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Offline operafantomet

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Research questions
« on: May 18, 2008, 02:20:24 PM »
I have some questions to people who make pre-1700 costumes. Now, I love Victorian dresses and Rococo fashion, don't misunderstand, but my questions are about research when there aren't too many preserved garbs and/or tailor patterns available. So anything of pre-1700 is of interest.

1. Where do you find the basic research material when you're making a (fairly) historical correct garb? Is it:
Portraits/paintings?
Fashion plates and period descriptions?
Inventory lists, sumptuary legislations and other old official documents?
Archeological material (and if possible, surviving garbs)?
Books, research material and museum info?
Other?
Or a combination? Please describe.

2. If using paintings/portraits as a basis, how do you decide whether it is/they are not allegorical or idealized, or suitable for your project?
Or: is this important to you at all?

3. How do you decide what fabrics, materials and colours are plausible?
Written sources?
Paintings/pictures?
Surviving garbs and fabrics?
Other?

4. How do you get an idea of what kind of undergarbs and supports to use?
And how do you rate the authenticy of your sources?

5. Last, but not least: What era do you usually make garbs from?
And eventually, what region? Or if you've made historical outfits from different eras; which ones?


Reason why I ask is partually that I'm curious about how other people do their research and what they emphasize, and partually because I want to write my Master degree in Art History about this subject. What can portraits tell us about fashion, how allegorical/stylizied are they, do they correspond with surviving gabrs etc. So it's interesting to hear other peoples thoughts on the matter. In advance, thanks a lot!  :)

PS - you don't have to reply to ALL questions above, a summary or even just reply on one question will do. Also, if you've used a specific portrait as inspiration for a garb already, feel free to include that in the reply.

FaireMare

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2008, 08:08:20 PM »
WOW.... this is a great subject.  I think it is one of the essential pieces to do when Creating Historically Accurate Garb.

Ladies and Gents..... (((by the way.. WHERE Are our MEN Sewers these days? )))..... Post away!



Offline operafantomet

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2008, 09:44:56 AM »
WOW.... this is a great subject.  I think it is one of the essential pieces to do when Creating Historically Accurate Garb.

Ladies and Gents..... (((by the way.. WHERE Are our MEN Sewers these days? )))..... Post away!
Well, thanks... but the response has been rather... modest...  :-\ I think I'll write a response myself, just for a start.

I agree about MEN sewers, though... You're missed! He-he.

Offline gem

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2008, 01:23:15 PM »
Ok, well... I was waiting for all the people with more experience doing H/A to weigh in, but here goes...

(I'm not good at lists, so I'll just answer)

I'm an intermediate seamstress and have only just started expanding my H/A garbing and techniques.  I rely heavily on the work/research of others--particularly costumers like Drea Leed, Jen Thompson, Marie Cadieux, and others with much more experience than I'll ever have.

Sometimes these costumers have had the opportunity to study some of the extant garments, and report their findings and refine their own techniques.  Many costumers rely on the work of costume historians like Janet Arnold--who studied  extant garments from the past 500 years and made meticulous scale drawings of them.  Books like THE TUDOR TAILOR, FASHION IN ITALIAN RENAISSANCE PAINTING, MODA A FIRENZE, and QUEEN ELIZABETH'S WARDROBE UNLOCK'D combine techniques--document research like you mention (wills, inventories, etc); portrait analysis, as well as practical research by actually making re-enactment garments.

As far as using artwork, well... my issue is less about whether or not the painting is "allegorical" and more about what the artist actually knew about clothing.  For some periods, like the early Italian Renaissance, I feel pretty confident about accurate depiction: the Italians had just discovered perspective and were learning how to depict their world with photographic realism, and getting those details absolutely accurate was part of the ideal.  Of course, some artists like Botticelli did make up some of their subjects, but even then there are details that can be copied.  Sure, some of the portraits of Queen Elizabeth are almost certainly allegorical as you describe... but that isn't an area of costuming I'm ever likely to be drawn to (but I think part of the appeal is still making those elaborate pieces, just to see what *might* have been possible).

