Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Late Tudor Project

...And so it begins!

I've been wanting an Elizabethan gown for ten years now, but always felt like my skill level wasn't up to snuff, or that I haven't had time to do such a large project. More often than not, I end up doing quickie projects for a specific event, and then coming up with a laundry list of things I'd do differently next time. Now, I don't expect that last part to change, but I'm finally in a place where I want to spend a significant amount of time on one project. The last couple of things I've made have been few and far between, but I did them the way I wanted to (or at least close to!) and spent more time on them, and it's been much more rewarding. Now, my love of Elizabethan gowns has not abated, but I have decided that I like the romance and elegance of the Tudor silhouette, and I've decided that my first big 16th century project will be a late Tudor. Luckily, since I made that decision (ouch, now you know how long I've been sitting on this idea, inactive!), Simplicity has come out with a couple of pretty decent Tudor patterns, making my job a lot easier. I do know how to draft patterns, but my skills are awfully rusty. In a pinch, I'd get by, but I would much rather work from an already scaled-up, sized pattern than try to scale something up from a book, drape it, or draft it myself. And as much as I love The Tudor Tailor, the thought of trying to fit those patterns gives me a headache! Working from Simplicity's patterns will bring its own special set of headaches, I'm sure, but at least it puts me a step or two ahead, and I feel like I have a bit of a safety net in the step-by-step instructions and other existing dress diaries chronicling experiences with these patterns.

So, my first steps have been to sketch out what I want, and to start seriously planning the underpinnings.

Here's my sketch:

I have some lovely russet-orange damask with a bird-and-crown pattern on it (hope I'm remembering that correctly!) that I plan on using for the skirt, bodice, and oversleeves. I'm thinking about dying it a brighter orangey red, since it's rather muted and that just screams "I'M A HOME DECORATING FABRIC" (it is) to me, but it is nice the way it is, and I may do better to play it safe and leave it as-is. Especially since I don't have a bath tub OR a washing machine to dye 10 yards of fabric in.

I also have some really ornate, textured goldenrod/mustard yellow fabric for the forepart and foresleeves. In a perfect world, I'd spangle that up to move it further away from the home-decorating zone, but as much as I love hand work, that takes a LOT of time. And that's something I could always go back and do at some other point.

I do not have fabric for the turnbacks yet, but I'm thinking scarlet silk/rayon velvet would be beautiful. I want something that will drape elegantly, and I think the red might bring and unexpected pop of color the the ensemble. Chocolate brown would also be lovely and restrained, but since when were the Tudors lovely and restrained in their fashion choices? I still might do chocolate brown satin for the pipings and linings that will show.

One of my main pieces of inspiration is the Princess Elizabeth Portrait (attributed to the Flemish school), from about 1546. The color scheme of my gown will be very close to this, although I bought the orange fabric intending it to be an Elizabethan.

Thank you www.elizabethan-portraits.com! 

The other portrait I'm drawing heavy influence from is the portrait thought to be of Katherine Parr, attributed to Master John, from 1545:

Thanks again, www.elizabethan-portraits.com! 
So, I have a plan! I will hopefully end with the gown that I've sketched, an English Tudor style fit for a Queen (or Princess!) from the mid 1540's. Sumptuary laws are SO overrated.


  1. Wow I didn't know you could sketch so well! :) It looks gorgeous

  2. Thank you Vintage! I can manage with dresses alright... Her face, not so great! Also, she has great big man hands :P I only added a face and hands because I knew I was going to be posting that up here!