Sunday, December 16, 2007

18th century stomacher

This is my current embroidery project which has come to an inexplicable stand-still in the past 2 weeks... probably because my attention went zooming off in another direction. I'm about ready to get back into it and finish it. (see finished right here!)

This 18th century inspired stomacher design came from combining the original stomacher (below) with the fern design from the pockets in the previous entry. Once I finish the second fern I'll decide if I should add the Queen Anne's Lace or not.

There is a lovely song that one of my father's friends sings about "A patch of Queen Anne's Lace," and when I find out who it is and what the exact title of the song is, I promise I'll forget to post it here. It keeps running through my head while I work on this piece, so perhaps it needs the flowers.

The foliage in both of these embroidery pieces (the pockets and the stomacher) comes from a Seneca leaf motif that I reinterpreted from the original porcupine quill embroidery pattern. I've made the leaves more pointed to look like the ferns that grow in the creek bed of my parent's land in Nunda, NY. This is not a perfect botanical representation, merely a mental symbol or interpretation of my memory of those leafy fronds, I have no idea what the actual name of the plant is other than "fern."

I wanted the plants to be something that I liked and understood. I wanted an allusion to the Seneca nation while keeping true to the conventions of European design. I like the stems being cut, rather than a live plant (and you can read anything into that that you want), and I like the central heart shape. In most traditional stomacher embroidery designs there is a "tree of life" motif where all elements come off of a central vine or axis. I wanted the axis to split and encompass the heart, to come together at the center of the chest rather than branching off in all directions.

I could pour a lot more meaning and symbolism into this from a multitude of sources, but I usually save that for my paintings. This is a very simplified representation of a small sentiment toward my heritage and all the ambiguity that comes with that.

I am working on the same material as the pockets, a lovely cotton-linen blend in a tan-ish color. As an artist I should probably know what to call this color, but I'm stumped. It's very pretty and also very neutral. The embroidery thread is cotton and the colors are near-metallic in certain light, and very neutral in others. I also like that dual nature of the thread. I'm thinking of making a brown silk open gown or Watteau Sacque to go with these accessories at some point, if I don't end up selling them.

(Unfortunately, I cannot find the original link to this photo, when I do I'll post it, or if it belongs to you please let me know. I could have sworn it was Meg Andrews, but I can't find it on her site.)

Stomachers were a lady's accessory worn from the 1500's right up to the early 1900's, though they were much smaller by then (more like large broaches than stomachers). Usually a stomacher was made to match a specific gown, but they were often moved from one garment to another like a large piece of jewelry.

The primary function of this small garment was to cover the laces at the front of a gown. Stomachers could be pinned directly onto the gown with straight pins and covered with lace or trim, pinned on with linen tabs that were sewn to the back of the stomacher, laced in (and floating free), or laced securely onto the sides of the gown with ribbons and small loops sewn to the back of the stomacher itself. I've also seen eyelets for lacing over the edges of the stomacher, under the front and back over the other edge, certainly a process I would not want to attempt alone.

The shape and size of these garments changed with fashion. I am using the most common V shape and the simplest triangular base. Through the 1600's and into the mid 1700's tabs at the bottom were very popular (see the original above), and I may decide to add some after I get the central design finished.

Stomachers were often quilted with a lightweight piece of wool or had an interlining of stiff canvas to hold their shape. The backs were almost always lined with plain linen or inexpensive silk.

No comments: