The 1660’s dress in action! New-year’s ball in Ghent

Last weekend I wore the full 1660’s ensemble for the first time! Although I’d been looking at this period for longer, the theme of this years new-years ball in the opera of Ghent was the perfect excuse to actually start. The theme was inspired by the early days of Versailles, and was 1660 to 1715, so I was one of the ‘old fashionably’ dressed. There were a couple more beautiful 1660’s gowns, but also some wonderful late 17th century ones, which was nice as it’s not a style to see too much.

We arrived in Ghent early afternoon, had some lunch and then went to the hotel to change. Luckily, we had quite some space and very good mirrors in the room, which really helped with changing. Doing some last-minute sewing, hair, and actually getting dressed took some time, and we were ready just in time for the ball!

My hair was inspired by these images:

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I curled the front of my hair with rags, put in the evening before the ball. As it looks quite ridiculous with the rags in, I wore a vintage-style most of the day. Perfect for hiding curlers! I’m really happy with how my hair turned out, a big thanks to Josselin for helping me, as it did require more than 2 hands!

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The ball itself was very nice, with quite a lot of dancing. There was a dance room, a room to sit and one where you could get drinks. Other than the dancing, there was not much in terms of entertainment and there was no food, but given the price of the evening I expected this, and I wanted to dance anyway. There was also a small baroque-dance demonstration at the end, which was very nice to see.

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Watching the demonstration

 

The building was really beautiful, and fit in perfectly with the dress code. Thanks to Josselin for these images, as I forgot my pocket and left my phone in my bag most of the evening…

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All in all, I had a lot of fun, and will definitely keep an eye out for next year’s theme!

The pictures of the full outfit!

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17th century shift

Although I finished my 1660s gown nicely on time in 2017, the outfit wasnt’t quite complete yet. Most importantly, I still needed a shift!

In many 1660’s portraits, you see large white ‘under’ sleeves beneath the bodice sleeves, which are (I suspect) usually the sleeves of the shift. Additionally, you often get a bit of white fabric above the neckline of the bodice. Again, probably usually the shift.

Although you see many different styles, both in neckline and undersleeve, this was the look I was going for.

Caspar Netscher The lady at the window (1666, Heydt Museum Wuppertal)

Caspar Netscher The lady at the window (1666, Heydt Museum Wuppertal)

 

So a large pouf with a ruffle beneath the sleeve, and a thin white band above the neckline.

Just in comparison, some of the other styles I found.

Many Dutch portraits show the more ‘modest’ (protestant?) look with narrow sleeve cuffs and/or a large lace collar. I might try my hand at these as well some time, but for the ball I wanted a more ‘evening’ look.

Portret van een jonge vrouw, Isaack Luttichuys, 1656 - Rijksmuseum

Portret van een jonge vrouw, Isaack Luttichuys, 1656 – Rijksmuseum

 

You also sometimes see a clear ruffle above the neckline, instead of just a narrow band.

c. 1668 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90) by Peter Lely

c. 1668 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90) by Peter Lely

 

Additionally, some sleeves seem to be gathered up and pinned, instead of having the ‘pouf’. You also see some sheer fabric in the necklines, which is different from the sleeves. I suspect these are separate and draped on top, although I’m by no means an expert.

Diary of a Mantua Maker: 1670s Gown

Margaretha Van Raephorst by Johannes Mijtens, 1668

 

Basically the main conjecture for shifts seems to be: gathered neckline, with or without extra ruffle, and long wide sleeves, either pinned up or gathered into a pouf. The portraits showing ladies in their underwear seem to confirm this.

Two portraits of Nell Gwyn. The first shows the gathered strip at the neckline.

Nell Gwyn, was a long-time mistress of King Charles II of England. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella.

Portrait of Nell Gwyn.
Painting by Sir Peter Lely

 

This second one is just gathered at the top.

Nell Gwyn (v 1680) by Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

Nell Gwyn (v 1680) by Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

 

In the end, I chose to base my shift on the one made by Before the Automobile. I liked her method of seamless gores, and it ticked also the boxes of having a pouf sleeve (although I made mine slightly longer) and a band at the neckline.

