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1570’s Noble

aka, the ‘Little’ Red Dress, Take 1

This is actually my faire costume from last year. (I had just
been running up and down stairs and doing a bit of ’emergency sewing’ for a
friend, and the ties holding my sleeves on had started to come undone, which
is why they are slipping a bit at the top.)

It is done in a dark red upholstery brocade. The forepart is
a large rose patterned cream jacquard. The skirt is cartridge pleated onto the
waistband. (I’m not wearing a bumroll here – the pleats really do stand out
a bit on their own!) It doesn’t show up well in this picture (scanned from a
polaroid), but the white bits on the bodice and down either side of the skirt
opening are white and gold patterned ribbons, with a rather ornate gold and
maroon trim on either side of the ones on the bodice. To collar on the partlet
is done with a matching white and gold ribbon. The small frill I’m wearing in
place of a ruff is tightly pleated and edged with pearls (okok, they’re fake).
The partlet itself is two layers of white transparent organza. (I actually wore
a necklace under it, but it is completely invisible in this picture.

The sleeves are detachable. They are made in four pieces each:
the main of the upper and lower arms, and the scalloped inset. The chemise puffs
through. There are a variety of pearl and metal buttons holding the sleeves
together – one at each juncture of the main sleeve and the inset. I hate sewing
buttons, and was running rather low on time, so they are safety pinned together
with the button threaded onto the pin between the pieces of fabric. (This is
likely not period, but it worked out rather nicely, and I get to change the
buttons whenever I feel like it.) The chemise sleeves are edged with a small
box pleat. There are small shoulder rolls above the sleeves, with puffs of gold
organza showing through.

The girdle I’m wearing is made of 8 gold filigree ovals, three with roughly
faceted red “jewels” and five with large oval “pearls”.
There is a small velvet purse at the bottom. The strands of pearls I am
wearing loop behind the bodice (where the sleeves tie in), and dangle.
I’m not sure how period this is, but I thought it looked cool. The hat
is a simple (and far too floppy) flat cap done in cut velvet. It has a
truly godawful gold filigree with pearls and peridots pendant over the
ends of the feathers. I’m also wearing a gold new caul edged in the heavier
gold/red trim from the bodice, but that doesn’t show here.

There are a bunch of things that I would do differently next time (I
can say this honestly because I am in the process of redoing most of this
outfit – I’ve redone the skirt, and am making a new bodice and sleeves
that I can wear with it, or mix and match with the existing ones, which
is quite period).

This was my first attempt at a real noble gown. it has some
construction problems, as I found out. First of all, the skirt is not flatlined.
Actually, it’s not even lined. I live in IL, and go to the Bristol faire. For
those of you not from this part of the country, we have this phenomenon called
‘wind’. It’s rather embarrassing when your otherwise nicely done overskirt blows
back at the corner to reveal the ugly flange of the piping you used and
the fact that your forepart is pinned onto the farthingale at the edges. (I
thought that wouldn’t show. Now I know better.) Also, I was attempting to be
‘period’ and used read basket caning for the boning in the farthingale. Don’t
do this.
The stuff has a mind of its own. The canes spontaneously shift
and the part of the farthingale flips up. If anyone else out there has gotten
this to work, you are a better costumer than I. Also, I used cheap satin ribbon
for the ties on the sleeves, and the knots were forever sliding apart. This
year, I will use something that can hold tight knots. My last complaint with
the outfit is that I was wearing a back closing corset, and a badly fitted one
at that. (I measured for it in a fit of optimism after a two week stomach flu.
Needless to say, having not kept much food down for that long, when I recovered
I was very hungry and those measurements quickly became obsolete. So it goes.
Make your corsets comfortable and adjustable and be very careful that they are
not too tall from waist to armscye.)

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