1560-70 Fencing Clothes

It’s time, once again, for a new sewing project.  This time, I’m making clothes after the illustrations in Joachim Meyer‘s fencing treatises.

Meyer produced a printed book (which saw two editions) and a manuscript, both with illustrations.  Here’s one of the woodcuts from the printed book:


The manuscript has color, painted illustrations.  I’m basing my sewing project on this one, because I like the colors and also because it’s one of the simplest depictions of this fashion, with relatively restrained slashing.  (It happens to also be the first illustration, but I have looked through all of them and still like this one best, even better than the other lavender, white, and black pluderhose.)


In order to recreate this fabulousness, I’m using patterns from Janet Arnold‘s 1985 Patterns of Fashion; she studied and measured the clothing of Svante, Erik, and Nils Sture which was preserved by Marta Sture, Svante’s wife and Erik and Nils’s mother, following their deaths by politically-motivated murder.  The clothing they died in, as well as some items that had belonged to a third brother that died two years earlier, were preserved and buried in an iron box, discovered in the 18th century, and displayed ever since.  Here’s a photo of the display (source), which is in Uppsala Cathedral:


This collection is of course wonderful just as examples of well-preserved clothes, but the details of the provenance make it especially valuable to costume historians: these suits were all fashionable at the same time, with a young dandy kind of variation (Erik, whose clothes are on the right, was 21, which might explain his extra poofing and stripes everywhere), a practical sporting kind of variation (Nils, center, more in a moment), and a middle-aged man’s more sedate clothing (Svante, at left, with wider panes and shorter poofs, a less dramatically shaped torso, and rich but not elaborate braid-trimmed velvet).  Also, both Svante and Erik’s suits have been altered to accommodate weight gain.  Erik’s suit appears in a portrait of him from a few years earlier.

I’ll be working most closely from Arnold’s patterns of Nils’s clothes, shown in the center.  She believes this outfit might have been his riding or traveling clothes; it’s made of sturdier materials than the other two, with the puffs of the pluderhose made from wool rather than silk (although the panes are still velvet), and the doublet and internal structure of the pluderhose made of chamois leather (originally probably also black).

Since the guys shown in Meyer aren’t wearing hats, I’m not planning to do a hat for this costume, but if I do, I may base it on the hat remains in the center of the Sture display.  I actually haven’t read much about the hat itself in terms of fashion details, but it belonged to Sven Svantesson Sture, who wore it with the small glove seen at the left edge of the display case pinned to the band.  The glove is knit very finely with a fancy pattern and the name of Sven’s betrothed, who may have knit it for him as a token.  You can see a better photo of the glove and read more at Knitting Daily.

So… that’s my sewing agenda for the next month or two!  I’ll let you know if I survive the trials of linen blend, microsuede, and poofing.


1560-70 Fencing Clothes

When is Pinterest Research useful?

I wrote previously about some of what I mean when I say “Pinterest Research.”  But there’s another important piece of the process: Pinterest research is right for some projects, but I don’t use it (or start with it) for everything.

I used the process used for my first Regency dress to explain that Pinterest can help find an individual example to imitate, or look at lots and lots of examples to understand “rules” and trends of some particular category (time, place, activity, et c), or look at lots and lots of examples to find one that shows the exact under-arm-cuff-seam I’m having trouble with.  Additionally, though I didn’t mention it there, I often find examples of modern reconstructions whose creators have documented their projects online, which are also very helpful for technical details as well as broader advice. Continue reading “When is Pinterest Research useful?”

When is Pinterest Research useful?

What is Pinterest Research?

I get asked from time to time what Pinterest is “for” or how it might be used (by people who aren’t looking for household how-to stuff).  I can’t speak for everybody, but I can say a little about when I turn to Pinterest.

I started using Pinterest because it worked as an aggregator for photos of items held in many, many museums across the world.  I enjoy searching museum catalogs, but I don’t always know which museums have good collections for what things, and finding that out can be a challenge in itself.

