Early Tudor Project — Katherine of Aragon’s Portrait dated 1502 — Part XIII
Today, we return to the those pesky sleeves. A friend of mine on Live Journal had an idea. What if the sleeves were part of the back like in these pictures:
Women dancing in Bruegel’s “Wedding Dance in the Open Air”, 1566.
This may be a peasant thing, but one of Holbein’s sketches of a Tudor noblewoman may show this armscye-less construction too:
The tails of her cap cover the places where the armscye may be, so we can’t say for sure that it is there.
(Before you tell me what The Tudor Tailor has to say about the construction of this gown, let me assure you that I probably read my copy before you got yours in the mail. There could be four pieces to this back. Or the sleeves could carry well into the back, eliminating the armscye. We simply cannot see enough detail to tell. Personally, I would consider BOTH construction techniques valid.)
Here’s a picture from 1515 by Gerard David, “The Deposition”, showing a similar construction. A sketch of it is shown in Mary Houston’s book Medieval Costume in England and France.
Here’s Houston’s conjectured construction:
I don’t agree with all these pieces. In the original, I don’t see the two pieces under the armscye. It’s clear that there’s only one. And she’s kinda messed up the back construction as well as the positioning of the figure. In short, Houston didn’t copy the original very well at all. But I still think her idea about this square sleeve construction with shades of “grand assiette” is valid.
Go see the original on the National Portrait Gallery’s website. You can zoom in real close!
Ciorstan added this to the mix, from Hunnisett’s Period Costume for Stage and Screen — Medieval–1500: http://kass-rants.livejournal.com/182047.html?thread=4109599#t4109599
Here’s the sleeve construction she’s talking about. The layout:
“SH” marks the shoulder ridge. Note that it’s a square construction and therefore makes the right folds over the shoulder like my square experiment from Monday.
And the photo of the finished goods (also from Hunnisett):
Hunnisett does strictly theatrical treatments. Remember that she’s not seeking the period way to construct clothing, but rather theatrical version to be worn by actresses in period dramas. However, every once in a while, she hits upon something that could be a period construction. I think she’s got something here!
I would place the sleeve farther into the back (as seen in the Bruegel and David examples, above) than this. And I would also get rid of those little bits that become back of the side panel. Unnecessary.
Kimiko had some ideas about grand assiette construction as well as a unique way to attach the sleeves to the back: http://kass-rants.livejournal.com/182000.html?thread=4110320#t4110320
This “grand assiette” construction is also apparent in the Moy gown, my own contribution to historical clothing reconstruction.
As I work on the sleeve construction today, I will be trying these ideas out. Stay tuned!
Moving onto another subject, is it possible that these “V” back openings are there to accommodate the heavy sleeves? One of them looks laced up:
Hunnisett includes a construction for a bodice laced together at center back too, but I don’t know if she’s doing something purely cosmetic or something function. And I’m not entirely convinced that this has anything to do with anything.
Hunniset also thinks that the white edge of these V-backs has something to do with The White Band of the 1520s. I think she’s mad. In both of the pictures above, the entire gown is lined with white fur and every edge shows white. The V-back opening is no different. In cases where we see The White Band in portraits, the women’s gowns may be fur-lined, but the fur is not white and The White Band is clearly not fur.
Next… who knows? More construction experiments and pictures of what I’ve done so far.
© 2008 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice, the author’s name and website, and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.