Wednesday, December 16, 2015

14th Century Silk Brocade Gown- and I reminisce about gowns gone by...

This post is mainly about a new gown I made for an event held last weekend, but I also talk a lot about how much my costuming has changed in the last few months, and where I'm headed in the future with sewing.

 I've posted about this black and red Elizabethan gown in the past. These pictures are from December 2011, where I wore it to an event in SLC. 

I remember that older event, struggling to get dressed in the tiny bathroom, and I couldn't do anything with my hair (1. didn't know how then, 2. dress was too tight to even try). That black gown is probably my most high-maintenance outfit. Here's how many flippin' layers I'm wearing in that picture: smock, partlet, hoop, forepanel/petticoat, gown, tie-on sleeves, wrist ruffs, hose and shoes,  and 7 pieces of jewelry. I have to pin on the ruffs and pin shut the gown to the forepanel so nothing blows open. This is one of those outfits where I feel like all I can do is stand still, otherwise it doesn't look perfect. Granted, most people probably don't feel this way when wearing fancy garb, but I do- I don't like the inner-workings of my outfit in the open for people to see (such as my skirt blowing open or my sleeves being untied).

Fun fact: the only thing similar in the two outfits below is the necklace and purple ring- they're the same ones.

And now we get to where I am today. Jane seems to have gone back in time 200 years to the 14th century. I put together this gown in November and December of this year. I have made three 14th century kirtles for me, and helped with two for my friend shown below. This is my first back-lacing and truly self-supportive 14th century dress. My first 14th century kirtle was too tight in the bust, yet the linen stretched out when worn so my bust didn't look quite right. My mint wool kirtle is a smidge loose in the bust, but I can wear a light "comfort bra" with it, and it fits right.

The gown is a purple and gold silk brocade I purchased in October at Home Fabrics in the LA Fashion District. I also bought it in aqua/gold and black/gold. Renaissance Fabrics sells it, for twice the price. The gown is fully lined in bronze silk. The pattern is a front panel with angled side seams, two back panels with angled side seams but straight up the middle of the back, with a triangular back gore and two side gores. There are over 4 yards in the hem of the skirt. While I like how full it is, I probably won't be using the same angled panels with gores too often in the future- the angled sides plus side gores lays a bit wonky on me. I'm going to stick with rectangular panels with gores or angled panels with no gores.

I know that historically, this gown would have been worn with a supportive kirtle underneath. However, I wanted a single layer gown. I am wearing a linen smock underneath at least!

I wanted this gown to be very fitted, and I actually didn't mean to make the bust so tight, but here we are, and it works. No bra possible with this gown- it's quite snug but comfortable, and I don't have to adjust my bust much while wearing it. I used the bodice block pattern I drafted a few months ago, and just took it in a bit more at the waist. I can't even pull this thing on my dress form!

There are 36 hand-done spiral-laced eyelets up the back of this gown, which seemed to take longer than constructing every other part. There are 10 gold metal ball buttons on each sleeve, which has a seam running down the back of the arm. The belt is a gold metal plaque style from Raymond's Quiet Press, which I purchased last Pennsic, and have been waiting to wear with the appropriate fancy gown.

 One of my favorite parts of the whole outfit is the fillet. I made this a couple days before the event, and I adore how it turned out. I made a white linen one to wear with a linen veil for the last event, but didn't end up wearing it- just the veil pinned to my hair, which kind of worked, but not well. For this event, my hair and veil were rock solid! 

The fillet is a 2 inch wide black velvet ribbon, folded in half and sewn shut, turned right side out, and with a 1/2" wide piece of buckram pulled inside for some stiffening. The fillet is about 5/8" wide and 22" long- the edges overlap enough for a black hook and eye to hold it closed. It seems that in period, fillets were generally tied together, but in my case, ties inevitably will untie, so I cheated and did the hook and eye. It has tiny brass fleur-de-lys mounts and 6mm pearls from Fire Mountain Gems sewn on every inch. The veil is a square silk veil from Dharma Trading, folded like a kerchief, and pinned to the fillet at each side and my braid at the top of my head. The pins didn't slip at all which blew me away- this was only my second time wearing a veil, the first being the event before this one, which didn't go too well.

