Thursday, September 15, 2011

Green velvet Tudor outfit- Part 1

I'm trying to downsize my fabric stash and finish up old projects, and one of the things that I've wanted to finish for a while now is my green velvet Tudor gown.

Kirtle and forepart worn over chemise and farthingale

Back of gown on dressform
If it were simply a matter of moving forward on this outfit I'd only have to add closures to the front, make and attach oversleeves, and make a gable or a french hood. Heck, I could even forego the hood and wear a snood. Sadly, this outfit has been languishing in my closet for a long time because it is full of problems that need solving.

1) I made the kirtle from the Tudor Tailor pattern in the book, but this was years ago before I really knew how to scale up patterns properly, and I was in a crunch trying to get the outfit done for an event, so I skipped the mock-up and went straight into fabric. BIG MISTAKE! Always make time for a mock-up. The bodice came out a bit high in the neckline and large around. It fit, but it wasn't snug. I thought that it would "tighten-up" when I added in the boning and turned all the seams etc. Nope.
Kirtle neckline
2) Did that stop me? Did I go back and take it all apart? No. Bad costumer. I went right ahead with my forepart and undersleeves, and decorated the kirtle as if it were perfect. All of that came out pretty well, and I even had a separate forepart attached to the kirtle for some variety when I wanted to take off the pretty floral jacquard one, which tied on.
Forepart hem with decorative trim


3) The undersleeves I was pretty happy with and they only needed a finished edge at the elbow and ties.

4)The first problem with the gown came when I realized that I didn't have quite enough fabric. I had bought it years before on clearance and there was no possibility of getting more, and since velvet hass a directionality to it that's really obvious you really can't cheat it. I had been planning to cover the lower, turned-back sleeves with fur anyhow (nice, mottled, brown, bunny fur) so I decided that could be in a similarly-colored fabric and not need to be velvet on the backside. I also used less fullness in the skirt than originally called-for. I barely squeaked enough fabric out for everything else.

5) I started to put it together, and was very dismayed when it turned out that the fabric frayed and pulled apart at the seams. I tried to use different thread, stitch multiple times, back it with canvas (which the bodice was interlined with anyhow).

6)I finally got the bodice finished to the point where I could put the skirt on. I was really  in a time crunch by this point. So instead of figuring out the time-consuming cartridge-pleating which would have been historically accurate, and just pleated it symmetrically instead.

7) Then the fabric started to pull away from one of the back seams. I sighed, tried it on over the farthingale, kirtle, and forepart. Realized that the kirtle was too big in the bodice and was adding strain to the already-popping seams. The farthingale was to big and I should have made a smaller one. It was the night before the event.

So I threw up my hands, and wore something else to the event, and the misadventurous Tudor gown has never been finished. So now I am ready to tackle it again, and this will involve:-

1) Altering the farthingale to be smaller.

2) The kirtle was actually sold since it was fine except for being too big for me. I'll be making a new one.

3) Fixing the tear in the gown back.

4) Finishing the undersleeves, and the gown itself.

I give myself a week to do this, so updates will be forthcoming soon.

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