attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Fitting in

I blame everyone who is panicking over Pennsic for my panic attack this morning.

I have nothing that isn't under control, but I keep getting madly anxious every time I read my f'list, dammit. So you all need to stop panicking - Pennsic will happen, and you will all be fine.

Mind you, I have tons of outfits. *smirky smirk* You may smack me now.

I do have to sew 16 pairs of garters up - the painting and ironing is done, and -blech - I need to do the machine stuff. I'm also halfway (or so) through trimming one of Bob's doublets - I'll be taking pictures of the finished product and posting it in the "Dozen Doublets" article as a real-life example of what you can do with basic ribbon. I will also be finding out how many yards of ribbon this design will take. I'm up to ten so far, but I haven't even started on the peplum tabs.

That's the thing about most Elizabethan (and late period in general) outfits - it's not the basic construction that takes forever (no, not even with hand sewing), it's the finish details that seem to take forever. It's also the part you can't skimp on; this is why Gardiner's company sticks to the middle classes when it comes to persona - while the outfits are still decorated (more so than most people think), they're just not set up to the outrageous level of the really aristocratic clothing. The reasons for this are the well-known one - it's better to do a middle class outfit well than an upper class one poorly, and my personal one - most people's attempts at really upper-class clothing suck. To be brutally honest, I've seen less than 10 really high-end reproduction outfits that were brilliantly pulled off in all the time I've been in the SCA.

No, I'm not naming names. Someone will get hurt. Pretend it's yours, and be happy.

I've seen some (lots of!) amazing middle and upper-middle stuff, but very little at the really top-end level.

(We're not even talking movies, though they're no better.)

To look truly rich, an upper-end Elizabethan outfit not only has to be made of the real things, but it has to have the dense level of decoration so emblematic of that age. A bunch of base metal and glass stones doesn't make an outfit look rich, it makes an outfit look cheap and shiny. Lace everywhere doesn't work if you don't get the right stuff. Plastic pearls are...plastic-looking (and I say this as someone who has happily used them myself). Many glass pearls aren't much better (though fake pearls are period - you just have to pick the good ones). Fake gold thread and lace and trim looks fake - gold looks completely different from that cheap filigree stuff people use on costumes.

Fit matters just as much - how many pictures of costumes have you looked at that made you uncomfortable just looking at them? Yes, the 16th century outfits were fitted, structured, and framed within an inch of their lives, but they fit - the bodice was neither too low nor too high, the shoulders stayed on, the skirts moved properly, the bodies didn't shift funny, and there was no gappage. The biggest problem with most costumes is that something sits badly, so the whole thing looks like it was made for someone else. And let's not even start on undergarments and the proper making and fitting thereof, except to say that the shinier and more outrageous the costume, the less the likelihood of the undergarments being correct. Renfaire sofa dress, ahoy.

Wrinkles are different - a two-dimensional thing (fabric) on the three-dimensional thing (a body) will wrinkle as the 3-D thing moves about. Anyone who wants to argue with me on this one needs to study the 1541 portrait of Christopher Fugger by Christopher Amberger,the portrait of Ludovico Capponi (Bronzino 1551), and my personal favourite, a miniature of William Hawtree (from the 1570s) at length. Wrinkles happen, even on a perfectly fitted outfit. The stylized nature of English portraiture doesn't give us the real story, so we have to look at contemporary Dutch and Italian artists to see what the aristocracy really looked like in their clothes - a wrinkle here, an open collar there, a delicate droop - these are all things that happen. A dress with shoulders that sit three inches higher than your body is just silly.

All of this doesn't even touch on the general public's idea of what aristocratic Elizabethan clothing entails.

It is so hard to make a really kickin' aristocratic outfit - hard enough that I have never tried. The closest I've ever come is the applique doublet (scroll down to the bottom of the page) that I made for Bob - and even that one isn't that high-end. Truth is, I don't think I could do an aristo outfit justice - sure, I've made some pretty flashy SCA stuff (Havordh and Mary-Grace's coronation outfits, Bob and my green Elizabethans), but even those, though reasonably period in shape and execution, if not in materials, don't have the "oomph" of the real thing.

And I'm not sure I'd even want to try - I'd rather have a simple (but shiny - I loves me my silk) respectable Londoner's outfit than a fancy outfit that badly misses the mark. Maybe someday I'll take the time to really bead and embroider a true aristocratic Elizabethan gown, and cast the settings for the buttons and necklace links, construct the lace and embroider/couch motifs on the fabric, but not now. I'm still happy in my middle class splendour.

Though I'm still toying with taking apart the embroidered jacket and sewing spangles all over it - it needs to be taken in a little anyway. Or I could just make a new one.

Or both. Hey, the middle classes liked shiny things, too - and spangles are cheap.


(portrait links are to the amazing Tudor Portraits site.)

Tags: costume, pennsic, sca

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