Another structural element in early 17th century doublets is the belly piece. As we remarked earlier in this series, the padded peascod belly was an element of 16th century doublets. By the first years of the 17th century, the desire to show a “paunch” disappeared and was replaced by the flat-front style. Belly pieces were built up from multiple layers of linen, sometimes reinforced with baleen (“whalebone”). In a few cases, wood was inserted into the belly piece for extra stiffness.
Here’s a photo of the belly piece laid in place over the front canvas. In reality, it will be set back from the front edge to allow buttonholes.
The belly piece sewn in place in the doublet front. The small tab with the eyelet in it is sewn to the belly piece and will be pulled through the lining. This tab is essential to the doublet closure. The belly piece makes the doublet so stiff that it is difficult to button it closed if the belly pieces are not drawn together first. This tab accomplishes that task without needing an extra set of hands.
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