1480s Florence – lacing options

The dress laying flat, showing off the finished lacing.

The dress laying flat, showing off the finished lacing.

I went through a number of different lacing alternatives when I moved to lacing rings after using my lacing strip (with grommets) for the finished version – I found that what worked well with the lacing strip did NOT work well with the lacing rings. I thought I’d share some of my trials with you in case there are other costumers who are interested in how different lacing might look.

One note, I put lacing rings on in a layout for ladder lacing – they would line up differently for spiral lacing. Also, I think that I could have spread my lacing rings out further.

Sorry for the strange angles – all of the photos were taken by me, with the garment ON me… I’ll also note that since I was doing a number of different lacing patterns, I frequently did not lace all the way to the top, and didn’t lace the bodice as tightly closed as it would be worn otherwise. The undergarment (black) is just a modern house dress – ignore that!

Regular ladder lacing

Lacing trial - regular ladder lacing with lacing rings

Lacing trial – regular ladder lacing with lacing rings

Lacing trial - regular ladder lacing with lacing rings - Close up

Lacing trial – regular ladder lacing with lacing rings – Close up

I had originally planned on doing ladder lacing for the bodice, as it looks the most similar to most of my painting inspirations. While doing a fitting, another costumer suggested “double ladder lacing” which I had never heard of, but I’m sure glad she mentioned it! (You’ll see why soon…)

The ladder lacing which worked perfectly with the grommets in the lacing strip did not work whatsoever with my lacing rings – because of course – my rings move. Where the ribbon goes up between two rings on the same side- the rings pinch together. The result is distorted rings and lacing that looks and functions a LOT more like spiral lacing than ladder lacing. I really wasn’t happy with how this looked at all.

The advantages of this – well with the grommets it worked well, laces up pretty quickly, and looks right.

The disadvantages – you pretty much have to be laced into your garment, since you wouldn’t really want to have the long length hanging anywhere. You have to tie it off at top and bottom which I found a bit strange (just because I haven’t done it before) and it’s REALLY hard to tighten things up.

spiral lacing

Lacing trial -spiral lacing with lacing rings

Lacing trial -spiral lacing with lacing rings

Next I gave spiral lacing a try.

This is when I realized that my lacing rings were probably too close together – there’s a LOT of ribbon here compared to the inspiration paintings. I wasn’t even going to THINK of removing them and doing them again though, and when I did get down to the double-ladder lacing, I think it works out ok.

For the spiral lacing, the rings lay properly which I like.

What I don’t like is that most of my portraits don’t show spiral lacing… but rather ladder lacing or a herringbone lacing method. (Which honestly, I wasn’t even going to try to attempt at this point, since I knew I’d be lacing myself into my dress…)

The advantages of this – it looks nice, there’s lots of historical depictions of it, and it laces up reasonably quickly.

The disadvantages – as above, you pretty much have to be laced into your garment, since you wouldn’t really want to have the long length hanging anywhere. You have to tie it off at top and bottom which I found a bit strange (just because I haven’t done it before) and it’s REALLY hard to tighten things up. You basically have to do it line by line…

Lacing trial -spiral lacing with lacing rings - Close up

Lacing trial -spiral lacing with lacing rings – Close up

I would like to point out though how you can BARELY see any of my corded “boning” channels on the second spiral lacing photo… I’m super happy that the corded boning gave me the support I wanted, without actually LOOKING like a boned bodice (or feeling like one too much either… For all of the work that went into it – I’m really happy with that element.

crossed lacing

Lacing trial -  crossed lacing with lacing rings

Lacing trial – crossed lacing with lacing rings

I don’t know if this method has another name – it’s the same kind of lacing most of us do on our sneakers, and I’m just going to call it crossed lacing.

This is what I normally do on my corsets, so it felt the most familiar. I also think it’s pretty.. but…

The disadvantages: I haven’t seen portraits with this lacing method. Kind of a big one.

The advantages: laces up pretty quickly, and the lacing rings lay correctly. Since the ends are tied in a knot, you could give yourself more length and tuck them in, leaving part of it laced up for faster in-and-out. Pretty much anyone at an event could help you lace and tighten your bodice – not really an option everywhere with other lacing. The biggest one – it tightens up really easily. You just pull the crosses – which are easy to see, and easy to grab.

double ladder lacing

Lacing trial -double ladder lacing with lacing rings

Lacing trial -double ladder lacing with lacing rings

So finally that double-ladder lacing as mentioned earlier.

I don’t even know if this is what the person was suggesting… but I saw an illustration, and thought I’d give it a try. I thought that this worked really, really well.

(Just ignore that bottom bit though; I made a mistake beginning the lacing right from the start!)

While it’s not possible to see the upwards movement of the ribbon in portraiture, the ‘ladder rungs’ are right, and there’s at least one portrait I think I remember where I thought a double-rung might have been used… so it’s possible!

This is what I ended up using for my costume.

The advantages: lacing rings lay correctly, ladder lacing looks correct based on portrait inspiration, and it’s about as easy to tighten as the crossed lacing – you just grab each rung individually.

The disadvantages: it’s really slow to lace, and easy to make mistakes. I had to “start again” twice while lacing myself into my bodice on the first real wearing. Not fun. I wouldn’t want to ask a friend to help with lacing this either – it’s just too complicated.

 

A thought on materials

As much as I love the ribbon I was lacing with for the test (it’s a white satin ribbon with a gold edging) I opted to go with a cord when I wore this instead. (As seen in the top photo) Firstly, I wanted the lacing to show up a little more – and was worried the white ribbon would blend too much with the camicia. With that being said, the cord I used is not what I’ll keep using. I want to use the lucet cord I made … but… erm… have misplaced!

The ribbon also shows the twists too easily, cord didn’t. I suppose I could go through all the work straightening the twists, but………. That’s an awful lot of work when you can’t even see what you’re doing to begin with. So.. no. Cord it is!

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2 comments on “1480s Florence – lacing options

  1. Lani says:

    The rings you show were not made for lacing. To make them more stable, blanket stitch all along the back of the ring. Not just the little loop hole. They will stay put and not move around.

    • Dawn says:

      That’s correct, the rings I used weren’t made for lacing – they’re the ring part of a toggle clasp 🙂
      Since there’s a steel bone between the ring stitches and the front of the bodice, it’s not actually possible with this one to stitch all away around the back of the ring. I don’t think I’ll make something with the simple plain rings at the time being; for my next attempt I think I’ll try one of the multi-hole decorative rings instead.

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