Location: Barony of Couer d’Ennui, Calontir
Category/Level: Modern Recreationist/Advanced
About Gisele: I have been in the SCA since about 2015/16, I don’t recall when exactly. I do not sew regularly for myself in the SCA, though I do sew quite a bit for my partner. I dabble a bit in period cooking, sometimes making period recipes by accident, period dying is fun and I have recently started tinkering with illumination since I have all these hard won watercolor skills that aren’t currently in use. This particular project ties nicely into the direction my persona is going, which is developing more French, though all my current garb is Flemish. I started Flemish, mostly because the garb was comfy and there is a certain quality to late period Flemish kitchen scenes that I love. But in the last couple years I have drifted more French because the period cookbooks are fun, the politics are bonkers and the women of the late period French are a force to be reckoned with.
Her Project: Late Period French Lady’s Ensemble. Between 1530-1550. Lesser Nobility or Wealthy Merchant Class woman(new money from the newly expanding global trade). Not a recreation of any one particular dress, but a combination of features I like from a selection of paintings within the same time period/region. Hood from one image, trim from another, etc. Much of it styled after one of my favorite French Mistresses, Diane de Poitiers, a brilliant woman who managed to stay in favor at the court through multiple French Kings with her intelligence and beauty. Mostly, this ensemble is all the things that have been on the “to make eventually for myself” list. I have had most of the materials for a while, but while I was costuming for a living(the pre-covid times) I usually didn’t have the motivation to also sew in my off hours. I have collected several images for inspiration.
Layer 1. Chemise, Petticoat & Farthingale Chemise made of linen, following a pattern I made based on what I could see in French portraits from the first half of the 16th century. It is a yoked chemise with a yoke about 2” wide, fairly full sleeves gathered into a cuff at the wrist. I have not included a wrist ruffle, as I find them irritating, especially when trying to wash my hands at events and with no viable ruffle in some portraits I decided to leave them off. The second garment here is the requisite red petticoat, in my case made of red linen for added comfort and breathability. There are so many layers, any breathability I can get in the under layers I am going for. I have made a modification to the style, removing the shoulder straps and making it only go around the waist. I tried for a while to make the straps work, but with two additional shoulder layers being added on top, the limited range of motion caused by the petticoat straps sliding down constantly did not make the garment a joy to wear. So, I have removed them and made the petticoat to be able to lace onto the second layer’s farthingale for stability. This was much better for wearability. I have also made both layers a little shorter that seems indicated in my research, again for wearability. While I don’t think our historical counterparts would have had to encounter gymnasium bleachers all that often, they are a regular feature of our events and since it is easier to lift a farthingale than the layers under it, I made them shorter to make it safer to navigate the bleachers. Nothing ruins one’s dignity quite like falling on gym bleachers. On to the Farthingale. This was an especially fun piece to work on. In this case I used a tight woven, heavy shirting cotton I had in my stash for the base and a plaid taffeta for the hoop casings. And once again, the problem of navigating mundane spaces in period clothes raised its head. Hm, how to get in a car in a farthingale? The solution was to make the hoops removable and easy to reinsert. The hoops themselves are made of half round rattan caning purchased from a basket maker online. After a good sanding to smooth them out, they slide in and out of the casings easily and should make the whole ensemble easier to work with in the crowded spaces we sometimes find ourselves at events (looking at you Kris Kinder)
Layer 2. Kirtle and Foresleeves On to the Kirtle. Initially when I started this project I thought there would have to be a separate set of bodies under the kirtle for support but have been fortunate to find that is unnecessary with the quantity and quality of the boning I used in the kirtle itself. I have employed artificial whalebone in this case, for durability and because it is washable, giving the whole garment a better chance at a long life. Additionally for extra support I added a couple small pads under the breasts to keep them in place with small sudo-cups. No matter how tight I laced, the girls kept sliding around and clearly needed some direction as to where they should be. The pads solved this problem without having to strangle myself. The kirtle side laces, for ease of wear, make it possible to dress myself and keeps the back neckline free of any visible lacing. The foresleeves are another piece of period clothing fun that I love learning about. These little beauties tie just above the elbow to cover the chemise sleeve without adding bulk to the upper arm part of the oversleeve. These little guys are slashed with fake puffs pulled out, and as I prewashed my fabric, totally washable for when I inevitably drag a sleeve into something sticky.
Layer 3. Overgown and Hood. French Overgown 1540s. A noble woman of France, inspired by Diane de Poitiers (one of my favorite period people) and Catherine de’ Medici. Here is where it really gets fun. I found this fabric years ago and it has been in my stash awaiting something exactly like this to prompt me to actually make the gown. I have drafted the pattern from looking at assorted portraits from France between 1530 and 1550 as well as consulting the Tudor Tailor for any insights that they may have into construction, because a painting only tells you so much. This was great build and true to period practice, there is a bit of piecing on the skirt panels but it is practically invisible. I have made the gown without a train. While trained gowns are certainly beautiful, not so helpful at events. The bodice closes with under laced forebodies to hold it together and a placard to cover the front, making the closures very much hidden. For this particular project, I have made the over sleeves to lace in as I would like to be able to swap an alternate pair of fur lined sleeves in sometimes. The French Hood was a fun piece to build adn I will likely be making few more of these in the future. The discovery that floral wire really isn’t as sturdy as one might like is a good insight going forward, a double row or heavier gage would have helped a lot. A relatively straight forward pattern, as I have made other versions before, this one was extra fun because I got to use a bunch of small silk scraps that have been languishing in my stash for quite some time now. One is not fully dressed without a hat and this one is a great final piece.
Who doesn’t love a good meal! I decided that dinner would be a great final non sewing layer. So I did some digging and decided on a four course dinner if French and Italian dishes. A meal with a starter of sweet stewed figs, which are suggested as a dish for the beginning of the meal, but I think they are actually perfect over the torte bianca at the end. The funniest thing about this dish is when chilled they get very squeaky when you eat them. Like sneakers on a gym floor. Number two is a vegetable dish of cabbage with fennel and onions. I like this dish as it is not far from how I like to cook cabbage on the regular and is a nice salty compliment to the sweet chicken dish. Third comes a capon in orange sauce. This is a very sweet chicken dish and I have taken the liberty of modifying the rice dish to better work with the chicken. I used a whole chicken that I cut up myself and decided to remove the skin, since the idea of braised chicken skin did not sound even slightly appealing. The gentle stewing made for a really delicious and tender chicken. Fourth is the saffron rice is originally to be cooked into something more like a porridge. But I have chosen to make it with less broth than the original to make a fluffy rice, perfect for soaking up the orange sauce of the chicken. I got very lucky this fall to find saffron crocus bulbs at the local Lowes, so of course I bought a bunch and planted them. I got a fair amount of saffron from them this year and hope for more next year. The final dish is torte bianca, a ginger cheese pie. This was one of the first recipes I came across early in my SCA journey and I’m glad to finally have a reason to make it. Gingery, not too sweet, and the paest royall is an excellent crust with a texture a bit like shortbread. And I will be eating this for breakfast for the next several days because it is the size of a modern pie. Of course had I given more thought to the timing, like not finishing layer four before layer three was done, the pictures would have been better.
(Admin note: More information about this layer in the document at the bottom of the page)