Saturday, 30 April 2016

Pelican Outfil #4 - Cloud collar design research

As mentioned in a previous post Miriam of the Alawim of Stormhold has given me a number of PDF's of Persian Cloud Collar images. I believe she collected the images for a Laurel Prize Tourney entry. This week I've been analyzing the images in my typical science before art process. (This is going to be an image heavy post). My conclusions are as follows:

The first set of images Miriam sent me come from one manuscript. Firdawsī, Shāhnāmah, Book of Kings. which is Turkman/Timurid style. Dated 23 Jumadi II 891 (26 June 1486). This manuscript features to main styles of cloud collar, a floral style, and what I've been privately referring to as the geese style. Cloud collars of either design don't seem to be restricted to a certain class or sex and can be seen on a variety of coat styles. I've drawn up the designs from a couple of the images in black and white to make it easier to see the particular elements.

In both of the images above, the same goose like shape can be seen as a major symbol surrounded by blobs and tick marks. The goose is always pointing towards the left and is rarely inverted to balance out the pattern on the opposite shoulder. Given the frequent occurrence of this decorative element I began to wonder what it symbolised so I spent some time squinting at the screen and trying to determine what it actually was. One figure has a single goose on the upper thighs so I worked out the shape as best I could.

After looking at many examples of the goose, I've some to the conclusion that it's possibly a word or phrase written in islamic calligraphy. Islamic calligraphy is a beautiful art form but difficult to read for a Persian newbie. I've waxed lyrical about my reluctance to copy something I don't understand so that leaves the floral designs. Two of these come from military figures which wear a chain mail or scale coifs. Given the regular pattern and symbols, and the fact the pattern isn't adjusted to the lobes of the collar just the center neck, I'd suggest this fabric would have been a brocade rather than embroidered. Brocades are harder wearing and can be cut from second hand garments. The threads of the embroidery are more likely to be caught and damaged by the rings used in construction of either coif. The third floral design appears to be a leaf pattern and I copied it because it seems to blend seamlessly with the coat along the arm. Perhaps this one is embroidered directly onto the coat rather than onto a separate piece of applique attached to the shoulders?

Second manuscript set of images Miriam sent me were from The Khamsah' of Niẓāmī which dates from 1539-1543. This manuscript features cloud collars which were counter-coloured against the coat. The designs are stylistic and floral reminiscent of the Iznik tiles produced in the area. There's one I particularly like which has a tiny bee or month amongst the flowers. Once again, all sorts of figures wear these sorts of collars. The manuscript also has a number of indivisuals with the gold on base style collars seen in the previous manuscript. I've drawn up two of these designs.

The first is a seated man with a repetitive design on his collar. This may be done in multiple colours of silk. I've drawn the central medallion with a Star Wars twist as it's hard to tell what it is given the size of the image. The other collar is gold and features floral designs which are repeated in each lobe. This figure also has a slightly different floral design around the sleeve cuffs. I like both of these designs as repetition creates balance but I'm also away it may not be possible with my pattern given the different shapes and sizes of the lobes. This is something I'm going to have to research further and maybe draw up a bunch of mini images to see what I like the most.

One question you might be asking, if you've been following these posts, why am I researching Timurid / Turkish cloud collars when I've already stated I wanted to make an Indo-Mughal outfit?
The reason being is the image I'm most drawn to is Babar seeks his Grandmothers advice. It's a Mughal manuscript which depicts the Turkish born (1483) Babar who established the Mughal empire. At first I thought this image, painted around 1590, was a 16th century impression of garb worn by Persians in the 15th century. I then did some more research and found that cloud collars were a thing well past the 16th century so it was possible this scene was depicted with the figures wearing 'modern' clothing to assist the audience in relating to the tale. The Mughals did wear cloud collars and Persian inspired outfits. I've found a few other images that document this and will continue looking for more.

Detail - Court of Ravana, folio from a Ramayana. India, 1605. Met Museum, Accession no. 2002.505

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Pelican outfit #3 - Cloud collar patterning

I've started work on the cloud collar. First step was getting the dress (mostly) right so I knew the collar opening and shoulder dimensions. To work out the neck line I simply sewed the dress front and back together then lay the resulting collar shape over some scrap paper to sketch out the neckline.

