1570s Middle class


This is one of my most valuable costumes – the one that can
stand up to rain, mud, and the washing machine. The whole project started off
with a bad weather forecast, a terrifying vision of what rain would do to my
noble costume (I had been told I couldn’t prewash the fabric I had used for
that one, so I didn’t – now I know better!), 7 yards of $2/yard medium weight
cotton, a bottle of green dye, and the remains of an old leather coat, and was
completed in a week of after-work sewing. All things considered, it’s not half
bad. The idea was to make a costume that was quite firmly middle class. The
only pretensions involved are the scant use of black trim, and the feathers
in the hat.

The cotton was originally a color that could be accurately called,
‘camel spit khaki’, so it got dumped in the wash machine with a bottle of Rit
and came out a rather pleasant green. The trim on the bodice and down the front
of the skirt is dark brown leather, with flanged cording on either side. Around
the bottom of the skirt, I used a matching brown rayon blend with the same cord
treatment. (I ran out of coat.) The trim is sewn into the seams wherever is
is at an edge, and the rest of it is treated as an applique – there is a line
of stitching in the ditch between the cord and the leather holding everything
in place. When I originally drew it out, I had planned on running black soutache
braid back and forth over the leather, securing it in the cord, to form a latticework
surface texture, but I haven’t actually gotten to that yet. The bodice is front
opening, but it is cut on the straight of the grain in a more english fashion
than my noble gown. There is a shaping seam that runs from the armscye to back
waist on either side of the back. This is very period. I have piped it. This
is a little more questionable. The skirt ties down the front with about 7 sets
of ribbons. If you secure a skirt this way, you must wear petticoats.

The chemise opens down the front to create the effect of a partlet.
The ‘partlet’ is made of two pieces of wide eyelet skirt edging. This is as
close as you will ever see me get to the ‘flat white partlet’ school of thought.
The neck and cuffs are edged with box pleated eyelet lace with a strong triangular
trim. I used eyelet for both the partlet and the trim because I thought it looked
a bit like white work with pulled thread embroidery.

The hat is a rataffia model that assured me it could be bent,
folded, packed, or stomped on without coming to any harm. What the tag did not
say was that it starts to curl miserably when wet. Not a good feature in a rain
hat! The feathers are attached to a small piece of plastic canvas, which is
in turn pinned to the hat where I turned the brim up. I’m also wearing two pouches
– one is one of my needlepurse credit card holders done in brown leather. The
other is made from a pouch I found at a garage sale. It originally had a large
bronze setting for a stone that had long since vanished on top. I replaced this
with a little carved wood circle from Michael’s, and added a tassel to the bottom.
I wear very little jewelry with this costume – a silver broach at the top of
the bodice, my Friend of Faire pin, and the ring and necklace that I wear every
day.

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