The Diary of the Foundation Garments

      As my friend Bess suggested I spend some time making undergarments, I started with making a practice smock.  I used Drea Leed's pattern on the Elizabethan Costuming Page (see links section for the web site) and adjusted it to my own 'fussiness'!  I eventually finished the final article in August, 2000.
 
 
The Elizabethan Bum roll 

    The next thing I made was an Elizabethan bum roll, again using Drea Leed's pattern. 

    I made it with a piece of heavy calico I picked up in a charity shop.  I stuffed it with feathers from a feather cushion - unfortunately I didn't have enough feathers - it takes an awful lot to make it nice and firm - and had to finish it off with rags.  It's tied round the waist with satin ribbons and completely hand sewn as I don't yet have a sewing machine. 

      It looks gigantic, but I draped a sheet over it so see the effect, and it looks very Elizabethan.  I would have to reduce the size for an earlier Tudor bum roll.

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A Sewing Machine! 

      I went home at the weekend, brought back Mum's sewing machine and some linen that was going as a second in the local fabric shop (Doughty's in Hereford - see suppliers section).  It is enough for a smock and maybe a partlet.  I thought I was going to have to make it all out of cotton as linen is normally quite expensive, so I'm very chuffed with my buy!

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The Farthingale 

      I've bought some willow canes from a company on the internet: Fred Aldous (see Online Suppliers section).  These will be for my farthingale.  I researched into what exactly the hoops should be made from and found that, although willow is very authentic, it is liable to snap.  I decided that this wouldn't matter so much as they are also very cheap to buy.  The other alternative is steel hoops, also authentic but more expensive.

      There are an awful lot of them and, as you can see, they are very coiled up together.  This meant I had to find a way of straightening them out a little.  I did this by taping two together (this will also, hopefully, make them stronger too) with duct tape, and holding out in a circle with heavy weights (all my nursing textbooks actually!).
      I bought some calico when I went home last, for only £3/m and it was 3m wide - very good value!  So the next thing is to make the farthingale itself. 

      I don't like the shape at all, maybe I'll alter it at a later date.  I made the farthingale with Drea Leed's EZ Elizabethan Spanish Farthingale pattern which I adapted (See links section for her site).

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The Smock 

      I've started on my real smock with the linen I bought.  I've again used Drea Leed's Custom Fitted Smock pattern with my own adaptations (See links section for her site).  It was going to have full sleeves, but, due to certain alterations (read 'mistakes'!) I made to make it fit better, I'm going to have to redo the sleeves.  As I don't have enough linen to make full sleeves again, I'll have to have straight ones.  As it is, this would be better for an early Tudor gown anyway.  The main alteration was moving the point where the sleeves meet the shoulder up a bit, as on my practice smock, the sleeves began quite low down my arm.  I finished it in August, 2000.

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The Corset 

  I've bought the bones for my corset from an internet company, Hedgehog Handworks (see Online Suppliers section).  They're 1/4" wide steel bones tipped so they don't cut through the fabric. 

 

  My dad's also made me a busk out of plywood, using Drea Leed's patternagain (see links section for her site). Plywood is obviously not authentic, but this was just meant as a stopgap until some good oak can be found.  The corset was almost finished in July, 2000.
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The Farthingale 
 

      I've altered my farthingale.  I've shortened it a bit, by cutting off fabric at the waistband.  I've also box pleated the skirt to the waistband which looks much neater.  And I've actually sewn the ribbons in place so there is no longer a drawstring effect.  All these things make for a much neater farthingale, and a much nicer shape.  I'm really pleased with how it looks.

      Here is a close up of the pleats and fastening at the waistband:
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The Smock 

      I've now completed the smock, with lots of help from my Mum!  The cuffs are fastened with 2 pearl buttons and rouleaux loops.  The pattern I used was Drea Leed's again, with my own adjustments.  (See links section for her site.)

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The Corset 

      I have, at last, completed my corset.   In the third photo, you can really see the flat, rigid Tudor shape that the wooden busk in the centre front of the corset creates.  You can also see how the straps are detachable, tied on with ribbons that are sewn onto the actual corset body.  This allows for easy tightening of the straps if they stretch.  Note, also, the nice gap where the lacing is.  This means there is plenty of room for tightening as the corset stretches. I chose to have boned tabs on my corset because I read somewhere that it helps to stop the bottom of the corset digging into your hips.  I also think it looks nicer.

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The Kirtle 

      I've also managed to finish off my first kirtle.  This is made of good quality calico and dyed.  I made it from calico as it was the first major thing I've made, and I didn't want to mess it up while using expensive fabric. 

 

      Here is a close up of the lacing and triple box pleats at the back of the kirtle:
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The Aiglets 

      I've received the aiglets (to go on the end of ribbons used for lacing) I sent off for.  I bought them from an American online company, Grannd Garb (see Online Suppliers section).  They only took a three working days to arrive and they didn't cost me that much either.  I've bought 24 so that should keep me going for a while! 

      When I tried to put the aiglets through the lacing holes, I found that the aiglets were too large, so I bought some pliers to squeeze them a bit smaller.  I then glued and squeezed them on to the end of the laces, and they looked really lovely.  However, only the aiglets on the laces for the kirtle fit through the eyelets!  Bess has a contact for someone who rivets aiglets onto laces for you, so I think I'll stick to that for the future!
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The Petticoat 

      I've completed my petticoat.  You can see in these photos the pleats at the bottom, these pleats help to stop the overskirts from 'kicking' under the bottom hoop of the farthingale.  Click here to see this.

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The Muffin Cap 

      This weekend I used my brand new sewing machine (21st birthday present from Mum and Dad) for the first time.  I made something simple - a muffin cap using Drea Leed's pattern (see links section).  The cap I've actually made is too small, and I would strongly advise practising this sort of cap with cheap fabric to get the right shape and size.  I made mine out of an old sheet, and when I've got the right proportions I'll make one out of my left-over linen. 

 
 
I couldn't resist putting in a photo of my sewing machine!
 
Herbert Norris (1997 2nd ed.) suggests that coifs or white linen caps were worn underneath the English Gable Hoods.  A portrait of Anne Boleyn after Holbein (it is thought that Anne was pregnant at the time of this sitting) shows some sort of hair wrapping which Norris believes was used as a secure foundation for french hoods.
      Norris, H 1997 (2nd ed.) Tudor Costume and Fashion    
            Dover, New York