But let’s rewind a little– why do I need to aggregate photos of museum items?  You can probably guess from this blog that I do a lot of historical research, and much of it is about clothing.  I started using Pinterest for museum collection research when I decided to make a Regency ballgown– but I didn’t know anything about them.  I had a pattern, but I needed to buy fabric, and I didn’t know what colors were good choices, or what kind of trim was appropriate.  So I looked for pictures online, which led me to photos of museum items (extant clothes and portraits), which led me to a lot of Pinterest pages. Continue reading “What is Pinterest Research?”

What is Pinterest Research?

La Maupin

And now for something completely different…

My unexpected project this winter has been a new-from-the-ground-up Swordswomen Through the Ages combat and history presentation.  The idea was to pair biographies of women we know got in sword fights with combat appropriate to their time, place, and social milieu.  We chose Caterina Sforza (the Tigress of Forli), Catalina de Erauso (the Lieutenant Nun), and La Maupin (that hellion contralto), later adding the less-well-attested Walpurgis of the Walpurgis Fechtbuch after concluding that Nadezhda Durova (the Cavalry Maiden) was really exciting but we didn’t have time to develop mounted saber combat or hussar uniforms.

I researched and wrote some of the material, and I’m now pleased to bring to you: a short biography of La Maupin, whose real first name is unknown, which makes her hard to talk about casually.

Continue reading “La Maupin”

La Maupin

Ca. 1470-1500 – Modern reproductions

There’s a lot of talk in historical sewing about the 1480s in Northern Italy, which I was not expecting, especially so specifically.  It’s more specific than that: 1480s-90s women’s costumes are often specifically Florentine fashions (which are quite similar to the examples in the previous post).  I think this is maybe because this region and period is particularly rich for portraiture– this is the time of Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Raphael, among others.  Ghirlandaio in particular is mentioned a lot in discussions of dress planning; his frescoes have detailed full-length depictions, which are relatively rare in more traditional portraiture.

Here are some especially nice (and well-documented) examples of modern reenactors working in this period:

1480s Florentine Gown, Jeanne Clifton

Every detail, down to hand-woven lacing cord.  More photos and a sort of dress diary can also be seen at her page for the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge competition: http://realmofvenus.renaissanceitaly.net/challenges/IRCC2015/IRCC5-2015-JeanneC.htm

Festive Attyre’s 1480s Florentine Gown

Particularly excellent for discussion of construction and material choices with side by side comparisons.

CostumingDiary’s 1490 gamurra with apron

Lots of in-process mid-construction photos of a more average-complexity project.

“Yet another 1480s Florentine dress”

This was her third go at the gamurra, and all three are described on her blog, making it possible to learn from her learning experiences.

These two are a bit later than the others, toward the end of what’s useful to my project, but variations on the same style.  I discovered Anea’s website through a link to her galleries of Italian portraits grouped by region and ordered by date, which is both extremely cool and extremely useful.  Here is the page for Caterina Sforza’s region– you can see her in the Bologne section; if you mouse over each image, the dates are usually in the filenames.  http://aneafiles.webs.com/renaissancegallery/emiliaromagna.html

1505 gown from Raphael’s portrait of a girl holding a unicorn
1506 Raphael portrait gown
Ca. 1470-1500 – Modern reproductions

Ca 1470-1500, portraits of Caterina Sforza

And for my next trick, we dial back the clock a hundred and fifty or so years, and travel to Italy.  For a new project concerning famous swordswomen through the ages, I’ll be presenting about the life, times, and possible combat style of Caterina Sforza (1463-1509) of Forli and Imola.

I want to make clear up front, I am not dressing as Caterina Sforza, or recreating a dress from one of her portraits with any precision.  But I am going to make a dress representative of the fashions of her time, place, and approximate status.  (Mine will not be made of such nice materials, I’m sure.)  So, to start, here are some portraits of Sforza wearing non-mythological attire.  This is sort of tricky, as there are a lot of mythological portraits known or suspected to be of her, and amateur and professional art historians seem fond of guessing that all kinds of portraits are of her, and sometimes portraits are labeled of her apparently just because they have a sword in them or a woman named Caterina.


