Cranach Gown – the second bodice

Some of the steps to make the Cranach Gown costume bodice. 1) Stitching down the lining facing, 2) pinning the Brustfleck/Stomacher in place, and 3) double-checking the measurements.

Some of the steps to make the Cranach Gown costume bodice. 1) Stitching down the lining facing, 2) pinning the Brustfleck/Stomacher in place, and 3) double-checking the measurements.

So, with less than a week to go, I had to re-start the bodice for my Cranach Gown.
This made a few factors really important to me:

  1. I needed to have fast construction methods – very little hand-sewing except where it was absolutely necessary.
  2. I was going to have to skip some of the extra steps. I anticipated not having the (rather lengthy) hem done, and I didn’t think I’d have time for the guards on the skirt. I also wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have sleeves for this event and considered either going with no sleeves (just using the chemise sleeves) or re-using the sleeves from either my red and gold or green Italian gowns.
  3. I was willing to sacrifice some of the historically-informed choices in favour of “fast” – especially with items that could be upgraded later. For instance, if I did make sleeves, I was willing to just lace them on through the fabric rather than instilling eyelets, and I was willing to have them go unlined.
    I also needed to consider that between all my activities during the day, I’d need to get dressed reasonably quickly.

Bodice construction

Referencing point 3 (and 1)…. I decided to use “speed hooks and eyes” on one side of the brustfleck & stomacher to attach it to the bodice, and permanently attach the brustfleck & stomacher to the Cranach gown bodice on the other side. I DO NOT believe that the paintings where women are partially undressed that the stomacher and brustfleck are permanently attached on either side to the bodice – I’m confident that these are completely separate garment items, and even suspect that the brustfleck & stomacher might have been an interchangeable item like an accessory – wearing a plain one sometimes, and a fancier, embellished one at other occasions with the same gown.

Those “speed hooks and eyes” – yep… definitely not a historically-informed choice. “Speed hooks & eyes” – that’s PR speak for zipper. Yep. I used a zipper. Don’t tell the Laurels.

The Laurels are people in the Order which recognizes excellence in the Arts & Sciences in the SCA, as well as leadership, Peer-like qualities, teaching, and service to the Arts & organization.

Since I’d made mistakes on version 1, I was a bit better prepared for version 2. I started off by cutting the bodice out of the black wool for the dress fabric, and the natural-coloured linen-cotton canvas for the lining. Here I faced another OOPS though… right when I was about to cut the final piece, I got a phone call which was kind of distracting… and I ended up cutting my back out twice. This meant I only had enough canvas for ONE of the fronts, and had to go to a linen canvas in another colour (with block printing on one side.. LOL) for the other front side. Doh!

Once that was taken care of, my next steps included:

  1. Sewing the vertical seams and shoulder seams on the lining and outer fabric bodice pieces.
  2. Fusing strips of interfacing (so not historically-informed) to the centre front to support where the lacing rings will eventually go.
  3. Sewing the waist stay to the waist of the lining. (This is just twill tape; this is a technique from corsetry to give extra protection against the waist stretching out, and keeping the garment at the waist, kind of like an internal belt.)
  4. Cutting and sewing the silk damask facings, then pressing the edge of the facing, and layering it over the lining, and stitching down. On my original version I had done this by hand, but in the interests of speed, I did this by machine on the lining – it won’t be seen by anyone who sees me in the dress anyways. I interfaced one of the facings with fusible interfacing (obviously not historically informed) to keep the clean line when folding.

    Four steps in this collage of the Cranach gown bodice construction: 1) cutting out the canvas for the brustfleck/stomacher, 2) layering the fabrics on the brustfleck/stomacher, 3) attaching the waist stay to the lining, and 4) layering the facing for the lining.

    Four steps in this collage of the Cranach gown bodice construction: 1) cutting out the canvas for the brustfleck/stomacher, 2) layering the fabrics on the brustfleck/stomacher, 3) attaching the waist stay to the lining, and 4) layering the facing for the lining.

