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Important Note:  All pictures in this entry are not open for anyone else to use, as they are scanned from my books for purposes specific to this post.  I could not find them anywhere on-line, and I need them to illustrate my wordy and overly-syllabic thoughts.  Please do not copy them, or use them on your web sites or diaries.  If you simply must have a copy of them, follow the notes to the end of the entry and locate the books so that the authors can make more money and write more wonderful books.

Thank you.

As my regular readers know, I am currently researching petticoats and points (thanks to

kass_rants), and trying to find plausible, defensible methods of fastening petticoats in such a way that they look like the originals when worn.  As part of this, and thanks to lizapalooza's comments about petticoat waistbands, I have been looking at how I make my petticoats.  For the current petticoat project, I will be experimenting with a (new to me) way of making the waistband that more closely resembles the very few examples of waistbands that I can find.

It started with this picture:  



This is a detail from Jan Steen's Couple in a Bedroom, 1668 (1).  The petticoat on the chair has some detail to it, but not the thing I was originally looking for, which was a fastening of some kind.  However, it does, very clearly, show the waistband, and the contrasting colour on the inside seems to suggest it is also lined.

The waistband is very narrow, and the fabric of the petticoat (probably silk, with a light wool lining - QEI's wardrobe accounts mention petticoats lined with wool flannel) is gathered into the band, rather than cartridge pleated to it.  How is it possible to tell?  Steen's paintings are very detailed, and the effect of cartridge pleating is different from the gathered pleating, not least in that the pleating in the painting is very slightly flattened at the waistband, as it would be if the pleats were contained within the band.  Cartridge pleating would be sharp and round all the way to the band, and would sit out more.

The material is a lovely doubleshot (changeable) silk, and a closer examination of the petticoat shows a fairly substantial hem that looks like it is edged with a guarding trim.  This is the basic model (I have not decided whether I want to line it or not) for the iridescent periwinkle Dupioni petticoat (and, later, the iridescent pink one).

Waistbands fascinate me - partly because so few are visible.  This is the only one of Steen's paintings where the band can even be seen.  Even in two of his paintings where the skirt is pretty clearly not attached to the bodies (because it can be seen under the lacing of the bodies, set higher than an attached petticoat would be), the band of the petticoat cannot be seen - giving the impression of a drawstring petticoat, which I don't think they did (because it shifts too much, and the pleats don't stay even):


Detail; both pictures are by Steen, both are called Twelfth Night.  The first one was painted in 1666, the second in 1668. (2)

The black and white picture shows the top of the petticoat quite clearly, the second less so -but it is there (the light and colour make it difficult to see, but there is a line where the top of the petticoat sits, and it is above the bottom edge of the bodies).  In both these cases, a waist band cannot be seen, but it is not unreasonable, I think, to surmise that the waistband treatment from Couple in a Bedroom is used here.

A 17th century picture of a Tailor's shop (3) shows at least one, and maybe two petticoats hanging on a wall, ready for sale:

Though some people have argued with me that the long garments are cloaks, the one on the end clearly has no opening, and the jacket/doublet hanging in the middle is hung with the opening forward, suggesting that a cloak would be drawn the same way.  The guarding at the bottom of the garment also seems to suggest petticoat.  The waistband here is larger, but not much so.  Regretfully, no fastening detail can be seen here, either.

Interestingly, another petticoat can be seen on the Countess of Southampton (4):


Here she is wearing a pointed front sheer petticoat over her bodies - the band lies along the line of the bodies.  The sheer silk is gathered into a very narrow band.  This is the only 16th century English picture of the waistband of a woman's petticoat I have ever found.  This also supports the idea of the English liking separate petticoats and bodies, since the petticoat under the sheer one appears to be pointed into the bodies (though the upper one is not, and because of the way it is shaped, may not need the support) - otherwise, there is no need for the points on the bodies.  ETA:  Never mind, it's an apron (thanks,

gwacie).  A pointed-front, freaky, sheer apron (with a gathered band, for anyone still wondering whether they used gathered bands for aprons).  Still, the stuff about the petticoat under the bodies stands.  It will go with the other points research.  :)

Finally, I found a 17th century extant petticoat from 1660 that is at the Museum of Costume in Bath (5).  Because of the way the bodice and petticoat are mounted (and I think they might be mounted incorrectly - and I'm wrong about that; see Kass' comment below), you can clearly see the waistband:

(This petticoat is fastened with tapes, I believe.)

As you can see here, the band is tiny - the fabric is silk tissue, very light and fine, and the gathers are very small.  

I am now pretty sure that the bands I should be putting on my petticoats need to be considerably smaller than I have previously made.  Changing them is actually not difficult at all - most of the bands can be remade with minimum fuss (would that all my re-modeling projects were this simple!).  A band this small does not discount the lacing theory I have already played with - a lacing hole is small, and the way the petticoats lie without gapping when laced into points looks more correct.

