Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Comfort At Home, a Historical Sew Monthly Inspiration Post

I am fairly confident in saying that throughout history, people have wanted to be comfortable in their home, especially when the weather outside is...less than pleasant.  So, the challenge for March is Comfort at Home.

The official definition is to "Make something to wear around the (historical) house".  We were having some issues with wording there...  What this means is clothing which would primarily be worn in the informal comfort of your own home, rather than out in public, and certainly not to a formal event!  Don't just think physically comfortable, but mentally as well--is there some historical thing which you find soothing (which involves sewing)? 
We do encourage you to think outside the box--do some  research, argue your point, and odds are that you will get by with it!

I jump around a good bit in this post rather than organizing by theme and gender (which is my preference), but the ideas which help more for earlier periods are towards the end.

Kimono Dressing Gown, 1885
FIDM Museum, 80.40.1
Night-gowns and caps, banyans and dressing gowns and robes de chambres are all obvious choices, especially for post 16th century.

Lady's Banyan, 1750s
V&A Museum. T.92-2003 

Quilted jumps being worn as an alternative to stiffer stays could be considered informal-wear, although there is some debate on that.

V&A 1745.  T.87-1978
 This pair is labeled by the V&A as being a quilted waistcoat, with a note that it would be worn over the stays with a quilted bedgown and petticoat as warm informal wear...which would totally count!

The MET. #1986.179.1
And an example of a bedjacket from around the same period (give or take a few decades...the museum doesn't give an exact date).  Both of the pieces are in quilted silk.

Also an option is footwear meant for informal settings...slippers, for one.  Mules are another term to look for.
V&A. AP.6A-1868
These are a decidedly interesting pair, dating to the 3rd quarter of the 19th century...they are supposedly made of snakeskin--I would hate to meet that snake that the leather came off of!--, and lined with quilted silk.  The discussion in the summary of this pair includes the tidbit that slippers were often made at home, with women embroidering the uppers themselves--since we are talking Victorian era, a bit of searching should net you period patterns.

A women's mule from the Netherlands, first half of the 17th century.  You can see they are of decoratively cut leather, lined with (more) leather, and have stacked (leather) soles and heels.

MET C.I.46.62.2
Nightgowns, of course, are fairly common in later periods.  This example in cotton is from the 1850s.

Housedresses are something I probably wouldn't have thought of on my own, so thank you to the other Moderators who did think of it.  And gave me a name to search when I was lost...a Hooverette.  The Dreamstress made one several years ago for a HSF challenge, and has links to some information on her blog post documenting it.

Banyans!  Banyans are perhaps my favourite potential part of this challenge, because I enjoy them so much.  You have two basic styles--the earlier loose robe variety:

The MET 1981.208.2
Such as this 1730s English example made of brown silk.  It is essentially "T" shaped, with some flaring for a wider hem.  And if you think this example is boring compared to many others, look closer at the may be somewhat drab, but not boring.

Silk Banyan. 
Or the more fitted style, which more or less mimicked the standard outer garment of the period, albeit with a looser fit and usually in a double breasted style.  This example is quilted silk and is from the 1760s...I want one.  If you are interested in the mid-18th century style, I published a drafting pattern when I made one based on the 1750s one in the LACMA museum. 

The two styles did exist side by side, but over the decades the more fitted style became more prominent, still mirroring the common style of the time, up through the more modern smoking jacket, which is cut similar to a sac coat.

MFA 43.310
With the banyan, a cap would also likely be worn, particularly in earlier periods when men often shaved their heads and wore wigs.  Said hats come in a wide variety of shapes, but generally with an upturned brim, were often heavily decorated, and sometimes decidedly bizarre.

1860s Rijksmuseum.
Along with the later period smoking jackets, smoking caps would also be worn.  Often, these would be embroidered and made at home, with patterns being published in magazines.

When you re-enact pre-Elizabethan times, finding examples is somewhat trickier and requires more thinking, since clothing tended to be clothing, leaving aside class distinctions.  Two of the first things which have been mentioned are socks and aprons.  Aprons especially are ubiquitous throughout history, and have been pointed out as being something comforting and usually informal--I would say to stay away from clearly ornamental examples, though!

Tacuinum Sanitatis f. 60r.
Both male and female examples of aprons, in one image! Remember that the Larsdatter site is an excellent resource--here is the link to Medieval and Renaissance aprons.

Other suggestions which were made for earlier period--other than shift/chemises, and other underwear--are things like naalbound footwear, nightcap type garments, or even an outfit without that last piece which is required for public wear.  Maternity clothing--if you can find examples of it--could definitely be considered comfortable, less formal option compared to the often closely fitted late period clothing.

Although....You aren't required to make clothing!  Bedding is a perfectly reasonable option too for /this/ challenge!

No accession number or direct link is available.
Yes, I asked them.
The above example is believed to be from the 1830s and resides in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum.  It is made of a twill woven wool, and embroidered in indigo-dyed wool thread.

Portret van een theoloog, Hendrick Goltzius, 1585 - 1590

And a fun and cozy looking piece from the late 16th century...A Schlaf Rock, which is described as a warm, fur lined gown for relaxing around the house [Drei schnittbucher, Pp. 91].  It has both slit sleeves, as well as fitchettes to warm your hands in.  I seriously want one, personally.

Page 12 of Patterns of Fashion 4, by Janet Arnold
Nightcaps are always a possibility as well.  This example dates to 1610, and the partly embroidered one to 1600.  Both are made of linen, with no mention made of what the embroidery thread is, although silk is a distinct possibility

For the medieval periods, bedroom scenes and bedding may be one of your easiest to find sources and options.  While the HSM is focused on clothing and accessories, we decided to open it up to include other /sewn/ items for this ONE challenge, primarily for the earlier period folks.

Friedrich von Schwaben, origin: Stuttgart(?), Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. Germ. 345, f 247r, c. 1470
In the above piece, you can see several different examples of potential entries.  A green coverlet, probably lined in white (rather than two separate covers being shown), undergarments being worn in the privacy of the home--a definite option, even if not specifically clothing for comfort--and a big, fluffy pillow.  Interestingly, big fluffy pillows in a white/blue plaid or windowpane plaid show up quite often in illuminations of bedrooms--it surprised me.  No, you may not submit a crown for the challenge, even if she /is/ wearing it in bed.

1930s Victorian Collections.
If you don't have much time or about a tea cozy?  Small, and can be made with scraps of fabric as a quilted piece. Crazy quilted or beaded examples are also not uncommon.

So, you now have a number of examples and ideas (with even more below) of informal clothing for comfort throughout the periods, as well as other options if your time period is making it difficult.  As always, if you aren't sure if your idea will work for the challenge, contact one of the group moderators...we will discuss it and get back with you.  Now go forth and sew!

Some further resources:
The Comfort At Home Pinterest Board
House Robes and Lounge Hats (banyans and such), Pinterest board
Victorian Dressing Gowns and Tea Gowns by Historical Sewing

© John Frey, 2018. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

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