Caterina Sforza in a blue gamurra, white camicia, black panel behind red lacing.
Caterina Sforza, left, wearing red gamurra and white brocade giornea, with her daughter (in blue).
In gold-trimmed pink gamurra with white camicia and black panel behind lacing.
Identity less totally certain. Pinkish dress with white lace trim, not gamurra style.
Probably Sforza. Red gamurra, white camicia, black center front panel.
Caterina Sforza, 1490. White lace-trimmed camicia, dark gamurra with herringbone-laced sleeves and spiral-laced front closure.
Ca 1470-1500, portraits of Caterina Sforza

1630s buttonholes

Here’s my not-actually-that-extensive research and work on 1630s-style buttonholes.  Mine didn’t come out quite how I wanted, but I’m pretty happy with them overall– they’re definitely a huge improvement over hook and eye tape.

So– some historical examples:

Chevron-pattern thread-wrapped buttons, and buttonholes very close together and right at the edge of the fabric.
Boy’s doublet, ca. 1625-30
Highly embroidered garment with thread-wrapped buttons and long buttonholes
Man’s doublet, 1635-40.  Click through for more views, including looped collar buttons.
Ribbed thread-wrapped buttons in buttonholes reinforced with woven trim.
Silver thread-wrapped buttons and buttonholes, doublet, 1627

So– from those examples, it seems clear that buttonholes were worked in plain buttonhole stitch, probably reinforced at the ends, often with “buttonhole bar” stitching.  The buttonholes are fairly long in proportion, and quite close together.

Here are my buttonholes:
The first one came out much too loosely spaced, so I sewed a second round (basically identical but offset slightly).  I tried to turn corners with the buttonhole stitches, but it didn’t really work.  This one was the hardest; the waistband is more than twice the thickness of the main garment.  Spacing might have been easier to maintain or less important to mind if I’d used something more like buttonhole floss, but I had this thread that was just the right color on hand.

Hook and eye tape removed, and buttonhole outlines basted in (per advice in The Tudor Tailor).  I measured all of these against a template that fit through the buttonholes in my doublet, but they should have been much longer, as it turned out– maybe 50% longer, for the buttons I intended to use, maybe even more.  The breeches, by the way, are dark purple wool on the outside and pale sage-green “linen blend” (I think linen/cotton) on the inside.

The home stretch!  All thirteen buttonholes sewn, cut using a buttonhole-chisel tool (I don’t know its real name) and trimmed using buttonhole scissors.  The focus in this photo isn’t great, but you can see my buttonholes came out nicely square once I started using the buttonhole-bar ends.  I’d planned to use curtain-trim bobbles, which look like very plain thread-wrapped buttons prone to fuzzing (I did this on my doublet), but it turned out there was no way at all they were going to fit through the holes I’d made.  In my sewing box, I found a bag of little wooden beads– these are each about the size of my fingertip– which had been given to me for possible thread-wrapping bases, and, with a lot of trimming and stretching and squeezing, the buttonholes were just the right size for these beads.  So, a lot plainer than I’d intended, and the beads are much shinier than I’d like (I guess maybe I can sand them some), but behold, my breeches will no longer unfasten themselves, and the waistband fits properly.

And that is the story of my buttonholes, thus far.

1630s buttonholes

Just kidding!

I was going to make a post a couple weeks ago about 17th century buttonholes, which was my most recent sewing project, but I got sucked too deep into the project to write about it.  I’ll probably put up a post at some point, though.

Anyway, my sewing plan after that was to work on my Regency stays and maybe finish them finally, and then dig into the War Librarian project.

Just kidding!

Turns out I need to make a dress in the approximate fashion of Caterina Sforza (Forlí, Italy, 1480s).  I’ll probably post about that soon– I’m hoping to be ready for fabric shopping sometime next week.

Just kidding!

Library War Service photos, 1916-1919

I’m back with more Library War Service material!  Since right now I’m specifically researching the women’s uniforms of the service, I’m going to post only the photos that show women librarians in uniform, but I’ll link to their source webpages so readers interested in more can click through.

First, an awesome book drive event at the New York Public Library:

Uniformed librarian making announcement at NYPL war library book drive

Twenty-Two Words has a post with some more photos, including this, as an example of the kind of library being served by the drive:

War Library in France

The Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan has digitized some contemporary publications, listed here:
Clicking the links takes you to their library catalog pages for the items, but the catalog entries include a link to the Google Books version of each one, and you can add the books to your Google Play Books library or download PDFs from there.

