editing down

This term is used a lot on fashion but it applies to research too. But if you don’t have too much then there is a bit of a risk for bias.

So I’m now at the point where I can edit out less useful information for what I’m doing, and there will be people who have already or will be working on them, so I can make sure I can offer added value.

Right now I have as many pages of extant German/Austrian tailoring books and as many Central European books as my single book. Early on I thought I’d omit outer garments as they are loose so don’t use the same skillsets that I have really tried to hone.

But, the importance of these garments in the existing manuals means that yes, I’m going to include them I have three robes of my own as well as at least one heuke.

The importance of these pieces is revealed by how many are included compared to the kinds of garments I most focus on. And I think it reveals why they are important. The costly aspect is in the fabric. So having multiple ways to get best bang for buck for these is going to be more important than a garment (bodice and skirt) that uses far less fabric.

I’m very excited by how this work in the tailoring manuals is really helping me with my Anne of Cleves and my own patterning book. It’s exhausting though so pacing is quite important.

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Getting there

So with 48 entire tailors manuals from 1500-1760-ish yes. My own Manual has a place. And works. And will get you a garment that matches the era you want.

I did need to print out and move each useful plate around, and I suspect I know where Koehler got his interesting cut into the waist and gather diagram (a half yoke deal in a schaube.)

But because I did this before reading I’ve spotted that the author of one of the books tackling the mountain of manuals at one point thought circle skirts were rare in the 16thC.

Me? One of my earliest favourite extant garments was the Mary of Hungary gown- In Naomi Tarrant’s book- but as a Northern Renaissance enthusiast there are many portraits and other illustrated depictions. More recently digitised is the Swabish manual full of plain circle and fully pleated circle skirts.

I remember when I shared my theories about how to use a circle that it conflicted with advice for costuming in Landsknecht and renaissance faires alike (tube skirts.)

But yeah.

Modular frock baby! It works!

The sheer number of pages dedicated to how to cut a circle or half circle dominates over the number of patterns for garments with a waist seam, which dominate over gowns without one.

That does fit with my theory that separating body from waist was as much about saving fabric as it was changing the skillsets required for a full garment.

Apparently when entire garments had pinked and slashed surfaces that was a separate speciality and there are records of legal action taken when a tailor was a bit messy and accidentally cut through to other layers on the surface!

So yeah.

I’m kind of an outlier in that I do not like proportional systems because they are very modern. All these manuals are explicit that these are the amounts of fabric. And those measurements were as tightly regulated as now (especially standard scientific) just on a city by city basis.

But I’ve had to put my plans on hold for a few years now that included hands on workshops to explain the different sets of skills for each module and how to get the best bang for buck if you are investing your own time or money.

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fly by post

Just sneaking in a further update to my projects before I can’t type any more- I’ve just got up so that’s where I am currently. BUT! I’ve spent enough time in each region, in each tailoring manual, in my own work, and I can now “edit” as per the critique in fashion.

So think means choosing the best examples of what I’m trying to illustrate. Ooh, it’s tough! Especially in those pockets of areas with a lot of art!

It’s been very interesting to add cities to the filenames of portraits as suddenly you find the other routes for change- trade. Even with limits on what can be imported there were exchanges of ideas, and fashion is part of that.

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Tailoring stuff

Aside from my research having to expand across time and countries to follow fashion trends, I’ve also had to go back to the more mundane realities of how tailoring worked in practice. Laws were in place to protect the trade and so that limited who could make what, and when you add sumptuary laws into the mix you start to look at portraits a little differently.

It’s not as simple as blending styles when cultures merge, nor scaling to fit, there are rules even for the rulers as to how much they could change what tailors could do.

So this results in less creativity in cut, that goes to the entire process of training from apprentice to master, more freedom in applied decoration, but within the bounds of sumptuary laws, and a heck of a lot of creatively in how you cut into the fabric outside of seams.

Certainly if you look at all the Spanish manuals skirts are the least creative in terms of cut. You have a set waist front and back, a set length, and the hem varies by exactly how well you can fit that onto different types of fabric. For vasquina the hem is even, for saya there are proscribed lengths for the train.

