Sunday, January 17, 2016

Back to Formula

When I look back at last year, I'm really satisfied with what and how much I made. It was certainly a productive year. Not everything made its way on the blog, but I made 4 dresses (here, here and here), 4 hoods (here and here, then a green linen one I never photographed, and a black wool one for a friend), a fighting doublet for my Laurel (which you can see here), a new shoulder bag, a brick stick coin purse for a gift, a pair of black wool hose I started years ago, and an embroidered tunic for my husband. Good times, good times.

This year, I expect to be much less outwardly productive, though I think the pace I set for myself last year is a good one, and actually works well for me. The problem with that is that I blow through my material stash. In some ways that's good- I like shopping for new fabric, but it certainly puts a damper on getting projects done!

Since I have this great excuse to fill my fabric stash back up right now, I also have the perfect excuse to go back to formula.

I've been building on my dressmaking experiences one over the other since I started making my own garb 6-ish years ago. Iteration is my modus operandi, and I'm always looking at what I've made asking the question "what would I change if I did this again?" Back in November, I was confronted with a fundamental downside to going about things that way. Once I found something that worked, I moved on to other issues, but stopped evaluating that thing to determine if it really was still working, or really was the right thing to do. If it worked at the time, I moved on.

A few years ago, I made a lightweight, sleeveless fitted garment with a center front lace to wear as my bottom layer. It's a chemise on steroids. I call it a "short cotte" because it's only knee-length. This was before the Lengberg finds became common knowledge, but the ideas those bras have spawned is the same- an undergarment that does most of the support work, easing up on the load of the first cotte layer. When you have a large chest, sometimes it's just easier to get dressed when everything is already somewhat tamed.

My problem is that I feel really uncomfortable being out in public, among friends who like hugging me, without a bra. As a buxom girl, growing up in the Madonna era, bras were an important right of passage, and have become a habitual part of the way I move about in this world where gravity is king. It's weird to not wear one. So the extra support of a modern bra has really helped me feel at ease in my garb, physically and mentally, as I learn more and more about getting the support of my garb correct.

But it's a crutch, and has provided me an excuse to move on to improving the fit of all the outer layers. The bra/short cotte combo works. My outer garb fits relatively well as a result. But it's not right, and more importantly, I can do better.

So "back to formula" means getting rid of that crutch. I've learned so much in the years between when I decided to stop looking at my bottom support layers as an issue and now. It's time to admit that I never really solved the issue. It's time to iterate my underwear.

Looking ahead, the projects you're going to see from me this year are significantly less glamorous, and considerably more personal. Improving the ways I deal with chest support, through re-evaluating my layers and the way they fit and work in tandem, is my priority. Once I have a handle on that, I plan to create a brand-new "body block" pattern to further improve upon the successes of the symmetrical pattern I created at the end of 2014. Also on tape is set of sleeping garb based off male clothing of the 14th century consisting of a linen shirt, wool tunic, braies (or shorts), and hose with garters. I mentioned those before and I'm really keen on having those before the camping season starts this summer.

In addition to all this, a long-standing research project into the depictions of women in early-15th century French manuscripts is underway. I have already discovered some interesting things that I had overlooked in all these years of studying this period. I'm excited to share my findings with you through the coming months.

On the outside, here on the blog, this year might seem slow and quiet as compared to last year. Far fewer finished projects and fancy photos, and far more technical details and behind-the-scenes ministrations. But be assured I will continue to share all that I can without giving you too many embarrassing details. Because we all know Google search absolutely loves those.

I'm looking forward to this year and this working plan. I'm excited about starting over now that I am not a beginner anymore, and to being more confident in not only my abilities to sew dresses that work, but in my knowledge on the topic. It should be more good times ahead.

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