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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.


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)
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
The 18th century dresses ("round gowns" or "closed gowns") are sewn to the bodice in back, but from the side seams forward, the skirts are sewn to a waist tape that ties around the body under the bodice, much like a petticote. The center front point of the bodice flips down to cover this. Here are some pics:

While I think it's dangerous to employ 18th century techniques in a 16th century context, I think that in some cases, it gives us insight into the pre-19th century/pre-sewing machine way of doing things. And if it looks like a duck and quacks...

From the paintings of the deep front points and the extant bodys lack of center front eyelets (except for busc securing), I think this is a good indicator of the petticote not being attached to the point in front (if that made any sense).
Apr. 30th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
No, that makes perfect sense, and have you noticed how the English pointed front outfits look different from the Italian ones? In the Italian ones, the fabric sits differently, and is clearly swen to the point. In the English ones, the front pleats fall ... differently.

Apr. 30th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Yes. They are quite different. I wasn't going to comment on the posts with Italian references because I really have never looked at Italian sources at all. All I know is that they look very, very different from English, German and Dutch sources of the time (and I guess I'm just a little Proddie or something *wink*).
Apr. 30th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
Hey, now. No dissing the Dutch. ;-) Unless we're doing it ourselves, of course.

You sent me off trolling through a whole bunch of Jan Steen's work. There is one later painting that shows a slit in the skirt in the side, rather than the back, and the white of what is likely the chemise underneath.

I've been scratching me head about petticoats/skirts/bodices for a while, too. Especially when struggling with those Noord-Holland portraits. In a good many, skirt and bodice colors on the overgown are very different. But, as you had mentioned. Every *bleeping* one of them is wearing an apron!! Which frustrates me deeply.
Apr. 30th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
I think what Laura was saying about the Dutch is that it's frustrating when you're trying to do English but all the really good detailed paintings showing clothing details are Dutch.
Apr. 30th, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, absolutely.

I think if there were enough portrait evidence (or enough that was easily accessible), it would be fun to try to analyze English style by regional variation. But there's just so much less artwork to work with.

And those annoying modest, upright Dutch women with their perennial aprons. Even in the paintings of drunk women, you never get to see their undergarments!!!!
Apr. 30th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
I have some Dutch brothel pictures showing underwear on my website, but they're mid-17th century and mostly upper body(page down to "Shifts"):


Yes, I would love to have enough evidence to really be able to tell the difference between a Flemish gown and a French gown and an English gown as well as the differences between a "Flemish gown" and a "French gown" as called by the English (if you see what I mean). But you're right -- there's just not enough artwork to make any kind of grouping. *sigh*

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