Bodices are also very narrowly defined. Even mixing low necked and high necked garments.

In terms of cut the most variety is in the sleeves.

And this makes sense yes? Aside from fitted sleeves they can move somewhat independently of the body so require less personalise measurement, and they are still made from less fabric than a skirt so have a bit more room within sumptuary laws.

And from there if you think about a workshop and the division of labour, then being able to slash/pink/cut into sleeves without the specific set of fitting skills you start to realise that this is the safest form of individualising otherwise very specific sets of rules.

A master tailor would focus on the fit, and the initial markings. So to make change there requires the agreement of the law and the guilds alike. Where the fastest and cheapest change is in the work of the apprentice and journeyman. So one of the fastest ways to change is to turn seams into hems- separate sleeves and then also make those sleeves in parts- and to cut fabric that isn’t structural- again this is easiest on sleeves.

Pendant type sleeves, wide sleeves, fitted sleeves, these can all be split along seams but also within.

It means there is less variety in length and width than we might expect, and if you also remember the division of measurements there is even less variety.

But all together with fabrics, also limited by laws, this still results in clearly defined style by time as well as place.

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Overlapping research

I’m not happy how long this is taking to rewrite my patterning book, but what I have done in the meantime has been very rewarding. It’s definitely paying off, and my hope is that it will be of benefit.

I’m still doing my virtual art tour, and occasionally dipping into the written parts of costume history books. And am remined of just why I started this “fix my errors” tour in the first place!

My “system” is very modular, so you can swap modern elements for historic. That won’t change, what I am working on doing is explaining the engineering behind each element.

My hands however are just not on board this train. I can’t write or draw, and typing this post has taken longer than it should, even fully splinted. It’s so frustrating to be at this point and have to wait. My thoughts don’t rest so I get very impatient and stressed. Especially as everything else in my life is also put on hold so I get behind in everything. Including health, and so that makes me even more impatient and stressed.

I might be able to at least wash my hair now that’s it’s shorter again.

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I’ve actually sewn

OMG. Over the last few days I have eased myself into Doing even a very little. So I managed to recut a panel of velveteen for my Anne of Cleves skirt so I can turn the front into the back and vice versa.

So far I have basted then sewn the panel into the new back layer, and have pinned the CB of the panel to make it into a width closer to the reality of the 16thC.

The calico underlining would ideally be linen, but the velveteen is a silk velvet substitute anyway (a pretty good one actually) and an underlay that moves with the velveteen is better than using what linen is available.

This is to prepare the panels for sewing the very fiddly metal woven trim.

I need to cut the trim on the bias as that’s the evidence we have of the Moritz von Saschen schaube. I’m not sure I can find a gold cord to cover the raw edge so I need to stabilise the whole lot on heat n bond then I can turn back a couple of mm that I can then stitch through. I love the effect of my other Anne of Cleves frock:

The gold bands are from the same weight metal I’m using so I am confident I can pin, bond, stitch the ground needed.

I’ve also been re-hemming my underskirts. One might need to be sacrificed for the yellow silk to line my new sleeves and hat, but I have my green silk to replace it for a stealth laurel kind of deal.

Ooooh. Actually I like that.

My first venture into this style is still appropriate and I am so happy to have it back. I traded an unfinished 1860s frock for her return. I think we both were better off in the end 🙂

To turn this into a blue version of the Holbein portrait will be a “breeze” if I can get another proper metallic saree. The direction of grain is about all I’m concerned with but I think I can safely ignore it.

The cut of the bodice means I can easily change it.

The curve lower edge of the sleeves I cannot prove. At all.

But it really does match a few portraits more easily than what I can prove.

All in all, I’ve not wasted my time by devoting it to research.

It’s all given me more confidence in my Doing.

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underestimating myself

One of the hardest part in my Anne of Cleves research is to go against so much popular opinion while having nice cold data that supports what I have been following, and what other lesser known scholars also have shared.

Where I am truly struggling is in definitions and borders. I can put Anna specific books and articles in a folder but everything else sort of… blurs.

But I have my few examples of art and extant items and a nice trail of leads.

I really just need time to read a couple of hundred documents to work out where they go.

It’s not so bad with OCR, I can search within a document >500 pages to work out why I saved it.

