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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