For my hair, I did some research on 14th century styles that I found attractive. This style has two braids that start right behind my ears, then are wrapped in front of the ears and pinned to the top of the head. The ends are tucked under the opposite braid. I did this style for my friend first, and then on myself. I much prefer it to the style where the braids start at the temples, but both looks are cute. I used maybe 5-6 bobby pins- it was fast, easy, and held solid all day. I will definitely be wearing this style again!

I plan to continue making clothes from the 14th and 15th centuries for myself and my husband. I have been making 16th century clothing for seven years now, and I'm eager to try new styles that I haven't attempted before. For the time being, I'm putting my late-period costuming on hold in favor of earlier fashions. I find them much easier to wear, they're more comfortable, if I forget one layer I'm not fretting over looking like an idiot without her partlet, and I'm being challenged in different ways than with Elizabethan styles. Also, I seem to be able to do the 14th century hairstyles very well, and am useless at 16th century hair.

Here are some images that I used as inspiration and documentation for my gown and hairstyle.

“Acerba”, didactic-allegorical poem in Italian, by Cecco d’Ascoli , 1380s. Tight gown sleeves, closed front.

1380-1385 BNF Français 343 Queste del Saint Graal / Tristan de Léonoi. These ladies are wearing kirtles and surcotes but their hair is the same style I did, and two of the gowns appear to have closed fronts.

BL Harley 4431 The Book of the Queen. The two ladies on the left are wearing tight sleeved gowns or kirtles with closed fronts. 

A woman studying her paternoster. Paris, circa 1400, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Braided hair at temples, closed front dress with tight sleeves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

14th Century Wool Kirtle

 At the end of August, my husband let me know that he wanted to try a different era of costumes. We decided to give 14th century a try for him, and when I started doing research for men's clothing, so much of the women's also caught my eye. I decided to make some new garb for both of us in September and October to try out and see if it was a good fit for us.

Let's go back to May, and my first foray into 14th century. I decided to dye my white kirtle purple because every time I wore it, I felt like I was wearing underwear out in public. Even a red sideless surcote didn't seem to help. I much prefer it the fun color over the white but of course it's a bit warmer to wear now.

Here we are at Crown Tournament on October 3. I'm wearing my purple kirtle with a hood purchased at Pennsic from the Hooded Hare- it's grey wool lined in purple silk. My husband is wearing a new hunter green wool cotehardie with his new hood, also from Hooded Hare, in dark grey wool lined in black linen. I made him the cote and the white linen under tunic. The black wool hose are from Historic Enterprises and they are glorious! I highly recommend them.

My first 14th century kirtle is okay. Here's some issues with it in case you want to hear all about my mistakes from the first go around:
1. Not full enough in the hem. There's maybe 88 inches at the hem.
2. The lacing isn't spiral- while that's documentable, it doesn't lace up as well as with spiral lacing, and it causes some gapping.
3. The sleeves have a seam under the arm instead of going down the back of the arm.
4. This kirtle doesn't shut over my bust, even without a bra on, yet the linen is also so stretchy once I get warm that it feels loose and doesn't support me.

So knowing what I wanted to change and make more period correct for the next kirtle, I got started with the Medieval Tailor's Assistant. The kirtle pattern in this book lays it out on the full width of the fabric, with no gores at all. My purple kirtle is three rectangles (two front, one back) with side gores, and it works, but leaves you with a small hem width. With my fabric being 57 inches wide, after sewing I've got about a 3 yard wide hem on this kirtle. Before I started cutting, I needed a body block.

The body block I drafted is based off my purple kirtle because it fits so snugly. I just laid down the kirtle, pinned it to the floor, and put wax paper over the seams and drew on the lines in marker. I added some room in the bust and shaped the back panel to have a seam (my purple kirtle has no back seam and it wrinkles at my lower back). The waist fit fine so I left that alone. This pattern has the center front on the straight grain- lots of people use a curved front seam (I've done it for a friend), but I am not well endowed in the bust department, so I seem to get away with a straight front. However, I haven't tried the curved front yet so the best method remains to be seen.

Here's one secret, though: I patterned this kirtle to be worn with a light sports-style bra (kinda like a training bra, just cotton with skinny straps, no padding or cups, and they are crazy comfortable). Blasphemy, I know! However, like I said, I'm lacking in the bust, and even though I can get away with no bra, I need a bit of padding so I appear to have something up top. My later period styles don't have this issue but it seems that no matter how I pattern my 14th century kirtles, the bust looks tiny. I have plans to do a fitting with someone more experienced than me on Gothic Fitted Dresses in the future, but this is what I've tired so far without any help.