I still haven't decided whether to line my petticoats or not.  Putting in a lining is not difficult, and I can always do it retroactively.

The look of the finished skirt as worn is terribly important to me - I tend to favour the softer, more informal look of the very late 16th century middle classes, as seen in this detail of shoppers in Leadenhall Market in 1598 (6), who appear to be wearing petticoats and maybe a small roll to support their dress, but no farthingale:

And in this one, women working on domestic arts from Fabricius' Album Amicorum of 1613 (7):




This last is one of my favourite pictures, and shows my favoured fashion style.  In fact, see the woman on the far left (ETA:  Bob has just called me and pointed out that the woman is only on the far left from her point of view; I of course mean the woman on the far right) playing the virginals?  When my periwinkle petticoat is finished, I can wear it with my embroidered jacket and look exactly like her.

Awesome, non?

Book Sources:

(1) Jan Steen: Painter and Storyteller, H. Perry Chapman, Wouter Th. Kloek, Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., Yale University Press, 1996.

(2) Ibid.

(3) The Oxford Illustarted History of Tudor & Stuart Britain, John Morril (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1996.

(4) Fashion and Fiction, Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England, Aileen Ribeiro, 2005 (Highly Recommended).

(5) Ibid.

(6)  Fooles and Fricassees:  Food in Shakespeare's England, Mary Anne Caton (ed.), Folger Shakespeare Library, 1999.

(7)  Gardening With Silk And Gold, Thomasina Beck, David & Charles, 1997


( 75 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Jun. 19th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
I know I am of the ignorant here, but I always thought that petticoats referred to underskirts (sort of a slip) which is apparently not the case. Could you maybe discourse a bit on that for my further education, please? Thanks either way!
Jun. 19th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
Petticoat is the 16th century english word for skirt. Words get moved around in meaning a lot in English (we have been described as the language that lures other languages down a dark alley and mugs them for words), so at that time, "skirt" appears to refer to the tabs on the waistband of doublets, and "petticoat" means the skirts women wear.

As life moved on, and the English fashion changed so that there came to be more pieces of underwear (like slips, bloomers, knickers, etc.), "petticoat" started to be used to designate the stuff you wore underneath.

So, for the purposes of talking about 16th/17th century clothing, I say "petticoat", because it reminds me of the wording commonly in use then (as a persona thing, since I do living history).

I'm sure that's as clear as mud - let me know if you need more info. :)
(no subject) - mermadn - Jun. 19th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jun. 19th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
Lovely. I'm thinking that even my bands are a bit wider than the originals now.... ah well... I shall have to amend that.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Well, my thought is if it's pointed, it will stay anywhere (which also solves gappage). In the Dutch paintings, it appears to be worn slightly above the natural waistline (I can't find evidence of points), and the fit of the bodies appears to hold it up.

...However, one good step on the hem, and your skirt slips down, so I prefer to use points.
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
Oh! Oh! Oh! after Lizapalooza was out here this last April an d showed us all this great stuff, my student ran off and made a banded petticoat--and it looks *just* like several of those you show!! Any chance this could be an article on your site?
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
Probably at some point... :)
(no subject) - fearga - Jun. 19th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jun. 19th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
If you'd like some German examples of narrow waistbands on petticoats, I've got some.
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'm good - I tend to try and focus on English/Dutch exclusively, so I don't usually factor Italian/Spanish/German into my work (with the exception of the Tailor's Pattern Book, becuase that's the only resource for that level of pattern info). But thanks!

BTW, work has blocked my LJ message center; did you get my revised answer?
(no subject) - mmcnealy - Jun. 19th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - mmcnealy - Jun. 23rd, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
You're doing fascinating work, as always, and have me re-thinking some of the projects I've been dreaming up. I have some things in progress, and a few more that are just shy of getting started, and I definitely want to play with some of your methods here.
I just finally got my own copy of PoF. yum.
Now, of curiousity, when you're doing all these points - what are you using for ties?

All this certainly makes me rethink how I'd perceived these clothes (especially before I got started), but it all makes a lot of sense...
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I either make my own ties from linen tape with a stitched end, or I buy sets from Historic Enterprises. I experimented with making my own, but I haven't really got into it yet. :)
(no subject) - hsifeng - Jun. 19th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - heatermcca - Jun. 26th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
More later, but I wanted to post this first. The bodice and petticote of the Bath Gown are *not* mounted incorrectly. The bodice has a buttonhole stitch bar on every tab. The petticote has hooks attached to the waistband. The petticote is meant to go over the tabs but under the front point. It is not attached to the front at all.