I find that the reliability or usability of portraits for recreating depends greatly on the period.  It's much more difficult, I find, to tell details in 18th C. paintings, for instance--particularly in Gainsborough's era of soft focus--than it is in Renaissance art.  It's a matter of the artistic mode of the day, and how it reflected the artists' worldview.  The Baroques (English Civil War era) did everything larger-than-life, and so there is some doubt about how naturalistic some of those works really are... but the larger-than-life trend also included the clothing of the era, so I think the reality is probably pretty close.

... And that's actually an issue I'm having at the moment.  I'm working on a recreation of a gown in a c. 1500-1520 French/Flemish tapestry.  I don't know that such a gown ever existed in real life, or if it was just the pure imagination of the tapestry designer.  It's difficult to figure out what all the details are, first because I'm having trouble finding really good images of the tapesty; but also because tapestry is a medium where it's a little more difficult to get those very refined details perfectly accurate.  I'm currently trying to track down paintings from that same period that might show similar lines, but it's difficult.

I'm currently most drawn to early Renaissance clothing--around 1500, particularly Florentine and (at the moment) French/Flemish.  I'm not that interested in the late 16th Century, mostly because "everybody's doing it" and I think there seems to be more emphasis on the fussy details of trim and beading and decorating the clothes... than on the lines and silhouette of the costume.  The earlier periods have such gorgeous, simple lines that carry the look... and that really appeals to me as I improve my skills.  Not saying I *won't* ever make a high Elizabethan gown... it's just not something that interests me right now.


Offline Cilean

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2008, 12:23:26 AM »


1. Where do you find the basic research material when you're making a historical correct garb? Is it:Portraits/paintings?


I began checking out portraits by going to the library and later online to get portraiture and blow it up using my Coreldraw.  I have been collecting books on the subject of sewing and historical extant clothing. As well as any pattern that came out that was for those of us who want to reproduce what we see in portraiture.

Fashion plates and period descriptions?

There are a couple books but they are argued on how accurate they are, so it dampens my want to use it as a true source. But there are some books that are commentary like 'Anatomy of Abuses' that give a really good insight as to what clothing was about, there are also some discussions in Florence about the size of women's sleeves that also give you a good look at what is happening at that time.

Inventory lists, sumptuary legislations and other old official documents?

Queen's gifts are online, and have some wonderful information about the clothing Queen Elizabeth was given. As well as colors.  Wills are very boring but they can shed loads of light on the common person's clothing.



Archeological material (and if possible, surviving garbs)?

To have an actual extant piece, even if you can only view it by a picture, well it is a window in time! For me? It is precious and worth more than I can say, to be able to see how someone over 400 years ago made something, to ponder why it was created, and then how it fulfilled it's destiny?  It is phenomenal, and I don't use that word lightly!

Books, research material and museum info?

To have a picture is one thing in a book, but to walk into a museum like I did and see the portrait, and get as closeasthis to the picture and really SEE the entirety of the picture, and then attempt to do justice by recreating something like it? For me it gets no better.  I try to pay homage to the past by bringing it's piece to life again, so if I can?  I just can't describe it.



2. If using paintings/portraits as a basis, how do you decide whether it is/they are not allegorical or idealized, or suitable for your project?

I took some classes just recently in allegorical painting, like the Italians and the black clothes, Black symbolized piety, so the patron of the works are often painted in Black.  Or Elizabeth's pearls, pearls are a symbol of purity so she was loaded down with them.  I love pearls and can get freshwater ones fairly inexpensive, so I can wear them and look nice.  However I do try to read up on any allegorical pieces to see if it would work within my construct of my gown or what I have to work within.



3. How do you decide what fabrics, materials and colours are plausible?
Written sources?  Paintings/pictures?  Surviving garbs and fabrics?