This next step involved sketching various designs from period references before drafting the cloud collar pattern onto paper. While I am referring to my two primary images from the previous post, I'm also using some of Miriam's research. She kindly sent me PDF's of her complied images which have been extracted from a variety of manuscripts. Her focus is on the Persian examples of cloud collars while I'm trying to look at the Timurid / Persian / Chinese influence on the garb of the Indians of the Mughal. You can see from my previous posts regarding the range of garb the Indians wore (including venetian dresses) that the fashion forward ladies of the Mughal Empire were likely to adopt a variety of designs.

The shape of the collars in the Indian reference is very similar  to the Persian examples so given the huge collection of Persian images I find myself in possession of, I've based the shape on them.

To get the shape I took my neckline sketch, I folded it, refolded it and folded it some more until I could get each of the lobes symmetrical. They also had to fit the scrap of silk I'll be using for my test outfit #3.

Evolution of the back shape. When I decided I had cut away too much paper, I sticky taped another section on and extended out that part as you can see is occurring on the left from the middle down.

Once I had my shapes, I cut out a whole collar to see what it'd look like around my neck. Being paper it didn't drape well and I couldn't tell if it was right so I cut it out of yellow fabric and pinned it to the toile I discussed in the previous post. I knew I was on the right track because it looked like some of the out of period collars I'd managed to google.

I pinned the yellow collar to the black cotton toile. I liked the narrower point at the front and the slightly wider point at the back however the points on the shoulders weren't lining up with the seams, they were about 2cm off. Back to the drawing board

The main difference between these two collars are the angles of the lobes. The previous attempt had the center lines of each lobe at 90 degrees from the previous one. This one has slightly smaller lobes on the shoulders and back and larger on the front resulting in 80 (ish) degrees between center lines. The key hole cut outs between the front and side lobes weren't working properly so I redid the one on the right. The one on the left is too close to the neckline and may get sewn in when the garment is sewn together. I only need half this pattern to cut the fabric so I've left the bad one in to remind me to pay attention to the neckline seam.
I took the plunge and appliqued this one once I assured myself the neckline matched up and the lobes on the shoulders worked. I need to practice applique with the machine or do it by hand for the final one because even though I covered the thing in pins, I still managed to buckle some of it. I think more, smaller pins and a sharper, thinner sewing machine needle might be the first step. I could also leave some lines of embroidery with which to sew the applique down onto the dress with to help avoid buckling. Maybe a line around the outside? Hand sewing is never as tight as machine sewing and I'm quite worried about messing up with my embroidered collar. I'm going to have to practice a lot!

I'm not sure I like the wider front and narrower back, I'll have to decide if having the shoulders off set from the seam is such a bad thing, or maybe I can just alter the lobe without changing the front. The shoulder lobes wouldn't be symmetrical then but it'd allow the front to become narrow. I may line the toile just to see how much of the front I'll lose to the seam and see if that fixes the problem.

Either way - pattern 95% done!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Pelican outfit #2 - Patterning the coat

Now I've determined I'm going to make a fitted coat in the Indian style, the trick is to pattern it. Given that patterning typically takes more than one person, and I am reasonably deficient in the sewing skills department I decided to hunt through the commercial patterns to see if there was anything I could adapt to suit my needs.

I came across two potentially viable options. The first seemed perfect for a Persian coat given that it was loosly fitted, with long sleeves and designed to clasp under the breast. Closer examination of the pattern though shows very little shaping in the design and the toile would be difficult to adjust to follow my curves. There isn't a bust line seam so any shaping would have to come from the side seams, which would just end up pulling on the clasp making the coat look ill fitting and me look too busty. I get that enough as it is.

Pattern number two is probably the jackpot. It has centre bust seams which I can use to fit the dress. It has an optional upright collar which can be seen in some of the Persian dress examples. The downside to this pattern is I'm going to have to design my own sleeve template because I do not want puffy shoulders. This is a major downside because sleeves have been my biggest fail in the past. The other adjustment I'll need to make to this pattern is flair it more over my hips and lengthen the design.

This pattern luckily comes with a "lengthen or shorten here" line along the waist so I have a good idea of where to start my flair from. For my first toile I used 90cm wide black, mid-weight cotton I had lying around. I don't tend to keep calico in my stash and I find black shows up chalk marks much better than most colours. The downside to black is the photos don't turn out all that well. I laid out the pattern pieces and continued the line of the final 25 cm of pattern down to the full length of the fabric. I then sewed the pieces together (minus the arms) with the widest stitch possible making sure I remembered not to double back on my stitches at the start and end.

