Sunday, December 28, 2008

German gown musings

So, for a while now I've been considering making a German gown...a Cranach maybe or something from Hans Weigel's Book of Costume. I probably still will, but I started thinking about a gown I had made some years ago, from a Holbein painting, The Darmstadt Madonna. I made the dress without really doing any sort of research into how it should fit, how it should be constructed, undergarments, etc. I made it out of white muslin and embroidered it with black cotton thread, and I wore it about two time before shoving it in the back of the closet. In short, it's frumpy, fits horribly, and needs a complete overhaul.
I think I'm going to drag this gown out of the closet and remake it. Because of all the research that I've been doing for my Cranach gown, I know have a better idea of how it should fit and look when I'm wearing it. I'll have to do quite a bit of tweaking to it if I want to preserve the embroidery, but I think it can be done. I'll also have to construct entirely new undergarments for it - a curved front corset and a corded petticoat among them, things I never thought I would end up making. Thankfully, the German corsets of the period seem to be almost identical to the English ones, save for that they have no boning over the bust area. This would definitely provide the curved bustline that we see in most of the paintings, but I'm wondering if it would provide enough support for us more buxom ladies. (See left.) This corset is also from a much later date (1598) than the gown(s) I'll be making (c. 1530). Unfortunately, this is the earliest extant corset we have, so it's my only example. Going from contemporary portraits, there definitely seems to be some sort of torso shaping garment underneath the bodices, so I think what I'm going to do is use a basic corset pattern as a jumping off point and go from there.
As for the gown itself, there are actually two portraits of Anna Meyer wearing it - the Darmstadt Madonna painting, and a chalk work that looks like it might have been a study for the Madonna painting. It doesn't show much more detail, except that she had a red waistband or sash, but it's still useful. It shows more of the curved bustline than the other painting.
I think what I'm going to end up doing is completely taking apart the bodice and putting it back together. All it is right now is two layers of musling, no shape, no stiffening, etc. So, it definitely needs some help. The skirt itself is nothing special, just a tube of fabric that's been gathered into the waist, so I don't see much need to touch it. I may end up making it a bit fuller, though, I haven't decided yet. The sleeves I have on the gown right now are completely wrong, so I'll definitely have to do something about that.

Anyway, this project is going to probably be one of those on again/off again things that I work on when I'm tired of my main project. I'll be sure to update if I actually ever get this project underway!

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