Create A 18th Century Gentleman’s Costume for Under $6.00 shares historic inspiration and tips and tricks to create a budget costume.
So it is that time of the year again, spring is in the air. Local craft faires, special events, Sims Medieval Edition has been released, and the local renaissance faires are going on all around you. With all this excitement in mind, I thought I would take a moment and give you some insight on the costuming used at the different renaissance fairs (ren faires) to hopefully help you by giving you ideas for creating your own renaissance period costume, accessories, and character. Most of these pictures were taken at a renaissance faire that celebrates the Elizabethan era therefore the costumes you will see will be Elizabethan costumes for peasants, middle class, tradesmen, military, gentry and nobility. Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am just on observer with keen interest in the costuming of historical periods. If you work at a faire then you need to check with your own costume director to find out what is appropriate for your show role. What I write here is only my observations based on what I have seen or learned from the different actors at these events. Many of the costumes from these faires do not match SCA guidelines, and you would have to check with them to find out their rules on costuming for their events. For a more historically accurate view, I always recommend that you do your own search through the historical archives at your local library or online. I also recommend going to the Lacis website to visit their costume museum to see actual antique accessories, and tools at their online store and museum. They also carry hard to find costuming materials including different types of boning, books, and more. Now look at the picture below, you probably can not guess the station in life that each actor below portrays through their renaissance costumes (and if you can....cool....you are ahead of the game). Peasants Peasants are usually dressed in simple natural fabrics with natural colors. Pay attention to the simple lines in the costume below. They would not have much money and most of their clothing would have been handed down. Above and Below are posters of drawings that were cut out from a book to help explain to visitors and participants how to accessorize their costumes in appropriate gear for their station in life. So, take a look at the posters above and then look at the female and male actors in the pictures below to Male Peasant Costume Male Tinker costume (note that he carries all of his goods for trade on his person). Female Peasant Costume see how the drawings from the poster can be translated into actual costumes. As for peasant children, let's start with a cute example of an infant in a peasant costume. I imagine that the knitted cap is not quite period but he does look adorable it in. The shirt and pants are period. The tippy cup just helped keep him hydrated (and more importantly....happy), so I could take this picture. Peasant baby (minus the tippy cup) The children of the peasants would have their hair covered with caps made from natural materials to protect them from the elements and other oddities. Their clothing would be simple and allow room for growth. Female Toddler The peasant female would have had her hair covered, as the lady does in the picture below. Her clothing would be of natural colors (see sample color board that she is holding) and natural fiber materials (such as cotton). That would hold up well over the years. Again, how does this translate? Below is an example of two different female peasant outfits. The one to the right would be in a higher station in life than the one on the left (based on accessories). Why? The one to the right is wearing a straw hat with a hat pin, a leather belt with matching bag, and several other valuable accessories....that would indicate that she had the financial means to afford such luxuries. You can see in the photo below that the woman in the green and burgundy outfit is wearing both a hair net and hat. Below is an example of two lower class male peasants (ignore the knit cap). Peasants would carry their belongings on them to protect against theft. The socks (if they could afford them or had a wife/mother to knit them) would protect them from bushes, bugs and other potentially alarming nuisances. The female peasant would usually have their hair covered with a hat of some sort. She would wear a chemise, skirts, and a bodice that tied in the front (as she could not afford a servant to dress her). Her clothing would be of natural fibers, easy to maintain, yet sturdy enough to hold up to the daily grind of hard labor. Below is an example of both females and males wearing a cap and a hat to protect their heads from the elements. The Middle Class The Middle Class is much more complicated than the peasant class costume. Members of this class were merchants and such. They wanted to be noticed by the gentry, so they would dress much fancier than the peasants. They could such luxuries as a piece of ribbon. Below is Below are some examples of the merchant class. The female below is an example of middle class costume of someone who may be in service to the gentry or royal class. The female below could be upper middle class or even gentry, depending on her accessories, quality of the material and the cut of her gown. The male in the picture is definitely not "middle class" but portrays his own version of a viking. The picture does not show off his costume effectively, but I am sure