I’m getting married soon and I need a wedding dress.
Like all good historical sewing nerds, I decided that this was my chance to go all out both in terms of materials and in scope, and make my DOOM gown. The research on this is many more posts. Many.
In this post I will just blather on about the very beginning of the required start of any project: the underwear.
And the ranting I feel compelled to do on the topic.
At the very least, every gown in the Renaissance has a certain style of body linen that is meant to be worn with it. There may or may not be corsets, underskirts, bum rolls and so on as well.
So here is my rant about underpants.
YOU HAS TO HAVE THE UNDERPANTS.
For one, it protects your painstakingly made gown, from you. Yes, from you. Human bodies can be … Icky. Sweat will EAT certain fabrics.
Washing clothes is really hard on them. They simply will not last as long if you wash them. Dyes fade. Seams wear out. Modern commerce relies on your clothes wearing out so you will go buy new ones.
How bout THEM apples?
Rebel! Fight The Man in any way you can! You’ll save money , stick it to the corporations, conserve water and look better doing it.
So the answer ?
Keep them as clean as you can, and wash only when necessary. And when you do wash them, do so as gently as possible.
Body linen in the Renaissance is almost without exception, white. Hence washable and bleachable. Because the ick. Our foremothers did not have “clorox”, but they did have lemon juice, salt and sunlight. It is not coincidental that all three of those things are also anti viral and antibacterial. Try leaving a colored piece of fabric out on the sun for a few days. Observe what happens. You’ll never leave your stuff sitting out in the sun while you are unloading for an event again.
Most embroidery on historical body linen is situated in low ick areas, or protected by a lining from contact with skin.
( Or just made by someone rich enough not to care if it gets ruined! Those people did and do exist. I’m not one of them. )
So! The underpants for the doom gown is a massive undertaking. It is a set of items , eventually including a soft corset, drawers, a shift, an underskirt or bodices petticoat and a camica. The camica is what I am starting on today.
Step one: prep the fabric for work. In this case, it means pulling threads to get a straight line to cut on, and trimming the raw yardage down to the smaller yardage width available in the Renaissance.
( My never ending thanks to Mona Raffaella for pulling threads for me last weekend while I finished the Sweet project. You rock!)
If you -can- pull a thread for a straight cut edge on linen, do it. Linen is wiggly stuff. Even starched and pinned, a cut line is going to sneak around on you more often than not. No big deal unless you only have “x” amount of fabric and you need “x” amount of fabric to make your project.
I usually have “x” minus 1 amount of fabric to work with, so I have gotten ruthless about conservation of fabric in cutting. Ironically I am betting our foreparents were too.
Normally I wash and iron my fabric first. However, I am dealing with 15 yards of linen here.
I made the panels first because :
1. Any shrinkage won’t really affect the overall garment at this stage due to its construction.
2. I can only pick up so much wet linen at once.
3. My sink isn’t that big.
Divide and conquer!
Body panels drying in the doorway to my kitchen. Which is where everyone dries their wedding gown undies.
I have noticed, when working with the linen -I- can afford, that hand washing and air drying gives me a much better result. A lot of people I know who get their linen from the same company I do complain of epic lint. Well, that’s because a short staple length like the one in this linen is never going to win against a machine wash and dry.
When washed by hand ,air dried, and ironed,this stuff will keep excellent hand and body. I don’t get any lint and the linen retains its ability to bead water up on the surface.
I happen to have a piece of the very same linen I cut and washed by machine a year ago. The difference compared to the lengths I hand washed is very, very sad.
Two pieces of the same linen. The left , machine washed. The right, hand washed.
See the color difference? Trick question. There is no color difference. It’s exactly the same color. The difference is that more of the ironing board cover is showing through on the left. Epic amounts of lint = thinner less sturdy fabric. Yes the machine washed length is soft. But it is now so fragile that the seams are pulling out of it and it cant be worn without further damage. It is, in essence, ruined. A lot of effort gone to waste because I was in a hurry and didn’t want to deal with hand washing. It would have taken me about 8 hours to prep that fabric by hand. To remake that Turkish kamiz? Even by machine, at least 15 hours. I have in effect lost time, all the money that linen represents, money for replacement linen, and a useable garment, because I was in a hurry.
I have also found that thinking of my clothing as ONLY being able to be hand washed helps me behave in a much more period manner about my clothes. I keep them much cleaner than I used to, and with more spot cleaning and hand care, they are looking MUCH better too.
Ironically, the fact that I have been thinking of my clothes as a long term investment for the last five years is helping me make better clothes. Rather than trying to get a new outfit for every event, because everything I have is “falling apart”, I’ve shifted my focus to building a wardrobe. My stuff is lasting much longer, so I can breathe, and start adding the things that take my garb from being a really intense costume, to real,honest, working clothing.
That’s a different rant for a different day.
I still do things like make an entire new outfit in “X” style because its a nifty event I want to go to, and I’m a masochist, but in large, I have stopped the endless cycle of ” I need a new ____.” It is a mindset of fewer, better, things. I believe this is much closer to the way our foremothers thought about their clothing, and it suits me just fine.