I do research, I go to any and all classes and speakers so that I can get the most information.  When I began I did not have the information I have now, so I used cotton and I thought it looked pretty good.  Now I use Linen and I use Wool and I use Silk Taffeta, however? If I get 10 yards of Dupioni for $40.00 instead of $400.00 then I will use the Dupioni. If I am going to place my garb in the SCA with documentation for authenticity? Then I am going to make as close to what is what was as I can.   I have lugged 11 yards of chinelle fabric on a plane because I did not have space in my luggage so that I could create Eleanor de Toledo's gown from her most famous portait with one of her sons.  I have been collecting so many more things, like the buttons I found last year, and the cording I will attempt to create the partlet and caul.

4. How do you get an idea of what kind of undergarb and supports to use?
And how do you rate the authenticy of your sources?


Looking at extant information, by looking at any portraiture, checking out all books and asking questions of my fellow costumers, some who have degrees in textiles.  When in doubt? Check it out!



5. Last, but not least: What era do you usually make garbs from?
And eventually, what region? Or if you've made historical outfits from different eras; which ones?


I make garb within the time of the SCA, which is year 100 to 1603 or the end of Elizabeth's reign.  However I also adore Regency Clothing as well as Victorian Clothing.


This was a great experience! 

Cilean

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Offline operafantomet

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2008, 01:50:36 AM »
I have some questions to people who make pre-1700 costumes. Now, I love Victorian dresses and Rococo fashion, don't misunderstand, but my questions are about research when there aren't too many preserved garbs and/or tailor patterns available. So anything of pre-1700 is of interest.

Reason why I ask is partually that I'm curious about how other people do their research and what they emphasize, and partually because I want to write my Master degree in Art History about this subject. What can portraits tell us about fashion, how allegorical/stylizied are they, do they correspond with surviving gabrs etc. So it's interesting to hear other peoples thoughts on the matter. In advance, thanks a lot!  :)
Thanks for all the excellent replies, people! It is really useful. I promised to make an entry myself, so to respond to my own questions.... (be warned: this is a long entry)

1. Where do you find the basic research material when you're making a (fairly) historical correct garb? Is it:
I'm a visual person, so I seek out visual sources first and foremost. Renaissance portraits are my "guiding star", but various frescoes, wood cuts, tomb statues and illuminations are also helpful. Of course, the few surviving garbs rocks, but none are from the period I fancy the most (Florence ca. 1500-1550). However, pictures alone can only reveal tidbits of the info I'm seeking.

Written sources are also helpful. I've read a couple of books that I found highly interesting. "Dressing Renaissance Florence" concentrates on inventory lists and sumptuary laws. "Moda a Firenze" describes Eleonora di Toledo's influence on Tuscan fashion through pictures and written sources. Vecellio's woodcuts (which soon will come in a delightful English translation) are also interesting, though some of the earlier styles were documented ca. 50 years after they went out of fashion. "Fashion and Fiction" is about Stuart fashion, and deals with the allegorical elements of Baroque portraits (like another dealt with above). And last, but not least: Janet Arnold. She was a pionéer, and I love her POFs to death.

And of course, I study what other people have made and what ideas they've had in their research and construction. There are so many brilliant minds out there!

2. If using paintings/portraits as a basis, how do you decide whether it is/they are not allegorical or idealized, or suitable for your project? As Gem wrote above, the early Renaissance was all about realism and faithful depiction of nature/reality. There are two main types of clothes in Renaissance paintings: the period ones, and the "all' antica" ones. The latter mostly consists of flowing white garbs (females) or heroic "Roman" fantasy armour (males), and are easy to tell apart from the "real" clothes. There are a few exceptions. Some portraits depicts abstract stuff like "Flora" or "Beauty", and they can be dressed in partly period clothes and partly fantasy stuff. Tizian and Botticelli comes to mind. Others depict religios scenes, and they usually show the holy persons in garbs "all' antica", while the donors are shown in period clothes.

