I just realised that it has been ages since I last posted anything, so apologies to all my blog followers! The last four months has been so hectic and now I’m only a few weeks away from submitting my PhD!
After I submit my PhD and mark my students exams I promise to continue writing my tutorial on making a French farthingale roll.
But until then, here is a blog post on my reconstructions that I wrote for the University of Sydney History Department’s blog.
As well as a sneak peek of the awesome photos of my reconstructions by my friend Georgie Blackie, as well as a behind the scenes video!
After blogging about the process of reconstructing the earliest pair of surviving English bodies that were found on the 1603 effigy of Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey, one of the most frequent questions that I received was: do you think these bodies actually belong to the Queen?
My answer: no… and yes, maybe.
Funerary records from the time list that an effigy “representing her late Majestie with a paire of straight bodies…” was ordered from a man called John Colte, and these ‘straight bodies’ were probably made by the Queen’s tailor William Jones. Although the Queen never wore these bodies, considering their hasty construction between Elizabeth’s death and her funerary procession, it is probable that their design and construction was based on styles of bodies (and thus measurements) that Jones had previously made for the Queen. Yet, as some people have pointed out, they could also have been made purely for the effigy – as the two were ordered together. To me though, it would seem easier to make a garment from pre-existing measurements and patterns, and simply construct the effigy to fit the garments, rather than the other way around. Certainly, an effigy would probably be much faster to construct than the garments that sat over it.
Surprisingly, the process of trying my reconstruction of these bodies on a model seemed to confirm contemporary accounts about Elizabeth I’s appearance, which leads me to believe that they were made according to previous patterns that her tailor had made, and possibly previous measurements.
The average height of women during the Tudor era was approximately 158cm and my model was an AU size 6 (UK 6 / US 2) and 156cm (5’2”) tall, so just a tad shorter than the average height during this period. When my model was laced into the bodies they nearly fit her around the torso, with only an inch gap between the centre front openings. However, the underarms cut into her, the shoulder straps were far too big and the back jutted up past shoulder height. This indicates that I need a taller model with a longer torso to accurately fit these bodies.
In 1557 the Venetian ambassador, Giovanni Michiel, described Elizabeth who was then 23 years old as “tall and well formed.” Later Francis Bacon stated that she was “tall of stature” and John Hayward described that she “was slender and straight…” The findings from my experiment of placing the bodies on a slender but petite model seems then to confirm that these bodies were tailored for a woman who was not only slender but also tall and long in the torso, just as Elizabeth is described as being.
Okay, so the bodies were designed to fit a taller woman (or effigy), but what about the size of the bodies. Surely, they are far too small for someone (besides a child) to have actually worn them?? As I mentioned previously, the bodies did fit my model around her torso, with only a small gap at the front (when laced very tightly). However, as the portrait of the Countess of Southampton indicates, they were probably designed to be worn with the centre front pieces touching side by side, which means my model was just a tad too big for them.
Although Elizabeth was described as being tall for the time, the tiny size of her waist was not unique, rather, it seems she was quite average. My reconstruction of the effigy bodies measures 53.4cm (21”) in the waist and 73.6cm (29”) in the bust, placing the wearer as an AU size 4 (UK 4 / US 0) or smaller. Some commentators (and my supervisor) have commented that maybe this was because the Queen was quite sick in the last few months of her life. Whilst this is true, Janet Arnold records that another pair of bodies dated earlier to 1598 from Germany, known as the von Neuburg bodies, had an even smaller waist measurement of 50.8cm (20”) and bust of 71.1cm (28”). A much later bodice, which would have been worn to court, from the 1660s at the Museum of London has an even smaller 48cm (19”) waist measurement! Numerous other seventeenth-century bodies and bodices in other collections all show similar measurements, which means that the size of the effigy bodies is not an anomaly. It is possible that maybe a couple of inches was taken off the centre front panels of the pattern to fit the effigy better. Unfortunately, this effigy was redressed in the eighteenth century so we do not have the original outer garments that over the top of these to compare for size. Presumably those garments would have been chosen from the vast wardrobe that Elizabeth owned.
So did these bodies belong to Elizabeth I?