The fabric I chose is a seafoam green lightweight wool flannel from a wool store in my city (yes, we have a wool store!). The kirtle is fully lined in white cotton. You might be aghast and say "why cotton?! You should have used linen!" And while linen would be more historically correct for this use, I picked the cotton because it's the same width as my wool (60 inches), so I could cut the patterns together without piecing the lining. They both even shrunk the exact same when I prewashed them.

This kirtle has spiral lacing with tiny hand done eyelets. The buttons are from the same wool and they are about 1.75" around, sewn by hand and put on with strong thread. There are only 5 buttons on each side now but I plan to add a couple more after I wore this for the first time last weekend. There are mitten-style cuffs that can be turned back while working. To get this style of sleeve you must have a seam that goes down the back of your arm, not underneath. I had patterned that style of sleeve earlier this year so I adjusted it to fit this armscye. This hem is much fuller and I prefer it.

My overall opinion of this kirtle is much more positive than my first attempt. I wore it all day at an indoor event and was the perfect temperature throughout teaching, numerous stair climbs, and running around. Turns out this kirtle is a bit loose in the waist, and I may take it in an inch. I will likely make this kind of garment again, especially as my husband and I are diving farther into 14th century. My next project is a 14th century silk brocade gown for a court event next month and it uses the same body block but is a bit different. Expect a post on that in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Women's Clothing in 16th Century Turkey / Ottoman Empire

 Here's a post about research for 16th century Turkish / Ottoman Empire clothing. Shown here is a picture of the books Valide Sultan Esther loaned me so I could study up before I made TRMs Coronation clothes. I looked over them all, and read many of them all the way through. They were fascinating despite not being my main area of costume study.

 My best friend in the SCA (and modern world, too) is a lover and student of 15th-16th century Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. The entire time I've been friends with her, she has made and worn clothing from that time period. I swore I would never make anything like that, because for several years, I was firmly in the camp of fancy European clothes. While that is still my favorite period to re-create, in the last year there were too many opportunities to make Ottoman to pass them up.

My friend and her consort were planning on entering Crown Tournament that would take place in April 2015. In early spring, I decided to make myself some Ottoman clothes to wear at this tournament in support of her. Over the last few years, I had watched and learned from her how she made her Ottoman clothing (as she is very knowledgeable and skilled in this area), but didn't think I'd end up making any myself. I wasn't coming from a place of no information when I set out to make these clothes, but it was still a learning experience that required considerable research, trial and error, and trying out new techniques.

There are two ways I approach making historical clothing: 1, having an idea already of what I want to make and then researching if it's accurate, then beginning the project (can be risky); 2, doing inspirational research to give me ideas on what I could make because I haven't attempted it before, and then beginning the project. I would say that I use both approaches equally.

Approach 1 is more common for me when I make something similar to past projects- for example, a 16th century kirtle or gown. I've made a bunch of them so I had done the research for the basics long ago- patterning, fabric choices, accessories, etc. However, even though I'd made similar things, when I would want to try a new feature (say making silk trim instead of buying modern trim, or if different types of pleating go with which region or class level), I will do the research before construction. One common mistake historical costumers make is creating something and then trying to document if they did it in period. This often doesn't work in our favor so I don't do it- seriously, not in the last 5 years.

Approach 2 is more common for me when I haven't tried making something like it before- say a man's 14th century cotehardie or a Norse apron dress, or Turkish. I like to find a lot of examples of a style before I start buying materials and constructing. This is the approach I used for making the Ottoman clothing for Their Majesties' Coronation clothes and my own.

First step, research. Find visual examples from the time period, whether extant garments or artwork. There are dozens of extant garments from the 16th century Ottoman empire, and you can find images and descriptions of them in books and online. See the bottom of my post for the books I used to find pictures and research on the extant garments. I'm only showing a small handful of examples here with garments and artwork but there is plenty out there.

Here are some extant 16th century kaftans (the first one might be a bit into the 17th century but the style is the same as the previous century)-notice how three of them have shaping at the waist. I believe these are all made of silk. The necklines are round or have a slight v-neck.

