Elizabeth I Effigy Bodies Reconstruction | Part Five: The Finished Product & Afterthoughts

  1. Effigy Bodies Part One: The Pattern & Materials
  2. Effigy Bodies Part Two: Cutting & Sewing
  3. Effigy Bodies Part Three: Boning & Binding
  4. Effigy Bodies Part Four: Eyelets & Lacing
  5. Effigy Bodies Part Five: The Finished Product

Without further ado, I present my reconstruction of Elizabeth I’s bodies, side by side with the original effigy bodies in Westminster Abbey:

image2 (4)

image1 (4)

My reconstruction (L) and the original effigy bodies (R). My reconstruction does not have the underarm sweat guards that the original has.

 

Some close ups of the bodies when mounted on an inflatable mannequin:

image1 (2)

“… a paire of French bodies of carnacion Taffata…” – Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe accounts, 1590.

image2 (1)

image2 (2)

image1 (3)

Detail of waist tabs and how they flare out when placed over hips

image1

Detail of shoulder strap attaching to front of bodies

 

The completed bodies, when on an inflatable mannequin that is small enough to fit them, measure:

Bust: 71.5cm / 28″
Waist: 55cm / 21.5″

Or roughly the equivalent of a AU/UK size 4 / US size 0 / Euro size 32… or in other words: TINY!

 

Afterthoughts

There are many things I would change if I were to make these again, many of which I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, but I’ll outline the most important here. Firstly, I would have used a linen as a lining for the bodies, as besides the fustian used in the original, this is what was most commonly used in other seventeenth century examples. Anne of Demark’s wardrobe records show that she preferred her bodies to be lined with taffeta, which is why my option to use it is historically justifiable. However, with that said I haven’t noticed any disadvantage in terms of fabric strength or durability (so far) to using taffeta. Yet, lining the bodies, which sit so close to the human body which perspires, with a fabric like linen would be the better choice for a garment intended for daily use.

I would also have sewn the bodies entirely in silk thread, and used a back stitch for all the boning channels, not a running stitch (as the original have) and then a half-back stitch as I ended up doing for the last panel.

image2

Side back seam. Boning channels completed in linen thread with a running stitch

 

Some of the readers of this blog have asked why I chose to use plastic whalebone instead of more period accurate materials like bents or cane. For my location and my budget, bents (a type of reed) were far too hard to source. Cane can be quite large and round or thick, and would not have been small enough to replicate the 6mm wide boning channels of the original. When recreating a later pair of American seventeenth-century stays for Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts, stay maker Hallie Larkin noted that “These stays would have been extremely difficult to make without the artificial whalebone, wood products cut to 4mm would have a tendency to break or bend especially in the long channels at center front and back.” The thick nature of most available cane means that they also would have taken up much more fabric in the boning channels and therefore shrunk the bodies, more than the 1-2mm deep x 5mm wide plastic boning did. Plastic boning not only replicates the size and shape of the original cut baleen in bodies and stays, but it is flexible, molds to the body after time (as baleen did) and is just generally easier to work with.

 

 

image1 (1)

Side front view, with 13mm (1/2″) boning channel visible

Other lovely readers have also informed me of other ways to create the eyelet holes when I don’t have a bodkin. These include using different sized knitting needles to create a hole between the threads without breaking them, or to use a tailor’s awl. I hope to trial both these methods in my reconstruction of the Filmer Bodies c. 1630-50.

11665675_10156561026330392_405494912_o

Overall I’m extremely happy with how the bodies turned out, considering this was my first time sewing a ‘corset’ of this style and doing it completely by hand. My next step is to find a model with body measurements small enough to fit into the bodies and test ideas of fit and movement.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Elizabeth I Effigy Bodies Reconstruction | Part Four: Eyelets & Lacings

010faf5bc82d7941dff439ddbe0616cc90673e6f3e

  1. Effigy Bodies Part One: The Pattern & Materials
  2. Effigy Bodies Part Two: Cutting & Sewing
  3. Effigy Bodies Part Three: Boning & Binding
  4. Effigy Bodies Part Four: Eyelets & Lacing
  5. Effigy Bodies Part Five: The Finished Product

The final step of making these bodies was to create the seventy or so eyelet holes that lace the centre front together and attach the skirts (or farthingale) to the bodies.

