Now I’m finally tackling a dress to go over them!
The dress is more of my ‘dabbling’ in Elizabethan, so it’s testing concepts rather than being 100% period accurate, and it’s also meant to be all from stash.
Thanks to the fabulous Lynne, I had two huge curtains in red velvet, so that decided the dress fabric. With red velvet in mind, I went looking for inspiration. The obvious place to start for construction is Janet Arnold, and for inspiration, (since it is Elizabethan), portraits of Queen Elizabeth I.
I quite like van der Meulens’ 1560s portrait:
I particularly like the more restrained ruff, and the open effect of the neckline. And the fact that it’s in red velvet is an added perk!
This portrait by an unknown artist has many of the same general design elements:
I like the idea of separate rather than matching sleeves, a look that is also repeated in the Pelican Portrait:
I am madly in love with her embroidered shirt, but doubt I will ever have the time to recreate it!
There is, of course, the Phoenix portrait, which Arnold helpfully provides a (very, very simple) conjectured pattern for in Patterns of Fashion.
The more I look at the portrait, the more I suspect that Arnold has gotten the sleeves wrong, but it’s still a helpful starting point.
And finally, the last portrait of Elizabeth that I find useful and interesting is Gowers’ Sieve portrait:
Once again, we’ve got lots of delicious red velvet, an open neckline, and contrasting sleeves. The sleeves are starting to move towards 1580s gargantuanism* (blech), and the ruff is heading towards head on a platter (also blech).
So – conclusions. There is obviously a lot that I could go into with clothing symbolism in Elizabeths portraits (hey, there are multiple books on it), but, in brief, her portraits reveal I like Elizabethan between 1563 & 1579.
My stays and farthingale are quite formal, so I’m aiming for equally formal in the dress: though not quite Queen status! I’d like a skirt that can be worn open over a frontpiece, or closed, and sleeve puffs with detachable sleeves, rather than joined (I really need to stop writing posts at 11pm, because my brain starts going to sleep and I forget all the technical terms for everything)
So what have I got so far?
The skirt shape is based on Eleanora of Toledo’s gown in Arnold. It’s made from the red velvet, and trimmed with a gold metallic lace.
I’d bought a couple of full rolls of vintage jacquard woven trim specifically for this at fabric-a-brac, but they didn’t look good on the velvet, so I went for the gold (which was originally bought for Ninon, but didn’t look good on the yellow…). The massive drawback to the gold lace is that it all had to be hand-sewn down.
6 hours of hand-sewing later…
The skirt is hemmed and faced with the same gilt linen I made the pair of bodies with:
To go under the skirt, I’ve made a front part:
The shape is based on the front part in Arnold, but this is definitely historical accuracy lite: it’s entirely finished with bias binding.
Isn’t the fabric fabulous? I inherited it from Nana, and as soon as I saw it I thought ‘that would make something fabulous and Elizabethan.” It’s been sitting in my stash for 5 and a half years, waiting for me to sew Elizabethan. It’s good to be finally putting it to use!
I have exactly enough of Nana’s brown and gold brocade to make a pair of sleeves out of (below you can see my pattern mock-up of Arnold’s conjecture of the sleeves of the Phoenix portrait, which I now think are inaccurate). I’m not sure about the accuracy of matching sleeves + forepart, so those may not happen…
This weekend is going to be devoted to constructing and trimming the bodice. I’ve got a basic foundation made, I just need to do eyelets, and then attach skirt, cover and trim.
Oh, and sew lace on the hem edge of a ruff, which (even when done by machine) is quickly becoming one of my least favourite tasks ever.
So, if blog posts become a bit scanty in the next few weeks, you know what I’ll be doing!
* Have you noticed that they make her arms look exactly like some sort of disgusting maggot or grub-worm?