 These paintings are dated to the 16th century. You can see variations in necklines, sleeve lengths, hemlines, underdress length, colors, and more. Some appear to have no facing but contrasting lining, and some have lining and facing. Regarding the layers, some have short coats over long coats, and some have long coats over short coats. Notice they mixed patterns and solids- and there really were a lot of solids! Even the royal family would wear solid fabrics for their fine garments.

Now these ladies were painted in the 16th century (I think they're all by Titian), and they are a unique type of garment. They are all supposed portraits of Cameria, daughter of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Her kaftans are much more fitted than the ladies shown before, they have deep v-necks, and often metal buttons down the front. These outfits are Turkish viewed with a European eye and perspective- if one wants to make something totally Ottoman, don't use these portraits for documentation. However, I preferred that look, and my persona is European and not Turkish, so that's what I went for with my blue entari shown below.

So what layers are we seeing here?
1. A white cotton or linen gomlek (undertunic, worn against the skin).
2. Salwar/shalwar (pants).
3. Hirka, a kaftan that is typically thigh to knee length, sleeveless or short sleeved, and perhaps more fitted than other layers. Usually this goes over the gomlek but sometimes can be worn over the entari.
4. Entari, a kaftan that is generally knee to floor length, with short or long sleeves. Usually worn over the more fitted hirka but sometimes worn under it.
5. Kaftan, which can almost be interchanged with the entari, except when they are for ceremonial purposes. The ceremonial kaftan was typically presented by the Sultan or his royal staff to visiting ambassadors, dignitaries, and friends of the Sultan. The books I read seem to imply they were usually for men only, but I don't know 100% if women never had them. Her Majesty and I decided she needed one for court!

Now that I have seen the images and found some styles that I like, I need to find patterns and materials. Regarding the patterns, the easiest thing to do is to study the extant garments. Ottoman clothing was essentially rectangular construction. You have two front rectangles (left and right sides), one back rectangle, side gores (which could be normal triangles or have a rounded top), with almost always a triangular front gore starting at the waist and on the other front side, a triangular gore starting at the neck. These gores are crucial to Ottoman clothing, and they are the main mistake modern costumers make when creating Ottoman clothes. If you look carefully at the extant garments, nearly all of them have these two gores. If the kaftan has front closures, the gore that starts at the neck lays underneath the other front rectangle and the loops get sewn onto that gore- this prevents the buttons from gapping at the front. If there are no front closures, you can often see the longer front gore lay on top of the other front rectangle. All of the gores can be cut separately or integrated into the main body panels- both ways are evident in the extant garments, and I have done both. The ceremonial kaftans typically have integrated front gores.

To create a pattern, all you have to do is look at the extant garments- the seams are clearly visible. You sometimes can see that a shoulder was shaped to be slightly fitted, and you can sometimes see that the waist was shaped in, which is why I don't say that Ottoman was only rectangular construction. The shaping seems to have been rare (and once you throw a sash on your waist, it gives some shape), but there is physical evidence that it was done.
Above is a sketch by Janet Arnold of a 16th century kaftan from the Topkapi Palace. You can clearly see the short front gore and some shaping in the waist.

The first ceremonial kaftan shown is the basis for His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim's coronation kaftan. Next is another with a similarly cut pattern. You can clearly see the seams of the original garment. Notice the slight waist shaping, even for a man's garment, and pay attention to the long front gore. There are slits in the front panels to put your arms through if you don't want to put them through the floor length sleeves. Both are made of silk.

Two silk satin kaftans with curved hip gores and waist shaping.

Alright, now we're on to materials. If you want a fancy Ottoman outfit, you've got to go with silk. The main fiber you see in the extant kaftans is silk, and they are nearly always lined in white cotton or linen (sometimes other colors), and occasionally lined in silk. Buttons were typically thread woven, also made from the same cloth as the garment, and sometimes metal. The button loops were woven cord. All of these materials are easily visible in the extant garments. If you want a less fancy outfit, use linen or wool for your fashion fabric- there are extant wool kaftans and I believe I read in one of the books listed below that linen and cotton were used for the less fancy garments.

I finished Their Majesties' Coronation clothing two days early. I decided to make myself a new Ottoman entari right then, and it took me a day and a half of hard sewing to finish, but I didn't have to stay up all night. I wanted to wear something that matched TRM's theme to honor them, and to fit in with their court for the day.