you could find several examples by doing a google search of viking images. Middle Class to Upper Class Female. The male is not "Middle Class" The first two ladies in the picture above are middle class. The ladies in the fancier outfits are gentry. This pictures shows you a side by side comparison in the difference in their accessories and costume. Military and Gentry Examples An example of military and gentry class costumes. Middle Class costume are made from wool and cotton fibers. For Military, compare the cut outs below with the picture above. It translates fairly easily! The details would change in accordance with the country or kingdom the military served. Royal Class, Nobility and Gentry Here is where the costumes become heavier and much more ornate. Below is a great example of Nobility. Note the jewelry, the fibers, and ornate design of the costumes. Brenda Stewart (who made the costumes featured below) is an amazing costume designer who makes period costumes for different venues. The female is a countess and the gentleman is a knight. Nobility couple a side view. Nobility couple a back view. A close up of the meticulous detail that goes onto the back of these costumes. The designer of this piece put a lot of thought & effort into this. This is a beautiful work of art. The costumes of the gentry and nobility, would be trimmed with special details in accordance to their wealth. Pay special attention to the blackwork on the front of the shirt and the sleeves. In case you are not familiar with blackwork, it is form of embroidery that uses black thread. It is similar to counted cross stitch but with different details. It was traditionally done in silk. Here is a close up of the detail blackwork that has been done on this shirt. I love blackwork and this was impressive to see in person. If you are interested in black work, there are ladies doing blackwork demonstrations at this particular faire. The royals would have jewels, pearls, and other expensive trinkets on their costumes. Elizabethan ruffles were very popular during this time period for the queen. Having seen this amazing costume up close, I have a lot of respect for the actress to be able to move around and perform with that giant collar and a very heavy costume in the 90° heat. Another look at those ruffles. The Queen and her court. The nobility costumes are heavy but that is the price one pays to wear such amazing works of art. Note the differences in not only the accessories but the materials and cut of each costume in accordance with that character's portrayed station in life. Ladies of the court. More examples of nobility costumes of the period, the detail work on these costumes are beautiful to see in person. Even the hems have special details that you can not see in these pictures. Below is an example of one of the many French Gentry costumes. The female baroness costume below had some very impressive details. There are beads, pearls, and other gemstones that were hand sewn onto the sleeves and skirt. I wish you could see the details on this dress. The baroness is wearing hoops to support the heavy skirt and a bum roll to give her hips more definition (this was a plus in that era). Additionally, the nobility would had have clothing made of more expensive materials such as silk. The picture below is of a female gentry. The color is a bit off (due to bad lighting issues)....it is not purple or red...but more of a deep wine when you see it in person. A back view of the same dress. Members of the nobility and gentry class would have had servants to help them dress. The closures on the female gentry clothing were not normally found in the front of a dress but in the back or side as in the pictures above and below. (Note: There are always exception to every rule.) Below are more samples of a baroness and knight costumes. Misc. Costumes The use of ribbons and trims would be in accordance to the wealth of the character. The difficulty is that modern materials while affordable are not always accurately used in costuming. If you look at the poster below, it is a good example of trim mistakes that can be avoided by sticking to the "approvable" side of the poster. There really is not a classification for puritans as they could be members of different stations in life. Note the differences in each costume in the picture below. As for feathers......use them sparingly and wisely. Some may look pretty and fluffy but at the end of the day when you are picking out tree crude from them....well you may wish you had chosen something less attractive to dust balls, dirt, and other items that can get caught in them. Also, you may want to keep in mind that certain feathers were only worn by the gentry and could look out of place on the wrong costume. Finally, now that you have seen a variety of examples, can you pick out the different stations in life the females in the picture below are depicting through their choice of costumes? A view of children of the different classes. Again, how easily can you pick out their station in life through their attire? P.S. if you are wondering why I would bother to put this blog post together, well it started as a request from some of the "Sims Medieval" fans who wanted to see real life examples of the different characters they are creating in the new game. Hazzah to Sims and the many hours of pure entertainment the games provide! I would love to hear what other people have made and used for their costumes. Leave me a note and share your own experience. Disclosure All photographs on this blog are copyrighted.
