Thanks for joining me again while I work on my 16th century peasant dress! Today we’re sewing the bodice and the skirt, and I already wore a bare-bones version of the costume to Castlefest 2018!
For construction I would recommend viewing Morgan Donner’s video on how to sew a mock-up bodice as this is the exact technique I used except for the lining.
Pinned and cut the bodice pieces out of the red linen fabric. I used a 2cm seam allowance all around.
Then I also cut the lining, plus a sneak preview of the sleeves! I decided to use the white batist that was wrongfully send to me (see the first post on this costume). It was slightly annoying to have two different colours of fabric clashing like that but I had no choice!
Then I cut two layers of sturdy canvas for the boning tunnels. I prefer using two layers of canvas because it is less fiddly than seam tape, adds even more stability and the boning channels will not show on the outside or inside – or on your skin!
I layered the two canvas pieces together and basted them in place.
Now onto the boning! Like many costume makers I use large zip ties as boning in lieu of whale bones. Now I don’t know how easy it was for a common woman to get ahold of whale bones (reeds were also used, I imagine for the lower classes), but zip ties are so easy to use and very cheap as well, so I decided to go for it nonetheless.
I drew 1cm boning channels. The placement was inspired by one of the few surviving bodies, the so-called Pfalzgräfin bodice, from 1598. Fairly late for my use, but a good starting point.
I stitched all the channels from top to bottom, from right to left. Directional sewing is now more important than ever since the canvas is loosely woven and can distort easily.
Inserting the bones was very zen. Then I realized I had not closed the lower seam yet so they alll had to be removed again…
Sewn with a 2mm stitch to prevent the boning from forcing themselves through the stitches. This was a problem with another corset I made a couple of years ago. I always change my stitch length from 3.5mm to 2mm when working with boning.
The 2nd channel was left empty for the eyelets. I did not apply any extra reinforcement as I would have 2 layers of canvas, 1 layer of linen and 1 layer of lining. If you use silk or tafetta you could apply an extra strip of canvas if you want.
Two side bonings and I was done.
Here I made a pretty big mistake. I was following Morgan Donner’s method of lining the bodice, where she turns the outer fabric over the interlining and hand-stitches it in place, before adding the lining and also hand-stitching that in place. I guess I should have paid more attention to her fabric as she used wool, which is much more pliable than linen!
I tried snipping the round edges, and even cutting away the seam allowance of the interlining, but it was a terrible mess.
At this point I seriously worried about the bodice. So there was nothing left for me but to sew the lining on RST and turn it inside out. Not the way I wanted to do it, as it was an enormous hassle to turn a bodice with a loose interlining.
After I admitted defeat and sewed things the “modern way”, it did look a lot better. My bodice was saved!
Time to make the holes for the lacing. I did offset holes as you can see here: the first two were 1.5 cm apart and the rest is 3cm apart.
Then on the other side, all holes were 3cm apart except for the last two, which were – as you may guess – 1.5cm apart again.
At this point it was the morning of the event, Castlefest 2018. I had no time to stitch the eyelets. Of course it won’t fall apart if you just lace the bodice up, so that’s what I did for its first test wear!
I forgot to take my large awl so I used the small awl and a chopstick to make the holes big enough for the shoelace. Later I might switch to a waxed cord of some sort, but I like the rustic look of the beige lace.
I took my leftover fabric and cut it into two panels of 150cm wide and 100cm long. I figured a common woman would not want any fabric to go to waste, and actually use everything for the skirt. I also cut a waistband from the side of the fabric, and made it 5cm longer than my natural waist for some wiggle room.
I decided to construct the skirt as if it were a hakama, a pair of Japanese pants. A slit in both sides combined with waistband ties will give me a skirt that will fit anyone who wears is. This was important to me as I wanted to make a basic skirt that I could make separate bodices for.
In the picture I sew the side seam from the slit mark down to the hem. The slit mark measures 15cm from the top edge.
I turned the seam allowance in on itself and sewed all around the slits.
Close-up. The rest of the seam allowance could be turned inward by hand, but I’ll save that for a rainy day.
I also cut some 25cm ties, four of them for the four slit edges. Used my handy ribbon turner and pressed them.
To calculate the depth of the pleats and the room between then I actually used a curtain calculator online. It’s in Dutch so I won’t link it, but I bet you can find one yourself through Google!
I sewed the pleast down with the waistband, and attached the ties.
A final topstitch and the skirt is done.
The skirt was REALLY long because I wanted a big, sturdy hem. The hem ended up being 12cm wide. I just stitched it down, later I will cover the visible stitch with a band.
Test wear to Castlefest 2018
The costume is not actually done yet! I wanted to add trim to the hem and the bodice much as in the picture above, but I ran out of time for the event this was for. So this will count as a test wear!
Next post I will save for when the trim is added to the bodice and I made some better headware. But beware that might take a couple of months since the costume feels very “done” to me and I want to move on to other dresses.
The re-enactment camp gave us a very nice background and some props to take some pictures with.
What cracks me up here are the plastic avocado’s, surely they were not available n Europe yet in the 16th century? I guess the funniest thing is that I bet they could only find these fashionable foods in plastic, and not many turnips, onions and potatoes.
I wore the peasant costume with my belt so I could carry my own phone and money. My boyfriend was sweet enough to carry my spare shoes and water bottle for me.
The simple head wrap was a necessity as I had just dyed my hair bright purple. Oh well! I do want to make a cute cap one day so I look a little more period.
This was all for now, thank you again for reading and maybe see you next time with the finishing touches on this 16th century peasant dress!
- Sewing a Bodice Mock-up! (video) by Morgan Donner
- Matching Russet Outfits by Morgan Donner
- History of the Elizabethan Corset by Drea Leed
- How To Spiral Lace A Corset Or Bodice by Historical Designs Clothing
- 16th century Early Elizabethan Common Women’s Getting Dressed Guide by Reconstructing History
- Elizabethan Commonwomans Outfit by Reconstructing History
- 1470s-1500 Florentine Woman’s Outfit by Reconstructing History
Other similar costumes
- 16th Century Peasant by Fashion Through Herstory
- Italian Working Class Ensemble by Elizabeth C. Bunce
- ‘The Campi Dress’ – 16th c. Italian working-class garb on Silverstah.com