Late 18th century stays

I finished my first piece for an 18th century wardrobe last weekend. Green linen front-lacing stays.

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This also means I finally have some sewing which fits in with the Historical Sew Monthly again, as the theme for Febuary is Under! So the stats:

The Challenge: Under
Material: Green & plain colored linen, leather chamois for binding
Pattern: American Duchess Simplicity front-lacing stays
Year: (the year the item represents, not the year you made it) ca. 1780s
Notions: Synthethic whalebone boning & twill tape
How historically accurate is it? Reasonably. Materials are pretty close, synthethic whalebone is obviously synthethic, but close to whalebone in behavior. The boning channels were stitched by machine, as were the seams between panels. Everything else was hand-sewn.
Hours to complete: I’m very bad at keeping track…
First worn: Today, for pictures
Total cost: Most of the materials were already in stash, so no clue…

The story & construction:

Somewhere last year I got the Simplicity patterns from their first collaboration with American Duchess. Not for any specific project, but they were on sale at that time and I figured they might come in handy at some point.

Simplicity Pattern 8162 Misses' 18th Century Undergarments

I particularly liked that they included front-lacing stays, which is convenient when one needs to dress oneself. After I made my green medieval kirtle, I had some green linen left, and decided green stays would be a nice plan.

They’re rarer than some other colors, but they definitely do exist. The only disadvantage of my green linen is that it does stain a bit, so the inside of my future 18th century clothes might turn somewhat green. I’m not too bothered by that to be honest, the outside will be fine anyway.

 

Corset Date: ca. 1780 Culture: American Medium: wool, leather, linen, reeds Dimensions: Length at CF: 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm) Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of E. A. Meister, 1950 Accession Number: 2009.300.3100a, b

Ca. 1780 green wool stays, from the MET

 

I did the mock-up and main construction of my stays somewhere last year before the summer. They then got put on hold a bit, as I had absolutely no plans for an 18th century outfit yet, and I did have other stuff I wanted to make and also wear first.

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Planning out the boning channels

 

After the summer, I very briefly picked up the project again to do some embroidery. I was inspired by a couple of different stays which have some ‘swirly’-type embroidery on them, which I thought was very interesting. I have no idea how common this embroidery actually was, or if it was a regional thing (northern European?), but I decided to go with it.

My main inspirations were this pair for the ‘waves’:

Cotton corset (with wood  boning) 1780s–90s, European - in the Metropolitan Museum of Art costume collections. (Would be relatively easy to take a pattern from this photo!)

European, 1780s–90s, MET museum

And this one for the little ‘leafs’ on the back:

Stays - norway Fun embroidery in the back

Norwegian, from the Glomdalsmuseet

 

My interpretation:

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Swirlies on the front, leaf style in the back, both between the boning channels

 

After the embroidery, the project got put on hold again, this time for the 1660s and 1880s ensembles. Beginning of this year, after I finished my 17th century shift, it was finally time to go back to them!

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I used German synthetic whalebone.

 

I sewed in facings for the eyelets, and then the eyelets themselves. After that I covered the seams with narrow tape.

 

At this point, it was time for binding! I used leather chamois (from the local supermarket), which worked really well! A thimble was definitely good to have, but no pliers necessary and the chamois curved and stretched nicely.

 

 

 

The final step was lining the whole thing. I’m often a bit too lazy to pretty up the insides, but I hope this will increase their longevity!

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For straps, I decided to take inspiration from the new American Duchess stays pattern. It uses twill tape straps, which cross in the back and attach to hooks in the front, inspired by this original:

Stays, 1785-90, M969X.26

1785-1790. (c) McCord Museum. (And look: more twirlies!)

 

This method held appeal for several reasons. It helps you hold your shoulders back, which I can use some help with. It also gives a relatively narrow strap which lies wide on the shoulder (to the outside), good for not poking out under necklines, and it’s very easily adjustable.

I tea-dyed the tapes first, as they were bright white at first. Left original, right dyed version.

 

This is what they look like completed!

 

Some details

 

The only disadvantage of the straps is that they partly cover up the back embroidery. Ah well.

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To finish up, some more pictures of the stays on me!

In retrospect, they are just a little short on me. I didn’t make a boned mock-up, so that’s entirely my own fault. I did learn later this pattern runs a little short in general (too late, obviously), so if you’re also working on it that’s good to double check.

All in all, I’m not too bothered by it, as the shift keeps stuff in place well enough in my case.