No they didn’t, as we have certain proof that were commissioned after she died for her effigy. However, I am inclined to believe that they were made from previous patterns for the style of bodies that would have been worn by the Queen and the measurements were possibly taken from previous garments made for the Queen… although we will never know for sure.
* If you’d like to see a much more thorough and detailed use of historical reconstruction to learn about past historical figures, dress historian Hilary Davidson has written an excellent piece ‘Reconstructing Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse, 1812-1814‘ in the Journal of Costume.
 Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’, Costume, Vol. 41 (2007), p. 1.
 Ninya Mikaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies, The Tudor tailor: Reconstructing 16th-century Dress (London: Batsford, 2006), p. 9.
 Francis Bacon, The felicity of Queen Elizabeth: and her times, with other things; by the Right Honorable Francis Ld Bacon Viscount St Alban. (LONDON: Printed by T. Newcomb, for George Latham at the Bishops Head in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1651), p. 18; John Hayward, Annals of the First Four Years of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, Volume 7, John Bruce, ed. (London: Camden Society, 1840), p. 7.
 Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, c. 1560-1620 (London: MacMillan, 1985), p. 127.
Without further ado, I present my reconstruction of Elizabeth I’s bodies, side by side with the original effigy bodies in Westminster Abbey:
Some close ups of the bodies when mounted on an inflatable mannequin:
The completed bodies, when on an inflatable mannequin that is small enough to fit them, measure:
Bust: 71.5cm / 28″
Waist: 55cm / 21.5″
Or roughly the equivalent of a AU/UK size 4 / US size 0 / Euro size 32… or in other words: TINY!
There are many things I would change if I were to make these again, many of which I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, but I’ll outline the most important here. Firstly, I would have used a linen as a lining for the bodies, as besides the fustian used in the original, this is what was most commonly used in other seventeenth century examples. Anne of Demark’s wardrobe records show that she preferred her bodies to be lined with taffeta, which is why my option to use it is historically justifiable. However, with that said I haven’t noticed any disadvantage in terms of fabric strength or durability (so far) to using taffeta. Yet, lining the bodies, which sit so close to the human body which perspires, with a fabric like linen would be the better choice for a garment intended for daily use.
I would also have sewn the bodies entirely in silk thread, and used a back stitch for all the boning channels, not a running stitch (as the original have) and then a half-back stitch as I ended up doing for the last panel.
Some of the readers of this blog have asked why I chose to use plastic whalebone instead of more period accurate materials like bents or cane. For my location and my budget, bents (a type of reed) were far too hard to source. Cane can be quite large and round or thick, and would not have been small enough to replicate the 6mm wide boning channels of the original. When recreating a later pair of American seventeenth-century stays for Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts, stay maker Hallie Larkin noted that “These stays would have been extremely difficult to make without the artificial whalebone, wood products cut to 4mm would have a tendency to break or bend especially in the long channels at center front and back.” The thick nature of most available cane means that they also would have taken up much more fabric in the boning channels and therefore shrunk the bodies, more than the 1-2mm deep x 5mm wide plastic boning did. Plastic boning not only replicates the size and shape of the original cut baleen in bodies and stays, but it is flexible, molds to the body after time (as baleen did) and is just generally easier to work with.
Other lovely readers have also informed me of other ways to create the eyelet holes when I don’t have a bodkin. These include using different sized knitting needles to create a hole between the threads without breaking them, or to use a tailor’s awl. I hope to trial both these methods in my reconstruction of the Filmer Bodies c. 1630-50.
Overall I’m extremely happy with how the bodies turned out, considering this was my first time sewing a ‘corset’ of this style and doing it completely by hand. My next step is to find a model with body measurements small enough to fit into the bodies and test ideas of fit and movement.
The final step of making these bodies was to create the seventy or so eyelet holes that lace the centre front together and attach the skirts (or farthingale) to the bodies.
In the early modern period eyelet holes were created by making a hole in between the fibres of the material with a tool called the bodkin. As Randle Holme explained in the 1680s “The Bodkin, is a blade or round Pin of Iron fixed in Halve, it is not very sharp at the end: by its help, is Eye lid holes, and all other holes (which are not very large) made.” Surviving bodkins in museums are often highly decorated with engravings, or contain their owners’ initials, and are often made from expensive materials such as silver, indicating that they must have been a particularly special or sentimental token of the tailoring or bodie making profession
This long and narrow, but blunt, tool was pushed into the fabric creating a gap between the warp and weft threads, creating a small hole. The genius in using this particular tool is that by not breaking the threads of the fabric, the resulting eyelet holes “were able to withstand a considerable amount of strain without deforming or ripping.” As well as creating the holes, bodkins were also used to thread the lacing through the eyelets, as this example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York contains a hole through which to thread the lacing, similar to a sewing needle.
