Monday, June 10, 2013

1660's clothing Q and A

I'm kind of horrible about replying to e-mails in a timely manner - I'd much rather be sewing and all that! So although I do get sewing questions, I'm not always able to answer. This one really intrigued me however and I did my best to answer. I wouldn't consider myself an expert in this area, so if you know a good deal about it and have anything to contribute, please do!

Dear Elena,
I am currently writing a story about the Great Plague of London in 1665, and the subsequent Fire of 1666. The main character is a 16-year-old girl who, at first, is employed as a housemaid of a rich family; later, after she has survived the plague, she takes up work as a seamstress at a tailor's shop for upper middle-class women. 

During my research, I have only found very little information about the fashion of servants and working class in the 1660s, and I am especially helpless as to the construction of the dresses. How many and which layers were worn, was there a whole "dress" or was it divided in bodice and skirt, was there a blouse and a petticoat worn below or a whole undergarment, and was there a jacket worn over the bodice and so forth. 

Also, I would like to know more about middle-class fashion - not the expensive robes noblewomen used to wear - and maybe you have some information about old tailoring techniques? I am writing to you in a state of black despair, as I do not know how to continue my project without the information required, and I hope you can spare some time to answer my questions; thank you very much in advance, I would appreciate your help very much. 

 Best regards, Felicia S.

 Hey Felicia,

Lower class clothing in the 1660's would be very similar to what we know as the clothing of the Pilgrims and the settlers of Jamestown. I'd recommend looking up pictures from Plymouth Plantation, as the reenactors there work hard to make their clothing accurate. There would have be at least one petticoat, skirt, blouse and bodice and/or jacket. Stays or corset. Underwear and bloomers did not appear until the late 1700's. Middle class fashion, which is what your seamstress would be making (lower class would make their own clothes) would be similar in style to the upper class, but simpler, and not as cutting edge. She would only be in a tailor's shop if she was making mens clothing - for female dresses she would be working for a seamstress, and they likely would pay house calls as well.

 Techniques... I think you will find some good details in the books I listed below. Do you have a sewing background?

 Some resources that might be helpful:

Websites:



Books:

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