Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Garter Project

Garters are a necessary part of any 18th century wardrobe, because they keep your stockings from falling down. Usually, a tape tie (typically linen, wool, or cotton) will suffice, but I wanted something a little bit prettier and more fun. As always, I began researching, and started looking for examples of 18th century garters.

"Nothing can be equal"

"Dishonored be he who thinks ill of it" - Order of the Garter

Very soon, I discovered that words on clothing was not unique to the modern era! There are hundreds of examples of garters with text on them, ranging from expressions of friendship, to love, to political sayings, and even somewhat sassy phrases. Since I love anything that shows the personalities of people living in the 18th century, I was very eager to begin making some new garters, as well as interpreting them at work.

"More sincere than I am/You will not have friends"?

I decided to begin with a saying that I had found at the beginning of my research, but had lost the documentation for: "Gentleman, thy hand goes no further". I haven't really done much embroidery before, so this was going to be my opportunity to develop some skills. Luckily, I had some cream-colored silk left over from my Fourth of July market bonnet trim, so I cut that into two rectangles, about five inches long and about four inches tall. In retrospect, I wish I would have made them 4 inches by 3 inches, but now I just have an excuse to sew more!

"I paint a faithful beauty, I form a perfect assembly..."

I spent a little time deciding what I wanted my design to look like, and then I drew it on the silk. I spent a few hours embroidering it (I did this all at work, so I just tried to replicate stitches that I had seen, I don't know the names for anything that I used), and then waited for the black silk ribbon that I had ordered to arrive.

"My motto is to love you/It will never change"

Once the ribbon came, I stitched my garters into little tubes, and put the ribbons in the ends. I cut the ribbons long enough to tie in the front after wrapping around the back once, and voila! Garters!

My original sketch

A little bit taller than I would like, but not bad for a project that I did no real size comparisons/measuring for!

Your ribbons can be as long as you'd like, but I recommend making them long enough to wrap around your leg once, and then tie easily in front.

All of this happened back in August of 2016. However, I meant to try and find lots of pictures of extant garters and make this into a huge post, but the computer that I saved most of my research on will no longer turn on or work. So, I'm finally posting this now, with a potential promise of more historical edits to come later. Hopefully, I'll also be sewing more garters, and so I can update this post with those photos as well! (I did recently embroider a 'whigish' set for one of my friends - tan embroidery on blue tape saying "Liberty or Death" and "Don't Tread On Me" - I just need to get photos of them from him!)

I found these on Instagram, and loved the modern adaptation - she really captured the true spirit of some 18th century garters by using a much more modern joke!

I would also like to say that I visited Europe for spring break, and had the opportunity to see "Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear" at the Victoria and Albert Museum - it was incredible! That exhibit was the main reason I wanted to go to Europe in the first place, and it didn't disappoint. Photographs weren't permitted in the exhibit, but I got to see a few sets of garters that I had come across in my research displayed there, and that was very exciting for me.

"United forever/I die where I cling"

Here's a really good resource for images of garters from different collections, some with words and some without.