This construction is very typical of the 1660s through 1680s. It even proceeds into the 18th century with apron-front gowns that use the same "under point" front closure. However, I cannot say if this over-and-under way of hooking the bodice and petticote together was done earlier than the 1660s. Of course since we never saw the Effigy or Pflatzgrafin bodys with petticotes tied to them, we'll never know if they were worn bodice over or over-and-under like this.
Jun. 19th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
Cool. There is a painting in the same book of an almost identical outfit where the tabs are on top of the petticoat, and I was wondering. I'll adjust the statement accordingly - and really, you know a crapload more about that era than me. :)

Isn't it maddening that the effigy wasn't undressed and photographed bit by bit so we could see how the pieces all went together? Argh.
(no subject) - kass_rants - Jun. 19th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jun. 19th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
My brain is so happily full, I think I need a nap to process it. Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing. Makes me feel better about my skinny waistband on my wool skirt that I made so thin on accident.
Jun. 19th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
See? Your Gardiner's fu is strong. :)
Jun. 19th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Are you planning on doing any of the white decoration and guarding on the bottom of your periwinkle blue skirt so you can exactly match the painting, or are you going to keep it more simple? (I love that your jacket is so close to this, yet so unique!)
Jun. 23rd, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
It's actually yellow/gold, so I am going to do gold lace around the bottom - four rows of it. :)

I squinted mightily at the picture, and the bit in the front of her petticoat is a lace-edged apron.
(no subject) - cathgrace - Jun. 23rd, 2008 12:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 19th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
I think I had little hearts flying around for the collar detail on the last image with the pink and gold. So yummy. And look, she's making bobbin lace!

I have nothing to contribute, but that image was very lovely. Thank you for the little bibliography.
Jun. 19th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
The one thing that I keep coming back to is that the smaller the waistband, the more comfortable it is under your bodice/stays. The wider modern-y waistbands tend to bunch up and add bulk.

Also, the 19th-early 20th c. garments I've studied almost universally have tiny little "waistbands" on their detached skirts. In most cases they're nothing more than a 1/2" linen twill tape sewn to reinforce and secure the pleats. This is a case of reverse-documentation, obviously, but I tend to think that if the thought process hadn't changed drastically over the course of 300 years, then it's probably not too far off the mark. And the 2" wide waistbands we stick on our skirts these days are almost never seen prior to the first quarter of the 20th century... Right about the time that corsets and layered petticoats fell out of fashion, come to think of it.
Jun. 23rd, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
Awesome insight, thank you!
Jun. 19th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
Great discussion! I agree about the wide waistband = bulk thing, and tend to go thin myself and lace them to the bodice.

I was just wondering about your discussion of cartridge pleats vs. gathered tucks...I looked and looked at the picture and the way it shows up here, it's just not big enough for me to really tell, but those sure look like they have the springiness and vertical-ness of cartridge pleats to me. If they are actually flattened into the band, I'm thinking they must be bolstered up some other way (like with stay stitch lines). What I'm turning over in my head is that the very narrow waist band acts almost like a binding and allows a kind of hybrid between cartridge pleats and sewn in pleats. Any further thoughts on that?

BTW, I'm not all that active these days as I'm working on my PhD, but I'm Mistress Ariel de Courtenay from An Tir.
Jun. 19th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey... That sheer white petticoat on the Countess of Southampton... is it an apron? It doesn't look like the sheer bit extends all the way across the patterned skirt on the sides.

Thank you for the high res version of that painting! So many lovely details!
Jun. 19th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
Use of sheer fabrics to protect embroidery
I have seen similar sheer fabric employed over a beautifully embroidered fabric- probably for the same reason, over blackworked sleeves. Example, Mary Hill, Mrs. Mackwillian, as seen at this link: http://elizabethangeek.com/costumereview/image.mhtml?image_id=5

As the Countess is combing her hair, the comb could catch the embroidery and pull it if the overskirt weren't in the way, so wearing the sheer skirt is protecting the time and effort that went into the embroidery.
Re: Use of sheer fabrics to protect embroidery - gwacie - Jun. 20th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 19th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This is perfect timing for me, as I'm currently trying to put together an English middle class outfit from this era. The little waistbands make sense. I'd always made them wider because it was what I was used to, and because it kept them tucked more securely underneath the corset. But if they're pointed to the corset, that's a non-issue. I've also always wondered how to stack multiple cartridge pleated skirts without it getting far too bulky. My past petticoats have been box pleated, but the more I learn the more it is becoming apparent that box pleating is not right. When you say gathered, do you mean gathered like we mean today? Or some form of tiny pleating?
Jun. 23rd, 2008 09:48 am (UTC)
It could be either - the one I just made I gathered, but I'm trying a tiny stitched down rolled pleat on the next one. I'll post updates. :)
(no subject) - the_sanna - Jun. 23rd, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
The Tailor and The Furrier from the Standebuch also have some interesting bits.
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
Perfect. I had "The Furrier" in a book and wanted to post it, but hadn't gotten around to scanning it yet. :-) Now I don't have to!
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