This entry will hopefully explain different ways of corset lacing and tips for you to get the best cinch and extend the life of your corset. First of all, let's talk about laces. The laces of a corset can be double-faced satin ribbon or flat cotton laces as a standard. The choice mainly depends on aesthetics and the maker's preference, as they both are commonly strong and durable. You can see the difference in between these kinds of laces on the image above. The green Electra Designs corset on the left features satin ribbon laces, while the 19th century blue corset in the middle is laced with flat cotton cord and the Madame Sher pink corset on the right features a rat tail lacing. The kind of laces shall not be confused with the style of lacing. The style might also depend on the maker's preferences, but laces can be easily changed by the wearer to meet his/her needs. Despite of this, historical corsetry should be laced according to its era. A pair of 17th century stays won't be laced the same way as a victorian/edwardian corset, for instance. Anyway, the lacing styles we're now discussing are the ones used for actual corsetry. 1st. One of the most commonly used styles of lacing is clearly explained in Evening Arwen's webpage. The style this link will direct you to is the classic victorian way of lacing, for wich you start lacing at the top edge of the back panels and place bunny ears (loops) at the waist area (these loops will help the wearer lace his/herself into the corset by pulling them, and will easily put the most pressure on the waist area for a perfect cinch). 2nd. Another common lacing type is the one explained by Electra Designs. This one also starts at the top and places loops or bunny ears on the waist area, though those loops invert the laces creating an extra cross. These inverted bunny ears actually help the lacing not to slide while cinching and are extra secure. 3rd. The last type we'll see is also very common, but I personally think is the less appropiate for corsetry. This corset by Bibian Blue shows this kind of lacing that starts either at the top or the bottom (the example is started at the bottom and ties the edges at the top). There are no bunny ears on the waist area and the ribbons look more like a shoe. I would recommend lacings 1 or 2, as the bunny ears help pulling the waist in which is actually the corseting aim. Now we know a bit more about laces and lacing, how do we put our corset on? 1- First of all, make sure your laces are loose enough to wrap yourself with the garment without any pulling or pressure. This will prevent the front closure from damage (it doesn't matter if it's a zip, a busk, swing hooks... If the front closure is also a lacing system, you may need to loosen this up as well). When your corset features no front closure at all, back laces should still be loose enough to get inside (as you would put on a top or T-shirt); if laces are too short to get in, then you'll need to undo part of the lacing so you get comfortably in. Then, relace your corset before starting the next step. After wraping the corset around, close the front. If it's a busk, make sure you start closing the second or third hook first to avoid extra pressure on the piece, and then fasten up the other hooks. 2- You've got your corset loose around your body: now it's time to pull the laces. You can make this on your own (a mirror will help) or get it done by somebody else. In any case, the way of doing it is pretty much the same. Start by pulling the bunny ears at your waist as long as the surrounding laces tighten a bit. Now, start pulling from the top to the middle, and then from the bottom to the middle as you would do with a shoe, making sure the extra ribbon goes to the middle section increasing the lenght of the bunny ears. Repeat this until you feel pressed by the corset, making sure you pull more or less the same way at the top and bottom so the back bones don't suffer and keep as straight as possible. The pressure must be comfortable and allow breathing normally. If you feel any pain or discomfort, loosen the laces a bit until you feel like huged and well. Warning!! Make sure you lace yourself in slow and gently, there's no need to rush. Too much pressure may cause injuries if you don't listen to your body's needs. Feel free to bend and accomodate yourself inside of the corset while lacing so you get comfortable. 3- Pull the bunny ears to get a perfect cinch around your waist and tie the rabbit ears into a simple bow. I recommend to leave the free edges slightly longer than the looped laces to ease unmaking the bow: it's not the first time I pull the bow wrong and make a knot, which is not a desireable thing to happen when you need to loosen yourself up quickly. Tip: Half an hour after you put your corset on, your body has accostumed to the cinch, so you can gently pull a little bit more. Be aware of what your body says to you: if you don't feel like pulling in anymore as you know this will be uncomfortable or even painful, stop and skip this readjustment. Comfort and patience are essential when corseting. Here's a video by Lucy/Bishonenrancher cinching herself into a "1st type lacing" (bunny ears) corset to clear these steps up, and this is another video of hers closing a "2nd type lacing" corset (inverted bunny ears). If your corset is laced in the 3rd way (no rabbit ears) then check this video by Lucy/Bishonenrancher, it will help a lot! How do we get out of our corset now? Simply follow the same steps as before but starting from the end: so you undo the bow, loosen a bit at the top and a bit at the bottom as many times as needed to keep the back bones straight, and when you're loose enough unfasten the front closure if there's one (remember, the second/third hook of the busk is the last one to be unfastened). Happy lacing!
Cream silk wedding dress with cream muslin, embroidered with beige and gold floral patterns, belonging to Maria Tsamadou.