However, I don’t have a bodkin nor anything that really resembles one so I had to improvise. I decided to use ordinary nail scissors to push a hole between the threads of the fabric. Although this was not quite as clean as the results that a bodkin would achieve, and I did break some threads, it surprisingly worked really well. After the hole was made I whipped stitched around it until all the raw edges were concealed, as explained below:
Although the original has 29 pairs of eyelet holes that run down the centre front of the bodies, somehow I miscalculated my measurements, so my reconstruction only has 28 pairs of eyelet holes. Oops!
After finishing the centre front I moved onto the eyelet holes that are about the waist tabs, two above each split. These eyelet holes were originally intended to have anchored the farthingale or skirts to the torso, showing the ways in which bodies and farthingales by the early seventeenth century began to accommodate each other in dress.
The original effigy bodies in Westminster abbey fastened with leather points that were threaded through one eyelet hole in each shoulder strap and then through another in the top of the bodies. The original holes were not worked, however, this was probably due to the rushed nature of making the bodies for the Queen’s effigy and so I decided to work mine with silk thread as I had done for the others. I then threaded through some left over grosgrain ribbon that I had used to bind the outside raw edges of the bodies and tied these in a bow.
After the eyelet holes were complete and the shoulder straps secured, all I had left to do was to lace the bodies together. Bodies during this period were straight laced, meaning that one lace was threaded through all the eyelet holes in a spiralled motion. This differs from the way that Victorian era and modern corsets are laced, which involved having two strands of ribbon that criss-crossed over each other.
At the moment the bodies are laced together with satin ribbon, however, I hope to source aiglets in the future to create period correct ‘points’. Points were laces of leather or ribbon tipped with a metal tip (aiglet) that threaded through eyelet holes in garments and tied to attached them together.
A point consisting of five strand braid of cream and silk threads tipped with an aiglet, c. 1550-1650. Museum of London, London.
It was not only used to lace bodies, but in male clothing they were used mainly to attach the breeches and sleeves to the doublet, whilst in female clothing they commonly attached skirts or detachable sleeves to the bodice. The plastic tip at the end of a modern shoe lace is derived from the metal aiglet, and serves a similar function – to allow for easier threading.
I’ll be unveiling the finished bodies and my afterthoughts on the construction process in my next blog post so stay tuned!
 Randle Holme, The academy of armory, or, A storehouse of armory and blazon containing the several variety of created beings, and how born in coats of arms, both foreign and domestick. With the termes of Art used in each Science. (Printed at Chester by the Author, 1688), p. 290.
 Luca Costigliolo & Jenny Tiramani, ‘The Tools and Techniques of the Tailor and Seamstress’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book One, Susan North and Jenny Tiamani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2011), p. 11.
 Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 10.
 Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’, Costume, Vol. 41 (2007), pp. 2, 7.
 Luca Costigliolo, ‘Pink Watered-silk stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 97.
After the boning channels had been sewn in, as outlined in my previous post, the three sections of the bodies were then whip stitched together from the wrong side as Janet Arnold has noted was done in the original. For this I used linen thread, not silk, as it is much stronger and would be able to take the strain of movement much better.
Whip stitched side seams, inside view
Whip stitched side seams, Inside view (L) and outside view (R) Whip stitched side seams, outside view
Once the three separate pieces that make up the bodies were sewn together I then added the boning. There is a gap between the binding and the boning channels of “between ¼ inch (6 mm) at the centre back to 1 inch (25.4 mm) under the arms, and ½ inch (12.7 mm) at the front” in the original effigy bodies. Not only would this have been more comfortable for the wearer, particularly under the arms, but according to an experimental investigation into the ‘Holbein look” of the early sixteenth century, Jane Malcolm-Davies, Caroline Johnson and Ninya Mikhaila noted that on both the Von Neuburg and Effigy bodies it was found that leaving this small area around the neckline unboned achieved the “sprayed-on look” of the period, and stopped the bodice gaping at the front.