I sort-of measured the neckline to get the width of the finished shift, and cut my pieces about 2x as wide to allow for gathering. The shift is about 1m long from the neckline down. The eventual pattern pieces about these sizes: Front: 75 wide, 100cm long. Back: 75 wide, 105cm long, Sleeves: 60 wide, 50 long, Gussets: 13×13, Gores: 70 wide at the bottom, length to fit with front & back.

Before any gathering. The back is slightly higher than the front.

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I sewed most of the shift by machine as I wanted to finish it in a day. I might go back and hand-finish the seams from the inside.

The sleeves were hemmed with a small hand-sewn hem-stitch though, as these will show underneath the dress. (I need to iron them I see…)

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Some more pictures (apologies for the grainy quality, I won’t have any opportunities to take pictures with daylight for 2 weeks, so it was dark when I took these).

The gathering on the neckline and sleeve.

 

Left is the view from under the arm, from the side. The gusset is inserted into the gore, which is cut open, and then attached to the sleeve. And left is the finished shift!

 

 

1660’s skirt & full ensemble pictures

The skirt for the 1660’s dress was quite a bit simpler to make than the bodice. The skirts of this period are basically rectangles pleated to fit a waistband, so no tricky patterning there. The main question was: how wide should my hem be?

I looked at some other costumers for information, as the book I based the bodice on didn’t have a matching skirt in it. Some very helpful blog posts were by the Dreamstress, Before the Automobile and Demode. From their research I found that skirts are typically between 115″ and 150″ wide, so between 2,9m and 3,8m. My problem now was that I wanted to use full widths of my fabric, and have a very full skirt. With 1,5m wide fabric, that meant choosing between a 3m or 4,5m wide hem. The 3m would probably be more historically accurate, but with my very fancy gold fabric, I didn’t want to have a relatively narrow skirt. So in the end, I went with a 4,5m wide hem. A little wide, but the fabric is quite lightweight for the period, so it doesn’t look too much to my eye.

After sewing the 3 skirt panels together, leaving a slit center back, it was time for pleating. There’s some debate on whether skirts of this period are cartridge pleated, or knife pleated. I believe the main consensus is that they’re probably very wide cartridge pleats, folded to one side so they look like knife pleats. The extra threads of the cartridge pleating hold them in place though.

I opted for slightly narrower pleats, mostly because I had to fit 4,5m to my waistband, which was quite a lot. The cartridge stitches are 1cm wide, and I made 4 rows to about 10cm deep. I cheated slightly on the markings, and omitted those. Instead, I marked my finger and then stitched the next rows in the same place by eye. Not quite as neat as marking, but a lot less work.

Black marks the width, red the height for the first row.

 

Pulling the pleats in is one of the fun bits!

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I first bound the inside of the pleats to a piece of linen tape, to hold them in place. After that the waistband was stitched on, pushing the pleats to lie (somewhat) flat towards the back.

The inside, with tape to keep the pleats in place (left), and stitching the waistband on (right)

 

The hem was faced with grey linen I had in my stash.

I have one little pieced bit of hem on my skirt, underneath the lace. This was a measuring mistake on my part, where I thought I could cut more than I could in reality. I started with two coupons of 3m of fabric, and with piecing I could leave myself with one piece of about 2m, instead of two pieces of 1m. So I chose to mend the little ‘gap’, and as it’s underneath the lace, it barely shows.

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The top part of the lace in this picture will be the hem, so all of the piecing is covered in the end.

 

All the lace was stitched on first, and then the hem facing and waistband were added. The stitching only shows on the inside where there’s a single layer of fabric. I used the same netting as for the bodice, and the scalloped trim I also put on the sleeves. The other (prettier) scalloping I used on the bodice I only had a little off, so barely enough for the bodice alone. But despite the different laces, I think it works pretty well!

There are 6 ties on the inside. 2 are actually near the front, on the sides of the ‘flat’ piece. This is the only part of the skirt to go under the bodice, and in this way you can tie that part in place, then put on the bodice, and afterwards tie the rest of the skirt. I got the idea from Demode’s blog, who in turn looked at these pictures of the Bath dress, taken by Cathy Hay. (This is why I love the online community). The other 4 ties are in the back, I made 4 so the back might overlap a bit (difficult with 2 ties center back).

Above: putting the front ties on, below is a look from the inside of the skirt.