This entari is teal silk, lined in white cotton, and faced with silver silk. The buttons are metal and the loops are a stiff gold ribbon. The neckline is a shallow v-neck. The facing, collar, and buttons are sewn by hand. This layer can be worn over or under another coat. Notice this entari is very fitted. I find unshaped rectangular construction to be very unflattering on my body, so I made this to be fitted like the Titian

 Here is the entari over my hirka I made back in March- my first Ottoman coat. The fabric was a gift from Her Majesty, and it's an orange/pink shot brocade. It's lined in white linen and faced in blue silk. It has the sleeves that are shown on the first extant kaftans earlier in this post: elbow length and with a half-moon shape cut out of the front. I did this collar completely by machine, cut on the straight. For the blue entari, I sewed on the collar by hand and the fabric was cut on the bias- a huge improvement. Again, I'm willing to try multiple ways of construction for trial and error. I did TRM's collars on the bias because I think it looks best, and they're much easier to sewn on.

 Detail shot of buttons, loops, collars, facings, and a sash I bought at Pennsic in Artemisian colors. The orange coat is much less fitted than the blue- so much so that I can pull it over my head while it's buttoned shut.

 In this picture you can see the linen gomlek (undertunic) and the blue/green shot silk pants. The underdress is very simple, and I made it a while back to wear under Norse clothing, but the style works great for Ottoman. You can see in paintings that Ottoman women wore simple or fancy gomleks. The pants are just two legs, top turned over for the waist casing. Many Ottoman pants have a two-part leg pattern, but this style is documentable too.

Shown below is an entari made for His Majesty's fiance, Lady Katerina. They provided me with some purple patterned linen and brass buttons, and I supplied the blue cotton lining and black loop cording. There is slight shaping in this one at the waist and the shoulders, and it will reach the floor on her. The pattern is very similar to my blue entari.


Rogers, J.M. Topkapi Saray Museum: Costumes, Embroidery, and Other Textiles. Little Brown, 1986. 

 Atasoy; Denny; Effeny; Mackie; Raby. Ipek: the Crescent and the Rose: Ottoman Silks and Velvets.
Azimuth Editions, 2002.

Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey.  Azimuth / Arthur Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2005.

Scarce, Jennifer M. Women's Costume of the Near and Middle East.  Routledge,  2003.
Artan. Splendors of the Ottoman Sultans. Wonders, 1990.

Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. Harry N Abrams, 1987.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Coronation Clothes for His Majesty Ibrahim of the Kingdom of Artemisia


His Majesty has 4 layers of clothes, Her Majesty has 5. We decided he didn't need a fitted underlayer like Esther's hirka. He has a gomlek, entari, ceremonial caftan, and pants. His gomlek is nearly identical to Esther's except he has two gold buttons on the keyhole neck.

The entari is a black and gold silk brocade from India. It is fully lined in white cotton, and faced in red silk. The buttons were made by Lady Michelle of Harris upon York, and are thread wrapped wooden beads. I dyed them a darker antique gold, which went much better than I expected. Michelle made them exactly as I asked, but it was my fault for telling her bright gold- I didn't realize the brocade was so dark!

There are 20 buttons and loops, and the buttons, collar, and facing are all done by hand.

The ceremonial caftan is very similar to Esther's. It also has integrated gores, expect I opted to make both the front gores start at the neck, instead of one starting at the waist. I thought it would make the caftan hang better when worn open. It is fully lined in gold silk. Again, the block printing was done by Viscountess Morrigan of Avacal.

One unique feature of many ceremonial caftans from the Ottoman Empire are the sleeves. Many of them have enormous hanging sleeves that sweep the floor, and there are slits in the front body pieces where you put your arms through. The sleeves are just decorative and show off your expensive fabric, and when you put your long entari sleeves through the slits, you show off even more fabric.

His slits were done very carefully with a rotary cutter. I made up the whole garment and saved the slits for last. I laid the caftan out, pinned into the carpet so it wouldn't move, laid the cutting board between the front and back pieces, and slowly cut the front pieces a few inches away from the sleeve head. Then I whip stitched them shut.

Here are His Majesty's pants. The white ones were the first pair I made, he wore them to Coronation. Just yesterday I made him a black silk pair as well. They are copied from his favorite pants, per his request- I just laid his original pants onto the new fabric and cut out the pattern.