Like the baleen, called whalebone during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, originally used in bodies, I was able to cut and shape the modern plastic boning in order to fit into the differently shaped boning channels.
Traditionally, after the baleen, a substance made of keratin that is part of the filter-feed system of baleen whales, was extracted from the whale it went through a process in order for it to be used in clothing.
This involved heating or boiling the pieces of baleen until they were soft and pliable, then they were cut into thin slices of the desired width using a special knife as is shown in this eighteenth-century French engraving.
For an extremely interesting post on cutting and using baleen, check out Abby’s blog post here.
In order to stop the sharp cut edges of the boning from punching a hole in the silk taffeta as I inserted them, I used a cigarette lighter to slightly melt these sharp edges. After the boning was inserted into the channels, I then sewed a line of half back stitching in silk thread above the top of the boning channels to secure the boning inside.
In other examples of seventeenth-century bodies, extra binding has been added around the bottom of the boning channels, underneath the binding ribbon, in order to stop the boning perforating the binding and poking through.
The effigy bodies, however, do not have this extra protective binding. According to Luca Costigiolo this is probably because these bodies were quickly made for the Queen’s funeral effigy and were never intended to be worn and therefore wear and tear of everyday life. I decided to stay true to the original and not add this extra protection to my reconstruction, as, besides the movement experiments I intend to perform, these bodies will also not see normal wear.
For the binding I used nearly 5 metres of 16mm-wide grosgrain ribbon. To attach the binding first I used a half back stitch to stitch the binding to the right side of the bodies, leaving a couple of millimetres between the edge of the taffeta and the edge of the ribbon.
Then I folded the ribbon over the raw edge and then felled using a whip stitch onto the wrong side.
These whip stitches did not have to be super close to each other, as other surviving examples from the period show that there was at least a gap of a few millimetres, sometimes even 5mm, between each stitch.
Adding boning shrinks the bodies, so my reconstruction is actually a tiny bit smaller than the original. I lost about ½” on the waistline because of this. As the measurements and therefore pattern for these bodies was taken from a completed surviving garment, the original measurements used by William Jones, the Queen’s tailor, would have been slightly larger. This is something that all tailors would have had to have taken into account when constructing bodies or other fully boned bodices for their clients, and is something that I will definitely keep in mind for the next pair of bodies I intend to make.
If you’ve read my first post about the materials I intended to use for this project, you will recall that I was originally going to use leather or faux leather to bind the bodies, as was done in the original. However, when I started the construction process I realised that the fabric I had chosen for the lining and outer fabric, silk taffeta, was far too lightweight for faux leather binding. Even if I could have sourced light kid leather, I still think that it would have been a bit too heavy for the fabric used. Instead, I opted to use a grosgrain ribbon, as was used in later seventeenth century bodies, such as the Filmer bodies (c.1630-1650) in the Manchester Galleries and the Pink Silk Stays (c. 1660-1680) in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The only surviving bodies contemporary to this pair, the Von Neuburg bodies (c. 1598) from modern day Germany were also bound with silk ribbon.
In surviving bodies from this period the ribbon binding was felled with thread the same colour as the ribbon, so it blends in with the ribbon and the finishing appearance is quite neat. Due to the limits of my funding, I couldn’t go out and buy silk thread to match the ribbon, and so it isn’t the same colour. This does leave the inside of the bodies looking much less neat than those originals from the century. Analysis of surviving bodies from the seventeenth century also reveals that the binding was sewn on with single ply silk thread. However, I opted to double my thread as the modern silk threads readily available to me are not as thick as the single ply thread used nearly four hundred years ago.
I’ve also learned the merits of binding raw edges in this period. Whereas in modern sewing we would turn the seam under and sew or hem it, it makes sense that on the outer edges of garments during this period they didn’t do this – as fabric was incredibly valuable, costing more than the labour to construct the garment in most cases, and so waste was minimised as much as possible. It also gives a much neater finish to the garment.
After the bodies were boned and bound, I then moved on to creating the eyelet holes and other finishes touches, which will be outlined in my next blog post.
 Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’, Costume, Vol. 41 (2007), p. 4.
 Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’, p. 3.
 Jane Malcolm-Davies, Caroline Johnson and Ninya Mikhaila, ‘And her black satin gown must be new-bodied’: The Twenty-First-Century Body in Pursuit of the Holbein Look’, Costume, vol. 42 (2008), p. 26.
 Lynn Sorge, ‘Eighteenth-Century Stays: Their Origins and Creators’, Costume, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1998), p. 19.
 Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 10.
 Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, p. 10.
 Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women C. 1560-1620 (London : Macmillan ; New York : Drama Book, 1985), p. 46.
After researching the materials that I needed and scaling up the pattern provided by Janet Arnold when she examined the garment in 1994 I then had to cut my pattern pieces. This was done easily and quickly on the grain of the fabric.
Once I had my pieces cut I had to work out how to put them together. In Janet Arnold’s analysis of the bodies she noted that the side seams of each sections of the bodies, before they were attached to each other, “were overhanded together from W.S. (wrong side), then pulled very tightly…” In order to be able to do this, when scaling up the pattern I had to allow some extra seam allowance on each piece, as you can see in this photo below:
With this extra seam allowance, I then I follow Arnold’s instructions and overhanded the pieces together, right sides facing each other (so inside out), from the wrong side, and then pulled them right sides out:
The lining of the back panel was originally done in two parts, possibly to save fabric, so I did this too, allowing extra seam allowance so they could be sewing together via the method outlined above, before being sewn to the outer fabric of the back piece:
It was a this point that I realised that my shot silk taffeta was fraying quite a lot in some areas particularly at the centre front. In order to stop this whilst I handled the pieces to sew in the boning channel I added a very non-historical material, sticky tape, in order to stop it. I carefully removed this later when I bound them.
Historically, in order to achieve the neat straight boning channels seen in surviving bodies from the seventeenth century, the lines of stitching were evenly mapped onto the right side of the fabric with black ink and then this was stitched over. The traditional method of using backstitches would have then covered most of this visible ink. However, the effigy bodies are different in that the boning channels are running stitched, which is far less sturdy a stitch than the backstitching seen in every other historical example from this century. Luca Costigliolo has noted that this was possibly because these bodies “were made quickly for the Queen’s effigy and were never intended for normal wear.” As my intention was to faithfully recreate most elements of the effigy bodies, I decided to also use running stitches and so did not attempt the ink mapping technique as I knew that the ink outline would be quite visible through the running stitches.
Instead I decided to utilise another early modern technique: pricking. This technique was most employed in embroidery. When a design was bought or drawn, the outline was transferred onto the fabric by laying the paper with the design on top and pricking the paper and fabric underneath with a needle. Then chalk powder inside a cloth bag was “pounced” (dabbed) over the holes, forcing this coloured chalk through the holes and transferring the design. The Folger Shakespeare library contains a botanical print that had been used to do this as pin pricks are visible on the paper:
As my silk taffeta was a shot silk, when I pricked the fabric, the darker ‘shot’ thread that runs through the fabric became more visible, so pouncing was not needed. For the most part this mark in the fabric is only temporary, so in order to map out my initial boning channels all I had to do was lay down my pattern on top of the pieces and prick the outline of the centre front boning channels through.
Laying the pattern over the fabric and pricking the boning channels onto the fabric
Pin pricks in the fabric
Once the outline of the first few had been done, particularly the 13mm (1/2”) wide boning channel at the front, I didn’t need a stencil anymore as each subsequent lines of stitching simply needed to be 6mm (1/4”) parallel to the last. To do this I used a ruler to measure 6mm then made a mark on the fabric with the needle point, then I joined all the points together by running my needle down the fabric, temporarily leaving a line in the shot taffeta that I was able to follow:
Initially I found the process of achieving the tiny running stitches of the original quite hard. At first my stitches were quite big and wide, so I changed to a smaller needle and this improved. Still it is no match for the original, nor for the minute even stitches that I have observed on other seventeenth and eighteenth century garments.
