I made a very, very frilly stomacher to go with my Frou Frou Francaise!
I based it on this stomacher, from the MFA Boston:
I was searching for stomacher inspiration to go with my Frou Frou Francaise, because I wanted something a little more dynamic and interesting than the usual stripes-of-ruffles or bows (not that they aren’t charming, but this one just needed something different), and I stumbled across this one, and it was perfect, and (amazingly) it’s also the only extant plain blue silk stomacher that I know of.
I realised that it would be the perfect project for the HSF Challenge #8: Extant originals, where you copy a period garment that is still in existence.
I tried to replicate the exact shape & dimensions of the stomacher, but I just couldn’t get it to pin onto me and into my francaise and looking right.
So instead I worked with a shape and dimensions that did fit my body and my dress, and adapted the trim to fit.
To make my stomacher first I made linen buckram for the backing:
Burnley & Trowbridge have an excellent youtube tutorial on how to make your own, which I mostly followed, but had to adapt slightly based on what I could get in NZ in a reasonable timeframe.
Gum tragacanth is the most easily accessible modern ingredient that was used in 18th century buckram making, but I couldn’t find any in Wellington, and I did some research and it turns out that most stuff that is sold as GT is actually xanthan gum anyway. That you can get in Wellington – it’s not historically accurate, but I decided to try it to see if it would work.
I mixed it with hot water:
Probably not enough hot water: 2T in half a cup of water made a VERY thick and gloopy paste.
But I decided to try it as it was, so I dropped it on my linen…
….and spread it around. It was quite gross and mucos-y.
And then left it to dry in the sun:
And the end result was very buckram-y.
The next time I would definitely add less XG, and make my buckram as a whole cloth, and then cut my fabric later.
Making my stomacher:
To make the stomacher I cut a piece of silk 1.5cm wider than my buckram base on all sides. I folded the excess silk over the edges of the buckram base:
And then hemstitched it down, so the stitches caught only through the buckram, not through the outer silk.
For the trim, I took the MFA Boston image, and scaled it up to the dimensions they give for the stomacher.
I then printed it out, and used the design to develop one that fit on my slightly shorter, slightly wider stomacher. I transferred the design to my stomacher with pinpricks.
I hand-cut scalloped trim from my silk (I dream of owning a real pinking chisel, but as far as I know no-one is making replicas at the moment, and original ones don’t come up very often).
The original appears to have small holes punched in the ruffles as well. I experimented a bit, and finally discovered that the sort of hollow-needle that tag guns (the ones that put in those plastic clothing tags in shops) use was exactly right for punching a tiny hole that still lasted.
With scallops cut and holes punched, I ruched my trims with whipped gathers. My trim did come out being much frillier and more gathered than the original: I think that’s both a combination of too-much gathers, and the original being crushed and flattened with age.
I’m also wondering if there is a chance that the originals ruffles are sewn down along the sides as well. Maybe that’s what I’m seeing instead of punched holes…
So my stomacher isn’t quite as close to the original as I’d hoped, but at least it’s attractive and works.
And the HSF info…
What the item is: a 1760s stomacher
Which extant original did you copy: a mid 18th century stomacher from the MFA Boston, 49.918
Material: silk taffeta, silk thread, and linen buckram (linen & gum)
Pattern: none, based on period examples.
Year: ca. 1760
Notions: silk thread
How historically accurate is it? Pretty close! But not perfect, because it’s not a perfect match, and the xantham gum etc.
How close is it to the original? My blue is less blue-green, and I wasn’t able to get the exact dimensions of the original to work on me/with my francaise, so I used a different shape base, and copied the outline of the original stomacher for my trim. My trim is much more ruffly and three dimensional – I’m trying to decide if that’s because the original has been flattened with age, or if the ruffles are actually sewn down.
Hours to complete: About 15
First worn: Not yet.
Total cost: About $10, if you count how much of the silk taffeta I used.