I mostly come to this conclution because I study art history, and I compare everything I learn about art to everything I know about historical clothes. When the other admire the brush strokes or the palette, I'm looking at the garbs.... hahaha! ;D I guess that when one has seen enough portraits and pictures, one develope an eye for separating allegorical and "real" garbs?

Most features have a practical reason, even if it's way back in time and the practicality is long forgotten (like the developement of a partlet, which I wrote about in another topic). I try to understand the origin of a garb/style/element.

When I am to make a Renaissance dress, authenticy matters to me. I like to study various depictions of a style to understand the basic fashion, and to see the variations of that particularly style. I also try to stick to period construction and materials. I do most seams by hand, and I try to choose natural fibres. However, there are compromises. I don't use whalebone for boning. I don't use silk velvet or Irish linen when there are cheaper substitutes that looks and behaves just as well, even though they aren't period. I'm with Cilean on this one! And sometimes I'm guilty of immitating a look rather than understand the practicality of a look.

3. How do you decide what fabrics, materials and colours are plausible?
Again, I'm a visual person, and I often copy what I see in a painting (from colour scale to materials), or I "shop" from different portraits. Studying surviving textiles also gives a clue of what was produced. It's mostly the finest and most exclusive stuff that survives, so they can give a false idea of the fashion. But they give an idea of the general methods and ideals.

One thing I've learned from period portrait garbs is that the garbs looks more authentic if stuff doesn't match. Todays conception of matching is quite another than in historical fashion. The book "Blue - the history of a color" was quite an eye opener on the perception of colours and colour combinations in pre-1800 fashion. Yucky colour combinations can look very good together. And combining different nuances rather than perfect colour match can create the most interesting effects. Although not period at all, the most vibrant costume I've ever made consists of various red and green shades, none which are matching per se, combined with gold (this one: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v31/operafantomet/elissa/elissa073.jpg - none of the green shades are identical here).

4. How do you get an idea of what kind of undergarbs and supports to use?
Eeeh... again paintings. But also surviving examples (since undergarbs are less likely to be depicted), period tailor books/descriptions and inventory lists. Still, I'll be the first to admit underpinnings doesn't interest me. I recently made a new chemise. My last (and only) chemise was 10 years old and falling apart, and although I used a very good pattern for the new one and it turned out well, it BOOORED me. The only fun thing was to attach the lace in the neckline, and to braid the strings for the sleeves. So underpinnings aren't really my forte...

5. Last, but not least: What era do you usually make garbs from?
I'm a Renaissance gal, and my maind focus is Italian Renaissance. Aaaah, the beauty. I agree with the person who wrote about the simplicity of lines and details of the early Florentine fashion. It makes my soul happy! I also dig later Venetian fashion. Other than that, I've made clothes from various epoques. A Regency dress, a Rococo dress, and lots of "Phantom of the Opera" costumes...  8)

Offline Queen Maggie

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2008, 08:54:16 AM »
May I suggest you correspond with Kass McGann, of Reconstructing History?
http://reconstructinghistory.com/
She's been working on Historically Accurate costuming for years and years, and has finally gone full time at her business. She does the research in as many ways as possible (always going to the original sources if possible) and has a lively way of writing about it.
Another resource is Margo Anderson, who has published a series of wonderful accurate patterns for all styles of dress for men and women in the renaissance.
And of course, the original researcher who made a big name for herself is the recently passed Janet Arnold who published "Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe, Unlock'd" as well as several books about patterns she drew and researched from original extant garments in "Men's and women's Clothing from  1530 through 1620" and several more through later periods.
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Offline operafantomet

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2008, 09:46:43 AM »
Many excellent suggestions - but what I really want, is the opinion of fellow non-professional garb makers. I want to see how other people use historical sources (whether written or visual), and why they use it as they do.

