So, I use mostly portraits to research costuming – it makes it so I’m sure of how it probably looked (artistic license makes it impossible to know for sure), and it’s fun to make a dress in the style of my favorites.
Something I’ve been working on lately is fastening the dresses – being a SCAdian, and going to a lot of camping events being single – means either having to figure out how to fasten everything in the front, or run around the campsite yelling ‘Can someone lace me in?’ That would be fun, but I can imagine the remarks ‘How bout I unlace you’ would be the most PG 13 of all of them.
So I’m making my pair of bodies front-lacing, but that doesn’t help if I have to lace my dress up the back. You see a lot of Venetian ladies with front lacing dress, but very little about where and how the dresses of the Tudor era fasten. I believe that they laced up the front, and here’s my evidence.
If you look at the Study for the Portrait of the More Family, you’ll notice that some of the ladies show what looks like lacing in the front. These ladies were reasonably well-to-do, and would likely have had servants to help them dress, yet their dresses fastened in front?
The portraits of Mrs. Pemberton, Lady More, and Jane Seymore show what look like pinheads on the side of the front of their dresses – could this be a ‘stomacher’ panel pinned on one or both sides to cover up lacing? I believe so. Also, look at the sittow portrait of Katherine of Aragon – She’s got what looks like her chemise, then another undertype dress on that gaps at the top, then either a stomacher over it, or another dress. to keep the undertype dress closed to that point would have probably taken lacing.
So, I’m totally going to use front lacing, and a stomacher panel with hook-and-eye closing it on the side (which are period) to avoid poking myself with pins.