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To the Point (points-wise)

*squeak*flail* ouch.  Don't mind me; I'm just pissy because my arms won't stop being grumpy.

So, I've been having this discussion with kass_rants in my recent entries' comments sections (previous two entries - we got a bit silly by the end) about petticoat fastenings, as a result of her asking where I got my info. Having to admit that it's speculative, and based on what the Jamestown Settlement costume department told me years ago, has made me admit that I now have to paw through all my books in a vain attempt to actually find something concrete.

Kass and I have been bouncing ideas off each other since yesterday, and my current working theory (subject to amendment) is that women's petticoat fastenings laced closed with points, rather than using sewn-on tape ties. I've been using this method for a while, and it works champion, but I have no proof to back it up (other than "J'town done told me, and it makes sense"), since we (so far - anyone feel like robbing some graves?) don't have a petticoat from that era with an original waistband.  Kass points out that it makes theoretical sense that women's clothing fastenings would echo men's of the same era.

Working from this, we theorized that since the petticoat was held up around the rest of the waist by points attached to the bodies/doublet (this is pretty much a known thing; both surviving boned bodies have lacing holes at the waist on the side and in the back, and there are quite a few pictures of women with visible points at the waistband of their doublets), then maybe the opening of the skirt is not actually laced to itself, but laced together with the lacing that goes up the front (or back) of the bodies - so that it does something like this:

(1.  Diagram of one side of lacing; inside view.)   (2.  Diagram lineup of petticoat and bodies; circled in red.)

As far as making the style work, it fits all the criteria; it makes use of the lacing holes around the bodies, and doesn't cause any lumps or awkward visible points. And it uses points - which we, as re-enactors, do not do nearly enough (barely at all - even I've only done two outfits with working points, one for me, and one for Bob).

So, I did a search last night of about a quarter of my books (all I had time for), mainly the Dutch ones, since they show the most middle and lower class people.

They're all wearing aprons, dammit. This is not helpful.

They did often wear petticoat bodies, but they didn't always; the beautiful Jan Steen painting "Couple in a Bed" shows a gorgeous silk taffeta skirt and separate bodies lying on a chair, and the separate (and very narrow, btw) waistband of the petticoat can clearly be seen (but no fastenings, dammit). Yes, this is 1668-1670, I know, but the petticoat and bodies are very similar to the same pettiocat and bodies they were wearing a half century before. There really aren't many 16th century pictures of people en dishabille, with their clothes artfully strewn about, except for the Countess of Southampton - everyone else naked or half naked is usually a symbolic/deity/Biblical figure.

However, our Countess is quite helpful, in her own way - you can clearly see the points on her bodies, and they come around at roughly waist height (taking into account the long waist that was fashionable at that time, and which would have been exaggerated by the painter), until the bodies start to come to a point. In the center front, there are no visible points, so it might be possible that the clearly separate petticoat she is wearing underneath the bodies is fastened by lacing the skirt to the bodies with the front lace.

There are also some engravings by Crispijn de Passe the Elder, which, while not really showing lacing points, do seem to show bodies that are separate from the petticoats, such as in this engraving, where the apron really seems to be tucked under the bodies, as the front point on the left side is sitting over the apron.

It's a theory, anyway. I need to do a lot more research, as I've barely scratched the surface of available images, and still have a bunch of my own books to peruse. 

Good times, eh?  I definitely want to put petticoat points on my bodies that I'm wearing this weekend (I can do them tonight) - I've already done a wild point sleeve treatment that leaves me with a bunch of white bows at the shoulder, so this shouldn't be too much more outrageous.  I'll take pictures anyway.


( 85 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Apr. 30th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
Not sure how helpful but...
Paolo Caliari (Veronese), 1570: Portrait of a Venetian Lady
If you look at her waist, you can see tiny little bows. My guess has been that these are ties for a secondary overskirt (you'll see why with the next picture) but I can see them as points for the current skirt she is wearing as well.
Ludovico Pozzoserrato (Lodwijck Toeput), c late 1570s:
A Musical Evening (Detail 1)

The "green" overskirt looks to be tied on to the copper (brown?) dress beneath it. This is why I've always thought that the points were for a secondary skirt and not the original skirt/petticoat. Now, this could be just an "Italian Thing" but I'm not sure on that. When it comes to basic construction, the dresses/outfits don't vary much from country to country...it's more in the shapes of the various pieces.

I think there is a blue gown somewhere as well that shows bows at the waist. I need to go back and look at my stuff at home. Eleanore's velvet bodice had eyelets at the waist so it is entirely possible for part of her skirt/petticoat to have been tied on. However, given some of the weird Italian stuff, it might have been for pants too...

Anyway, hope that helps a bit!

