Monday, February 11, 2013

Historical Sew-Fortnightly - Under-it-All

For this fortnight's venture into the frothy-costumy-underbelly of my soul, we have Tudor undergarments.  Specifically a bumroll and pair of bodies (corset, stays, same thing, period name)   (fun fact: hoopskirts were farthingales.  Also, spelling was optional)

The bumroll - which is about to get hardly any attention at all - is made from scraps of cotton, cut in the shape of a crescent moon, stuffed with batting and tied onto my waist with grosgrain ribbon.   While the materials aren't period, the shape and purpose is.  It was used to exaggerate the hips to make the waist look small by comparison.   Rich women wore them with farthingales, for that extra oomph, which the poorer folk had to make due with regular padded hips.

The Tudors were all about the double-conical silhouette (think hour glass - but not the curvy kind - actual stacked cones.) which is achieved by flattening the bust and expanding the hips.

Corsets at the time (despite not yet being called corsets) didn't actually constrict the waist.  They flattened out the front and more or less just held everything else in place.

marking boning channels....
I used the pattern generator and fully boned tabs option from Elizabethan Costuming to create this pattern.   I had to make slight modifications -- the top back came out too far and would have overlapped, so I removed a triangular chuck from each side to even it out.

I'm also starting to think I'm short waisted, as the tabs hit me a little too low.  However, all this can be fixed in the next version!  (yes, there shall be MORE)

I got really good at this by the end....

This iteration was made of a dark blue linen dress I made a few years ago and loathed.   It was one of those rush and hurry jobs for an event and it came out terribly.  Every so often I'd poke at it, but it finally came time to put it out of its misery.

For boning, I used heavy duty zip ties, cut to length and filed down to be lovely and round, least they poke holes in my stays.  (I can't even use a consistent term...)

 I also went a bit rouge when it came to lacing -- stays (see! consistent ) of the period would have had sewn eyelets, metal grommets still being rather far in the future.   However, those would have taken approximately six thousand years and the button holer and I are still not on friendly terms.

I also went with standard (now) cris-cross lacing.  Turns out the Tudors, wacky bunch that the are,  would have used one strand, going back and forth like a zig-zag (or hand-sewing....) however this does tend to make the ends un-even and is nearly impossible to get into without help.

The Challenge: #3 –Under it All

Fabric:  pair-of-bodies: linen,  bumroll: cotton
Pattern:  pair-of-bodies: Elizabethan Custom Corset Generator, bumroll: self-drafted
Year:  circa 1550
Notions:  pair-of-bodies: heavy-duty zip-ties, grommets, rope.
bumroll: grograin ribbon
How historically accurate is it? the shapes and patterns behind both items are actually pretty accurate.  Other than the linen, my materials and construction methods were quite modern)
Hours to complete: pair-of-bodies: on the order of 12 hours (a lot of that was spent filing stays)
bumroll: maybe 30 minutes
First worn: not yet worn outside my house
Total cost: free - I made it from scraps left over from other things


  1. Allison, this is not only inspiring - ie what you've actually made and how well it fits, but is really interesting. I had no idea about bum rolls!! Nor the historical appearance of eyelets etc. what a brilliant couple of makes. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. hehe, thanks! For the fit, I really have to give most of the credit to the corset pattern generator. You pop in your measurements and it tells you exactly what to do.


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