A friend this week bought a copy of a book published jointly by Thames and Hudson and the V&A. It's 17th-Century Men's Dress Patterns 1600-1630, by Melanie Braun, Luca Costigliolo, Susan North,
Claire Thornton, and Jenny Tiramani, 2016. Since I've just blogged about one kind of baggy trouser (vraka) and this describes how to make another (hose), I decided to mention it
The blurb on the back cover reads as follows:
This book presents full step-by-step instructions for the making of early 17th-century men's clothes and accessories in a technically accurate, visually exciting and easy-to-follow format. Twelve garments — all historical pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum's collections — are featured: a suit, three doublets and a cloak, as well as a felt hat, an embroidered nightcap and a plain nightcap liner, a pasteboard picadil, a sword girdle and hangers, a pair of mittens and a linen stocking. They have been analysed so that every aspect of the pattern is exact. Scale patterns and precise construction diagrams are accompanied by colour photography of the whole garment as well as an abundance of informative details and X-ray photographs that reveal the hidden structure of each piece, showing the precise number of layers and the types of stitches used inside. The methods and techniques of historical tailoring and plain sewing are shown in detail.
The authors have some of the best historical tailoring skills in the world and have worked with world-renowned institutions such as the Globe Theatre in London, creating award-winning costumes for film, stage and television. This book is a unique resource for costume and fashion designers, fashion historians and students.
I gave the authors' names, but it seems only fair to name the photographers as well: Henrietta Clare,
Pip Barnard, and Paul Robins. That's because the book has over 1,300 meticulously created illustrations, many of which are photos of the V&A exhibits listed above.
To appreciate the care taken, look at section 6, "Embroidered silk damask cloak". It begins with front, side and back views of a three-quarter circle Spanish cloak: red damask embroidered with metal and silk thread, and implied to be mid-16th century. For comparison, there's a shot of another Spanish cloak from the V&A's collection, c. 1580-90, red velvet with yellow satin decoration.
The facing page continues with a detail of the embroidery, and a painting of Philip IV of Spain, shown wearing a cloak of similar length, and presumably of similar shape.
The next two pages show details of the right and wrong sides. The 11 photographs here illustrate, for example, what the cloak looks like when laid flat; how seams are constructed; and the embroidered motifs. The next two pages give a pattern for the cloak, including a list of materials. At the end is a cutting layout, showing the authors' best conjecture for how the pieces were cut from a rectangle of damask. This was worked out by matching the weaves of the pieces. And on the final two pages, there are 13 illustrations and six photographs showing the construction sequence, and the embroidery technique.
By comparison with doublet and hose, the cloak is a simple garment. The doublets and hose are much more complicated, being made of many layers. And here, the authors used a different kind of photography — X-ray — to reconstruct how these were put together. If you're
interested, look at the V&A's page "X-radiography as a tool to examine the making and remaking of historic quilts" by Joanne Hackett, V&A Online Journal
(Issue 3 Spring 2011) Wayback. This demonstrates, with photos, what X-rays can tell us about how clothes and other objects were made, and even how they were altered afterwards.
You can get a good idea of the type of content in 17th-Century Men's Dress Patterns
from photos in a review of another book in the series.
The review, "17th Century Women’s Dress Patterns — Book Review", by Mary Corbet in her blog Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread (July 18 2011) Wayback. Mary's review shows one invaluable feature of the book: an introduction to
the tailoring techniques of the time, including detailed
sewing and embroidery stitches.
There's a review of 17th-Century Men's Dress Patterns 1600-1630 itself in
"17th Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630 — book review", by Pat Poppy in the
Costume Historian blog (18 January 20)
I learnt a lot from the book, and not just about costume-making. Other things include:
"Canion". I didn't see this word explained, but it appears to mean the short cylinder at the bottom
of each leg of a pair of hose. It is a word that I, unlike most people, have a use for, as it probably also can be used of the end-of-leg cylinders on my
Violence. Most of the portraits in the book show their sitters with their cloak draped over the
left shoulder. The authors explain that this leaves the right arm free to draw a sword if need be. However distasteful I find Brexit, I guess, it having divided the country into two
mutually antagonistic factions, that I'm lucky it's
happening now rather than 400 years ago when these factions would have been armed.
Inconvenience. The authors also say that
from at least the 14th century, a man's hose were tied to his doublet with "points", or lengths of ribbon. These did eventually become decorative only, but at the time the book is about, it seems that they were still functional. Surely tying and untying them must have been terribly inconvenient, if, say, you needed to go to the toilet?
Discomfort. The authors say that:
By 1600, doublets were quite snug-fitting with armholes cut high in the armpit and with the top of the undersleeve cut very high to enable maximum movement of the arms. Even for those men who
did not favour the tightest fit, it was essential that the doublet was tight around
the waistline to support the sword girdle and weapons. In his autobiography,
Thomas Raymond records that James Hay, 2nd Earl of Carlisle (1612-60) was
chastised by his father when he complained that the doublet of his masking suit was too straight: 'Fye, boye', said the Earl, 'are you not ashamed to complayne of that? Whie, when I was a masker and the mode was to appeare very small in the wast, I remember I was drawne up from the grounde by both hands, whilst the taylor with all his strength buttoned on my doublet.'
Perhaps such things are why Bill Bryson, in his
book At Home: A Short History of Private Life says that until the 18th century,
no word existed for the idea of having comfort at home.