Apr. 30th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Not sure how helpful but...
It's not the bows tied I need, it's a clear picture of a petticoat that shows how it is fastened - the only unfastened/partially open pictures we can find are of petticoat bodies, which doesn't help. But thanks.
Re: Not sure how helpful but... - isabelladangelo - Apr. 30th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not sure how helpful but... - attack_laurel - Apr. 30th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not sure how helpful but... - isabelladangelo - Apr. 30th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Mini Hijack (Sorry Attack_Laurel!) - isabelladangelo - Apr. 30th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not sure how helpful but... - peteyfrogboy - Apr. 30th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
oik.... one more detail for me to put into my planning for the 1580s outfit I'm working on. Thank you! And my thanks to K. as well. It was great to watch you two "think out loud" yesterday.
Apr. 30th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
It was crezzy! 8) Remember, all this is speculative - Kass could be perfectly correct with her tapes, or they might have just used pins. But it's a nose-snortingly fun guessing game, isn't it?
(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
There is a picture in Moda a Firenze on page 138 that shows a woman at her toilet (tell me if you don't have it handy and I will scan it for you so you can have the picture, as I just checked and it can't be found on-line)and she appears to have her skirt and apron under her bodies, but they do also appear pointed to the bodies (her pocket is also along with the cutest little scissor/sewing case)
Apr. 30th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, I'd be interested; I don't have that book yet. :)
(no subject) - cathgrace - Apr. 30th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 30th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Awesomeness! Also note that the extant bodys don't have points continuing down the front point. The points stop before the center front descends (like in the painting of the Countess) and this leads me to believe that the petticote -- with its level waist -- goes behind the front point at waist level, as you've illustrated.

It occurs to me that in some 18th century common women's dresses, the skirts of the dress tie apron-like across the abdomen and the center front point of the bodice flips down to cover it. This reminds me of this construction as well.
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
Yup - when the article gets written, it will be much more fleshed out - this is just the bare bose (no cites, or nuthin').

The 18th century dresses - are the skirts and bodices sewn together? It totally solves the problem of trying to get the point of the bodice to support the skirt without buckling, that's true.

The thing I'm seeing with everyone's petticoat bodies is that they have pretty straight waistlines, with little to no point in front. The heavily pointed waistline of late 16th c. England is actually supported better with points than trying to fit the petticoat on the waistband, I think.

...And of course, I have to sort the English from the Dutch. *sigh* 8)
(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
And of course, my annoying question is once again "When would you speculate that the petticoat and bodies started being pointed rather than sewn as one garment?" When the bodies started going all pointy-fronted? (that would be my reasoning - the flat waistline of early-mid 16th century makes it just as easy to wear it all as one)
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
Actually, the pointy in England happens in the middle - there's the Tudor look, which is sewn at the waist, then there's the heavily exaggerated Eliz. look which requires, I think, points to work, then you get the Dutch look, which is sewn again. Throughout this time, I'm willing to bet the lower classes wore petticoat bodies and separates. (At different times, plus there's always the problem of the under-petticoat - how was that fastened?)

There isn't a point in my period (Elizabeth's reign, pretty mch, but mostly 1570-on) where they only do the one, and not the other - separates and sewn together co-exist throughout the period. There's no either/or. I've had people try to tell me they only wore petticoat bodies, but that's not true, and honestly, doesn't make sense.

Edited at 2008-04-30 02:11 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - reasdream - Apr. 30th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(Deleted comment)
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
I'm starting to feel like you guys were in my house, hiding under tables and behind curtains, listening to us talk. Man, I'm glad I didn't belch! ;)
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(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 30th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Could they have used hooks and eyes?
Apr. 30th, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
Kass might be able to answer that better than me, but I do seem to recall hooks and eyes in one of the men's doublet and breeches ensembles.

I could be remembering that wrong - I'll have to look it up - but it's a logical progression (and so on, to the skirt hooks of the 19th century).
(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Hooks and eyes - gwacie - Apr. 30th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hooks and eyes - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
Do any of you ever use pins to close your petticotes? That's how I close mine and it allows for me to adjust as I need to.
Apr. 30th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
I haven't personally, but it is certainly a supportable closure method. If you read up the thread (and yeah, it gets confusing), Laura makes reference to pinning closed as well.
Apr. 30th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
I have no supporting historical evidence, but my padded petticoat ties through a pair of eyelets on the back of my corset because there's no other way to keep it up. Practicality, baby!
Apr. 30th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
If I'm understanding you correctly, that's kinda what we're talking about above. Substitute "bodys" for "corset" and you'll see what I mean.
(no subject) - lindseyerin37 - Apr. 30th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
I find that if I point the petticoat onto the bodies (or sew it on, for that matter) then I don't need to point closed the skirt opening. It just naturally hangs closed. Don't need to fasten it, either, because the bodice stops it falling open.

There are various references to women sticking their hands in their plackets. "Blanket Fair, or The History of Temple Street" is the one that springs to mind: "In your pockets and plackets your hands you may hold." If you can stick your hand in the opening, that rather mitigates againts it being laced shut.

There's an image in Breughel's Haymaking that shows a woman without apron, with a clear slit in her skirt extending down from the bodice opening. It's gaping slightly, so no closure to it. Linky: http://peronel.info/skirt.html Scroll down for the image. I'm told there's a similar image in The Bartholomew Day Massacre, but I haven't looked it up yet.

Random thoughts.

