adjective:old fashioned, out of style, unfashionable [from French, the past participle of démoder "to go out of fashion," from mode "fashion"].

the concept

Portrait of a Young Lady by Neufchatel, 1561
Portrait of a Young Lady by Neufchatel, 1561
Nurnberg Woman by Wiegel, 1560s
Nurnberg Woman by Wiegel, 1560s

the fabric

the pattern

Corset: Margo Anderson's Elizabethan Lady's Underpinnings

Gown & underpinnings: custom draped and drafted by moi!

the result

useful links

Other examples of this style:



Arnold, Janet. Patterns of fashion : the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. London : Macmillan, c1985.

Amman, Jost. 293 Renaissance Woodcuts for Artists and Illustrators: Jost Amman's Kunstbuchlin. New York: Dover, 1968.

Kohler, Carl. A History of Costume. New York: Dover, 1963.

The National Gallery Complete Illustrated Catalogue. London: National Gallery Publications, 1995.

Zander-Seidel, Jutta. Textiler Hausrat: Kleidung und Haustextilien in Nürnberg von 1500-1650. München: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1990.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Okay, REALLY almost there -- finished sewing the skirt to the bodice and putting in hooks and eyes over the last few evenings. BUT I'm not happy with the dress closure. I knew hooks & eyes would gap but now that I'm seeing it in action it's not as acceptable as I thought it would be. I had assumed that as I was wearing a corset, most of the strain would be taken off the bodice -- but alas that's not happening!

So I'm debating -- make strips with grommets and sew them to the inside of the bodice (underneath the bodice front edges)? Or sew individual eyelets inside the bodice and lace those shut?

Obviously I could put in a placket, but I still don't like the look of the bodice CF pulling apart and the hooks and eyes being so glaringly obvious!

posted by démodé 12:47 AM

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Almost there! Just need to level the skirt, sew it to the bodice, and put in hooks & eyes.


posted by démodé 11:19 PM

Friday, August 06, 2004

Although I'm pretty wiped from Costume College and assorted travelling, and am planning to take a bit of a break by not going to the Heart of the Forest faire this weekend with GBACG, that doesn't mean I'm not sewing! I'm just sewing at a nice, relaxed pace.

I cut out the bodice and flat lined all the pieces with silk organza and cotton muslin. This is the first time I've tried "basting spray" (temporary adhesive), which works great for temporarily gluing your pieces-to-be-flatlined together (no squigy-ness!) -- but which I can't remove from my cutting table! I tried water, soap, windex, random kitchen cleaning fluid -- what gives? Any advice? It did work really well and all my pieces basted together like a breeze (although where does the "temporary" adhesive GO, I ask you?).

I basically eyeballed it on the velvet trim -- 3" width looked good, so I went with that. I had a bit of a quandry as to how far around the back the velvet should go. None of the images I've found show bodice backs (the few back views only show over-partlets). I ended up having it end underneath the arm on the bust part, and ran it all the way across the sleeve strap. Now that I'm done, I'm thinking I should have taken the bust part all the way to the side back seam, but oh well! I folded the velvet under and hand sewed that to the bodice front, then cased some spiral bones and sewed that to the CF (the CF seam is slightly curved, so straight bones wouldn't work).

Next up was piping. Although the original doesn't seem to have any piping, I think it's a great way to finish edges (practical) and it makes a nice visual line. Also, at Costume College I went to a class on Italian Ren and the instructor said that items like bodices and skirts were finished independently and then sewn together for wear -- I'm applying the same principle here: I haven't seen any evidence of tie-on/removable sleeves for German wear of this period, but I'm going to make my sleeves removable to avoid overheating!

One issue I always have with using piping as a facing is that it always bulks up where I end it -- in this case the CF. I graded all the layers of bodice that were go underneath the piping, but the actual CF seam is so bulky -- and I feel like I can't cut it all off or there won't be anything to wrap the piping facing around! For those that use this technique, what do you do (or do you just live with bulk at that corner?)