As mentioned previously, the American Library in Paris has an excellent tumblr which features scanned photos from their archives (and scanned backs of photos with notes from various decades).  Here are more of their photos– as noted above, these are just the ones showing the women’s librarian uniform, so if you’re interested in images of soldiers reading or loading books into ships and trucks, or permanent and temporary buildings used to house field libraries, definitely take a deeper look.

Staff photo on steps of field library

Black and white photograph of ALA staff, Camp Pontanezen Library, Brest, France. Notes on back of photograph read: Le personnel & la Direction de l’ALA du Camp Pontanezen – Brest. The staff at Pontanezen on the library steps. The war had not yet killed the era of the shirtwaist and the Gibson girl hair-do. (Photo through COVERAGE from the American Library Association, which MUST be credited). Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 3.

Field library circulation desk

Black and white photograph of a soldiers reading at Place du Chateau, Brest, France. Notes on back of photograph read: Brest – Pontanezen. Typical of overseas libraries in big permanent camps was the one at Camp Pontanezen, at the Brest base. From this circulation desk, soldiers drew the books they wanted. (Photo through COVERAGE from American Library Association, which must be credited).“G. Gorce Editions d’Art. 354. Publications illustrees. 19, rue Lafayette, PARIS 8e. 355. Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 4.

Technical Services and Collection Management at the future American Library in Paris

Black and white photograph of ALA employees selecting and arranging books at 10, rue de l’Elysée, the future home of the American Library in Paris. Notes on back of photo: G. Gorce Editions d’Art. 354. Publications illustrees. 19, rue Lafayette, PARIS 8e. 370 Additional note, attached to photo: First floor. (Present periodical room.) Books were selected and arranged here to send ? Paris camps + hospitals. 1918.

Picking books to transfer to shipboard collection. They’re holding the lid of a crate of books, with some books stuck to it, which explains why they both look like they’re holding in laughs.

Notes on back of photo: Door entering ALA headquarters in U.S. Army P.O. bldg. Miss. Milberon the ALA librarian at Lavernay hospital center. A sailor from the “Kerowles” who came to select books for his ship. The lid of an ALA box of books just opened to which a number of books are sticking because they were wet. Mr. Ranck’s series. #22. E.B. Thompson, 741 11th St. N.W.

I’m not sure if the woman at the center of this photo is a uniformed librarian– her hat isn’t one I understand to be official.  However, her matching tunic and skirt seem like they’d be the right color?

Black and white photograph of soldiers in a reading room of an ALA library in Tours, France. Notes on back of photo: Tours. G. Gorce Editions d’art, publications illustrees. 19, rue Lafayette, Paris, 9e.

Puns in library signage: probably as old as time.  (Somebody help me speculate on signage at Alexandria.)  The uniformed librarian at center front is flanked by two women in civilian clothes, I think– their outfits don’t look like other uniforms of the time.

Black and white photograph of Group of library personnel, France. Notes on back of photo: L’ibrary circa 1919. Early book service station (whereabouts unknown). Note ALA worker (director?) in center of bottom row, wearing distinctive ALA uniform.

The Home Front of war libraries.  I’m not sure if these women are in uniform, either– the only one that seems especially likely is the woman second from right in the white blouse and dark tie.  Pretty good view of their shoes, though.

Black and white photograph of library personnel preparing books at the Hoboken, NJ ALA library war service dispatch office. Notes on back of photo: Preparing books at the ALA dispatch office, Hoboken, NJ. For shipment to our men in France. Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 100

Thanks again to the American Library in Paris for providing their great ditigal archive!

Library War Service photos, 1916-1919

Yearbooks, late twentieth century

After the terrifyingly tall hair styles of the 1950s and 1960s, I enjoyed the 1970s more than I expected to, although felt less need to capture much of it.  The teachers suddenly look younger (closer to the students) in their mid-thigh skirts and bell bottoms.  Giant orange plaid is nicer looking than I expect.  And the 1990s… Well, they have their own charm. Anyway, I didn’t get a lot of pictures of the late century, but here they are. Continue reading “Yearbooks, late twentieth century”