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Pattern weights

Last September I visited Scotland, in particular the islands of Mull and Skye. Of course, Scotland is renowned for it’s wool, so when I saw a sign ‘Wool mill’ along the road on Mull, I followed it. Around the corner, along the road, down another turn, way down the road again, but eventually I did indeed find the Ardalanish wool mill.

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Pretty Mull

 

There were two main buildings to visit, one where the weaving happened and one with the shop. I first spend quite some time with the lady working on fabrics. She was checking one of the wool pieces for snapped threads, which were than woven back in by hand. They had tree old weaving looms in the space, and she told me a lot about their process, which was very interesting. This mill is on an estate, using the wool from their own sheep, as well as other wool from the island. They do most of the process in-house (all except spinning I believe), including any dyeing, which is done with home-grown natural dyes.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the mill, so some more pictures of sheep instead. As many Scottish islands, Mull has a lot of sheep.

 

Of course, after that I also had a good browse through their little shop. Aside from the fabrics, they also sold wool yarn and loads of little and bigger things made from their products. Scarfs, blankets, mitts, etc. In the end though, I bought a little package of fabric scraps. These were left-over from the things that ended up in the shop, and this allowed me to buy a range of little fabric scraps from different tweeds.

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I kept them in my closet for a while, but last week I stumbled along a tutorial for pattern weights, and thought this would be a perfect use for them! Something you actually use, for which you need only a very small amount of fabric.

There are loads of tutorials for pattern weights, I followed this one.

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I had to piece some scraps to get them in the right shapes, but that worked out fine. I also kept some of the selvedge markings, as I thought that added a nice touch about the origin of the fabric (and some scraps would’ve been to small without). Two weights are also a little smaller than the others due to fabric size, which works out okay for smaller pattern pieces.

After that, the process was quite simple. I filled mine with rice, and then sewed shut the final opening by hand.

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And then they were done! I’m really happy with my new pattern weights, the fabrics are so beautiful, and they work very well together as a set.

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An oorijzer

A little while ago, I bought an old oorijzer online (more about what that is here).

This is what mine looks like

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You see them for sale regularly, but they’re generally the most ‘modern’ incarnation of an oorijzer, as worn with traditional clothing. These types of oorijzers are also generally very expensive, as there can be quite a bit of gold and silver in them.

 

FolkCostume: Costume of Fryslân or Friesland, land of the West Frisians, the Netherlands

Some of them are practically solid gold helmets.

 

The oorijzer I bought caught my interest as it was brass (so: affordable), and it was both narrow, and didn’t have any ‘attachments’ to the front. These attachments are practically always present on oorijzers from the 18th century onward. As I bought it I had some hope it’d actually be a 17th century one, but alas, it shows signs of breakage at the front. So it did have something attached to the front. I suspect this was silver of gold, and simply removed to be sold separately.

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Damage on the ends, Something was attached here…

Oorijzer gedragen door vrouw of meisje in Axelse streekdracht. Zilveren beugel met roodgouden krullen. De krullen hebben 4 windingen. 1899 #Axel

An example of an oorijzer of silver, with golden tips.

 

As mine doesn’t have a maker’s mark, it’s practically impossible to determine the age. The example above is made in 1899, while the one below is from 1640. See the difficulty? The basic shape stayed almost exactly the same in some areas of the country.  Dating happens based on the maker’s mark, and the attachments to the front, both of which are missing.

vroeg oorijzer met vogelkopuiteinde, ca. 1640 17de eeuws oorijzertje van metaal. Bodemvondst uit Rotterdam. Smal beugeltje dat om het achterhoofd sluit, boven de oren met een knik naar voren valt, zodat de uiteinden op de wangen rusten. In de uiteinden drie gaatjes en twee aangesoldeerde bewerkte stukken met een oogje. #ZuidHolland #Rijnmond

An early oorijzer from ca. 1640.

 

Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with my oorijzer. Without the attachments at the front, it really does look and work like a late 16th/early 17th century one would. It has got the little holes on the ends (for pinning your cap in place). Most of the 16th century oorijzers don’t have that second feature, but other than that they actually look really similar to mine. Plus, the holes come into play in the 17th century at some point, as the previous one shows.

Oorijzer, vermoedelijk laatste kwart 16de eeuw

1575-1600

 

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A slightly clearer view of the tips, including three little holes for the pins.

 

Most oorijzers of that period don’t really show, only maybe sometimes the ends. They’re very much useful items at this point in time, they serve to keep your headwear in place.

This is a rare period view of an oorijzer without a cap.

 

This invisibility also means I could use mine for the same purpose! Many of the different types of headwear in the Netherlands in this era require an oorijzer to look good. As I now own one, that opens up new possibilities. I don’t have any concrete plans, but I definitely want to make something to wear my oorijzer with some day!