So I think I may be going to faire NEXT weekend (the 14-15th) -- all I have left is to finish sewing down the piping to the waist and the armholes, and then the skirt. The sleeves will be left to finish later.

bodice in progressbodice in progressbodice in progressbodice in progress

posted by démodé 6:58 PM

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The undies are complete, and I'm off and running on the bodice!

I didn't get any feedback on my skirt hem question until I was halfway finished with the petticoat, but that's okay -- it all worked out according to my initial hunches. I just wanted a basic gored A-line skirt (for both the petticoat and skirt), so I used the pattern from Margo Anderson's underskirt. The petticoat is about 3 yards around; the skirt will be 4 yards (unless, when I try it on and if I have enough fabric, it looks like it would be better even wider -- but I doubt it).

The petticoat was actually quite simple. I got some 7/32" wide rope (wider than clothesline, but not too wide) at the hardware store to use for the cording. If I hadn't started at about 9pm, I would have used purchased bias tape for the channels, but since I had I made my own (not TOO much hassle). I marked out in pencil the bottom line of the channels, making them all about 4" or 5" (I forget!) between each other (and just stuck rope into the hem for the bottom row).

I wasn't at all sure how many rows I would want. I wasn't going for a farthingale look, just the extra fullness of a corded petticoat. I wanted to use the rope so I wouldn't have to put so many rows of cord in, but I was worried that I would end up with a relatively stiff farthingale! Luckily, I think because of the width of the petticoat and the fact that the rope wasn't TOO wide, it's curving in on itself nicely and I think will work really well. I made 6 rows before trying it on, and it's doing exactly what I want it to so I decided to stop there.

Anyway, then I leveled the petticoat, made a waistband of 2 rows of grosgrain ribbon, pleated up the waistline and sewed on a hook and eye.

roped petticoatroped petticoat

So here's pictures of the completed undies -- corset, roped petticoat, and partlet (I'm wearing my 18th c. shift underneath) (yes, Sadie [the cat] wanted to be in the pic too, yes I have frazzled I've-been-sewing-for-many-hours hair):

1560s undies1560s undies

Last night I wrestled my corset onto my dress form and draped the bodice pattern. Can I just say ONE MORE TIME how THRILLED I am to finally have a dress form that actually resembles my body? I draped the pattern, made that into a pattern, cut up a mockup, and aside from taking in about 1/4" in the CF, it fit! Done! Finished! Fabulous!

I was a little unsure as to the placement of the seamlines, but I looked at some contemporary Elizabethan patterns online, and in Cut of Women's Clothes, and it seemed like most have just a side back seam.

1560s undies1560s undies

I feel really on target with getting this done in time. Hopefully I'll do some cutting tomorrow, then I'm off early Thurs. for LA and eventually to Costume College!

posted by démodé 8:28 PM

Thursday, July 15, 2004

So contrary to what you might think, I haven't totally forgotten this outfit!

I finished the partlet in fits and starts. Had the joy of rework: for some reason, my mental model of a ruff was something that I would attach to the finished collar after I was finished. But the ruff instructions I was following actually wanted me to sew it into the collar (and cuff) seams, so I got to rip those out and make new ones. The ruff went together just as planned, once I figured out I was basically making double box pleats (the instructions are actually really good for making these space correctly). I of course did exactly what in the instructions tell you NOT to do -- iron the pleats -- but how can you avoid it? -- so now have more Z shapes than S shapes, but oh well, I like it. Except that my husband keeps making Star Trek cracks. Bastard.

finished partlet

So my life is about to get frightfully busy, with the GBACG Baseball Naturally event on Sat. and a board meeting on Sun. Then Thurs. I leave for LA -- going to a weeklong librarian training extravaganza. Then Costume College, back on 8/2. Luckily I have the week off from then until the GBACG day at the Marin Faire on 8/8, but what do you think -- can I whip out the rest of this sucker (okay, maybe sans sleeves?) in 4-5 days? I think I see some late nights ahead of me. I wish there was some way I could take sewing with me while I'm in LA, but I'm right at the point where I need to drape -- maybe I can get the draping and cutting done before I leave, then take it with me and sew in my dorm room (yes, I have to stay in a DORM for the librarian training extravaganza. Save me).

