Somewhere in the Victorian era, people started coming up with ideas for making corsets more comfortable to wear. Gigglishiously ironical though that may sound, some great innovations came out of it. One of my favs is the single layer corset – no lining, no interlining, just a base layer of fabric and some boning. If you do outdoor events in the summer, it’s a trick worth adapting. (“It’s period! It’s just not quite your period, dear rennie…” says the voice of evil. Heh. ;) )
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…
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.
Aiglettes are a great way to give a renaissance costume a very finished look (and keep your points from flopping about and untying). But why would you possibly want a removable aiglette? Laundry. It’s nice to be able to take all the metal bits off before things go into the wash…
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?
So I was out trimming the privet hedge the other day, like you do (she says, sounding perfectly British about the whole thing) when I stopped to think, “Gee, I wonder if I could bone a corset with some of these clippings? I should give that a try…” So I did.
The surviving pattern published in Juan de Alcega’s ‘Libro de Geometria, Practica y Traca’(1589) represents almost everything we know about the farthingale. Most articles on recreating the Alcega farthingale focus on faithfully reproducing the pattern based on fabric widths. Honestly, though, calling this a “pattern” is a bit of an overstatement: the book was more intended as a series of cutting diagrams to help tailors avoid waste. The problem is, Alcega included some rather sharp commentary on on what he considered the proper size for the bottom hoop of the farthingale, but no real information on the size of the intended wearer. Complicating things further, modern bodies aren’t build quite like the popular model of the 16th century. So what’s a costumer to do? How about some trigonometry!
Trust me, this won’t hurt.
The world is full of straw hats. They are almost never the size and shape you’d like them to be. (That’s a known effect of the Law of Universal Irony, along with how the thread already in the needle is never a color that will work for your current purposes.) Fortunately, reblocking a straw hat is pretty gosh darned simple.
File this one under “possibly useful to some one, at some time, somehow”: this is a series of pictures of corsets I’ve made over the last several years. Each one shows me standing in profile, next to my dress dummy. This makes the changes in my shape imposed by each corset fairly obvious, and the pictures all together give you a pretty good idea what different types of boning and styles of corset can do for a girl.