What is a merchant exactly?
The Renaissance was the first time in history a true middle class emerged.
With the rise of townships and the breakdown of the feudal system, opportunities
arose for entrepreneurs to offer the goods and services that feudal lords
once provided. We define merchants as the rising middle class--the
bankers, lawyers, shop keepers. Merchants are a difficult group to
talk about generically as they can be only a small step above peasants
or very close to nobility in their dress. In this discussion, merchants
are considered to be relatively successful to extremely successful.
Do I have any Pictures?
The merchant bodice is a tightly fitted top which is usually worn over a long or short sleeved blouse. Although, sleeves can be attached, they should be simple in design. Remember, the more successful the merchant, the more ornamentation can be used. Typically speaking, the bodice should be made of a moderately expensive fabric and brocades should be used sparingly. The lacing will usually be in the back although a lower class merchant would lace in the front. A more successful merchant would have been able to afford a serving girl to help with her dressing so her bodice would have laced in the back. As a merchant, remember that simplicity is the key.
Be careful about the colors you choose. Black and white are to be used with discretion. Royal purple should never be used. Other shades--plum, eggplant, etc.--are acceptable. Consider the character you wish to portray. How wealthy do you want to be? If you are a wealthy merchant, you may consider using black or white or a metallic trim.
Do I want a zipper, buttons or laces?
For a majority of the Renaissance, the closure of choice was lacing. In the later part of the Renaissance, women often had lacing panels which could be buttoned over to hide the lacing. In this modern world of ours, there are methods of closing that can make getting dressed easier and quicker. Although to be period accurate, one of the first two methods should be used, a zipper is faster and, for many, more convenient than lacing or using buttons. The ultimate decision must be made as to whether convenience or period accuracy will win out.
How many pieces?
Bodice with tabs or peplum, shoulder rolls, epaulettes, hanging sleeves.
bum roll, hoop, bloomers, petticoat.
overskirt, underskirt or a one piece.
Deciding the number of pieces you want will decide the level of merchant you wish to be. The extra pieces you add will make you more wealthy with each addition. Whether adding sleeves or an underskirt panel, the extras will make you the character you picture. Hoops are an option for the most wealthy of merchants; however, they are not necessary. The undergarments you decide on are a very personal matter. There are women who wear only the bear minimum while others wear a chemise, corset, bolster, hoop, petticoat, and bloomers. The decision is yours. Decide how many layers you will be comfortable in; perhaps rent or borrow a costume to evaluate the pieces you would like to have.
What type of hat should I have?
Hats are a wonderful way to express what country you are from as well as defining your position in society. Wealthy merchant women wore the same hats the nobility favored. Gabled headdresses and French hoods or even dressed wigs were worn at different periods within the Renaissance. The middle class woman who worked usually wore a functional hat. Usually designed more to keep her hair out of the way than to conform to fashion, a working woman favored the mob cap (a gathered hat with a ruffle close to the face) or muffin cap (hat gathered into a band which frames the face). The benefit of these styles is that they can hide short hair or keep long hair out of the way.
How much fabric will I need?
This is one of the questions that is very hard to answer without a specific
idea of the style of dress you want. Generally speaking, the following
amounts. It is suggested that you have a preliminary meeting with one of
our staff prior to purchasing fabrics.
NOTE: All amounts are given assuming that the width of the fabric is 44/45 inches or wider. It is always better to buy too much fabric than not enough. Matching fabrics is difficult at best and impossible at worst. These amounts do not apply for specialty styles. Matching stripes and patterns may require more fabric. Very small sizes and larger sizes may want to contact us for recommendations.
Blouse (long sleeve): 2- 2½ yards
Bloomers (ankle length): 3 yards
Chemise (full length with long sleeves): 8-12 yards
Bolster (bum roll): ½ yard
Underskirt: 2 yards (60" wide) for front panel and 4-6 yards for side and back panels
Overskirt: 4 to 8 yards
Bodice (no sleeves or trimming): 1-1½ yards and same of lining
Peplums, shoulder rolls, tabs, epaulettes, etc.: 1 to 2 yards of face and lining
Sleeves: 1 to 5 yards (may require lining or other treatments)
How soon can I get the finished dress?
The typical time given for any building project is four to six weeks from the time we receive your deposit and fabric.
How much is this going to cost?
Cost, again, is one of the few questions that is very hard to answer without a specific idea of the style of the dress you want. The cost can range from as little as $300.00 to more than $2,500.00. A final cost of $5,000.00 is not unheard of. The difference is often made in the number of pieces you want, trimming and any hand work necessary. After having your first meeting you will have a better idea of what the finished garment will cost. It is helpful for you to come into the meeting with some idea of what you would like to spend.
Do I need to come in for a fitting?
Fittings are essential. The only way to ensure the overall comfort and attractiveness of the garment is through fittings. There are usually 2-5 fittings for any gown over the course of construction.
What else do I need to do to get my dress made?
You'll need to schedule to have a preliminary meeting with us to talk about your outfit. This is where the decisions will start being made: what it will look like, what features it will have, basic color scheme, trimming ideas, fabrics needed. The meeting is a first step. After the preliminaries are discussed, you are free to do further research, look at additional pictures or movies. This is also the time to begin looking for fabrics and trims. After fabrics are selected, a second meeting is scheduled. In this meeting the definite plans for construction are determined. By the second meeting you must know what you want. This is the time that a final sketch may be done and measurements are taken. The estimated building time is started from the time we receive fabrics. After construction has begun, you will be called in for fittings. The number of fittings can range between 2-5.
What should I do now?
The best place to start is with a little research. With a base
of knowledge to utilize, you will find the building process less intimidating.
After some initial research, schedule a meeting and begin. Don't
feel overwhelmed by this list of questions. It seems like a lot of
work only because it can be. The best way to save time is to research.
Have some idea of what you're looking for before you go fabric shopping
it will save time in the long run.
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