17th Century Women’s Smock

I was looking at my collection of photos on my computer and on pinterest to determine the different shapes of smocks in this century (and all the others), you wouldn’t think there was many, i was surprised to find at least four.

At the beginning of the century the fashion was still for the large french farthingale’s and big collars usually associated with Queen Elizabeth, the neckline at the front was low and quiet high at the back, to support the large collar.

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The smock isn’t visible in any of these, indicating that it follows along the edge and fits very closely against the corset. I also noticed from the same few decades that young girls dress had a straighter bodice line, perhaps that was more modest for children and they eventually graduated to the more risky bust lines later on?

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During the same early decades of the century into the 1640’s and 1650’s there were some women who were far more concerned with being conservative, covering up almost every inch of flesh, you can almost see these these women rallying behind Cromwell in a few years to come.

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They would have been wearing something very similar to the smock below.

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As the swinging 60’s rolled in and everyone began to enjoy themselves and drink themselves into oblivion, bodice lines began to move down rapidly, slipping down over the shoulder and just holding the bust in.

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The smocks were also sometimes visible just over the edge of the dress as well as bulging out the carefully cut holes in the sleeves. The smock lightly resembled the chemises worn in the 1840’s by Victorian women, except their large, puffy sleeves that were heavily gathered and were always just visible below the sleeve. The corsets of  the era demonstrated the loose structure over the body yet were heavily boned so ironically didn’t leave much room for movement.

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Smocks during the end of the decade began to return to previous shape at the beginning of the century, yet they keep the large puffy sleeves underneath and returned to the hard, boned bodices of the beginning of the century.

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Arabella Progress

I had hoped i would have got a lot more done during my week off but it wasn’t to be, i did understand how far my determination would stretch and apparently its endless 😀 I’m so glad i didn’t just give up. I’m hoping to complete her end-of-week because i’ve just got the bodice left to do.

The farthingale was where i had the most difficulty, apparently wire will not do what you want it to and i’ve noticed there are a lot of variety of farthingale shapes in portraits and among others reconstruction works (future projects).

 

 

 

At first it wouldn’t move into the shape i wanted, but in the end with the bum roll underneath it created the shape i wanted, high at the back and a deep dip at the front, like these below.

 

 

 

And with the petticoat on the shape is better realised, i did have a fun moment when i could climb underneath and hem the petticoat and no one would have seen me, perhaps my shadow but great hiding place.

 

 

 

I’ve already started on the skirt and but i think because of the weight of the Taffeta the farthingale is starting to lose its shape so i may add a flounce on to top like the black and white picture above.

Mistakes in Creativity

I read somewhere that to be creative is to allow yourself to make mistakes, well that was what i did on Tuesday and Wednesday  not willingly mind, but i excepted it and learnt from them.

I choose to make a late 16th century smock on Tuesday and it was important that i cut the neckline right to go with my 1590’s dress i was making and the corset i had just finished. However something went wrong mid action and perhaps i choose to ignore it or i was unaware of it and the smock was sent back 10 or 15 years. It did occur to me in the end that there is only one right way to cut a smock/chemise.

On Wednesday i carried on with the 1590’s dress and choose to make a large french farthingale to go underneath the skirt, it looked pretty simple (i had never made one before though) and went ahead without really considering it at first. I realised later on that i should of took into consideration what i would be boning the farthingale with, as it turned out that my trusty flexible wire wasn’t going to work, weighing the whole thing down. I also miscalculated the shape of the waist, i’m still not sure how i did this, but i will figure it out.

I felt pretty lacking in motivation at the end of wednesday, ready to go to sleep and forget the two wasted days, in my eyes. But my lovely tabby (samsung tablet) reminded me to read some verses in the bible and my motivation flooded back, reminding me whats most important and why i’m trying so hard. Anyway, heres hoping the rest of the week will be far more productive.

Magic Monday

So, I’m on holiday from Monday (i actually have loads of holiday coming up before Xmas) so i figured this would be a sewing week, trying to get as many costumes done so i could move on to writing the pattern guides. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Arabella yet, she my 1590’s french farthingale dress pattern that was all the rage at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

I started by drafting the pattern for a 1590’s corset onto my mannequin (i usually always make the pattern from scratch) which then surprised me how well it worked and then i used this as a base to draft a pattern. I cut all the individual pieces out and machine sewn the lines for the boning to go in. I used a quite flexible garden wire for this because it represented the boning used in these corsets quite well.

Sewing up the whole thing, i stitched the sides together and added metal eyelets to the front (obviously they wouldn’t have had metal eyelets back then, but when your really rubbish at sewing them like me, its much easier). I then began to cover up the edges with extra fabric and all round the corset.

I have not finished the shoulders yet because it was to late to use sewing machine, but that’s my next bit. Tomorrow I am hoping to complete the smock and farthingale.

Birthday Escape

I’ve been super lazy this last week, which i am going to blame on my birthday because birthdays are mean’t to be relaxing which is why i decided to go to Cotehele, a National Trust property on the border of Cornwall and Devon, while the place was amazing the car journey was awful and i got lost several times and needed about a week to get other that (i have NO navigational skills whatsoever). The place was beautiful, kinda like Trerice.. but not lol.

I even managed to get a bit of costume history in there as well.

The National Trust Collection

I have discovered, gratefully from The Costume Society of America, that The National Trust, here in England has put their entire collection online. I use to work at a national trust property called Trerice, i absolutely loved it there and made a little shriek when i heard this news because i had a few favorite items among their collection and when i volunteered there you couldn’t take photo’s in the house. I though i would share some with you all, their collection is here.

I remember this painting being put back, if you look carefully to the left you can see the wood that it was painted on is curved, they made a special box frame so the wood could bend back in its own time. The restorers also didn’t do a very good job (or perhaps it wasn’t them ?!?!) because on the lady’s right, her shoulder has been painted away and it’s shorter than her left, its not very visible here, you need to see it up close. Originally they had believed (or hoped) that this was a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, but it turned out to rich, English country lady.

I was also there when this painting came back, it had been living somewhere else in the country and was dirty, after restoration when it came back it was quite important to Trerice because this boy grew up to be the last Baron (i think) to live at Trerice, he died unmarried and quite young and i believe the house past through cousins. I believe this is the only portrait of one of the Arundell’s that Trerice had that lived at the house (again i may well be wrong, i stopped volunteering about 2010, i think).

This portrait of Charles I always use to give me the creeps.

They have several John Opie portraits there, which is lovely as he is a famous Cornish artist.

One day, when i was in this room (the great chamber) i was sat on the window sill watching the visitors and a child ran and jumped on this beautiful 17th century sofa, i think a part of me died inside and my mortification must have been very obvious as the child’s father quickly grabbed him and left.

Beautiful pieces of stumpwork from around the mid 1600’s.