In the early modern period eyelet holes were created by making a hole in between the fibres of the material with a tool called the bodkin. As Randle Holme explained in the 1680s “The Bodkin, is a blade or round Pin of Iron fixed in Halve, it is not very sharp at the end: by its help, is Eye lid holes, and all other holes (which are not very large) made.”[1] Surviving bodkins in museums are often highly decorated with engravings, or contain their owners’ initials, and are often made from expensive materials such as silver, indicating that they must have been a particularly special or sentimental token of the tailoring or bodie making profession

Silver Bodkin, c. 1620-40, British. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This long and narrow, but blunt, tool was pushed into the fabric creating a gap between the warp and weft threads, creating a small hole. The genius in using this particular tool is that by not breaking the threads of the fabric, the resulting eyelet holes “were able to withstand a considerable amount of strain without deforming or ripping.”[2]  As well as creating the holes, bodkins were also used to thread the lacing through the eyelets, as this example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York contains a hole through which to thread the lacing, similar to a sewing needle.

Silver Bodkin, c. 1620-40, British. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Contains the intials MP – possibly those of the craftsman that it belong to?

However, I don’t have a bodkin nor anything that really resembles one so I had to improvise. I decided to use ordinary nail scissors to push a hole between the threads of the fabric. Although this was not quite as clean as the results that a bodkin would achieve, and I did break some threads, it surprisingly worked really well. After the hole was made I whipped stitched around it until all the raw edges were concealed, as explained below:

 

Although the original has 29 pairs of eyelet holes that run down the centre front of the bodies, somehow I miscalculated my measurements, so my reconstruction only has 28 pairs of eyelet holes. Oops!

01d44216fc65232899082769f16d18467220bac096

Nearly there! Eyelet holes on centre front opening

After finishing the centre front I moved onto the eyelet holes that are about the waist tabs, two above each split. These eyelet holes were originally intended to have anchored the farthingale or skirts to the torso, showing the ways in which bodies and farthingales by the early seventeenth century began to accommodate each other in dress.[3]

0138c81c8a68d3628a34ebc4cb68711798b7cf58ac

 

019f80afb2bff7774fc74022bb838ac6bc743aea01

Eyelet holes above splits in tabs

 

The original effigy bodies in Westminster abbey fastened with leather points that were threaded through one eyelet hole in each shoulder strap and then through another in the top of the bodies.[4] The original holes were not worked, however, this was probably due to the rushed nature of making the bodies for the Queen’s effigy and so I decided to work mine with silk thread as I had done for the others. I then threaded through some left over grosgrain ribbon that I had used to bind the outside raw edges of the bodies and tied these in a bow.

 

After the eyelet holes were complete and the shoulder straps secured, all I had left to do was to lace the bodies together. Bodies during this period were straight laced, meaning that one lace was threaded through all the eyelet holes in a spiralled motion.[5] This differs from the way that Victorian era and modern corsets are laced, which involved having two strands of ribbon that criss-crossed over each other.

On one side of the bodies, at the top of the centre front, tie the ribbon or laces to one of the eyelet holes.

1. On one side of the bodies, at the top of the centre front, tie the ribbon or laces to one of the eyelet holes.

2. Insert ribbon/lace through opposite eyelet threaded towards the body

2. Insert ribbon/lace through opposite eyelet threaded over towards the body

3. Pull the ribbon to the other side and thread through the eyelet hole, from the body towards yourself.

3. Pull the ribbon to the other side and thread through the eyelet hole, from the body towards the front.

4. Continue doing this in an over and under fashion all the way down to the bottom

4. Continue doing this in an over and under fashion all the way down to the bottom

0186c9ba90f53ef51f81a4dcda04ca970fa4ef6acc

Tie bottom of lace into a loop, and then another loop. Tuck underneath, between bodies and smock

 

At the moment the bodies are laced together with satin ribbon, however, I hope to source aiglets in the future to create period correct ‘points’. Points were laces of leather or ribbon tipped with a metal tip (aiglet) that threaded through eyelet holes in garments and tied to attached them together.

A point consisting of five strand braid of cream and silk threads tipped with an aiglet, c. 1550-1650. Museum of London, London.

Modern reproduction points from the Tudor Tailor

It was not only used to lace bodies, but in male clothing they were used mainly to attach the breeches and sleeves to the doublet, whilst in female clothing they commonly attached skirts or detachable sleeves to the bodice. The plastic tip at the end of a modern shoe lace is derived from the metal aiglet, and serves a similar function – to allow for easier threading.

 

I’ll be unveiling the finished bodies and my afterthoughts on the construction process in my next blog post so stay tuned!

 

References:

[1] Randle Holme, The academy of armory, or, A storehouse of armory and blazon containing the several variety of created beings, and how born in coats of arms, both foreign and domestick. With the termes of Art used in each Science. (Printed at Chester by the Author, 1688), p. 290.

[2] Luca Costigliolo & Jenny Tiramani, ‘The Tools and Techniques of the Tailor and Seamstress’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book One, Susan North and Jenny Tiamani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2011)p. 11.

[3] Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 10.

[4] Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’, Costume, Vol. 41 (2007), pp. 2, 7.

[5] Luca Costigliolo, ‘Pink Watered-silk stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012),  p. 97.