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I realize this picture is a bit later than what you're working on, and I'm sure you've seen it before, but would this kind of construction work with the sleeves if they were set in like this in the back?

I seem to remember seeing other portraits, closer to your dress's time period, that had some sort of similar construction too - but they were Flemish I think... The closest I can find at the moment is this:
The sketch on the left all the way at the bottom is sort of what I was picturing in my head, but I can't find any actual documentation with out doing some serious digging... and I could pro'lly be completely wrong about what I remember seeing.

You know, the Tudor Tailor interprets the back of that gown as a four-piece back with the sleeves set-in in the normal way. Same with the Bruegel painting you reference. But who's to say that that's correct. In the Tudor sketch, the seam where a set-in sleeve would attach is covered by the headdress. And in the Bruegel painting, I cannot say that there is a set-in sleeve or armscye there, definitely. The sleeve may supply the whole said back of the gown!

Hmmm... Intriguing. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

Did you know that this is the way the back of the Moy Gown is constructed? The gores that spread the sleeves over the shoulder become part of the back construction.

Thanks! This definitely gives me something new to try!

That was one of the pictures in my "stash" I looked at trying to find the one I was thinking of... There's also this costuming book from the 50's that I had gotten from the library once that did something similar, but brought the corners down to make side gores in the dress... I'll see if I can find the Xerox I made of that section.

Oh! You are AWESOME!!! Please do send it if you find it. It would be neat to see.

Now that I'm looking at it in this light, I've got another idea perculating. There's this thing you see in the backs of dresses. It almost looks like a back lacing, but it's always partially open (in a "V") and it's always over the gown fabric (like there's a placket there). When I started thinking about the sleeves taking over the back of the gown last night, I wondered if they didn't lace together in some way. Or maybe the lacing in back is what keeps them from falling off the shoulders -- like you put on the gown, hook the front closed, and then lace the back until the sleeves are stabilized!

It sounds insane and fantastical, but what if it works? I'll write about it in my Christmas Eve blog entry. =)

did the library photocopies include a full circle skirt with the leftover bits and bobs being converted into hanging type sleeves and a torso side gore? If so, the book might've been this one by Dorothy Hartley.

Hmmm... I don't think so, but I can't tell with out flipping through it.

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