To fit the pattern I pinned the front closed and pinched each seam around my waist and under my breasts and stuck a pin in. I used white chalk to mark the peak of my breasts, hips, bottom and my nautral waist. I then unpinned the front and chalked a line to connect the pins smoothly to the sewn seams retaining the points of flair around the hips and bust and smoothly curving into the waist. The waist came in about 6cm all up and the under-bust came in 3cm on each side. I also made sure to smoothly curve the side back seams up to my shoulder blades as I've been ruined outfits in the past by neglecting to fit the back right. The most important part of the fitting was getting the shoulders to sit right. Until I made a dress for Tamar's wedding I never realised that this was a thing. I guess I hadn't given much thought to the different shapes of shoulders given I'm usually wrestling with a non-standard bust to ribcage ratio.

Once I had the fitting lines, I sewed them up with a tighter stitch and trimmed away the excess fabric. Once I was sure I had the fit right, I unpicked the side seams so I could lay the dress flat and trace the neckline for the cloud collar.

During my first trial I decided that the coat was a little too tight around the upper thighs and if I make it any longer I may have trouble walking. The images of both the Indian and Persian coats show plenty of fabric in the skirt so I decided to make another toile with greater flair from the hips. This one I've made out of a dark blue brocade. It's not really a toile, more of an experimental garment. I'll trial a non-embroidered silk cloud collar on it and attempt to line it as well.

In the mean time, here's my first toile with my first attempt at a cloud collar pinned to it. The hem is a little jagged due to my ad-hoc lengthening method but I'm reasonably happy with the waist and chest fit. I'm pretty sure it won't pull on the buttons or clasps in a terrible way.

The collar didn't work as well as I planned so I decided to tackle the sleeves next. I ran out of scraps of black of an appropriate size so I used some maroon cotton I had left over from an experiment with Roman garb I did about 5 years ago. I used the maroon as sleeves and may use it to line the brocade test garment. Anyhoo, I'm not so good with sleeves as mentioned but I think I've worked out some of the secretes and I present my sleeve pattern. Please note this is a half sleeve pattern as the left side is designed to be placed along a fabric fold.

A is the crest of the shoulder. It is possible to the top line A-B more of a sinusoid (as shown in red). The greater the depth of the sinusoid, the greater the angle of the arm. If you do not have a sinusoid or a curve, the arm will sit square like the classic T-tunic shape. Most female garments have some sinusoid to the arm in modern clothing. Having the arm inset at an angle cuts down in excess fabric in the arm pit however it does mean if you need to lift your arms above that angle you'll be lifting the whole outfit. I especially hate this feature of womens reflective work shirts so I've decided to keep the curve to a minimum.
B is the armpit. You could use a rectangle and have a gore but since I have fabric to burn, little desire to sew more seams than necessary AND I know the Indian tailors of old were experts at seams and fitting, I've decided to go with a tapered shape.
The line A-B is the measured distance along the inside of the dress sleeve. I'll increase this distance slightly by adding the curve but that's negligible and will sort itself out during sewing.
A-C is the length of the sleeve. In this case the sleeve reaches to my inner elbow. This length seems to be a common feature in Indian art but was truthfully dictated by the size of the fabric scrap I used to trial the arms.

I couldn't complete the arms until the final cloud collar design had been appliqued on but here's how they turned out.

You can see the final shoulder seam is sitting too far below the point of my shoulder and there's excess fabric in my armpit. I should be able to resolve both of these problems by bringing the seam back to the point of the shoulder. I will experiment with this further on the blue brocade test dress.

In the mean time, now it's appliqued, I can probably do some cheater mc-fee modern finishing touches, like a sewn rolled hem on the sleeves, over locking on all the seams, a placket down the front and a commercial frog or three and turn this into a plain but nice modern summer coat.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Pelican outfit #1 - designing the coat

Goal: Make a new and beautiful outfit for my Pelican Ceremony
Target: One new outer coat (silk) with embroidered cloud collar, one new dress and one new under dress possibly also from silk.
Additional extras: Shoes, Hat, Belt
Project completion date: Great Northern War 18 (7 weeks)

Project breakdown:
Outer coat patterning: 2 night
Outer coat construction: 5 night
Cloud collar patterning: 1 night
Cloud collar embroidery: 14 nights
Coat buttons: 7 nights
Dress patterning & construction: 3 nights
Under dress patterning & construction: 3 nights

Shoe decoration
Hat design & construction
Veil sewing & construction

Step 1 - Patterning the coat

I'm starting from the outside in on this project. This is probably the wrong way to do it because coats and jackets should be fitted over under garments however given the time frame required to complete the embroidery on the collar to my satisfaction I have to have the collar dimensions early on in this project, which means having the dimensions of the outerwear as well.

