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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 02:04 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)
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you, that's a very logical explaination. I find this points dicussion fascinating but will probably stick to all in ones as I stray north and early (Go James IV! Go Margaret Tudor!)Still, (like you) I'm very firmly of the opinion that everyone didn't dress as clones (I like the J Crew analogy!).

Maybe under petticoats were fastened by a lace through a pair (or set of four) eyelets? it's a known fastening system and would allow for weight gain...
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
I think that's the premise that began this whole discussion.

I think for your time period, you can safely wear petticotes sewn to bodys (a la "kirtle") and never have to really worry about separate petticotes and bodys and how petticotes close.
Apr. 30th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
As Kass says, this is actually how this whole thing started, because that's how the petticoat on my website is done.

I think everyone needs to follow their star, and go with what works for them. :)
Apr. 30th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)

But no elastic suspenders. I'm not having none of that!
Apr. 30th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
From personal experience, I can say that the exaggerated Elizabethan fronts almost certainly need points-- my blue kirtle has the almost-quill-shaped front, and I chose to sew the petticoat to the bodies. It didn't look at all right-- the front tends to collapse against the body. When I picked it out and tried basting an existing petticoat onto the bodies, leaving the point of the bodies to overlap the petticoat, the look I got was much closer to the drawing and paintings I've seen.

So I'm wondering if there was some form of front points, or if the only points were off to the side of the front bodies point and the skirt is smoothed underneath.
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I concur with the redheaded lady.

There's just no point where they definitely stopped doing A and started doing B, or vice versa. Not one that we can discern from the pictorial and extant evidence.
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
points up.

I wuz just checking that no-ones going to check to see if I'm pointing my skirts and have a fit when its sewn together. ;) Cuz, you know, I'll all weak and demure and unable to defend myself. ;)
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Weak and demure. Yeah...
Apr. 30th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
Of course I am! Just like you and attack_laurel and Elizabeth I...
Apr. 30th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
...and Catherine the Great and Christina of Sweden and ... ;)
Apr. 30th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
...Marie de Medici...

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