But two really important threads have popped up so I’m excited enough that I recut my Anne of Cleves skirt based on solidifying information.


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Research, again?

Yes I have managed to get a really nice work flow going. Except my North Rhine specific files.

Fortunately it’s looking like I can go straight into sorting by administrative region given the overlapping cultural expression. It’s still a bit of a kicker when I also have found my cut fabric for my Anne of Cleves dress is probably about 20cm too small each quarter. Maybe not if I take a heavily Empirical approach, but I think the Saxon and Swabian influence is much greater than might be expected.

So I’ve got enough calico to flat/underline a new cut skirt CF front set. I have the fabric for the sleeves set aside so hopefully….

The extra velveteen I have is to trim my other Juelich and Saxon frocks in vibrant fuchsia. If I really mess up it’s possible to buy some more velveteen and tint the entire lot with dye. It is so much work to stabilise home dye that I have avoided it as much as possible.

That I have done so much custom dyeing is a reflection on how hard it is to get a specific shade at all.

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Actual project working now

I have finally, finally, got through my 20 years of digital photos sorted. Massive task as not all had “date taken” data. But these include my costume and research photos so now I feel like yes, yes I can use some of my short window of Able to get my pearl hat actually worked on, as I have also finally got enough research to be sure I won’t need to take it apart ever again to be more accurate.

The design is mine, but the techniques have historic analogs.

My hands are not very happy today, not sure how well I’ll be able to cut the pieces off to re stitch them, but I’m finally satisfied with what I have.

So it’s time to gather those pieces.

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Try July

I’ve decided my version of Dry July has got to be about finding joy again in my projects. I used to make costumes even when I had no where to wear them. It’s working. So far I’ve found in my mix of resources some patterns for mum and I to make clothes for my childhood dolls (and baby Morden) and I found all the historic doll costuming books I used in my teens and so they are all tidy.

I found the designer of a gorgeous soft bodied “wooden” doll. I make my own patterns generally but I wanted to support her as I think she deserves credit for inspiration which led me to new solutions.

Hmm. I could also make a 3D model now. But I like this doll so much so I’ll probably maker her in the meantime as I only need a few supplies.

I learned how to pattern from several dollmaking books, I learned how to make fabric bodies which helped me understand how historic garments fit, the fashion dolls also offered simplified patterns of highly complex fashion styles, so I got very familiar with construction of the 19thC too.

This is probably my favourite. Seriously beautiful dolls and recreated gowns.

The Paris collection
by Mac Neil, Sylvia
Publication date 1992

But if I want to make frocks for this Regency-Romantic shaped doll then I need to extend into the past and the dresses for these dolls can be remarkably closer to the shapes of full scale gowns.

But I also want to look at the old dolls as there were so very many attempts to both create a doll of idealised proportions, but also durability, and ways to allow them to move so lots of options to mix in.

It appears I’ve definitely rea this book in a local library as these dolls influenced my polymer clay doll in terms of features:

It’s why I want to mould her so I can cast her to make a ball jointed body for her. And that’s where you can get some amazing variations of body materials, leading back to this cloth doll.

These three fashion dolls have bisque heads, the middle and right hand dolls have wooden bodies, but the doll to the left is made of pressed leather! The joints are beautiful. I might try for something similar for my polymer doll.

And then you have twill over papier mache!

And finally yes, ball jointed dolls have been around for a long time, peg jointed even longer.

Ancient roman peg jointed figures.


The 16thC figures are very anatomically detailed, too detailed for a safe for work style blog, but they have some incredible range of movement, and are mostly for artists to use as models.

Gliederpuppenpaar, salzburgisch, Umkreis des Meisters I.P.(?), um 1525. Buchsbaumholz, H. 23 cm, Innsbruck, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Inv. Nr. P415, P416.

Weibliche Gliederpuppe, Nürnberg um 1520, Buchsbaumholz, Bodemuseum Berlin (Inv. 2167)

There are so many more, if you can get hold of this book it’s incredible:

Die Gliederpuppe: Kult – Kunst – Konzept
Markus Rath
Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 19/02/2018 – Art

So now I know my doll approach.

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