I've read some sections of Royal Mughal Ladies and their Contributions by Soma Mukherjee (2001, ISBN - 81-212-0760-6). While I can't agree with some of the statements (such as Indian women didn't wear sewn upper body coverings), some of the quoted primary references are very useful. I've used the following quotes as a basis for the language I'll use in the following posts.

Mukherjee (2001) states that the Mughal women wore the following:
  • A pair of hollow cups or cases which is made of linen, passes under the arm and ties at the back (Choli top or bra?). "The bodice were brocade lined with pearls". It is not clear if this is the choli top or a separate garment.
  • Half smock made of fine cotton or silk (sometimes)
  • Trousers tied at the waist which became tighter around the lower leg and ankles over the years
  • Jagulfi - An empire style gown that fastens at the neck and waist to allow a glimpse of the breast, with long sleeves that extend past the hand (under dress)
  • A short under petticoat, slit to the waist, below the jacket.

So what does this look like? The woman pictured below wears a short sleeved button up coat with cloud collar under which is worn a underdress with nearly transparent sleeves. A slight hint of red suggests another skirt or dress worn under the coat.
Portrait of a Woman, Iran, mid 16th century. The Met Museum, accession number: 52.20.6

Many of the Persian images appear to show women dressed in loose fitting clothing giving them a long, slender look as opposed to the more Indian lean and curvacious body type. I believe this is stylistic rather than a comment on the fashion of the time. Examinination of some portraits indicate bunching under the breasts which suggests the garment has been fitted to the curves of the wearer.

Detail: Drinking wine in the spring garden. Iran, 1430. The Met Museum, Accession number: 57.51.24

The Indian image I'm favoring most heavily is one of Indian women wearing Persian/Tamurid garb. In this image the women wear coats (with cloud collars) that are closely fitted to their bodies with a significant amount of fabric flaring from the hips. Under the coat they wear a dress with long tight sleeves that appears to either button (green) or lace (pink) up. The yellow bunched cuffs worn by the lady in red/green indicate there may be a second finer under dress.

Detail: Babur seeks his grandmothers advice. India, 1590-1592. Morgan Museum, MS M.458.18

My final reference for the shape of the garment comes not from an Indian source, but from Turkey. The drawing is of a Peri (angel) which was sold through Sotherby's on the 24th April 2013. The Peri wears a light blue coat that's knee length and has a gold cloud collar with black embroidery. The coat's short sleeves are quite wide and slit to show lining. The Peri also wears a full length dress under which she wears a gold under dress with tight fitting arms.

In summary: I'll be making a fitted dress with a counter colour cloud collar. The cloud collar will be embroidered and then appliqued onto the garment. I will also construct an underdress with long, well fitted sleeves, and possibly a long over dress to go over this. I will either make pants or use a pair already in my possession. My first task is patterning the coat so it fits my curves well and so I can get started on the embroidery of the cloud collar.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Women with cloud collars

So, I've documented a range of cloud collar type things were worn in the Indian Sultinate (Northern India) pre 1600's. Unfortunately, the number of pictures of women wearing such things is limited. This is because illustrations of women seem to make up a smaller proportion of the preserved images available in the museums and on auction sites such as Christies and Sotherby's. It is also because other styles of clothing were worn at the same time so the choice of garb the artist painted was dictated by this school as well as his clients. None the less, I present some women wearing cloud collars with attention paid to where these images are from.


Detail: mid-16 c. Portrait of a Woman Tempura on paper. Dimensions: H. 16 7/8 in. (42.8 cm) W. 10 1/4 in. (26 in.)  Met Museum, Accession Number: 52.20.6.

Mughal (India) ->

Detail - Bābur Seeks His Grandmother's Advice Leaf from the Read Mughal Album, but formerly fol. 86 in the British Library's Bāburnāma. Mughal, ca. 1590–92, probably by Sānvalah, with early-nineteenth-century borders. 440 x 294 mm Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911.; MS M.458.18. 