 

I also made a bum roll to go underneath, and a grey linen petticoat, following this great tutorial. The grey linen was originally intended for something medieval, but no concrete plans. So I used most for the petticoat, and the rest to bind the hem of the skirt. Stashbusting!

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The bum roll, it’s almost a croissant!

 

The skirt finishes off the look! So some pictures of the whole dress, only lacking a chemise now.

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More pictures!

And some details

 

1660’s bodice – Finished!

The 1660’s dress is done!

Well, nearly done, because I’m skipping the lining of the bodice for now, as I also still need to make a shift, and the ball is in two weeks. First up, construction of the outer layer and the sleeves! (scroll to the end for pretty pictures).

When I left off in the previous post, the foundation of the bodice was done. The silk outer layer is attached to the foundation piece by piece, by hand. It’s also not patterned the same as the outer layer, so the first thing I did was compare where the new seams would be on the foundation pieces, and draft the pattern on top of the foundation. A lot easier than adapting the pieces first time around, as I now had the foundation to start from! I also put a cotton layer between the foundation and the silk, to get some extra ‘padding’ to hide the boning. Cotton is not period, but I didn’t have linen thin enough laying around, and my goal was that all visible parts would look period, and you can’t see this layer anyway. The original bodice did not have a layer of interfacing like this everywhere, but did have paper in places. I’ve no clue what type of paper would be best, so I used cotton.

Cutting the silk was terrifying by the way.

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The first piece that was attached was the side back piece. It was also the most difficult piece, as the foundation has a little gore between two of the tabs, yet the outer layer has not.

The book described how the outer layer was basted in place first with pad stitches, before being stitched down, so I did that for this piece. Took time, but helps in getting it to lay flat.

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After the basting, it was stitched in place around the edges and around the tabs.

Next up was the side front piece. For this one (and the others) I skipped the basting. Instead, I pinned the silk over the foundation while it was on my dummy, so it would follow the right curve. I kept most of the pins in while stitching the edges in place, which was a challenge as they were sticking out straight in the back. Yes, I pricked myself regularly.

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The edge next to the side back was cut to size (as I’d cut the pieces quite large), folded over and top stitched.

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For the front piece the process was slightly different. The sides were folded over first and stitched in place, before attaching it to the bodice.

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This is done because the lace is attached to the silk before being stitched to the bodice. I used antique metallic lace, a combination of netting and a scalloped lace. The cords are modern, but I wasn’t counting on getting lucky enough to also find golden metallic cord.

The netting was stitched on first, two rows down the center and along the edges.

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After that the scallops came on, and finally the cord was stitched along the edges. I really love the depth of combining the lace like this.

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The front piece was then attached as a whole. The back piece was stitched on much like the others, seams folded back along the side back seam and top stitched. Center back it was turned around the edge and prick stitched in place so that the space for the eyelets was secure. I forgot to take pictures at this stage….

I did take pictures of making the eyelets though! I also calculated that these took about 10 hours in total. I spaced them quite closely, as I find that eyelets spaced too far apart really look too modern.

It’s a bit of a pain to do so many.

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But so worth it.

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The top edges of the back of the bodice was finished by turning the silk in between itself and the foundation, and stitching it in place. Possible as the top of the foundation was already bound. The front wasn’t, so there the top was folded over to the inside and stitched in place there. The raw edges will eventually be covered by the lining.

Then it was time to trim the back! Again I used a combination of netting, scallops and cord. This time it was stitched on through all layers.

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Final thing on the main bodice was to bind the tabs! The original used a silk ribbon, I chose just to use strips from the silk fabric. This was my first time binding tabs, and they’re not the prettiest thing, but as they’ll be worn inside the skirt I’m okay wit that. You can also see quite clearly which side I did first (left image). I did get better (right image)!

 

Bodice done, right? Except the sleeves, which I’d put off slightly… I made a rough mock-up by making a cotton sleeve and fitting that, to see if I could use the original size sleeve without alterations. Turned out I was rather restricted in my movement, but that was wholly due to the strap being quite low on the shoulder, the sleeve was fine.

The little sleeve-wings were made first, 2 layers of linen, covered in silk, covered in netting.

The sleeves themselves are made of silk, with a cotton lining, and a layer of heavy linen partly covering the top. This linen mostly helps to fill out the cartridge pleats. The sleeves were trimmed with one side seam sewn.

