This year, I auditioned for the pirate scenario. Being a pirate sounds fun, yes? However, the queen was looking for a couple of new members for the Royal Court. They need intelligent people who can act and think on their feet, and the queen decided that I was exactly that.
Well, now I'm in the Royal Court... and I need to start thinking about my underwear.
I start making a mental checklist of the things I will need before I even begin designing and making my dress: a new chemise for my new neckline, bloomers (They're not period, but we're required to wear them after an incident a few years ago involving a hoop skirt and a bright pink thong.), a bum roll, a farthingale (a.k.a. a hoopskirt), and an Elizabethan corset.
I pull up my instructions on how to make a pattern for an Elizabethan corset and get my boning material. Then I being measuring.
You need four measurements for this: bust, waist, front, and underarm. You're supposed to measure to your natural waist, the crease where you bend. Your natural waist is higher up than the waist on today's clothing. According to the instructions, most women have an underarm measurement (2 inches from below the underarm, or the top of your bra strap, to your natural waist) of 6 1/2 inches. I measure mine. 11 inches. I must have measured it wrong. I double check. 11 inches. The instructions also tell me the front measurement, 2 inches above the bustline to an inch below the belly button, is usually 12 inches. You don't want to go lower because it will hit in an uncomfortable place when you sit. I measure mine. 16 inches!
I have hubby measure for me later that day because it's really hard to get certain measurements on your own. He measures 10 inches for my underarm and 15 for my front. It's an inch shorter, but still. WTF?! Then I read further into the instructions. Women with "very long" waists can have longer measurements.
So I have short legs and a long waist. I'm a freak.
The top line is a "normal" waist length. The bottom line is an inch shorter than my measurements. Yes, I went two inches shorter for the front point to ensure my busk does not hit uncomfortably against my erm... girly bits when I sit down. Corset construction is now underway. I'll post pics of the finished corset after I'm done.
Then I started thinking about my character.
I chose to model my character after Anne Fiennes, the 10th Baroness Dacre. She was a very strong minded woman married to a rather weak minded man, and she was the 1st cousin once removed from Anne Boleyn. She was a controversial woman, almost scandalous. She inherited Sir Thomas More's house in Chelsea after the death of her mother, the Marchioness of Winchester, and resided there with her husband and, sometimes, her brother. She had one child, a daughter named Elizabeth who died young.
The 10th Baron Dacre had quite the history. His father shot a groundskeeper and was hung like a common criminal when Gregory Fiennes was 2 years old. All their lands and titles were stripped by Henry VIII. He was 19 when Elizabeth I took the throne and restored to him his lands and title, in 1558. He married Anne Sackville (and there's a whole lot of Anne Sackvilles in Elizabethan England) when she was very young.
Not exactly the best at managing money, he accrued some gambling debts and wished to sell off part of his father's lands to cover them. His sister, Margaret Lennard, threw a fit and sought to have those lands settled in her name. Margaret had gotten quite lucky and married into a very wealthy family. In her schemes to acquire this land and gain favor with the queen, she began smearing her brother and his wife's names to the queen. Well, Anne was having none of that. She wrote a lengthy letter to Elizabeth I to clear the matter up. Margaret's ploy didn't work, and I don't think she ever forgave Anne for it either.
In late 1594, Anne's husband died, leaving the estate to her under the care of her brother-in-law, Sammuel Lennard (Margaret's husband). He was to pay her Â£2000 a year. By this time, most of the land really was Anne's, left to her by her mother. Margaret was furious. I'm sure you can guess what she tried to do. Anne was accused of trying to appropriate her husband's estate to herself, and her husband's estate was put into abeyance where it remained for some time. She successfully defended herself from these charges and then died just a few short months after her husband, in 1595.
This part was the real deal maker for me when I looked for historical inspiration. In Anne's will, she made provisions for the establishment of Emmanuel Hospital on a part of her husband's land and also an almshouse for 20 poor people nearby. This fulfilled a life-long dream she and Gregory shared together. She left her lands, manors, and houses to Lord Burghley (William Cecil). To Queen Elizabeth I, she left a jewel worth Â£300, and to Lord Buckhurst (her brother), she left the rest of her jewelry as well as a portrait of Elizabeth I framed with 26 rubies and a pendant pearl. To Margaret Lennard and her husband, she left a note reminding them that they still owed her Â£2000.
It wasn't until James I took the throne that Margaret and her husband received the titles of Baron and Baroness Dacre in 1604. (Elizabeth I had a long memory. Hehe!) Margaret never did her get hands on Anne's land.
Is that not an awesome story? A woman that independent needs garb to match. In that time, dresses for women had a very specific neckline. A variance from the low, revealing neckline was a dress designed like a man's doublet. It was scandalous for women to wear dresses designed like this because it sent a message that she thought she was just as good as a man. I decided that this doublet patterned dress would be the perfect dress for my character and pulled out my pencils for a super quick sketch.
I was tempted to make an attifet, but I decided that it wouldn't be masculine enough for my character. Plus it wouldn't offer much shade from the sun, and I get sun hives (as well as sun burns). I'm debating between a riding hat and a tall hat. The tall hat has a wider brim, so I'm leaning towards that.