Now, on to skirt musings -- any Elizabethan/Renaissance experts out there, help me out:

The skirt for this outfit is going to be gored. From what I've seen and read, it seems like circle skirts are more appropriate for German clothing in the first half of the century, like Mary of Hapsburg's dress. But the skirts from the 1560s look very gored to me -- look at the shapes of the skirts in the Wiegel images (like this one) and in this full-length portrait by Neufchatel. Finally, the top of the skirt in the main Neufchatel painting that I'm working from is definitely pleated, which says to me gored skirt rather than circle (circle would fit the waist relatively flat).

So I'm wondering about skirt dimensions. When I used to do "Renaissance" (I put that in quotes for a reason), I usually went with about 4-5 yard hem circumferences. Is that on target? Also, I'm planning to make a roped petticoat to wear underneath. My thought is that that should be a lot narrower than the overskirt -- say 3 yards -- because the ropes are going to make it stand out (rather than falling in folds). Anyway, for those who know more than me -- am I on target for my hem circumferences? What wisdom can you offer me? Help!

posted by démodé 10:12 PM

Thursday, July 01, 2004

aaaaaa! fabric has arrived and i'm not sure if it works!

the wool is much browner than i expected, while the velvet is very cranberry. what do you think? i was aiming for similar shades in different fabrics; i think i'm going to have to be happy with harmonizing colors.

velvet and wool

posted by démodé 2:41 PM

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

And we have an (almost) finished corset! Just need to sew down the straps in back.

Had to slog to hot nasty Orlando for a work conference, which put off sewing for a few days, but as soon as I got back I finished the lacing holes (well, after sleeping for 12 hours). Here's final photos of the front and side -- the coutil is definitely flattening me a bit more than the cotton twill, but I still have some bust curve so I'm happy with it.

German corsetGerman corset

Next up is the partlet. I had hoped to make it out of fancy linen, but came to my senses in regards to budget and decided to stick with cotton muslin. Yay, the joy of costuming on a budget! I decided for ease to start with Margo Anderson's partlet pattern, although I don't really like the design with the gathers in front and in back, so after cutting it out I stuck it on my dress form and promptly cut out the extra on the CB and CF. It works just fine without the gathering and will look much more like my original source image. One thing I'm considering is whether to take in a dart at the top of the shoulders, as right now I've got a bit of a Star Trek look going on (although obviously if I don't, it will get pushed down under the bodice and will just end up looking like minimal gathers). I'm taking Athene's advice (in my last post's comments) and adding long sleeves to this, so that I can save myself the work of making yet another shift and having options as to what I wear underneath. So sleeves next, then it will be on to adventures in ruff-making (which I've never tried before, but doesn't look too hard).


My burgundy velvet came in the mail and it's really pretty! I've never sewn with velvet before -- I know I'm not supposed to press it, but is there anything else I should know? Unfortunately the dress wool has been held up but is finally on it's way -- hopefully will be here by the time I'm done with the partlet and corded petticoat.

posted by démodé 11:38 AM

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The corset is nearly done -- I need to bind the bottom edge tonight and make eyelet holes. The best news is I've found some fabric I'm excited about. I was having a horrible time finding burgundy wool and velvet. I'd tried to reconcile myself to using brown, but luckily the samples I ordered from Denver Fabrics never showed up (they're sending me new ones) and in the interim, I found this red/brown silk/wool blend at Fashion Fabrics Club, which I'm watching the mail for daily; and I've got a few burgundy velvet possibilities that I'm watching on ebay. I'm excited to be able to make this in a color that is close to the source color; not that I don't like brown, but ALL brown would be less exciting than burgundy.

