1660s Dutch Ensemble
I actually left this and the partlets until the end, though they’re first in this post! I was torn between making a low-necked shift (appropriate for elite women) and a high-necked shift (everyone else). Some paintings do depict wealthy women with high-necked undergarments, and given that my original inspiration had been the working women of Metsu’s paintings, I decided to make a low-necked shift that I could combine with a partlet for the right look.
But what kind of shift? I’ve made 16th, 17th, and 18th century before and vaguely know my way around the layout, but there are several different types that appear in paintings around the 1660s and they rarely resemble the kinds that costumers pass around patterns for. For the most part, they’re high-necked with little to no collar, with huge sleeves. Cuffs are variously left off, gathered for a ruffle, or gathered to a very thin band. What I needed more closely resembled the 16th century Italian camiçia, except I didn’t want the iconic gathered neckline.
I ended up with two body pieces, front and back (29″ wide) and tapered the shoulders after I cut out the wide neckline. I took what are normally about 20″ wide sleeves and made them 30″ for extra poof, and then ended up gathering them slightly when sewing the armscye (back to 20″) to the body so that they didn’t go down the body too far. I used a 5″ gusset, 20″ long sleeves, and then 13″ x 1″ cuff pieces. The result:
The perfect amount of sleeve puff, and a good wide neckline that I can wudge around. Ignore the placeholder corset…
Despite all of my research, I’m still at a loss as to what this cape-like item is called. I ended up using the Tudor Tailor pattern since it was the closest on hand, and they call it a partlet (despite it not looking or acting like a regular 16th century partlet), so that’s what I’m terming it here. There are innumerable depictions of middle-class women by Metsu wearing what appear to be linen partlets along with separate hoods (left photo), but I wasn’t in love until I came across the central image from the Rijksmuseum – another Gesina ter Borch, who appears to have become my Dutch clothing muse. I threw in the last image because I felt that it was a good depiction of what the garment is supposed to look like, shape-wise, thought it’s obviously a classier version.
I whipped up a regular linen partlet to preserve my modesty (again, TT pattern, and in retrospect I don’t much like it – even after alterations it doesn’t fit well). This was as simple as I could make it, with a small ½” standing collar to match that blue-bodice portrait at the top of the post – this also matched with the tiny, simple cuffs I gave the shift sleeves. I made buttonholed loops and gave it ties – very adjustable.
I then threw caution to the wind and cut out pieces for two additional partlets to match the lovely ter Borch lady. One in black wool, lined in grey suiting-weight wool and faced with green satin, and one in white flannel (cotton, sorry, another concession to stash fabrics) lined in light grey suiting wool. I suspect the white layer on her was not a heavy one, meriting that second layer in black, but here we are. The wool linings were because I needed a slightly more slippery fabric on the inside of each partlet, and these suiting wools were the best I had on hand, and cabbage to boot.
I rushed on the mockups for these so they’re not a perfect fit or the exact shapes I wanted, but as with everything else on this project, they’re completely hand-stitched and I’m fairly happy with them. I especially like the black one – it’s quite cute. I’m hoping the fuller sleeves on the actual bodice will fill the edges of the partlets out a bit better for a smoother line.
I had about two yards of a nice blue wool that were begging to be made into a petticoat. (This whole project was absolutely about stash-busting my wool remnants, as you will see.) I had to do some math to figure out piecing, and the final skirt was 108″ in circumference. Despite being quite large, the piecing is not obvious when worn. I pleated it to a twill tape and left a big old box pleat in front. I used Anne Danvers’ article on marquise.de as a guide for 17th century petticoats.
When piecing, I seamed together with a quick backstitch and then went back over each bit of seam allowance and felled down securely. Overall, the petticoat took about nine hours of work.
In final photos, I wore a shorter linen petticoat underneath it that I had previously made for a different project.
I decided to try my hand at the Reconstructing History cap pattern because I wasn’t finding a good pattern online. I’ve heard that the RH patterns can be difficult to work with, but thought that a cap was simple enough that I might as well give it a go. It turned out to be quite simple; I could have made it a bit bigger, but overall it works nicely.
I made both the Dutch cap and the coif and then starched them heavily. I ended up washing the cap to get rid of some of the starch and that gave it a perfect light level of stiffening. (The middle photo is no starch and the rightmost is half-starched.) I’m waiting on an oorijzer now! For reference, the regular coif, unstarched:
In the continuing tale of “what do I wear for warmth”: Mitts! I knew these were common in the 18th century, but I wasn’t sure about this time period. Extants are definitely rarer, but that could be accorded to survival bias and doesn’t prove anything. What worried me more is that I wasn’t really seeing them in paintings, even of the working class with colder environments. I suspect they weren’t much used – but I was determined to have something on my hands, and mitts are easier than accurate gloves. After weeks of keeping an eye out, I found two depictions of what I’m fairly sure are mitts.
The sketch at left is a ter Borch, dated to between 1648-1677, and the painting at right was done in 1668. It seems to me that mitts weren’t generally worn, and – like cloaks and capes – might not have become popular until later decades. But I’d like to make a pair, so here we are.
I made up an initial pattern first by drafting out Sharon Burnston’s extant-mitt pattern (1750-1800) from Fitting and Proper, and then overlaying the American Duchess mitt pattern from their first book. The extant mitt was too small and too long for me, and even with the custom drafting it took me three mockups to get anywhere good. I ended up cutting off the V tip in accordance with the mitts depicted above.
I’ve had yardage of coating-weight melton wool in a camel color for years (it was waiting to be made into a regency pelisse, but I’m not that interested in the period and it may get repurposed…) Since it’s the same color as the mitts in the painting here (if they are mitts and not a trick of the shadows…), I decided to make them. I can’t quite tell whether they have thumbs, but I went ahead with it since the thumbless mitts at the Met are all rather fancy.
They took 3.5 hours from drafting start to finish. I’m pretty happy with them and have taken them out on test runs already, but I do have several tweaks to make if I sew another pair.
I take no credit here – these are the Mary Rose shoes from Boots by Bohemond.
Blue aprons appear very often in Dutch genre paintings. I felt fairly confident in picking a faded blue mid-weight linen. These aprons appear to be gathered on a string most of the time, so that’s how I constructed mine, and I picked the size according to two extant (fancy Italian, unfortunately, but I’ll take what I can get) aprons in the Met. I was familiar with the kind of un-gathered aprons with flaps that they wear in Plimoth, but those do not seem to appear in these Dutch paintings. The common construction here appears to be a rectangle gathered with a string, so that’s what I did after hemming.
And 103 hours of work later…
The complete ensemble!