Tudor Woman’s Petticoate-Bodies [1556 Kentwell] – updated

Just reminding that for costume making I will be following the tudor costume page and advice from previous participants and ‘kentwell elves’ on materials suitability and for the difficult bits [ie kirtle bodice ] I am currently a hoping-to-be re-enactor but with no experience and we are really keen as a family to join the tudors. Other people I know have found the mediaeval tailors assistant book to be really helpful for shifts, or the tudor tailor book.

This means that the steps detailed here are not originating from my brain, but the tudor costume makers and others, though some of the mistakes and how to avoid unfortunately did :blush: .

Anyone thinking of making clothes for re-enactment, please check with your group the ‘rules’ on materials, colours and look. different tudor years have different styles – tho less so for poor, especially poor kids. following these notes does not guarentee acceptance of clothing by Kentwell or any other group, but may help a total novice such as myself. I had never made any clothes before these – a hint of my novicitude. I wrote this initially in Oct 2011, but have added in the things that had I had known I would have done differently – mostly in italics :)

See first the Petticoate – Children’s version, as I am building on that knowledge to do this one.

* ah, well here is a thing, i made this beautiful petticoat just like this, went to get help for my kirtle, and instead [or as well] ended up cutting this up and attaching it to a boned bodice. this is a remarkably good think for a more buxom figure. there is debate over boned bodice for the poorer such as myself, but it has huge advantages in support and then simplifying the making of my kirtle. sooo… read this and it will describe my lovely petticoat, and then the boned bodice version [well reeds actually] and then make a decision as to which you may assay to make and start at that point. NB my previous comment on the kids petticoat about nomenclature, coloured or otherwise linen and red wool – ie if i did this again, instead of using linen i would use red wool as i think that is the direction of travel for kentwell costume!]*

So here is what the petticoat ended up being – a petticoate-bodies


The advantage of this for me over a petticoat is that this would support me well, and make the kirtle bit easier. These were def worn by the rich in elizabethan times, not so much evidence for the poor, however then the poor didn’t really get much opportunity to become plus size, and i didn’t want to look ridiculous nor feel uncomfortable, so happy to go with the advice given by the wonderful costume helper. *This may not be appropriate for you/your reenactment group etc*

If I had planned this from the start though, I would definately have used red lighterweight wool for the skirt part. It seems in the future Kentwell may be moving towards the petticoate bodies being a more integral item of clothing for poorer folk, made with a canvas and linen bodice and red wool skirt, so do check on womens layers before you start to make things!

Instead of red wool, I unpicked my petticoat – and all those lovely pleats :sob: and cut 2x2m rectangles x my waist to ankle, rehemmed it 2 short sides only. Homestly, you could do this as a single rectangle of 2m. Then my fab helper started me off on the reeded bodice part. looking at all the sewing ahead, i decided this was indeed the moment for a sewing machine.

Making a toile

firstly, you need to make a toile. Now this is the pattern of the material in a non fraying cheap material – polyester etc. she made this, I have no pics, by putting her bodice on me, cinching it to where it needed to go, then draping all the material over me, cutting out the shape that would suit me and redraping and refining. This turned out to be a front half and a back half. the sides were left so there would be a 2 inch gap between front and back half of material which will be laced together. If you are a novice, you MUST HAVE HELP here. If you are Kentwelling, you either visit an ‘elf’ who will help you make one of these, or you opt for the petticoate above and go to a kentwell costume day or local elf to make a toile for the kirtle bodice and boning. There is an art to toile making. It is relatively straightforward in the bustless, and where you are following the body, but where you are aiming to control the body, it needs someone who knows what they are doing to get the best result.

When you have your toile, then cut it out in canvas x 2 or heavy linen x 2 if you are planning to handsew the channels so it can be seen, or in both canvas x 2 as the hidden inner bit and linen x 2 which shall be your outer showing bit – ideally in natural or muted linen. when you cut you do need to add seam allowance – which is about 1cn all the way round. note that it is best to pin the toile to the fabric on the flat, chalk out the outline for future sewing reference and then cut out on the flat. [i do have pics of doing easier toiles for example the pourpoint later on]