Oh, and sanity has prevailed... I've decided to (for now) forgo making the shift/partlet out of cotton just to save the budget. (Oh, and I did decide on a shift/partlet combo -- since the corset has straps that are on the shoulder, and the bodice's straps will be at the edge of the shoulder, I want to be able to cover the corset straps with the partlet. Plus I've always liked the idea of having the "for show" part separate so you can keep that nice, with the "part that will be profusely sweated in" available for easy machine laundering).

posted by démodé 3:06 PM

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I put all the boning in and was then able to finalize the mockup. I ended up having to take in 1" in the side back seams (above the waist), meaning that all in all I probably took in 8-10 inches (total) off the original pattern size. WHATEVER!

I had to totally reposition the strap and underarm curve. The CB section below the waist is pulling in towards each other, so I think I'm going to move the slit there so that it's on the other side (towards the side) of the 3rd row of boning.

I did decide to go with coutil for the corset fabric -- I'm going to use one layer of coutil and one layer of cotton muslin (so as to create easy boning channels -- don't want to deal with casing that many bones!).

1560s German corset mockup1560s German corset mockup1560s German corset mockup

posted by démodé 9:19 PM

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Reconsiderations and mocking up the corset: Further discussions with Those Who Know Better Than I suggest that a curved bustline is more appropriate for this period/location than the flat-fronted English silhouette. Okay, okay (grumble grumble).

So I've been thinking about how to achieve this. One option would be boning with hemp cord, which it seems that many costumers have done successfully for the similarly-curved Italian corsets of the period. However, I'm wondering how well that holds up over time (most seem to say it does, but I've seen others who say it doesn't) plus there's the fitting issue of the cord taking up more room than the boning. I experimented a bit last night on my mockup (more in a sec) with spiral bones and I think I'm going to use those for the front. They're so much more flexible than spring steel that they gave me a nice, smooth yet curved look -- I'm just hoping I don't run into trouble with the side-to-side bend. I do think I'll use straight spring steel stays for the side and back, just for reinforcement.

One other consideration -- what fabric should I use? If I use coutil, will that "cone" me too much? Should I use something more flexible? Many of those who've made the hemp-cord corsets have used a heavy weight linen. Must ponder.

So I'd decided to use Margo Anderson Elizabethan Lady's Underpinnings pattern for the corset, as I've heard rave reviews about these patterns and it seems like a good launching point. I cut it out of two layers of cotton twill as I really want to be sure of the fit before making the real deal. After dealing with the fact that there are no size markings on the patterns (!!) (the lines are marked, but which line is which size is NOT) and no layout for the boned/tabbed corset (hello, the main view!)... Then while assembling the mockup, I had the fun discovery that the pattern markings don't match on the side back seam. The weird thing is how many people have used this pattern -- Margo runs a whole Yahoo group on her patterns, and I couldn't find ANY mention of the corset pattern markings in their archives or online! How am I the only person to have this problem? So my immediate first thought was I did something wrong, spent 30 min. rechecking the pattern and measuring things only to discover that nope, they just don't match.

Okay, fine. So sew together the boning channels and the pattern pieces, stick boning into one half of the mockup (I don't have a ton of boning on hand), try it on. One word for you: HA-UGE. Trust me, I DEFINITELY measured and cut out the right size. Take the mockup in 1" on each side seam. Try on again. HA-UGE. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I ended up taking in 4" ON EACH SIDE and it's finally now starting to fit like a corset should, although I still don't have a full 2" lacing gap at the top. More futzing tonight.

1560s german corset1560s german corset

posted by démodé 9:29 AM

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Okay, I've been thinking a lot about this project, so I guess I'd better start posting!

I need (yes, need) something new for RenAIssance events. GBACG is going to the Heart of Forest Faire in August, and I think I'll probably go at least one other time on my own; plus there's another guild event set in Ren. period in November. PLUS I'm an ex-Faire person, so I just need to have something nice to wear. But my only outfit from the period is my ex-faire outfit, made back when I didn't care about using the right materials or hand sewing or whether things looked GOOD. There's lots of things wrong with it (especially the bodice) so it's just really time to move on.

I started to think about making a standard English lower middle class outfit (like this design), but then realized -- hey! I don't WORK faire -- I can do something far more interesting!