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Inside stitch lines, also showing where the layer of linen stops.

 

After that came stitching the other side seam, and then the cartridge pleating, and pleating and binding the bottom. After pleating, they were attached to the bodice. The shoulder wings I attached after I did the sleeves to get the placement right, and the finial step was to trim the bottom of the sleeve.

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Almost ready to be attached! Left is already pleated, right not yet.

 

And now it’s done! This took so much hand sewing fiddling, pricking in my fingers etc. I’ts probably the most labour-intensive thing I’ve ever made, definitely the most structured. I learnt a lot making it though, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. The materials are gorgeous (still so happy with my metallic lace!), and with the heavy boned interior I think it really gets the look of the period right.

So, time for pretty pictures!

From the front:

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And a slight angle

 

I also love how the back came out.

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And some details:

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I’ve put the bodice over my new petticoat in these pictures. The skirt is also done, but deserves it’s own post (this one is getting way too long), so that’ll follow shortly!

 

 

1660’s bodice – foundations

I’ve gotten quite a long way on my 1660’s dress, and the base of the bodice is nearing completion. Time for a blog post about the interior, as it’s quite interesting on it’s own!

Although stays were already worn in the 17th century, the particular type of bodice I’m making does not need stays. Instead, the bodice itself is heavily boned to provide the support.

I started making my bodice with the guidance of the book Seventeenth Century Women’s dress patterns. It shows close-ups, an x-ray picture (to see the boning), patterns and full construction notes for every original garment. I based my bodice on this one from the book.

Pale-coloured silk satin bodice, 1660-1669, V&A. Decorated with parchment lace. The boned foundations is made from twelve pattern pieces, reinforced at places with up to three extra layers of linen. The middle side panel is unboned but stiffened with buckram and wool and may be a later addition to increase the size...

 

I made some changes to construction though, mostly because I machine-sewed the parts I could without it showing on the outside. I also didn’t always add every extra layer of linen. The original has loads of little extra pieces stitched in in places, and most of those I left out.

While the outer layer was attached entirely by hand, the foundation is therefore not constructed in a historical accurate way, just as a disclaimer.

First step was adapting the pattern. I’d scaled it up, but made it a bit too big, so had to take it in again. I also took away most of the bust curve in front as I didn’t need it, and I lowered the neckline. Many 17th century bodices are quite low, with maybe a shift on top to make them a bit more modest.

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Copying the pattern to cm grid so I could scale up to my full size cm gridded pattern paper.

 

Not necessarily too modest though.

Gerard Soest (1600-1681) Portrait of a Lady seated at a table with a jewel casket

Because I don’t think this one could’ve been much lower…

 

Being rather small on top, that means I could cut it lower than the original. I also changed the angle of the straps slightly so they would still lay over the shoulder okay.

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2nd mock-up. With a busk for fitting purposes.

 

After fitting, it was time to start the sewing! I used sturdy linen for the foundation. Every piece has 2 layers of linen. First step was drawing the boning channels on top, trying to follow both the original lines and accounting for different pattern shapes and bone width.

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Sewing the boning channels took some time, even by machine. I respect those who do this by hand.

One piece in the original is unboned, and instead stiffened by extra layers of linen buckram and wool. I used coutil because I didn’t have buckram (I know cotton coutil isn’t period), and some leftover wool from another project. Those layers were pad-stitched together for extra support.

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After that, I sewed all pieces together, again by machine.

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The trickiest part was a little gusset added between two of the tabs, for a little extra flare. It worked quite well on the body! It’s just sewn in by laying it next to the foundation and sewing it together. Both sides will be covered anyway, by lining or outer layer.

 

After that I put the boning in, I could still reach most places after construction. The only construction done after the boning was the strap, as that closes off the channels. I used 5mm wide German synthethic whalebone for this project. I’d gotten a 25m roll, and after my 1880’s corset and this bodice I had 2cm left over… Suffice to say you need a lot of meters for continuous boning like this!

 

The foundation layer also has a pocket for the busk. This was gone in the original, but is there in most other examples of such bodices. It’s basically a strip of linen sewn to the inside, and a pocket at the tip.