Boning the bodice

Having got your toile, used it to cut out your heavy material [canvas/linen] you need to sew the 2 fronts together and the 2 backs together along the bottom but not sides shoulder straps or top. sew along your marked chalk lines. pin enough together elsewhere so it is smooth and flat [and iron :) ]
You now want to look at your boning. mark out on the material [in chalk if it will be visible, biro or anything if you are covering over the top] the pattern for your boning – mine has some boning at the back – please see – and the entire front. the boning is vertical at the front and diagonal from top of sides going down towards the middle and reaching the bottom edge pretty much in a line down from nipple. Have a good look at the pics to see what I mean [if you aren't using someone knowledgeable to help you, are you sure of this? as an utter novice I would have really struggled to do this from notes or pics] . look at what you are boning with. I was given flat oval reed to use of just under 1cm width. Therefore I made channels of 1cm width with sewing machining [open at the top] in the direction of my markings

The pictures above show sewing the channels, and also what my front and back look like. The next step is to take your bendal of flat oval reed, and cut to shape so slide a bit down each channel. then sew along the top to hold them in place. Iam not sure whether it matters which way the reed faces, or even if flat reed would be as good – probably – but i had the flat side facing in. below is measuring the reed against the channel.

Finishing the bodice with canvas

nearly there :) now pin your linen covering onto the canvas reeded part. you need to pin both the linen bits on the op – so it goes linen-linen-canvas/canvas . then you sew sides, shoulder strap sides and the top together, leaving the bottom unsewn, and the ends of the shoulder straps. then turn inside out by taking the uppermost linen only – leaving you with linen – canvas/canvas – linen with all the seams etc hidden. the shoulder straps are difficult to turn inside out. so here are the pieces lined up; turned inside out and sewn up

not quite done – eyelets! I might do an eyelet post actually. but in short, you need to sharpen a screwdriver about 1cm diameter into v v sharp point, push this through all the material, and then sew this hole open. My DH made better eyelets than me

Then try it on, and work out where to sew the shoulder straps together – you can see these are pinned at the back. a line was drawn, the excess bar .5cm cut off, the pieces turned in and sewn shut with whipstitch, and then the 2 pieces sewn tightly together with whipstitch or ladder stitch for each side. Just look how well it supports! It is tight, but actually comfortable – which was a shock to me!

Adding skirt to bodice

so… like before pin pleats! these are going to be knife pleats, with a smooth panel at the front about a handswidth, and then going out to the sides. You are going to leave 5-10cm on each side free and flapping – this is so you can get it on and off over your head. rather odd looking. then pin the pleats to the bodice so that you pin the good front side of the skirt down against the good back side of the bodice so that you haven’t folded under the bodice and the skirt goes upwards over the bodice.

argh to not taking a pic that is clear of this.[i mght draw a pic, photograph it and add] but the top edge of the skirt is directly on top of the bottom of the bodice. you must make sure that the front linen of the bodice isn’t incorporated. This is so you can easily just sew along the whole thing when pinned with a sewing machine [2ce for luck] and then flip the skirt down so that the skirt and back linen and canvas are all inverted in.

you then fold under the front linen and ladder stitch or whipstitch that into place. These are the photos I took – please link to better ones in comments if you have them. You can see the line of stitching and flipped up skirt material in the top picture, and that I am whipstitching the top down [it is visible so hand sewn] over the top. All the seams will be hidden [antifray] all visible stitches hand sewn. Have a look at my kirtle and jerkin pages too if this doesn’t make sense, tho the photos not v clear there either perhaps.

Finished product

the side flapping bits can be left, or you can use hooks and eyes to make look good, or just tuck under. it works like the placket in version 1 effectively. It is very comfortable and v adjustable.

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3 Responses to Tudor Woman’s Petticoate-Bodies [1556 Kentwell] – updated

  1. Abi says:

    Hey! I can see my house from here! Our my back garden… How is it holding up two years on?

  2. Kat says:

    I am hoping to come along to 2016 (I previously participated 12 years ago – how exactly does one apply these days?) and am having an existential crisis. You may have seen me desperately posting on the fb elves page! I have to make costumes for myself and my 2 daughters (8 and 5 in june) and am really, really struggling. Living in New Zealand, I’m unable to meet any elves, there are no reenactment groups here, and wool is very difficult (and expensive – I paid £27 a metre for my daughter’s Kirtle wool) to come by. What do you use for your interlining exactly? I cannot find ‘stiff canvas’ and have seen in your other posts that upholstery fabric might be suitable? I have made a shift and a bodied petticoat but I am not happy with it, and I think the wool is far too thick. I’ve decided to leave it for now and just carry on to make a woolen Kirtle, the skirt is done, but I am struggling to understand the kentwell bodice making notes. Help!

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