<- Iran, Tabriz?

Wine Drinking in a Spring Garden Object Name: Illustrated album leaf or single work Date: ca. 1430 Geography: Iran Culture: Islamic Medium: Opaque watercolor and gold on undyed silk Dimensions: 8.5 in. high 30.20 in. wide (21.6 cm high 11.87 cm wide) Met Museum. Accession Number: 57.51.24 

Iran, Tabriz ->

Detail: "The Feast of Sada", Folio 22v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp

Painting attributed to Sultan Muhammad (active first half 16th century)
Folio from an illustrated manuscript ca. 1525 Iran, Tabriz Met Museum Accession Number: 1970.301.2

<- Turkey

An Ottoman Drawing of a Peri, attributable to Veli Can, Turkey, 16th century. Sotheby's - Arts of the Islamic World 24 April 2013, Item 97
Turkey, Istanbul ->

Kneeling Angel with Cup and Bottle mid-16th century Shah Quli Ottoman period Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper H: 19.3 W: 10.8 cm Freer-Slaker Museum, F1933.6

More cloud collars

The Sultan awakens the drunken judge at dawn by Mahmud Muzahhib, Burkara. 1560-61. Christies, Sale 1180, lot 26.

The Sultan's collar comes to mid upper arm and seems to extend in a straight line to his belt. The drunkard's coat is slipping off and shows embroidery to the navel, as well as above and below where the belt would go, at the end of long sleeves and along the base.
Smug guard guy gets a pointier collar that appears to have at least three lobes (one in the back too?_ and matching embroidery on his sleeves Right hand man gets an honourable mention due to his fancy collar. Either the lining of his outfit is brocade or embroidered or his collar is embroidered. I wonder what it says.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

New obsession - cloud collars

Persian cloud collar, 15th century.

I haven't posted in a while because I've been doing pretty much nothing on the creative side. I made some brooches for their Maj's and some other random odds and ends but no heavy research and minimal ceramic painting. Well, right until Tamar asked me what I wanted to wear for my Pel ceremony. Frankly I hadn't given it much thought because saying 'sure' was a hard enough decision. Then I got to thinking, maybe I should wear Indian, because it's unusual and hell, it's not often you get to drape yourself in all your best garb and parade around Then I thought, maybe Persian,  because you know, pants.

So I started researching both and fell down a minor rabbit hole called cloud collars. Seems like they were something the Chinese had been doing their garb for quite some time but it also features in middle eastern art of the time as well as turning up in Indian manuscripts. The illusive images I'm hunting are from the time of the sultinate. The images that feature both Indian and Persian ladies in different poses and types of garb.

Anyhoo, while I hunt for them, I keep getting distracted by these collars. I've only seen them on one other sca-er and he was wearing Mongolian at the time. I'm thinking it might be a nice pun on my newly registered name Ant Blowme (pronouced bloom) of Saint-Cloud.

I have a little pinterest collection started up for cloud collours, timurid designs and other related items but a basic run down is as follows:

Cloud collars are an embroidered gold design on a long tunic like outfit that buttons down the front. It typicaly is lined in a darker fabric and has a turned collar. The tunic can feature long (past the wearers hands) fitted sleeves or shorter wider sleeves. The short sleeves may also feature embroidery. Both short sleeve and long sleeve garments were worn over a similar undergarment of a striking and contrasting colour. I'm not sure yet if the embroidery is appliqued on or applied to the fabric directly. There are very few extant cloud collars from this time period but it's not clear if the original garment was made from the same piece of cloth. The following image, Visit to a Dervish, contains a selection of men wearing both cloud collars and non decorated garb as well as long and short sleeves. The colours indicate the cloud collars were made of the same colour fabric of applied directly.

Visit to a Dervish. 1560-1561.  Christies, Sale 6622, lot 12.

Spikey and small, point just reaches point of shoulder Short matching sleeves, more vine like. Drops just onto arm
Small collar and chest (not waist lobe). Also, wear it like a straight jacket! Dark lining for sleeves and collar but additional plane lining? Circular collar
Extra lobes down to the belt, collar extends to mid arm. Embroidered sleeve guy has no collar. Paired buttons, wide collar, lining dark but not contrasting.
Slightly cloud like, long sleeve Two lobes to belly button, very child drew a cloud shape