Friday, August 10, 2007

Flemish Dress c. 1570

Flemish Working Women's Dress

This image from Drea Leed's essay on 16th C. Flemish working women's dresses at (it's awesome!)

Day 1:
Confession time, this is not the first time I've made this dress, so I've already learned some of those little lessons like, "don't try use trigger" and "bias tape should only be on the inside." Also, this is not my first piece of seamstressing, I've been sewing since I was big enough to hit the pedal.
I had two motivations behind this dress, 1) a co-worker needed some new clothes for our local ren faire, something that looked better (and felt better) than the traditional wench wear favored by faire staff, and 2) the State Fair is coming up and I don't want the same woman to win first prize for costuming for the millionth time running, it's getting old, she makes the same exact outfit over and over in different colors.

The look: My co-worker, lets call her M, had a few stipulations when I got started on the dress. First, it needed to be in muted tones, browns, blacks, and other peasant-y colors, especially it was not to have any over riding greens, blues, or reds as these are colors reserved for the three "courts." Second, the dress needed to be serviceable and tough, something she could work in (she sells tomatoes and grovels) and be comfortable even on a hot day. Third, she is supposed to be a lowly friend of the dirt so it couldn't look too pretentious or "middle class." After hearing her various rules, I suggested a Flemish dress as meeting all her requirements and looking correctly renaissance-y. In the end it was decided that a rust colored under dress would not be too red and the black-lined, brown over dress would tone the whole piece down enough that she could wear it at the faire.

The Process:
1) Measurements: The measurements I took were numerous (and probably some were rather useless); waist, hips, bust, back to waist, front to waist, waist to floor, shoulder point to shoulder point, shoulder to floor, arm length, circumference of bicep, widest part of hand, head, and total height.
2) Pattern: To draft the pattern I used Drea Leed's corset generator and directions for producing an Elizabethan bodice. On my first attempt the bodice turned out to be quite the wrong size, as did M's, however, after my previous experience I knew what needed fixing and was able to increase the measurement of the waist without remaking the whole pattern. The pattern was drawn onto newspaper and then traced onto white muslin to make a mock up to fit to M.
NOTE: Do not forget to include a seam allowance, this will help you keep from feeling stupid later!
3) The Mock Up: You may be able to see in the photo above that there are no tabs on the pattern so that I might know which way some of the fiddly bits go, this was a mistake. the first mock up I made had one of the side pieces in upside down and naturally didn't fit. This meant I had to tear my mock up apart and start over, not a really big deal, but annoying. The mock-up took about twenty minutes after the false start and fit M fairly well and was deemed safe for used on the kirtle (the under dress). At this point I packed things away for the day and got some actual work done, tune in tomorrow for our next exciting episode, "Making the Same Mistake Twice"

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