  5. Constructing the brustfleck and stomacher – I did this the same way as the original, cutting out a lining in white linen, an interlining in canvas, a layer of linen, topped with a layer of cotton flannel and then the silk damask. I left the lower edge raw to turn it, because this would be bound with the rest of the bodice later.
  6. Marking the overlap between the brustfleck/stomacher and the bodice front on the lining using tracing paper and a tracing wheel.
  7. Sewing the brustfleck & stomacher to the lining on one side, and sewing a zipper (those “speed hooks and eyes”) to the other side. I faced the zipper so the head was on the inside – this makes it a lot more challenging to put on, but greatly reduces the bulk on the right side, which might give away my technique. To do up the garment I have a long ribbon tied to the zipper pull. Lining up the stitching and zipper so that it would be right on that overlap line was really important for the right fit.

    Some of the steps to make the Cranach Gown costume bodice. 1) Stitching down the lining facing, 2) pinning the Brustfleck/Stomacher in place, and 3) double-checking the measurements.

    Some of the steps to make the Cranach Gown costume bodice. 1) Stitching down the lining facing, 2) pinning the Brustfleck/Stomacher in place, and 3) double-checking the measurements.

  8. Layering the bodice and lining, wrong sides together, and stay-stitching at the armholes and outer edge.

    Stay-stitching the armholes in the Cranach gown costume bodice.

    Stay-stitching the armholes in the Cranach gown costume bodice.

  9. Sewing the outer facing onto the outer edge, clipping, and turning it, finishing that front edge and neckline. To secure the facing, I did hand-stitch it, so that machine stitching won’t show at all.

11. Next, I made bias tape using the black wool, and finished the lower edge (waist) of the bodice and the arm holes. Because of how this dress will work, the bodice will be permanently attached to the skirt – but only from side seam to side seam. This is because of the portraits that showed the skirts sitting at the waist, even while the bodices were hanging off the wearer’s shoulders (in the Suicide of Lucretia paintings). My speculation is that the skirts had their own independent waist bands, so that the skirts could stay up even when not supported from the shoulders in any way.

12. I also finished the armholes with black wool bias as well. This will allow me to lace on the sleeves – or go sleeveless.

13. From there I marked the lacing position, but only just basted the rings on. I’m glad I did this, because when I put it on… the lacing was “off”. I re-visited The Zen of Spiral Lacing, and found my error, removed some of the lacing rings, and secured them back on… and sewed them by hand securely.

Portrait influence

There were a few different portraits that influenced some of my choices. For instance, in this painting:

Direct link from Pinterest - Portrait of a woman, 1528, Lucas Cranach

Direct link from Pinterest – Portrait of a woman, 1528, Lucas Cranach

In this portrait the lacing rings are visible.

Down to the wire

At this point, the Cranach Gown costume bodice itself was done, and I needed to move onto the skirt and… if I had time… sleeves. I finished the bodice to this point by Monday evening, but had plans to go out Wednesday and Thursday evening, which meant I’d really only have Tuesday and Friday evening to complete the outfit – plus any time I could scrounge at the event in the daytime on Saturday. Plus I still had to pack for the event; fabric for the Facebook fabric auction winners, items for the competition I’d be running, and the regalia I’d be handing over to the winner!

Stay tuned!

Link to all of the posts about my Cranach gown projectIf you’re reading this post when it’s posted… hold on tight, I’ll have the next stage of my last-minute German Cranach Gown in a few days…(like the skirt…and oh yeah – sleeves!) In the meantime, come check out what I’m making next on my Instagram feed, or come follow me on Facebook, and you’ll get up-to-date posts about all of my new costume, sewing, and crafting projects.

If you’re reading this post well after the publication date, click the “Cranach Gown” tag to see all of the posts related to this gown, or the German Late period category to see all posts about late period German garb, including the accessories I made to go along with this outfit.

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