So I started to contemplate periods and locations and finally came up with deciding on doing a dress from Nuremberg, 1560s. It was this painting of an unknown lady by Neufchatel that did it for me. I really don't like terribly fussy styles (in any era), so big ruffs and lots of trim were out, and I have to admit that I don't love 16th century enough to want to commit to dealing with seed pearls and embroidery etc. (well, yet....). I really like the simple lines of the Nuremberg dresses from this era, as well as the distinctive bodice and skirt trim (I wanted something that "read" as different from English).

So here's where the hair pulling came in. Normally, when I research 18th and 19th century costumes, there are tons of resources out there to help: not only paintings and fashion plates, but original garments, scaled patterns, construction details -- you name it. It's been really interesting to find how little we really know about 16th century costume, ESPECIALLY non-English!

I spent a few days wandering the bookstacks at work (I work at a university library that has pretty decent art and costume sections) and managed to collect some images of dresses from this period, but little construction details. Of course, a few years ago I sold my Patterns of Fashion from this era thinking, "Oh, I'll never be doing 16th century again..." Now (since my library's copy is checked out) I'm tapping my foot waiting for an ILL copy to arrive (as well as a copy of Hunnisett's book on the period), but I don't know to what degree they're going to answer my questions. Kohler's book actually offers the most information that I've been able to find (in English) on this period/location, but his book was originally published in the 1920s so I don't trust it very much.

Luckily I came across the GermanRenCostume listserv, which has been a big help already in understanding how exactly these dresses are made. I still have some outstanding questions and decisions to make, but here's what I'm thinking:

- Chemise (hemd -- I'm learning all the German terms, which is hard because I speak nary a word of German!): still open to debate. Possibly a high-necked chemise in linen (and MAYBE a little redwork?), or possibly a low-necked shift with high-necked partlet. Anyone have any opinions on what works best for them? Whichever I do, it'll have small ruffs at the neckline and cuff (good directions available at the Elizabethan Costuming Page).

- Elizabethan corset: made from Margo Anderson's pattern. Some illustrations show a curved bustline, which is a vestige of an earlier style. Other images show a flat front bustline. I had to squint a bit to determine what was going on in my main inspiration photo (the burgundy dress by Neufchatel), but I've decided it's flat fronted. The bonus is that now I'll have an Elizabethan corset to wear under other projects as well.

- Corded petticoat: had a bit of an internal debate about farthingale vs. corded petticoat. There's a definite A-line to all of the full-length images, but farthingales were definitely a Spanish style and would have been very fashion-forward in 1560s Germany (where the styles were very unlike the Spanish). I'm planning an A-line gored skirt with really big twine for the cords.

- Overpetticoat. White cotton. Enough said.

- Dress: wool with velvet trim (guards), with the characteristic almost-off-the-shoulder straps, distinctive velvet trim pattern, CF closure, round waist, fitted sleeves (I'll be doing velvet cuffs rather than fur), gored skirt, skirt and bodice sewn together into a one-piece dress. The brustflecks (yay more German terms!) (the white and gold decorative part at the top of the bodice neckline) seem to have been usually embroidered or beaded; I'm planning to spring for some fancy damask or brocade which I'll accent with pearls or beading (no patience for that level of embroidery [by hand] and my machine doesn't do embroidery stitches). I'm still trying to figure out how the brustfleck is attached to the bodice, as it's a separate piece. I'm also trying to wrap my brain around liking the idea of my bodice (because of the brustfleck) sticking up past my bustline...

- Gollar: the distinctive black overpartlets worn in many of the images. Probably not right away, but at some point.

- Hat: may make the typical black caps showing up in lots of the images, but that seems very impractical for outdoor summer wear...

I've got fabric samples in the mail from Denver Fabrics (at this point I'm thinking of using a brown color scheme, just because that's what I've been able to find in terms of coordinating wool and velvet -- anyone have any online sources for burgundy wool [flannel? crepe? all I can find these days is melton!] and burgundy cotton velvet?), and I cut out a mockup of the corset pattern last night. More soon!

posted by démodé 9:15 AM

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