partlet began life as a small yoke piece to cover the low,
square necklines of the Tudor period. It was worn on the outside
of the garment and was often made of the same material as
the dress but could also be made of other materials and was
often very richly decorated. When made of lawn, linen or other
light weight fabric, its job was to act as a chemisette or
habit-shirt. A modern equivalent would be what we would call
partlets were worn by both men and women from the Tudor through
the Elizabethan time periods. Somewhere between the Tudor
and Elizabethan period, the partlet migrated from the outside
of the garment to be worn under the garment but over the corset.
At this time, detachable sleeves could be added to the partlet
and most often matched the partlet material in both fabric
type and embellishment. Very often, what we see in portraits
of the time period and think might be a shirt is probably
a partlet and matching sleeves.
could be white, black or of various other colors. They could
be made of lace, embellished with cord and jewels or be completely
plain or gathered.
During the Elizabethan period, the partlet took on the
added responsibility of protecting the ruff from the face
and neck. By wearing a partlet, not only did the ruff require
less laundering but it also provided another base with which
to anchor the ruff.
The partlet is one of those very versitile accessory pieces
that has the ability to be made quickly, embellished quickly,
and worn with several different garments. It keeps one warm
in the winter and from sunburn in the summer.
To make a basic partlet, you must first decide on whether
or not you wish to make a modern adaptation or a historically
accurate piece. I've made and worn both. The advantages of
a modern adaptation are that it tends to fit more smoothly
under the garment. Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult
to put on and take off by yourself. The historically accurate
model tends to have a few wrinkles here and there but is much
easier to get into and out of.
The Basic Pattern -
In order to make either pattern, first follow the instructions
for creating a basic
body block pattern. Once you have those measurements,
determine how long your partlet needs to be both front and
back. In general, the partlet should extend at least three
inches below the neckline of the gown, otherwise it tends
to want to creep out. Draw out your pattern, add your seam
allowances and cut out. Below are two illustrations of the
modern adaptation and the historical pattern for partlets:
Notice that the back piece is cut out on the fold.
Sewing It All Together -
Once you've cut all your pieces out, sew together at the
seams using a french or flat felled seam. In general, Elizabethan
partlets are unlined and a french or flatfelled seam takes
care of those raw edges.
The Collar -
The collar for a partlet can be either very simple or somewhat
larger and fitted so that it lays against the ruff as a cicular
shape. The pattern above shows the simpler variety.
Attaching the collar and frenching or flat felling that particular
seam can be a bit tricky. My favorite alternate method and
a fairly historically accurate one is to attach the collar
and bias bind the seam on the inside.
Finishing the Edges -
Finishing the partlet edges can be done by either rolling
the seam or bias binding the seam; both are historically accurate
and fairly straightforward. I usually always bias bind the
arm holes but have rolled that particular edge when the fabric
was of very fine material.
Adding Detachable Sleeves -
If you have decided to have detachable sleeves, bias bind
the armholes with fairly wide bias and place some eyelets
in the bias binding. Make up your sleeves like long tubes,
gathering the tops into a bias binding and add coresponding
eyelets there. Trim out the cuffs as you like and, viola!
A Word on Embellishment -
Partets are suprisingly easy and quick to embellish and you
can easily get carried away.The best way and the most historically
accurate method of embellishment is to draw the partlet pattern
onto your fabric but not to cut it out until after you are
done with your embellishment. This way, when you put the fabric
in a hoop or onto a stretcher, you can embellish to the very
edges without stretching or pulling the fabric out of shape.
Since partlets are so small, this is a relatively easy thing
to carry around with you.
Embellishment of partlets can take many forms. Embroidery,
couch work, black work, white work, beads, jewels, or a combination
of any or all of these methods.
Three partlets: The black velvet one
is typical of the Tudor eral. The white one is made
from lace and the one with the fleur-de-lys is embroidered
and couched with cord.
The Tudor era partlet, being worn on
the outside of the garment, has buttons under the arms.
It could also tie.
Inside view of the Tudor partlet button
Laying the partlet pattern out on the
fabric. The back pattern is laid on the fold and the
front is laid along the selvedge.
The new partlet, completely sewn together
and waiting for bias binding on the arm holes.
The addition of the bias binding on
the arm holes.