Apr. 30th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
I've just read your post properly and realised you're not talking about extending the lacing down the skirt opening. *blush*. Embarrassed now. Ignore all of the above except to say yes, I've done this too, and it works. The best of it is it minimises skirt slippage caused by making the waistband to your natural waist and then lacing your bodice smaller.
(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kass_rants - Apr. 30th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
"...since we (so far - anyone feel like robbing some graves?) don't have a petticoat from that era..."

For you, I bring shovels, and several strong back/weak mind types.
Apr. 30th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
You're such a sicko. I love you! =)
Apr. 30th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
I was exorcizing cleaning out my closet today and ran across something I'd buried in my Chest of Shame old SCA clothing, having stored it in the naive hope that I'd someday fit into it again.

I made this in the early '80s. Note the silver lame' in the glittery trim, and there are GROMMETS... *hangs head* At least the front closure was heavily boned hook and eye tape.


I recall that the style was incredibly practical. And, uh, it was pretty? But as a proof of concept, it was fabulous.
Apr. 30th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
You know, for the early 80s, HIGH marks for construction techniques (even if the fabric is a horror).
(no subject) - ciorstan - Apr. 30th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - attack_laurel - May. 1st, 2008 09:57 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 1st, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
adding to the commentary madness...
Fascinating topic, the construction of petticoats!

Have you ever seen this quote? C. 1600, from Kemp's Nine Daies Morrice?

"Passing by the Market place, the presse still increasing by the number of boyes, girles, men and women, thronging more and more before me to see the end. It was the mischaunce of a homely maide, that belike, was but newly crept into the fashion of long wasted peticaotes tyde with points, & had, as it seemed but one point tyed before, as I was fetching a leape, it fell out that I set my foote on her skirts: the point eyther breaking or stretching, off fell her peticoate from her waste, but as chance was, though hir smock were course, it was cleanely: yet the poore wench was so ashamed, the rather for that she could hardly recover her coate againe from unruly boies, that looking before like one that had the greene sicknesse, now had she her cheekes all coloured with scarlet."

Indication that in this case, a) the petticoat was tied with a point, and b) it wasn't fastened to the bodice in any way.

This discussion prompted me to go poking about my wardrobe accounts for QE, and I noticed something I hadn't before: Petticoats are always, without exception, either "bound above and below" with something like a silk lace, or described as upperbodied/with bodies. Always one or the other, never both. This is a good indication, to me, that petticoats "bound above and below" were separate skirts, with the pleats covered with a narrow band of silk lace--no waistband. Here's some examples:

Item for making sixe Petycoates of bayes stamell color & purple bounded about above & benethe [with] like colorid lase of silke of our greate Guarderobe
1575: Wardrobe Warrant for September 28th, ER 17

for making of two Petycoates one red cloth thother stammell fryzeado uppbodied with mockeado lyned with fustian frengid with cruell lyned aboute ye skyrtes with bayes:

Item for makinge of a Petycoate of tawnye bayes bounde aboute above & beneth with silke lase of our gr guar.
1576: Wardrobe Warrant for April 14th, ER 18

For making of a Petycoate of stammell color cloth (for her) garded with vellat layed with lase of crymsen silke with bodies of crymsen taphata lyned with fustian: and for making of a Petycoate of fryzeado stamell color for the said woman Dwarf layed with lase with bodies of crymsen taphata lyned with fustian all of our gr war
 1579: Wardrobe Warrant for October 20th, ER 21

Item for making of a Petycoate of carnacion taphata (for her) layed and frengid with grene silke the skyrtes lyned with bayes and the bodies with fustian:
May. 1st, 2008 10:11 am (UTC)
Re: adding to the commentary madness...
Hmmm - I've read those accounts too, and the trouble is, we don't know what they meant by "layce/lase", and I'm not sure where you get no waistband - if it's "bound above and beneath", then does that mean the hem is bound over with something resembling seam binding, with the pleats sewn into the same thing above? Because that sounds remarkably like a waistband - albeit a small one (but perhaps very like the one in the Steen painting Couple in Bed, where the skirt hung over the chair has a very narrow waistband, just large enough to hold the pleats, but definitely a waist band.

Also, if the skirts are bound into the bodies (as the two surviving examples seem to show), a small band at the waist would be neccessary for support.

My interpretation of the Kemp account is that the young woman was a surprise, and that she was caught out at not having her skirt pointed anywhere but the front - he says that maybe she has only recently started wearing the "new fashion", and it reads as if he thinks she hadn't realized that the points were not only for show, hence his surprise at pulling her skirt off.

The other thing about QEU is that Arnold mentions that no extant women's doublets show any sign of lacing at all, which suggests that if it is done, it's done to the bodies. Which still doesn't solve the problem of how some skirts closed - after 1590, we get buttoned skirts, but those are for the rich - as the Dutch pictures seem to show, working women are staying less elaborately put together, and holding to the older fashions for longer.

Arnold also suggests that maybe women wore a suspender-like arrangement to hold their skirts up, but she's guessing based on some unidentified accessories listed in the records. :)

Re: adding to the commentary madness... - lizapalooza - May. 1st, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 1st, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)
I clicky the cutty--head go *Boom*! Thank you! ; )
( 85 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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