“Sew 17th Century Challenge” – Costume Studie

Once I picked a picture to recreate for the “Sew 17th century challenge“, it was time to take a closer look.

Gerard Ter Borch, “The Concert” (ca 1655)

The picture shows the back of a girl/women playing an instrument (possibly a Violin played in the knee) and in the background an older woman playing the Keyboard.
The room is dark and the focus lies on the neck of the younger girl and the contrast of her fur collar to her glowing ivory skirt.
Gerard_ter_Borch_(II) - The_Concert ca. 1675
At a first glance I decided I needed to make at least three pieces of garments – Bodice, skirt and chemise.

The bodice seams to be made in a red fabric with only a subtle shine to it, in contrast to the much more reflective skirt fabric. This caused me to believe the skirt would be made in a silk satin, while the bodice perhaps is made in some les shiny material. I would still guess silk though.

The skirt seems to be relatively easy, with the pleats and folds clearly running from the waist.

A closeup (and lightening) of the girls neck shows the irregularity of the fur collar and her lovely intricate braided hairdo, as well as the drop-shaped pearl earrings..8720ccafa4d9c913a35d3afff6c9d5d4There is no way to know how the fur is attached to the bodice or if it in fact is a loose collar/shawl.
To ad to the wear-ability of my outfit I decided to make it as a separate piece.

The sleeve of the bodice ends about the elbow and shows a turned up white cuff, presumably from the chemise.266914_original

The bodice itself is made in the boned rigid way of the 1660s with big poufy sleeves tightly pleated to the arm holes. 12312767024_07604ef369_hThe waist is slim and tightly held in the rigid bodice, who ends in square tabs at hip level. You can even see the slightly un matching binding on the edges of the tabs.

The front of the dress is a mystery, but one thing is for sure – it must have some kind of clouser.
The common practice during this period seams to be back lacing bodices, but since the back seems to be whole, the opening must be in front. The Glass of Wine (detail), c.1661, Johannes Vermeer.This girl (who seems to be about the same economical status as our girl) have a front lacing bodice.

An other question who need to be debated was the be or not to be trimming on the bodice.
Most of the portraits I studied seems to have at least some trim to them (see picture above). But considering the dark room, coarse collar and the sadness of the subject, I think an unadorned bodice is most true to the over all mood in the painting.

Researching this painting I also found several different versions of it:d9a2c29499ebe536179483f306c6de00Different light and a gentleman by the Keyboard.

a7b8748dd1f65cbda205d1aa1c337d07Keyboard becomes table, gentleman closer to girl and girls hand and neck in different position.

mhf0376Still no Keyboard, but lady reading by the table, and the shadow of a man (?) to the left.
(sorry for the small format)

I have no idea which of these paintings is considered the “original”, but if you search for on Wikipedia this is the result.
Same settings, but lighter then my first version.
(klick on image to enlarge)


9 thoughts on ““Sew 17th Century Challenge” – Costume Studie

  1. My dear,

    The instrument in the background is not a piano, but a harpsichord. To be exact, it is a Ruckers single keyboard harpsichord.
    By the way, my compliments for your beautiful website and the enormous amount of work you do!

  2. I think it’s a small viol! In one of the pictures, you can clearly see a small wooden body (of the instrument) resting on her knee, yet she’s still playing it in cello/viol position. And the generic term for the other instrument is ‘keyboard’. There were any number of small keyboard instruments that are virtually interchangeable. Clavicord, harpsicord, etc.

    … Although now I’m thinking on it, and I wonder if there was a time when violin/viola were played on the knee esp for women… I could see there being bullshit rules about how women were allowed to hold their instruments. See also, the Victorian way of holding a crochet hook like a pen because it “looks prettier” but also fucks up your wrists faster.

    — Tegan

  3. How lovely that you are joining! I think the fur is removable, too. 🙂 (And I need to get going on my own project…)

  4. The string instrument is a viola da gamba, a predecessor of the violoncello. The way the lady holds the bow is typical for gamba playing.

      1. I´m a musician and specialized in Early Music. Beside that, I´m a restorator of old keyboard instruments (17th – 19th Cent.).

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