belfebe (belfebe) wrote,


Okay, I am beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, I will have a new gown for 12th Night.

That is, provided that I don't get too distracted with life crap and get interrupted in my endeavors . . .

Oh, well, the worst that can happen if I don't finish is that I will do a quickie alteration of my Florentine black gown and call it a day. But I'd rather not. I have been really spazzing over this French gown for about two years, gathering materials, researching construction, figuring out the fit, etc. and then not finish it in time.

Here's to hope.

So here's the current state of affairs:


Chemise = check
Ruff (which I had to redo after learning new stuff) = check
Farthingale. This is the one that I traded with Alina. It needs new waistband, but that goes fast. = check

In progress:

Corset = Front completely hand stitched and almost completely boned. Need to stitch and bone the back, sew eyelets, fit, and put tabs. I am shooting for finishing it this weekend.

Partlet = I haven't cut it yet, but I put it in the "in progress" category since the ruff that will be attached to it is already finished and starched. And the partlet construction is fairly simple.


Don't even get me started. The answer is everything else. And in the words of Miracle Max, you cannot hurry miracles. You hurry a miracle, and you get a rotten miracle.

So there.

At any rate, the most important part, which is the underpinnings, is almost ready. And that is the most critical part. If you have the underpinnings, you have everything. The underpinnings and the adornments is what takes the longest. And without the right ones, your garment will look like crap.

Every once in a while I get the occassional question: "Bel, can you make me look like *that* without wearing a corset?"

In case you were wondering, *that* is usually a painting or engraving of a 16th Century woman. More often than not, a high class 16th Century woman.

My answer? No, I can't. No one can. And even if you go for the unboned version of a (very)lower class woman, you would still have to make that bodice self-supporting. Wearing a bra is not an option.

My philosophy about costuming is that it's all about the boobs. It doesn't matter whether you are making a 16th Century gown, a Roman outfit, a Viking apron, or a 1940's dress. If you don't have the right underpinnings, you cannot make it look right, no matter what you do.

Take for instance the 1950's look. Yeah, you can get to wear a nice 1950's inspired dress, and even a vintage dress. But unless you are wearing one of those torpedo-bras underneath, the kind that you can poke a guys's eye out (even with with a size A cup!), you won't really look like a 1950's woman.

Same goes for the Gothic fitted gown. No, you don't get to wear a torpedo-bra with that, but you will need to make it self supporting in order to look right. In other words, your bodice is your bra. And no messing.

And that's the story of women's fashion. Whether you bandaged your breasts (Greek and Roman, among others), made a self-supporting gown (Gothic and others), or wore a corset (16th Century and others), or a bra, you would design your garment around the centuries old question "What do I do with my boobs now?" And unless you come to terms with the fact that brassieres were not invented until the turn of the 20th Century, and figure out what people did before that, you will not look like that woman in the painting, engraving, print or illumination.

Looking at making your first pair of bodies (or corset), can be daunting. However, once you realize that it is nothing more than a three piece, boned garment, it won't seem so daunting. Also, it is not a one person endeavor. Unless your bodice closes in the front, you will need a friend to help you fit it.

Fortunately, there are a number of decent patterns and instructions out there. From the Reconstructing History pattern, to the Janet Arnold drawings. The trick is to pick the right one for the look, and have a friend help you fit it. No period pattern, whether commercially purchased or redacted from someone else's work (Arnold, Alcega, etc.) will fit right out of the envelope. This is true for any other garment. They will all need a little bit of tweaking. But it will be worth it.

And like the "Law of Repeat," once you figure it out the first time, you will be able to repeat the feat over and over and pretty soon you will be able to churn out those babies like nobody's business.

Last but not least, people think that period bodices are constraining and uncomfortable and impossible to wear for any lenghty period of time. This is because when we think "Bodice" or "Corset" the first thing that comes to mind are the Victorian corsets or, worse, those leather and steel corsets that are sold at Ren Faires and that are painful to wear. If that is the case, fear not. A properly fit bodice will not be painful. Moreover, if you bone it with actual reeds (for basketry, and they are cheap) or even with broom bristles, they will be lighter, more flexible and more comfortable than any steel stays that you can find in the market.

True, they will not fit like a modern bra. However, a well fit corset will make a large chested lady feel much better since the weight of the girls will not be in the shoulders, but distributed in the waist and up.

So next time that you start planning on a new gown, remember. No matter what it is, what period or region of the world you are thinking of, the first thing that you need to figure out is what's supposed to go under the hood.

If your first question is "What am I going to do with these boobs?" you will know that you are in the right track.
Tags: costuming
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