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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.


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. :)

May. 1st, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Re: adding to the commentary madness...
Ah, I see what you're saying. I thought that you guys were discussing the possibility of petticoats with a modern waistband made of "tape" (i.e.,flat band). Yep, I definitely agree that they were bound with a small tape or lace over the raw edges of the gathers.

Kemp's comment is intriguing. Is the woman's dress unusual (as he shows surprise that it comes off so easily) or is he poking fun at the "new fashion", rather like we do at gang-bangers who wear their pants around their knees and sometimes have them fall down? I think it helps confirm that petticoats were usually more strongly pointed to the bodice than with 1 lace.

Here are the three references in Elizabeth's wardrobe accounts that could be interpreted as suspender-like things:

Item for making of eighteene flappes and shoulder peces for Petycoates of sundrye kynds of stuff & sundrye colors of our gr guar.

Item to the said Arther Middleton for making of a partelett of blak vellat edgid with satten and lyned with sarceonett: and xiii flappes for Petycoates of satten of sundrye colors lyned with sarceonett of our great guarderobe.

Item for making of Twentie flappes of satten & taphata for Petycoates of sundry colors lyned with sarceonett of our gr war

This could be suspenders...or could be a "flap" in the front which functions as a sewn in stomacher? I don't know. it puzzles me mightly...

I've been researching petticoats on my own lately, had to give a talk about them a while back. Are you putting together a paper on them?

Oh--there's a reference to a ribbon being sewn inside the skirt pleats to strengthen them, on Eleanora's red velvet gown shown in Moda a Firenze. The details are in the book L'Abito della Granduchessa (sp?), around pg. 24. But it's unknown whether the reinforcement was original or put in in the 19th century.
May. 5th, 2008 10:14 am (UTC)
Re: adding to the commentary madness...
Heh. Skirt tapes inside, just to add to the issue. One of the loose gowns in the PoF (1620) has back tapes to hold the pleats in place, so the Eleanora skirt might be the same.

I was planning on writing an essay for my web site, with citations and some background info, but not at the level of an academic paper. :)
May. 1st, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
Re: adding to the commentary madness...
Ah, I see now what you're saying about the Kemp account's "poynt tyed before" - that it was a point that tied the skirt to itself. I'm not sure whether this means that it was only tied in front to the bodies (in the manner of a busk point), or whether it was tied to itself.

I have to admit, I've had people step pretty hard on my skirts; when they're just around my waist, they really are pretty tough, and I've never had one break on me, even the light ties. However, this doesn't mean it didn't happen, clearly. :)

It's a good point to add - and might be how the under petticoats attached, since you'd get to a stage where lacing them all together would be tough.

But I'm still gathering from Kemp's account that he was surprised she hadn't pointed it more strongly, and the men's clothing default being the doublet and breeches tied together, that the women's petticoats "tyed with points" refers to the fashion aping the men, and tying the petticoat to the bodies, rather than sewing them together (which makes for more mix and match opportunities in one's clothing.

...And I'll stop before I hit dissertation level. :) I *really* appreciate you weighing in - I had forgotten about the Kemp account, and it's a great little vignette of everyday life (especially the poor girl's "course" but clean smock! - one gets the impression that it could have been even more embarassing for the poor thing).

I need to pull out more of my essays and court records - a lot of the small claims issues are about clothes, public indecency (i.e., appearing in less clothes than one should) and such.

Man, I love doing this stuff - it's even better than crosswords for keeping the brain alert!

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