Wednesday, January 22, 2014

16th Century Flemish Country Dress

I've been looking for a new project for quite some time now and I have decided upon the 16th century Flemish country dress. It looks comfortable and I am enjoying the research. I intend to spend 2014 completing and entire outfit from the inside out; top to bottom, and enter it in my Kingdoms annual Art/Sci competition in January of 2015. Components of the outfit. The Shift The shift (sometimes called a chemise) was almost always made of linen, but could be wool or even hemp. Hemp during the 16th century was a course fabric mainly used for lining or by the very poor and not at all like the luscious hemp fabrics currently available in the market today. I plan to create an outfit that demonstrates the newly rising merchant class and the availability of finer fabrics as a cash economy begins to grow and strengthen. My shift will be made out of a hankerchief fine white linen. White was the color of choice as the job of the shift was to lie next to the skin and protect your garment from the oils and sweat of the body. It was the one piece of garment subjected to regular washing. In the paintings of the Flemish country (peasant) scenes we can see sleaves that are both full and straight. The neckline rarely shows over the kirtle and when it does it is simple and unadorned: occassionaly it is pleated. I will be keeping the neckline simple with no pleats but adding some fullness to the sleeves with a slight ruffled cuff. Ruffles on the cuffs could get in the way of a working woman so I will keep them simple and small: just enough to suggest that I do not work "too" hard. The Kirtle The next layer after the shift I will refer to the common name of Kirtle. This term has been used to describe an inner gown used as a foundation layer for a multilayered outfit in many cultures. For the Flemish country dress, like most Northern European garments of the 16th century, these form fitting bodices create a flat frond with the boussums slightly elevated. It does not look like the country dresses were boned or corsetted which makes sense if you had to work from dawn to dusk. They still need to provide the support for the desired sillouette,and since I am an ample boddied woman, I will be adding a stiff lining and a slight boning at the lacing points. This will hopefully keep the bodice from bunching up. The Kirtle was very likely composed of a wool that had been fulled. The tans and beige shown in the paintings could have been produced by undyed natural wools, but there is a richness of color also. The predominate being shades of red and orange that could have been produced by dying with madder root. Wool production was a significan industry in Flanders during the 16th century with imported English wool. While cottage industry was still the prodominate source; most production was regulated by local guilds and monestary farms and it is likely that even the poorest farmer took their wool to a guild weaver to produce their textile. Since I am planning to wear this during the balmy Trimarian summers, I will be constructing the kirtle out of a mid-weight 5 oz. linen. The bodice will lace up the sides so that I do not have to depend on a lady's made to get me in and out of my dress and the neckline is wide and square, just big enough to hide the top and side of the undershift with a full knife pleated skirt. The Gown