*Disclaimer: the Golden Egg challenge was about garb for me. It is not about your garb. I am convinced your garb is awesome. What I write is about possible garb for a very small corner of the world, namely the town of Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam.
Usually, when dealing with garb from 1550-1600, we see a lot of boning and tops of dresses attached to the skirt part of the garb. I am not convinced this is how, back then, dresses were constructed!
First, let’s look at boning. Boning comes from whales. Whaling, or the commercial trade of whales and their body parts, didn’t become a significant industry in the Netherlands until 1614.
In the 16th century whaling was popular in the south, meaning France and Spain, but not up north where the Alkmaar 1573 lady was found. I do believe some boning was available in the Netherlands but I wonder about the price? Would this have been a luxury item? I strongly believe so.
So, what was a 1573 low born lady to do with her bodice?
I was lucky to find the last will and testament of a tailor in Leeuwarden, named Jan Douwes. The testament dates from the year 1560. It is, sadly, only in Dutch but it is full of garments, fabric and sheets he gives to family members. Garments could last a very long time and could even be part of an estate. Canvas, written as CANNIFAS is mentioned in the will of Jan Douwes.
Right, so canvas at least was available! Yay!
I picked a sturdy canvas for the inside of the bodice and I asked a friend to help with the measurements, that is not an easy task on your own.
You may remember I have the theory that there were seperate skirts and bodices next to dresses with bodices all in one. I have opted for the first variety: a separate skirt and bodice. I am using the word bodice here liberally, as I have yet to discover what the word ‘rijglijf’ in English is, translated properly. So, if you will bear with me, bodice it is!
The reason I chose for two seperate garments is that in those days garments lasted a lot longer than they do today. To me, it makes sense to give a new bride a decent and brand new dress, which she would be able to alter & mend herself after the birth of children. Later in her life, when a bodice needed replacement she could still use the skirt, etc etc.
I have one picture, from a painting by Pieter Aertsen, where you can see a girl baking pancakes and her chemise is peeking out under her bodice, have a look.
This lady here, Cerridwen, made a bodice using reeds and I think that makes more sense for a supportive bodice! I was also able to see a similar bodice at the London School of Historical Dress but I was not allowed to take a photo. The bodice by Cerridwen will have to do!
But then, when I tried reeds, I got another idea and this is where I got creative. I decided to use leather strips, soaked in water. The water makes the leather very sturdy and you probably know wet leather was also used for water bottles. Left over leather surely was available to a low class woman and it is perfect material for a larger bust.