June 2015

Considering starting the blog back up ?

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Brown Florentine dress 1474-80

So my new re-enactment group have officially selected a date of 1480, with a research period of 1470-85, rather than ten years earlier (there’s not much change, just a whole lot more research available for the ladies) which means I can now use one of my favourite portraits as my main source of research, as it is smack bang in the middle of the period, not right at the end or after. This is the portrait:

It is of Ginevra de' Benci who was a Florentine noble woman, she was married in 1474 when she was 16. I have seen this painting dated at 1475, 1464-76, 1478-1480, 1476, 1474-78 etc, but you get the point, in the latter half of the 1470s, or sometime between 1474 and 1480. No matter what the date, it is perfect for our new time period! Yay! It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, you may have heard of him ;)
Now I think there aren’t half enough re-enactors wearing brown, orange, yellow etc, so when I was actually looking for silk and saw some brown linen while waiting at the registers to be served, I said “I’ll have that”When I started cutting the dress out the original plan was to have four panels 1 metre wide and 120cms long (the assumed fabric width) and use the half metre left over for bodice and sleeves (I had 4.5 metres). The panels would be cut into eight gores and attached bias edge to straight and box pleated.Then I measured my fabric, and it was 150cm wide- too long for a skirt, and I didn’t want to just cut 30cm off the hem, as a 4metre by 30cm strip of fabric isn’t useful for much except pouches… and that’s a lot of pouches!So I decided to cut panels 120 cm long, and use the width of the material as the width of the fabric. Of course, 4x1 metre goes into 4 metres far better than four 1.2 metre lengths! So I thought I would just make three panels and gore them to have six gores. Of course, the material wasn’t the sort that ripped!!! The huge t-square wasn’t where it lived, so I wasted a good 30cm of fabric trying to get a straight edge, until dad got the t-square from the old tv-box in the garage (NOT where it should have been). Now, I realised I wouldn’t QUITE have enough for the third panel, and I couldn’t cut it shorter, and I didn’t want to not have sleeves that matched. So I worked out that with the two panels I had 3 metres width of fabric (1.5+1.5 remember). I got my calculator and multiplied my underbust measurement by three, and ended up with 216, so if I were going to box pleat straight panels I would need almost a metre less than I had cut, wasting not only HEAPS of one panel, but almost another whole panel I had left in the material! So I multiplied it by five, and got 360. If I cut a third panel 60cm long, then took 30 cm off the end to make it 60 wide by 120 long, I could have enough to do stacked box pleats, and enough left for sleeves and ONE pouch! So this dress now has two straight panels 150cm wide and one panel that is 60 cm wide, that pleat down to 30cm, 30cm and 12cm which make 72cm of pleated skirt at the ‘waist’- just right! In reality the 60 cm panel will be cut 66cm, because the measurements don’t include seam allowance, and so the extra on this one will make up for the fact that I loose just under 2cm of fabric in each panel, and that I want the skirt to be slightly longer than 72cm so it can meet up and overlap slightly in the front rather than just stopping at the edges of the bodice, as there is a gap in the lacing. I then pleated one panel, remembered just as I finished I hadn’t hemmed it first, unpleated, hemmed the top, pleated it again, sewed the pleats down with a whip stitch along the top (which halved the thickness by compressing and holding things in place, and was smoother than the pins) and as I went I did a few stitches down the front of each pleat as an experiment- I like how that looks. I then hemmed one side, and hemmed half of the other side on the bus. My stacked box pleats are two inches wide, as I like the look of them. Here is a painting showing wide box pleats on a brown dress!

I didn’t get much more sewing done, as I had a museum display to finish for the new museum exhibit- and it was all a rush- it was finally all finished 30 seconds before the first people arrived for the opening on Friday night! Yes, really, We had just stuck a last sign up and had just picked up the paper from the double sided sticky-tape, and it was in my hand when we heard voices just outside asking if the museum was open or not. We heard a “not quite” and yelled back “yes”.On Saturday afternoon (day after the opening!) I sat down in front of the tv and the real version of Pride and prejudice- the BBC version.I make my bodices by cutting a lining the same size as the finished bodice piece (ie, without seam allowance) and the fashion fabric bigger. I then fold the outside fabric over the lining, and stitch it down. Then I used tiny whipstitches to attach the pieces together. This time I tried not clipping the seam allowance, except for the neckline as I heard it was possible to do with this technique and made the seams stronger. It works fine. So this is what I did, by the time the first disk was over, I had finished one front piece and one back, and sewn them together at the side and the top. I had also started on the other back piece, and it was half finished, and half sewn to the other back piece.On Sunday I had a meeting with my re-enactment group and I almost finished the bodice there, then I came home and put the last few lacing rings on, and started hemming the bottom edge. Since then I have finished the two big panels and whip stitched them to the bottom of the bodice. I have also started to put some red and gold trim (the 30 cents a metre one that looks for all the world like a five or seven loop finger braid gone wrong) and will also do a line of gold embroidery either side. The sleeves will be brown and partially sewn in. However if I find I am sewing them on, taking them off and re-sewing them on too much then I will just point them on or something.
This dress is entirely hand sewn, all visible sewing is done in silk thread (because it is a dream to work with, and because I wanted it to show a bit more), all unseen sewing is just done in synthetic thread (which was, as always, NOT a dream to work with, I didn’t have one tangle with the silk), I would have used all silk if I had enough.

So this is an in progress photo taken with my camera’s self timer. Better ones will follow when it is finished!


Constance said...


do you need to blue out the background of your photos. I know the pink bricks are not tooooo period but i would like to see the original photos all the same

Cathelina said...

The origional photos were taken in my bedroom- so no pink books- just pictures on my door and a whole lot of crap lying round!

Constance said...

Hey i've seen the mess... it's time the world saw the slum and sloth you call a bedroom.

Cathelina said...

I can't figure out how to add pictures to the end of an entry, they sit at the beginning anoying me, and being a pain to move. So I made a new entry for the new photos. And NOOO! the world can't see my bedroom. Never put on the net what you don't want on the front page of the paper