said it looked like a quilted bedspread. She wasn't wrong. I'm glad the iron helped. Construction of a fully lined coat isn't too much different than a lined vest, and as a sewist who started in the '90s I was familiar with those!
Stay tuned for posts about the coif, hat, and finally everything all together!
Blue Bee 7
The base dress has finally come together!
Skirts are always stupidly easy, once I get the pleating right. In this case the width of the skirt was determined by two things: the circumference of the largest hoop, and how much fabric I had left over after cutting out sleeves and bodice.
Pleats really are the way to go when reducing the circumference around the waistline. They're more secure than gathers, and don't add as much bulk, which is important when your fabric has thickness like the blue linen.
In this dress the skirt has a waistband that is stitched to the bodice, making the whole thing detachable for cleaning or refitting.
And here's the back and side view of the dress so you can see the flaps at the waist. They're really just decorative. Forgive my lack of ironing of this fabric - there is a lot of it! I may need to invest in a steamer in the future.
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!