So one of the things I will try to do on the blog is to get more precise on a pattern. Especially when the pattern I am working with is a one I’ve adapted to my purposes over time such as il colletto (partlet) in the previous post, Modestia.
We have many great pattern books from the 16th century but there is a good reason these types of garments don’t appear in them. They are simple to create, especially if you understand a few things about the geometry of fitting fabric to the human body.
Fun facts about 16th-century tailors — they were really well trained. Most specialized in just a few types of clothing and developed their expertise over long periods of time. It could take 7 years or more for an apprentice to be allowed to cut actual fabric. And, clothing was the single most expensive item most people owned making fabric a ready analog for money.
Small clothes however, these things that went against the skin, were often made within the household because the shapes were so simple. They were also the craft of more than a few Abbeys so there was certainly an alternative for the wealthy. When we look at something like a colletto you can create a simple form. From there, it can be adapted to make it grander up to the point of finer fabrics, goldwork embroideries and even gems. The lower in financial status a gentle was the more likely their small clothes would be of simple shape and construction. In fact, a lower class colletto could be just a finished piece of fabric draped around the neck.
So in order to chart a possible progression, I will work through getting to multiple colletti shapes beginning from a rectangle of fabric.
Cut out the rectangle for your pattern. I started with a muslin rectangle measuring 18×28 inches. This measurement takes into account my back measurement shoulder to shoulder and adds 2 inches. I also prefer colletti that completely cover my breast so that measurement is 13 inches which is then doubled and to which I added an inch per side. That will be more than enough for the length and width needed for a colletto after any adjustments.
I mark the center of both length and width to orient myself. I then place my trusty neck hole circle with the dividing line lined up with the center lines.
I created my neck hole circle by measuring the circumference of my neck and then using a protractor and this equation (r=C/2π) to create the perfect circle. I then marked the diameter line on that circle. You will also make a line which divides the circle into 1/3 and 2/3 respectively. One-third of the circle makes the front of the circle and two-thirds makes the back.
Line up the cross on your circle to the cross on the patterning materials and mark the circle. You can of course make the circumference mark right onto the fabric but prepping a circle will speed up the next neckhole you have to make. A friend pointed out that she just uses a plate, so there are different methods — find yours. I will say that knowing how to get the right measurement will assist you if you ever build clothing for other people.
Once your neckhole is marked, also mark the line for the front opening and then cut it and the neck hole out.
Then I try it on and mark the shoulder slope onto the fabric. I then cut out the angle of the shoulder slope. When I use the pattern I will have to add seam allowance here.
I also make an adjustment so that the colletto doesn’t bunch at the arms marking the point of movement at my armscye. Here is the pattern after adjustments. With this framework you can adapt the shape to match the neckline you wish based on the neckline of your gown and the look you are going for.
The following are variations on the colletto front to change the shape. Also, as I mentioned in the previous post if your back bunches oddly you can also pin it until it lies how you want it. You then mark and cut the middle seam making the adjustment in an even way. This is usually a slightly curved seam adjustment which can be made even by eye or with the assistance of a French Curve. You will then have to add seam allowance here when you move the pattern to your actual fabric.
I hope this clarification of process was hopeful. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts or questions.