Historical Sew Fortnightly

The HSF ’14: Challenge #12: Shape and Support

It’s the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #12 – when we get to this we’ll be halfway through the year!

Challenge #12, due Tue July 1st, is Shape and Support.

Throughout history humans have changed their form and silhouette with garments that pulled in and pushed out.  Few eras of fashion have been entirely satisfied with the natural human body.  In this Challenge make a garment that changes and distorts the human form, whether it pulls it in, as with corsetry, or extends it, with ruffs and sleeve supports, fathingales and bustles and hoopskirts.  As long as the garment creates an extreme silhouette, it counts

Throughout history we have extended our heads with mad hats:

Book of Hours, use of Amiens. 4th quarter of the 15th century

Book of Hours, use of Amiens. 4th quarter of the 15th century

Lifted our bust and pulled in our waists with bust bags and corsets:

Bust bodice found in Lengberg castle, the end of 15th century (ca 1480 ?), University of Innsbruck, photo University of Innsbruck

Bust bodice found in Lengberg castle, the end of 15th century (ca 1480 ?), University of Innsbruck, photo University of Innsbruck

Corset, 1830–35, American  cotton, bone, metal, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009.300.3031

Corset, 1830–35, American cotton, bone, metal, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009.300.3031

Turned our bottom halves into stiff cones with farthingales:

Catalonian dress of the 1470s

Catalonian dress of the 1470s

And our top halves into stiff cones with stays:

Extant stays (Queen Elizabeth's effigy 'pair o bodies') ca. 1603

Extant stays (Queen Elizabeth’s effigy ‘pair o bodies’) ca. 1603

We’ve ‘improved’ our bums with bum rumps:

Bum rump, 1785, Lewis Walpole Library

Bum rump, 1785, Lewis Walpole Library

And our busts with bust enhancers:

Bust improver or reducer, made of cotton with metal boning, by Spirella Styles, (patented) 1907

Bust improver or reducer, made of cotton with metal boning, by Spirella Styles, (patented) 1907

We’ve lifted our feet with heels and chopines:

Chopines, 1590-1610, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Chopines, 1590-1610, Metropolitan Museum of Art

We’ve been cone shaped and bell shaped and elliptical:

Cage crinoline, Great Britain, 1860-1865, Spring steel, woven wool, linen, lined with cotton, and brass, T.150-1986

Cage crinoline, Great Britain, 1860-1865, Spring steel, woven wool, linen, lined with cotton, and brass, T.150-1986

Pinched in and pushed out in ever way, shape and form:

Corset, 1870-1880

Corset, 1870-1880

Nor have men been immune to body re-shaping.

They have had padded doublets to turn their chests into pigeon breasts, and poofed pantaloons to balloon their thighs:

The Gentleman in Pink, Giovanni Battista Moroni , 1560

The Gentleman in Pink, Giovanni Battista Moroni , 1560

Men have laced in with Beau Brummel bodice (and padded thighs, hips, shoulders and calves by the look of it):

Lacing a Dandy, 1819

And stiffened their fronts with doublets:

Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick, Painted in 1633 by Daniel Mytens

Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick, Painted in 1633 by Daniel Mytens

They have tilted their chins with wide ruffs:

Portrait of a Young Man, by Federico Barocci (Il Baroccio), perhaps c. 1580-90 but possibly slightly later, ca. 1600

Portrait of a Young Man, by Federico Barocci (Il Baroccio), perhaps c. 1580-90 but possibly slightly later, ca. 1600

And both sexes have created full thighs and calves with symmetricals.

All these odd and peculiar contraptions, just to achieve the shape and silhouette that fashion deemed necessary and attractive!