But thanks a lot!

Realm-of-Venus just posted that the fourth "Patterns of Fashion" is out! Or... not out, I think it is to be presented at the Costume colloquvium in Florence in November first... But it's on Amazon.co.uk, for pre-orders.  :D

ETA: Janet Arnold on linen shirts, smocks and headgears

« Last Edit: May 22, 2008, 09:47:31 AM by operafantomet »

Offline Queen Maggie

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2008, 04:28:21 PM »
LOL, I just went and preordered the linens book!

I was an Art History major as an undergrad. It changes the way you look at things. I prefer always to be as H/A as possible, but when I'm working (I'm an actor and director) I also know that I have to make concessions; to ease of change, to theatrical impressions, and to conventions at each particular faire.

(For instance, I know that metal grommets or eyelets weren't used: each was sewn by hand. Not enough time for that, in a show. similarly, I ought to wear a biggins under any hat: we let some of our hair show round the edges- just looks better to modern eyes. Or the color purple, as referred to in the sumptuary laws, is actually a reddish magenta. We use modern purple violet, when trying to show people that "this is a royal character")

I prefer not to copy directly from art, but I do know a lot of the portraits out there, and I know most of the techniques used. I go to the professionals for research into how I make any garment I decide on, and use the books, vetted websites and all sorts of references when I'm designing my own garb.

I mostly make Renaissance garb, since that's where I perform, but I also have made fantasy costumes, Greek costumes, pioneer, regency, and French revolution costumes. Occasionally, I've made something science-fictiony, but only for Hallowe'en.
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Offline isabelladangelo

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2008, 01:16:59 PM »
1. Where do you find the basic research material when you're making a (fairly) historical correct garb? Is it:
I use a combo person.  I use the portraits to get ideas, books like Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold to get actual research and cutting techniques, and also look at any possible extant garments or archeological remains.   I also try and find translations of books written during a specific era given the about of Habitus de Mundus running around about during the late 16th c.  Watercolors and sketches made during the time are also helpful.
2. If using paintings/portraits as a basis, how do you decide whether it is/they are not allegorical or idealized, or suitable for your project?
After looking at portraits for a very long time, you just learn what is allegorical and what isn't. My most basic rule is, if you can find it 3 times, it's probably not allegorical.  This doesn't always work but it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

3. How do you decide what fabrics, materials and colours are plausible?
I look at the portraits and extant garments for fabrics as well as colors.   Pretty much any earthy tone color is okay for most periods.  Pastles of earth tones are also okay.  There are a lot of great websites, such as www.elizabethancostuming.com that have beautiful descirptions on period dyes and colors.

4. How do you get an idea of what kind of undergarbs and supports to use?
Patterns of Fashion is my go to guide as well as the History of Underwear.  There are also some great websites like http://cadieux.mediumaevum.com/burgundian-reference.html for using portrait evidence for what was worn.

5. Last, but not least: What era do you usually make garbs from?
I tend to stick with 1480-1530 Italian or English but do venture out from that time period from time to time.  I'm currently working on a 1540's Florentine and finished a lavendar 1380's Gothic Fitted Gown.

Offline crazyrennie

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2008, 10:13:41 AM »
Man sewer here
 Where do you find the basic research material when you're making a (fairly) historical correct garb? Is it:A small nod to my schooling-my research in based on library studies,so i have access to unique materials-its mainly tapestries and woodcuts though.
2. If using paintings/portraits as a basis, how do you decide whether it is/they are not allegorical or idealized, or suitable for your project?
comparision with other existing paintings
3. How do you decide what fabrics, materials and colours are plausible?
see above

Offline Terry Griffith

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2008, 01:03:51 PM »
(((by the way.. WHERE Are our MEN Sewers these days? )))..... Post away!

