I had this horrible, recurring experience with some of my oldest costumes: I’d put a zillion hours worth of work into making something, right, and lace myself into a corset to make me skinnier, and put on enormous skirts that should have dwarfed my waistline, and the bodice and the yadda yadda, and, like, fifty pounds of tightly laced clothing later, my torso looked stumpier and my waist looked wider than it had when I started. That’s a lot of work to go through to look shlumpy, you know? Fortunately, there’s a simple little trick you can play with the waistline on an Elizabethan dress that will help…
I’ve been doing some background work for a project, and I had to do up a Conic Block for Lizzle. Her body is a leeeetle bit stylized, and she’s particularly got a relatively wide shoulder and upper back (like a swimmer), and she has a distinct curve at her upper back (a swimmer who spends too much time hunched over a desk, maybe?). Anyway, here’s an adjustment to the Basic Conic Block draft for situations where the upper back is significantly larger than the back bust measurement.
Really, who doesn’t dress their dolls for a day at the ren faire? It can’t just be me… Well, ok, maybe it was just me, but it doesn’t have to be anymore – you too can have a copy of the pattern I used to make this little bit of cuteness!
Remember a while back, I posted directions for a Basic Conic Block draft? Everyone was sort of like, wow, missa, that’s great, it explains so much, but what do I do with it? Well, a basic block is used to develop other patterns in a big bad hurry, without all that annoying measuring and math. Today, we’re going to make an ultra-generic-wenchy-ren-faire-been-there-drank-the-ale-SEEN-IT type bodice pattern. You know the the one I’m talking about…. It won’t win you points for originality or authenticity, but it’s a fun little piece to wear.
I realize that instructions are far more helpful when you can print them out and put them on the worktable while you’re using them. I also realize that pages upon pages of full color photos do not a happy printer make. I’ve made a not-so-chatty (yes, I actually can edit) PDF version of the Basic Conical Draft directions, redone with black&white line art.
Now that I’ve got all the photography done, it’s time to pick up where we left off in The Basic Conical Torso Block (Part 1). We’re completing a basic torso block that we can use for the simplified, conical torsos popular in Renaissance, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Pompadour, Colonial, and all other eras between the Sixteenth and Eighteenth centuries. (She says, throwing as many keywords into one sentence as humanly possible.) One block, three hundred years of fashion – how can you lose?
For several hundred years, beginning where the High Middle Ages met the Renaissance and continuing through the eve of the French Revolution, fashion treated the female torso as something of an inconvenience. The breasts were flattened, first by bands of wool or linen, later by corsetry and boned bodices. The sides of the body were straightened and the tum controlled. The torso became a conic shape. In some decades, like the 1590s, 1690s, and 1780s, it’s a very long cone. In others, like the 1640s, it’s a very short cone that disappears into skirts below the bust. During these times, a very basic conical torso block can be used as a basis creating custom patterns.
The Shoulder to Shoulder width is crucial for making wide necklines that don’t fall off the shoulder. It is also crucial for spacing the straps on corsets and bodices so that they stay on the shoulder and you don’t have to fuss with them all day.
I made my first Elizabethan corset back in the dark ages of internet time, when it was still pretty common to ask Real Live Humans(tm) how to do things. I got instructions that were relatively simple – a bust, a waist, divide by two, draw some lines, and presto-change-o, a corset pattern. It’s the method that had always worked for the lady who gave me the info. For me, it was a spectacular failure – too tight, too high in back, and completely uncomfortable to wear. I blamed it on my generally costume-clue-impaired state. But was there something else going on, that could result in two people having completely different luck with the same pattern draft?