Construction Progress

Ok, so my plan for today was to get all the construction elements of my German together. I almost made my goal. A combination of sleeping past noon and having to re-fit the sleeves pushed my schedule back a bit.

Of course, the fact that I’m writing this at 4am kind of compensates for the slept-til-noon part.

Anyway, I put together my bodice and skirt, including spiral side lacing, which I haven’t documented in use in Germany in 1500 but WAS popular in other areas of Europe at the same time. Italy at the time had side, back, and double-side-back lacing, so it’s possible (if not plausible) that SOME garment in Germany might have been tailored to that style or retailored from that style with new, German sleeves.

I discovered last night that German gowns of 1500 were not boned, so that shaved some work off my process.

I discovered this morning that despite being patterned directly off my corset, the bodice is actually cut a little too big at the waist. I took about three inches off the bottom, which resulted in a PERFECT fit. a little trouble, and means I don’t need to wear my corset under the bodice as I might have with an Italian gown (where corsets were on the rise). It made me a little nervous not to put ANY boning in, but I figured I’d try it out and worst case I could add boning later. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s also not the hardest.

So perfect, in fact, that I can pull the gown over my head with both sides laced tight, and once it’s on it provides a good silhouette and good support. And the lacing doesn’t bunch! I often have problems with lacing puckering without bones, but it’s perfectly flat. It looks fantastic!

It’s hard to tell for sure, but based on the sketches I have, it looks like some of the skirts had knife pleats toward the hips, with a flat panel at the stomach. This might have been a stylistic omission on the artist’s part, but I noticed it in two renderings, and it seemed like the perfect solution to getting a period shape without walking around looking pregnant from the belly pleats. I cut my skirt fabric into two rectangles, with the front about 2/5 and the back the remaining 3/5. I pleated the front with six pleats on each side toward the hips, and a wide, flat section directly in front. The back is pleated toward the hips, with the pleats meeting in a box pleat in the center. I wasn’t sure how this would have been handled in period, with so few portraits painted from the posterior view in Germany of 1500, so I did what I thought would look most balanced.

Most German gowns I saw either laced in back (presumably. Again, not a lot of posterior portraits), or ladder-laced in front from the waist to just below the breasts. I chose spiral lacing because it’s visually unobtrusive (except when I use bright offwhite satin ribbon on a dark red dress), the mirrored diagonals are flattering, and most of all, because spiral lacing is very secure, whereas cross lacing tends to pull itself uneven, and ladder lacing tends to pucker without boning, which I’d already decided not to use. Ladder lacing also best fits an open area, but I needed my bodice to tight-lace.

Adding the first sleeve took longer than I expected. I added the sleeve lining starting from the bottom edge, so it’s just turned, but then I needed to attach it to the bodice at the top and finish the open edge. My sewing machine wasn’t liking that, so I ended up doing the finished edge by hand. I originally stitched the sleeve too far around, which resulted in too significant limitation on movement. It’s probably more period to leave it restricted, but it wasn’t comfortable to touch my right shoulder with my left arm, and that means if something dented my poofs I’d have to ask someone to fluff them for me. And that was an unattractive prospect, because I’m likely going to need that a lot, especially at active events like the tournament.

So I pulled out part of the seam. I also ended up tightening the sleeve at the top after I realized that the sleeve was less tight than the arm hole, and it looked a bit wrong. however, making it line up with the diameter of the arm hole (which isn’t really necessary since it’s only attaching at the top) made it tight enough that I was able to pull it on over the chemise, but then the sleeve and chemise might as well have been glued on. It was so tight I had enormous trouble just pulling the bulk of the chemise sleeve down to where it needs to be to make the elbow puff. So no good. I ended up taking out that seam and compromising. The sleeve will hang a little below where it would line up with the armhole, but I’ll be able to actually dress myself.

I’ve decided not to do bands at all, at least for now, but I’m looking at edging the neck hole with a row of “pearls” (which shouldn’t take much time) and, if I’m far enough ahead of schedule, I *might* try to do some bead embroidery on the hem of the sleeve uppers. I found a seashell design I could do in pearls to reinforce the less-and-less-subtle Ariel reference.

I also need to figure out what I’m putting on my head, because I don’t actually have a brimmed hat, and I’m going to be marshaling, which means standing about in the sun, which means I should have a hat.

I’m also considering performing a musical version of the “Who is Sylvia?” sonnet, but I’m undecided. If I have time between finishing the gown, working this week, and figuring out the hat issue to get a song I “kind of” know to the point of performance, maybe… I don’t remember the last time I had a vocal solo. I’m totally fine singing in front of a crowd as part of a group, but I’m not sure I’ve ever sung by myself in front of people except in a very casual environment.

Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to be going to the laundromat to wash blankets, and in the evening I’m going to a roleplaying game session, both of which are things I can effectively do while hand-sewing. So tomorrow I’m going to attach the second sleeve and hem all my raw edges. That’ll give me a wearable dress, minus the lower part of the sleeve. For which, I just realized, I need to go buy more eyelets. I’m pretty much out of silver ones, and I don’t want to switch to gold midway through. Sadly, it looks like I’ll have to spend a couple bucks on this gown after all. Oh well.

Not counting the fact that it’s 4am (it’s still yesterday, damn it!) I have six days to finish this project. Totally doable. My challenge at this point is going to be adding only what I can complete in symmetry in time. The neckline is easy, but the seashells, which I’d LOVE to have, are a complete mystery. I have no idea how long they’ll take.


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