Murder most foul (or another way to use two pairs of curtains)

Amidst the usual Tudor clothes making we’ve been asked to make costumes for the Murder Mystery Evening at Trerice on 15 July. The whodunnit is set in 1768, the year of the last Lord Arundell’s death, which means jumping forward two centuries and researching a whole new era of clothes. Ever up for a challenge, this meant turning to Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion book 1 and trying to make head or tail of pattern books by Elizabeth Friendship, as well as looking at existing garments, portraits and other resources. 

Recycling some skirts that were lurking in a cupboard, with the addition of a Janet Arnold pattern for a suitable jacket, the chambermaid now awaits some linen accessories to finish off the outfit. 

There’s also a sack dress for a noble lady, with panniers, in progress, made from two pairs of curtains.


The panniers


The petticoat


Detail of petticoat waist, based on a surviving petticoat in the MET Museum??  Seemed like a good idea as it should reduce the bulk of material around the waist a bit. 


The robings over the top, with a bodice that closes in the front to have a foundation to pin the stomacher to – ideally there would be a corset but there might not be enough time to complete one, on top of everything else.


Back of the gown


Gown with stomacher balanced in place.

It’s looking something like they’re supposed to at this point but the front and the sleeves weren’t sitting quite right and I wasn’t happy with the back much either so it all came apart again. 

Out came the sleeves. 

Off came the piece at the back of the neck at the top of the pleats. 

Apart came the shoulder seams. 

Pleats unpicked and reordered slightly diffently. 

In went a back yoke piece that I didn’t understand previously why it was needed – now I did. When inserted it did actually make a difference to the front, because it affected the lie of the shoulder seams. 

Shoulders resewn and the front pleats realigned, everything sitting a lot better so far.

The sleeve flounces also went through a makeover. At first they were just one, lined, but this made them too heavy, so out came the unpicker again. Now with two flounces for each sleeve, out came the pinking shears to attack the edges, and one became smaller than the other to sit on top of its partner. The flounces were finished off with two layers of lace underneath before attaching them to the sleeves and then sewing the sleeves back on to the gown. 


The revamped dress:

The men’s costumes are still in mock-up stages, and seem a bit too long, so possibly back to the drawing board with those. 

For more details about the Murder Mystery Evening visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/302b7675-3f0b-4a51-a9c8-957f43858a2d/pages/details

Experimental musings – new things for next year

After several weeks I’ve finished a pair of hose for a boy. They started off as two pairs but were ridiculously narrow so joined all the pieces together and it now looks quite good. One problem we discovered over the summer was that the trousers tend to fall down easily on little boys, and our pairs of braces weren’t really up to the job. So we’ve been thinking of solutions – possibly adding small lacing strip at the back of the doublet and waist of hose to tie the two together, which would be quite authentic, but may be time consuming. Alternatively, as with the hose just finished, we could put a cord though the waist band.

Also on the go at the moment is a jacket or doublet to go over a lady’s kirtle. We were having fun with shoulder rolls yesterday! and we’ve got a blackwork ruff and possibly a fancy pair of embroidered gloves underway as well. Another volunteer has just finished making metres and metres of handmade lace, which she did during the season. The next step is to make it into an appropriately fine ruff.

We’ve also been wondering about having a workshop for volunteers to do some Elizabethan embroidery and make something as a group project – something small, and not too tricky.