To end this post, some lovely images depicting women wearing oorijzers with different caps. No, you mostly cannot see them, but look for how the cap sits very closely to the cheekbones, sometimes almost pressing into the cheeks? That effect is nearly impossible to achieve without an oorijzer. As we know they were worn widely during this era, I feel safe to say that they are in fact wearing one.

A simple black coif.

Reynier Hals, Woman with Needlework, ca. 1665. Frans Hals Museum #franshalsmuseum #haarlem #art

 

And a simple white coif, this time you see the oorijzer sticking out.

File:Wenceslas Hollar - Young Negress 2.jpg  another 1640s image that gets to live here for now...

 

A more complex cap.

Detail of the painting of Lady Governors of the St. Elisabeth Hospital at Haarlem, 1641.  By Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Frans Hals Museum Haarlem.

 

In this one, the compression in the cheeks is very visible. You cannot see the oorijzer, but you see the earrings. These would commonly be attached to the oorijzer instead of the ears, as you cannot see those.

The Ultimate One Pattern Piece Project: Elizabethan Coif | The ...

 

Somewhat more fancy still. No oorijzer visible, but the cap is hugging the head.

Portrait of a Young Woman | Royal Collection Trust

 

I have many, many more examples on my pinterest here.

 

Round gown inspiration

One of my most concrete plans for 2018 is to make an 18th century round gown. As this is my first round gown, and simultaneously my first 18th century dress, I’ve been doing some visual research (aka: spend too much time on pinterest).

One of my favorite round gowns, and one of the inspirations to use damask for my own project. (Mine will be silver, as that’s what I have. This green is stunning though!)

Round gown, American, ca. 1775. Metropolitan Museum of Art Popular around the 1770s through late 18th century, the round gown was similar to the robe a l'anglaise. It is not an open robe but rather the skirt and petticoat are as one. The gown has a front-closing bodice with no stomacher.

 

First, a brief definition. (I’m not a terminology expert, nor an 18th century expert, but this is what I believe ’round gown’ is mostly used for.) Quite simply put: a round gown is a dress with a full (’round’) skirt, of which the front is not attached to the bodice. You might say: don’t all dresses have a full skirt? But in the 18th century, most dresses were actually open in front, and had a (sometimes matching, sometimes not) petticoat underneath which shows in the front. The round gown is an exception to this ‘rule’. A round gown is different from most ‘later’ styles of dresses, in that he bodice is attached only to the back of the skirt, while the front of the skirt has ties and is attached underneath the front bodice with ties. The sides of the skirts have slits to allow for getting into the skirt. I’m using the term as applied to 1770’s and 1780’s gowns mostly, as the changing fashions in the 1790’s also seem to broaden the definition of the term.

Because pictures are clearer than words sometimes. This is a round gown:

Brown Cotton Round Gown from the Blog, Slightly Obsessed. http://slightly-obsessed.blogspot.com/

A bit difficult to see, but there’s no separate petticoat. This image shows how the front of the skirt is not attached to the bodice, while the back is.

Around and about ROCOCO 1780 Closed dress, cotton. Private collection.

 

I’ve seen examples of round gowns both with a pleated back (pleats stitched down), or with the (later) seamed back style. For my own dress, I’ll probably go with the seamed back, as that’s quite a bit easier to do.

Time for some more inspiration! Most round-gowns are relatively simple trim-wise, and there’s quite a number of chintz examples.

Gown, blue floral pattern on cream ground. Copperplate printed linen. Worn by Deborah Sampson, possibly as her wedding dress. Date: 1760-1790

Textiles (Clothing) - Dress, 1785-1795

 

One of my all-time favorite dresses is this red-ground chintz one.

Japon. Het japonlijf heeft een vierkante hals. Twee platte plooien lopen over de schouder langs de voorpanden en verdwijnen in de rok. Het lijfje heeft vestpanden die gesloten worden met haken en ogen met overdwars een split even in de taille. Vanaf de hals middenachter een brede aangehechte platte plooi die puntig toeloopt en in één stuk is geknipt met de rok. De mouwen zijn glad en uit één stuk tot op de elleboog en hebben een geplooid elleboogstukje...1780 - 1785

 

There’s also patterned silks. This is another fancy silk example.

eMuseum - View Media

 

And a ‘plain’ silk one. I love the styling with the belt on this one, and I’m thinking of adding one to my dress as well!

Levite or round gown, The Netherlands, 1780-1800. Sky blue silk taffeta with a light blue silk sash.