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Research questions

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operafantomet:
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:
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!


operafantomet:

--- Quote from: FaireMare 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!
--- End quote ---
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.

gem:
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.

Cilean:


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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