While considering this, I decided it might be a better idea to start with a similar, but simpler gown to be sure that I am happy with the German style and to try a couple of techniques before cutting into the really nice fabric. Part of this decision is the result that while I am happy with the outcome of my Tudor gown, the Tudor ideal is not very complementary to my figure and therefore difficult to achieve the right look. I do have some English heritage, but my physic is more inclined to my German background so I am hoping that switching will result in a more flattering and comfortable style. Another contributing factor is camping. Sometimes it’s nice to have a style of dress you like in both a fancy version, for everyone to ogle, and a second, less extravagant version, which allows you to work or wrangle children without fear.
At the beginning of the blog is my inspiration piece for a common woman’s German gown, likely a middle to upper class woman’s gown, if nothing else for the amount of fabric in the skirt. This observation is made based on research and examination of portraits and paintings of the period where noticeable variances in the skirts of the women painted relative to their overall dress and station can be made.
The iconic Cranach gowns appear to be pleated all the way around the waist, which would require a large amount of fabric. Pleating itself will be discussed in more detail later. In contrast to the extravagant Cranach gown, the skirts of simpler gowns are depicted with pleating only portions of the gown such as sides, front, or side to back. With a high attention to detail, it is difficult to believe that Cranach (the Elder) simply decided not to add the detail of additional pleats. Since the lesser pleats are shown on simpler gowns and typically of those in working situations such as servants, midwives, etc., it is likely a representation of wealth due to the cost of fabric to be fully pleated as in the inspiration piece even if on a simpler gown rather than artistic mistake.
Going back to the inspiration piece, the woman is wearing a more simplistic style than the German Saxon gown; however the skirting has the same voluminous width and all around pleating. The individual portrayed could apparently afford enough fabric, if not all the jewels to go with it.
My gown will be made of medium weight linen rather than wool, which would be more appropriate. This is in part to several factors, including 1) fabric I had on hand (my husband purchased several yards of red linen for Christmas), 2) overall cost (linen bought online is relatively cheap, especially when you only need a bit more of another color), and 3) it should breathe nicely making it suitable for various weather conditions, although the extent of this last reason remains to be tested with the amount of fabric needed.
I also purchased linen canvas to use as stiffening for the bodice, which overall is a bit disappointing. I like how breathable linen is, but the “linen canvas” doesn’t seem anywhere as stiff as the cotton, which still breaths, and I haven’t even washed it yet. My hope is that once I quilt the layers it will stiffen up more. Another piece of the inner working will be some quarter inch reed boning that I’ll use to help shape the bodice, more specifically the rib cage area. I have noticed with my working class Italian, that the bodice, the interior of which 3 layers of quilted canvas being used as a stiffener, wrinkles and bends awkwardly shortly after putting it on, likely a side effect of my figure as I noticed others don’t share in this issue. My hope is that by adding some light support it will help the garment keep its shape better, not to mention help shape me. And from my experience in the Tudor gown, a reed corset is fairly comfortable. Of course, the boning being added to the bodice section will not be meant to act as a corset, but more for a boost to stiffening without constraining. This is a great time to test this theory rather than with the formal Cranach gown.