Hilary Davidson also noted this in her reconstruction of Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse, noting that because the stitching in the original was not exceptional it “was easy to reproduce the stitching to the same scale, unlike many Regency gowns displaying stitches of an even fineness it takes hundreds of hours of practice for the modern sewer to achieve, especially in muslin.” Pictures of my stitching at the start compared to those at the end do show how much they did improve over the hours I spent doing the reconstruction, however, they do not at all compare to a master tailor or even seamstress who had been hand stitching day in and day out from a young age.
After completing the boning channels in the first centre front piece I realised that linen thread, although used in the original effigy pair, was much too heavy for these bodies that are made completely from silk taffeta. For those experienced with using these expensive fabrics and historical threads this is probably common sense. However, I had to learn the hard way. As the point of this reconstruction was not only to test ideas of movement and restriction, but also to learn about production methods, I decided to do one of my panels, the second front panel, entirely in silk thread instead. In all the extant seventeenth century bodies that use silk as an outer fabric, silk thread is used to stitch the boning channels. I also decided to use backstitches instead of running stitches, again to see what difference it would make to the garment.
Immediately after switching threads, I realised that the silk was MUCH easier to sew with and back stitching, as anticipated, was much more secure. I also realise that I probably should have lined these bodies with a more sturdy fabric such as linen, as was done in the rest of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth. Surviving wardrobe accounts from the period do list lightweight fabrics being used to line bodies, sarcenet (a fine soft silk) was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Taffeta was also widely used as Elizabeth’s wardrobe during the same period list: “Item for makinge of a pair of bodies… of black veluett… lined with Taffata…” An inventory taken in 1608 of Anne of Denmark’s wardrobe described: “One payre of Ashcouler cloh of siluer bodies, bound with siluer lace lyned wth carnacon taffeta” Although these examples do confirm that taffeta was used as a lining fabric at the start of the seventeenth century, it never seems to have been used both as the outer fabric and the lining. There always seems to have been a mix of heavy and light fabrics – such as in the example above where a heavier velvet was used for the outer fabric and taffeta was used for the lining. In many other examples from Elizabeth I wardrobe accounts when taffeta was used for the outer fabric, fustian was used for the lining. When two lighter fabrics were used, such as in the example from Anne of Denmark’s accounts, it is quite possible that these bodies were either more lightly boned or not boned at all.
It will be interesting to see how my finished effigy bodies made entirely of silk taffeta will compare to the next c. 1630s-1650s bodies reconstruction that I intend to make (with my own pattern taken from Dame Filmer’s bodies from the Manchester Galleries) which were made with silk and linen, and that I will make with silk taffeta and linen.
These are just a few ways in which this reconstruction process is helping me to understand the archival record a bit more as bodies was quite a generic term and could be used to refer to a corset-like garment or a close fitting kirtle bodice. Once I’ve finished my reconstructions and move to the experimental stage of testing size and movement, it will be interesting to see if these different materials make a difference.
Until then, my experience with boning and binding the bodies will be outlined in my next blog post, so stay tuned!
 Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’, Costume, Vol. 41 (2007), p. 6.
 Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 10.
 Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 10.
 Melanie Braun, ‘Preparation of the Embroidery’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 56.
 Hilary Davidson, Reconstructing Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse, 1812–1814, in Costume, Vol. 49, No. 2 (2015), p. 210
 Elizabeth I Warrant for the Robes, 28 September 1592, ER 34 (PRO LC 5/36), fol. 251.
The first reconstruction that I will be making is the effigy bodies of Queen Elizabeth I that are now on display in Westminster Abbey in London. These bodies were specially constructed, probably by the Queen’s tailor William Jones, upon the death of Elizabeth in 1603, for the effigy that would accompany her body to its resting place in Westminster Abbey. As Janet Arnold notes, it is therefore unlikely that the Queen ever wore these bodies, however, their size and construction was probably based on the bodies that Jones had previously made for the Queen. Regardless of whether the Queen really did wear them or not, they are the second oldest pair of bodies in Europe that are known to have survived (the earliest surviving bodies were found on the corpse of Pfalzgräfin Dorothea Sabina von Neuburg, who was buried in what is now Germany in 1598), and the certainly oldest English pair that we know of.
The pattern I’m using for my reconstruction is one that the amazing Janet Arnold made of the bodies when she studied them in 1994, which was then published posthumously in the journal of Costume.
