Monday, August 31, 2015

coming up for air, and more ruffs

The season at work ended in much the same way as it progressed all year- at full speed and intensity!

I went away for a week, but once I was back home, I felt that I should just remain horizontal for as long as possible in order to replenish my mind, and get rid of the tension in my neck. I needed some time to reconnect with my husband and daughter, and do something with my garden before the neighbours complained.
I have been diligently looking for work as well, so I may have two upcoming projects. For now though, I want to make a few notes and posts about some other things I worked on this season while it is still somewhat fresh in my mind.

Before I get to that I wanted to show you the ruff that we made for the black doublet/large trunkhose costume.
This ruff was quite large (71/2" neck edge to outer edge) as the character was supposed to look like his head was on a plate. The designer wanted to support the ruff with a wire frame or supportasse. This became a project between myself and the millinery and bijoux departments.

My part of it was not only to make the ruff, but to give my co-workers a neck shape to work from.
I have seen examples of these supportasses with circular spaces for the neck, but the neck is not  circular, so we needed to start with a proper shape.
We also needed to figure out how the ruff and supportasse worked with the doublet. As well, how does the actor get into it?

Since we were using a wire frame, we determined that the ruff will sit along the top edge of the doublet collar. We have to attach the ruff to the supportasse and the whole unit to the doublet collar. It needs to be removable for both cleaning and storage as well as just to functionally put it on.

I have seen examples of wire supportasses that had "prongs" of wire that extended downwards and were inserted in channels on the collar, but we decided against that.
In the end we decided to make the grosgrain neckband of the ruff extra deep.
I believe we made it 1 3/4" deep in the end. The depth of the ruff at the neck edge was only 1 1/8" which left us with a good 1/2" of grosgrain "flange" that would tuck inside the doublet collar. We sewed snaps onto the flange and matched them to snaps that were sewn to the inside of the doublet collar.

Once the ruff was prepared, we had a fitting to confirm the fit of the doublet collar. At this stage the ruff is not completely finished- we always leave extra length in the grosgrain and of the ruff fabric to make any further adjustments.
We had prepared a flat template in light cardboard of the ruff  size with the shape of the neck cut out. Then we confirmed the angle that the designer wanted the ruff to sit at. Once the neck shape in cardboard was correct, the supportasse was made. An important note- the supportasse does not meet at the CF. It has a gap of approx 2 inches to facilitate putting it on.

We then laid the ruff on the supportasse and basted them together aligning the inside neck edges.
At this point we had a final fitting. We then removed the supportasse and finished off the ends of the grosgrain and the ruff itself, then added closures to the front of the ruff and reattached the ruff to the supportasse by hand.

The ruff was the last piece of costume that the actor puts on. Once his doublet is fastened, the ruff is put on by twisting the front edges in opposite directions just enough to get his neck through it. Then it is aligned and snapped to the doublet collar. This takes a bit of dexterity by the dresser who has to reach over the ruff and get their fingers of one hand in between the actors neck and the ruff grosgrain, to locate the snaps by feel, while with the other hand is under the ruff, supporting and pressing the snaps together from the outside. The ruff opening at centre front is snapped together last.

I think it turned out well, but I did wonder a bit about the amount of fabric needed for ruffs this large in diameter. I wondered if we should have sewn the inner neck pleats closer together, forcing more fabric into the neck circumference thereby using more fabric overall which would translate into more fabric to arrange on the outer circumference.

Just something to contemplate for the next time, but I think in the end it turned out rather well. I will have to keep my eye on it and see how it fares over a season of wear and tear. Hopefully we can get more than a few years out of a ruff as they are time consuming (expensive) to make.

Next week I hope to get some thoughts on paned and puffed sleeves onto "paper"


  1. I know absolutely nothing about costuming, so this is probably a stupid question... why wasn't the supportasse painted white to be less visible?

    1. Because it is meant to be a design element as well, so that is why it is not white.

  2. Bravo! Outstanding work - such a tricky thing to do and engineer!

  3. Thanks! I wish I had had the time to look over the shoulder of the women who actually put the wire together.

  4. You've done an amazing job here. I can't imagine having to wear it myself, but it is definitely well made!

  5. Wow, just amazingly beautiful, like fine engineering. And I love the look of the doublet back, with the golden ribbon ties. You did a wonderful job.
    On another note, I did make the frock coat and I lived to tell the tale. Next time (EHHH???) I will use better quality wool and be damned the price!

    1. Thanks! And good for you on making a frock coat