After all my planning and careful cutting there was actually a lot more to do on the bodice than I had remembered. I made this pattern once before, but without the black bands. Planning the project I knew putting the black bands in the skirt would be time consuming, but so was using heat activated fabric adhesive for other parts, not to mention boning, blah, blah.
At this point I wasn't taking so many pictures.
It took most of an evening to mark out the boning casing and decide what weight interfacing to use. Seriously! In the end I went with a few more pieces of boning than I was originally planning on and less interfacing.
Historically, Germans used reeds built into their bodices, so this is pretty close to accurate but with modern materials.
Also, behind the white interlining in the photo above is blue corduroy, which is what will actually be the lining.
You may be wondering where I got the bodice pattern. Well...there is a fabulous website for Elizabethan corset pattern generator linked here. They have everything from Tudor to Flemish pattern resources, which is fantastic! However, I didn't want the corset to be separate from the bodice. Additionally, I have used that corset generator. Elizabethans wanted to look like columns. Decidedly NOT comfortable for this squishy gal.
I'm not sure where I stumbled on it, but in looking for a different Renaissance pattern generator several years ago I found instructions for an Italian bodice pattern generator. This is what I used on the previous matching Italian inspired gowns, and my purple silk gown that everyone else insists is French. Not sure quite why - that wasn't my intent in making it! But I'll take the compliments.
Anyway - back to the generator. In the time between when I first found the website and now it has been taken down. Internet Archive to the rescue! The site was simple enough when built that the generator still works! Here is the archived link, long may it live! I've since used it on the Katie Bing dress with luck as well. It seems to work on plus-sized women better, which makes sense as Italian women of the period seem to be the most curvaceous in paintings.
The skirt did take a looooooong time as I suspected. I was chatting on the phone for part of the time and had to take out and redo about half of one stripe. They came up a little farther onto the skirt than in my sketch, but I was okay with this. I ended up using a bastardized version of box pleats on the waistline since that was the easiest to pin evenly. Believe me, I tried twice with the traditional pleats used on the underskirt before giving up. I will say, having a dress dummy to do pleats on is an absolute God-send. And, for the size it's surprisingly lightweight!
The last major, necessary piece to add were the sleeves. I needed fitted sleeves, but I didn't want to use a modern sleeve pattern with the seam in the underarm. My design had slashed sleeves from the elbow to wrist, and the chemise pattern I chose earlier had extra length to puff out.
After a Pinterest search I found a link to a lady who makes her own patterns for a medieval dress, including a back-seam close fitted sleeve that still fits when you bend your elbow! The pattern I first drafted on my measurements was about an inch too big all around, but I was comfortable with it for cutting out the fabric.
I decided to put an extra layer of interfacing at the top, make a button tab to affix it to the bodice at the shoulder, and I used the suggestion on that previously linked Italian gown construction website for the slashes in the lower sleeve. I didn't actually use the pattern there since it still had the underarm seam.
The whole sleeve was lined in white fabric. Ahem, excuse me: an old sheet. I created a simple bell-shaped cuff that is designed to go down over the top of the hand.
So, did my Franken-sleeve work?
The last addition was the belt and bag. I was super-relieved to see I had enough fabric for a small bag when I was done with everything else. However, I didn't like the bulbous looking traditional German Renaissance handbags, so I went with a very simplified version of a leather bag I had seen elsewhere. The bottom of my bag and the black closure is reinforced with 1/8 thick interfacing, and it has a loop to string it on the belt. Even if I use it for decoration only I'm happy with it!
And the belt... Originally I wanted a long leather loop closure belt. I even found some on Amazon, but at over $25 per belt I was feeling the budget finally kick me in the backside. Through some compromises I found two men's black leather belts at Walmart for around $10 each that would work. They wouldn't be as long as I wanted, but the look is still ok and it functions, so I'm happy.
I *was* congratulating myself on getting everything done, but then I remembered the hair covering, called the wulsthaube, and the over-veil called the steuchlein. Kate and I planned on making at least the wulsthaube out of whatever fabric is left over from making the chemise for the gowns she is working on. She's not so far along, so I have an excuse to not worry about this yet!
Instead I have started on her chemise that matches this dress. Since the fabric and style are the same up to the green silk I probably won't post any updates until hers is done. This weekend is state wrestling, and I hope to have a chemise to do the honeycomb smocking on while waiting in the stadium seats.
The next thing I was a bit nervous about with these dresses was how to divide up the green and black fabric for cutting.
Cutting for the underskirt really meant I needed to cut out the overdress at the same time, since the overdress had accent bands of black, and the underskirt would be cut from the remainders. But, those remainders had to utilize the green stripes at one end… And the overdress skirt, bodice, and sleeves would be out of the same green fabric so I had to cut the bodice and sleeves before praying there would be enough left for a full skirt.
Nail biting work, I tell you! But it all worked out!
The underskirt really was the work of only one evening. Sure, it’s pleated, but that’s not an even pleat. It won’t ever be seen. And the waistband has two ties sewn on to it for an adjustable waist measurement. I got more of a response on Facebook than I thought I would, and Ryan really loved the fabric. He asked if it was the main skirt…
As a side note, this black fabric is “art silk” instead of real silk. Meaning it’s polyester. This particular stuff is lightweight, but frays and fringes if you look at it sideways. I’ve had issues working with it this entire time. Totally NOT worth using again, even if I did save $20 overall in fabric costs for Kate and I. And, if I weren’t using a hoop skirt I would never let my legs sweat directly against this stuff.
Also, I accidentally turned my iron up to the “cotton” setting to get some fold marks out of the waistband material… and promptly melted about 6 inches of the waistband onto my iron. Fortunately it was 6 inches I didn’t need, but at the time I felt like crying!
The next post will be on to the bodice and overdress, which took 3 full days of an extended weekend.
I have a lot more to update than I realized… so I’m dividing the posts up. I also realized if I want to refer back to these it would be easier to divide things. So, on to part 2: the short chemise!
I wanted to try a short chemise ever since I heard of it on a little website called GermanRenaissance.net. I bought voile fabric since it was cheaper and easier to find in the fabric store than tissue-weight linen. We’ll see how a polyester/cotton blend holds up for a full day in costume.
Because I bought the fabric before seeing the pattern, AND the pattern is for upholstery sized fabric I had to do a little piecing at the bottom to get two chemises cut out without having to buy more.
I used fancy French seams and flat felled seams on most of it. Really, the serger would have been easier, but less durable. Of course, this turned a simple one-evening worth of work into two, as French or flat-felled seams take double the sewing and ironing time.
After the seams comes what I had been dreading for a while: learning how to smock a piece of fabric. The instructions online seemed overwhelming, and the examples of fancy work I had seen looked incredibly time consuming. Here goes nothing!
The honeycomb smocking was so soft against my neck. I was surprised at how easy it was! Sure, the marking took a while, but I completed the neck smocking in one evening. More complicated smocking leaves the pleats together and a pattern is sewn on top in place of the even green stitches, but who has time for that? Smocking has been called "Renaissance elastic" and it does work a bit like gentle elastic. Neat-O!
I could finally put a piece of the costume on my dress dummy! Sure, she was a little risque with how thin the fabric was, and her hoop skirt is in a fun print, to say the least. But progress! I was thrilled!
On to the underskirt next!
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!