The effigy bodies consist of three separate parts: two front sections that lace together with twenty-nine eyelet holes and a back section. The lining consists of four parts (the back panel lining being divided into two sections). There are a total of six tabs that spread over the hips, two on the back piece and two on each front section. From the pictures and the pattern provided I’m unsure as to whether the shoulder straps are part of the back section, or are attached separately. Arnold’s pattern has them as separate from the back piece, however, in the pictures and other sketches of the bodies they appear to cut into the back piece.
My intention is the make the bodies exactly the same size as the original pair in Westminster Abbey, which by my calculations means that Elizabeth I had a 21” waist (!!). A disclaimer at the start of the article states that “Janet’s full-scale pattern of the ‘pair of straight bodies’ has been scaled down to fit the page size of Costume.” I, however, am working off a .pdf document version of this article printed on A4 paper which may be bigger than the pages of Costume. Although technically if I copy it correctly onto a 1 inch scale it shouldn’t really matter. To double check this though, I’ve also used the pattern provided in the Tudor Tailor.
Unlike the bodies mentioned in the wardrobe accounts of Elizabeth I, the effigy bodies are rather plain. They are made from two layers of twill weave fustian cloth that was originally white, are bound by green leather that had a suede finish and were stitched with linen thread. The term ‘bodies’ during this period could refer to a number of things – from the bodices of gowns, to the undergarment that is visible on Countess Elizabeth Vernon of Southampton in her portrait below, and of course to the effigy bodies.
My archival research has confirmed that bodies that belonged to elites during this period were always made from materials such as silk satins and silk taffetas, sometimes even velvet, and usually lined with sarcenet, fustian, canvas or buckram. Contrary to popular opinion, bodies were not always stiffened with material such as whalebone or bents, and rarely so until the late sixteenth century.
When considering how then I would make my reconstruction, taking into account the effigy bodies, wardrobe warrants and visual evidence such as the portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, an entry in the warrants of Elizabeth I from 1590 caught my eye. It requested:
“Item for makinge of a paire of french bodies of carnacion Taffata Lyned with fustian stiched alouer with whales bone of our greate warderobe.” 
Here was a wardrobe account that not only matches the only visual image of elite bodies from the period, but was made within a close enough time period to the effigy pair that they could have been the same or a very similar style.
Therefore, for my reconstruction I will use a pale pink (“carnacion”) coloured silk taffeta for both the outer fabric and the lining. Although fustian and sarcenet were the fabrics most commonly used as lining in the wardrobe accounts, they are rarely used in modern clothing and so are incredibly hard and expensive to source. There are warrants from Elizabeth’s wardrobe during the same period, such as this one: “Item for makinge of a pair of bodies… of black veluett… lined with Taffata…”, that shows that taffeta was also used as lining, although less frequently. To bind the bodies I will use white faux leather which closely mimics the properties of leather and is easy to source.
The 1603 effigy bodies are completely boned with whalebone and the average width of this boning is 6mm, except for two 12.7mm wide pieces on either side of the front opening. As whalebone (‘baleen’) is, for good reason, not available anymore I will have to use an somehing else. A period alternative would be small bundles of bents (a thin reed), like those used in Hilary Davidson’s modern reconstruction of a sixteenth-century Spanish pair of bodies. However, as the effigy bodies contained whalebone I will use a modern alternative that mimics baleen’s properties. I have chosen modern plastic dress making boning. It is similar in width to the original whalebone (5mm) and contains the same amount of flexibility as traditional whalebone. Although silk bodies probably would have been constructed with a mixture of silk and linen thread, as costs must be considered in my reconstruction, I will use only linen thread to hand construct the bodies and to work the eyelet holes so they don’t fray (similar to the way that modern button holes are done).
Janet Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’, Costume, Vol. 41 (2007), p. 1.
 Arnold, ‘The ‘pair of straight bodies’, p. 1; Luca Costigliolo, ‘From Straight bodies to Stays’, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book Two, Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, eds. (London, V&A Publishing, 2012), p. 10.
 Hilary Davidson and Anna Hodson, ‘Joining forces: the intersection of two replica Garments’, Textiles And Text: Re-Establishing The Links Between Archival And Object-Based Research, [postprints], eds. M. Hayward and E.Kramer, (London: Archetype, 2007), pp. 206-108.