Guilty.  I make my own garb.  It all started when I was tired of waiting for my wife to finish her gowns just to get a pair of pants or a shirt made.  Now I have my own machine and make my own clothes.  I research styles of our portrayed period and fabric and color and I find it fascinating even if my mundane friends are beginning to look at me a little funny.

I guess I really started with making my own hats.  That seemed like a manly thing to do but it was a short jump to designing and making pants and shirts.  It seems like none of the authentic patterns include a fly or pockets.  I have altered patterns to include those most necessary accouterments. 

I will move to dublets soon and someday, a wool heavy coat for winter faires.
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Offline Ulrich Kaufman

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2008, 08:58:37 PM »
1. Where do you find the basic research material when you're making a (fairly) historical correct garb? Is it:
Portraits/paintings? - Yes
Fashion plates and period descriptions? - Not often, but if I can't find anything else
Inventory lists, sumptuary legislations and other old official documents? Sumptuary laws only so I know what not to do
Archeological material (and if possible, surviving garbs)? If I can find it, yes
Books, research material and museum info? When I can get access
Other? - Yep

I tend to look at pictures and what people have pulled from the pictures. I do not have as much access to sources as some people, so I tend to see what people before me have come up with first.

2. If using paintings/portraits as a basis, how do you decide whether it is/they are not allegorical or idealized, or suitable for your project?
Or: is this important to you at all?

It is important to me a little bit. Again, I check what conclusions other people have taken from paintings.

3. How do you decide what fabrics, materials and colours are plausible?
Written sources? A bit, but not so much
Paintings/pictures? A little bit, but I don't always trust them
Surviving garbs and fabrics?I can hardly find anything that I need in that category
Other? Oh yeah

I have a friend who did her senior thesis on the dying and the colors they had. So I tend to ask her for that info.

4. How do you get an idea of what kind of undergarbs and supports to use?
And how do you rate the authenticy of your sources?

I look at pictures and what others have done first, then see what I can pull from it. As for authenticty I try and verify everything people say.

5. Last, but not least: What era do you usually make garbs from?
And eventually, what region? Or if you've made historical outfits from different eras; which ones?

My garb will now be 15th century, but more towards the middle of it. I just now picked a period to do. As for region I got for a bit of English, Scottish, and German since my personna is connected to all of them. (It is a slightly complicated, but not too far out there as for it to be impossible)
Please check out my website we have all sorts of things on there. Comments via PM are welcome.

Offline Master James

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2008, 09:41:23 PM »
Well as far as design, I like Gem and many others rely on work performed by others such as Janet Arnold, Turdor Tailor, etc... and use the Margo Anderson patterns.

I do use paintings to get my ideas though of how to put things together, what colors were used, how things looked, etc...  As far as the other questions you asked about the paintings, I could care less.  If it was painted during the Renaissance period and is someone of the country I'm making garb for, I use it.  I know nothing else about painting.  Sorry.

As far as what materials and such to use, well there I did a LOT of research.  Why?  My first character I portrayed was a master mercer so I figured if I was going to play someone who sold fabric, I should have a clue as to what fabrics existed, what colors were used, what patterns were popular, what materials were used in making the fabrics, etc...  I read books and books, digging here and there for bits and pieces.  "A Description of Elizabethan England" by William Harrison was a good source for how things looked and where the fabrics came from.  I also read textile books and other sources trying to find as much as I could.  The long of the short of it is that am pretty good at finding something that could have existed back then.  No way to get exactly what they had without spending a fortune so I go with what could have unless I can find something for a good price that was.  But those are FAR and few between.

I don't worry too much about the underpinnings acurracy unless they will show.  For a guy there just aren't that many.  And besides I'd rather be comfortable than accurate in that category especially since most isn't seen.

As far as what timeframe and country, I portray a noble in the court of Queen Elizabeth so all my garb is late 1500s style and English.  Hope this helps.
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Offline operafantomet

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Re: Research questions
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2008, 04:05:36 AM »
Thanks for these very interesting replies! I find them very helpful.  :)

 

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