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Insides. All seams are stitched down, necessary because the linen is so thick it doesn’t lay nicely flat otherwise.

 

The final step of the foundation was to bind the bottom of the front panels, and the top of the back panels. These are the places where the allowance of outer layer will be turned in between the layers and sewn down. (The bottom of the back panels will be bound all layers together, the top of the front will be finished by turning the allowance of the outer layer to the inside around the linen.

 

That finished the foundation! It already looks really great, the most annoying thing at this point was not being able to try it on yet. The eyelets are sewn through the outer layer as well, so no way to close it yet until those layers are on and all eyelets are in.

At the moment I’ve only got a little bit of trimming and sleeves to do, so when those are done I’ll show the bodice with the golden silk and trim on top!

 

Entering the 17th century

Those who follow my instagram account might have already seen that I’m currently working on a gown from ca. 1660.

This project started with a ball. There’s a yearly new-years ball in Gent, in the opera there. I’ve been wanting to go for a while but timing has been off (I was on holiday last year). This year I was talking with another costumer about it and we decided to go! Last years theme was 19th century, but this year it’s going back in time. Inspired by Versailles, the dress code is now 1660 – 1715.

So that means I need a new dress! I’ve decided to go for the early limit of the dress code, as I’d been looking at 1660’s fashions for a bit longer and those are best represented in research as well. As often happens, I started with looking for fabric. I wanted real silk, but keeping it affordable means searching for bargains and that often means picking from whatever happens to be available.

I got really lucky with fabric, and found a golden upholstery silk with a pattern quite suitable for the era. When I got it the color was absolutely stunning. It’s a bit of an ‘older’, antique golden color. What’s even better, it goes perfectly with the antique metallic lace I found a little while back.

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The materials decide the style in this case, and I decided to go for a style that would fit with lace trimming. Lucky for me, many of the existent 1660’s bodices have lace trim and work very well with my materials.

To help with the patterning and construction I also got a new book, seventeenth century women’s dress patterns (part II). It’s absolutely brilliant, showing close up pictures of both inside and outside the garments, x-rays that show the boning, patterns for both exterior and foundation layers and full construction notes.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor seventeenth-century women's dress patterns book 2

 

Even better, it has all of that for this 1660-1670 bodice:

Pale-coloured silk satin bodice, 1660-1669, V&A. Decorated with parchment lace. The boned foundations is made from twelve pattern pieces, reinforced at places with up to three extra layers of linen. The middle side panel is unboned but stiffened with buckram and wool and may be a later addition to increase the size...

 

So that’s the base for my pattern. The skirt will be a pleated rectangle, so doable without any patterning.

For the rest of this post: some more pictures of what I’m going for, as inspiration!

One other dress in this style is the silver tissue gown I saw in Bath last year. So stunning in person.

Ca. 1660 silver tissue dress with parchment lace. Fashion museum Bath

 

I love this painting as well, as it shows the combination of patterned gold silk with lace.

Knallhattens osorterade tankar: Sveriges vackraste porträtt

Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie with his spouse Maria Eufrosyne of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, the sister of King Charles X of Sweden. Painting from 1653 by Hendrik Munnichhoven

 

It’s a style you see quite a lot in Dutch paintings. You do get quite some differences between countries the further back you go in history, and I like the idea of making something that could’ve been worn in the Netherlands.

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Bartholomeus van der Helst: Abraham del Court and his Wife, 1654

 

American Duchess:Historical Costuming | Historical Costuming and sewing of Rococo 18th century clothing, 16th century through 20th century, by designer Lauren Reeser

Bartholomeus van der Helst, Jeanne Parmentier, 1656

 

All of the above show thin linen or lace collars, but you also see what’s more like a thin linen shift above the dress. This is probably what I’ll go for as well for the ball, as it feels a bit more like evening wear.

Isaack Luttichuys   Datering   ca. 1660 (1655 - 1665)  Titel  Portrait of a lady with a fan

Isaac Luttichuys, ca. 1660

 

Details of Dutch fashion of 1658 include a string of pearls tied with a black ribbon, a jack-bodice with matching skirt, pleated sleeves, and dropped shoulder.

Mieris Frans, Duet, 1658

 

At this point I’m done with the foundation layer of linen and boning, and ready to start patterning the top silk layer!