Sunday, March 20, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly: Protection

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 Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.)

For this challenge, I decided to work rework a pair of modern platforms into something resembling the chopines of the 16th century. They aren't super high, but they are enough to keep the hem of my skirts out of the muck (or Pennsic dust!). Although most people are familiar with the ridiculous chopines that required a lady to have servants help her stand upright, many were much more practical - only a few inches above the ground.

The original thrift store buy are the left and the recover is on the right. The original thrift store buy was a little under $4 USD. I took off the red "linen" pieces and left the rope because it was easy to sew through and it is period correct for the 16th century.

First, in the inspirations:

Late 16th Century Spanish Chopines at the V&A

Close up of Susannah and the Elders (Lorenzo Lotto) - 1517

16th Century Italian

If you would like to see more of the range of styles, please check out my pinterest board. There are also several more illustrations from 16th century or early 17th century sources on this page. Chopines could be open or closed toe. They could be only an inch or two off the ground or a couple of feet. The most common was the most practical - just a couple of inches or slightly more. The chopine is well known to have kept the wearer from having to drag her skirts through the mud and ick of the streets. Anyone who has been to a place like Williamsburg or other living history village/town knows how horrible and smelly the streets can get. With the normal debris you'll find in any street, add in horses plus people throwing out their chamber pots out into the street? You really didn't want to walk through that! I just want something to walk through the Pennsic mud.

The base of the shoes without the red "linen" tops
The core turned out to be a foam - which is great.  It's very similar in wear to cork, which is what would have been used in the 16th Century.   I used the modern red pieces that I took off the shoe to help create the pattern I needed.  The insole didn't need any drastic changes.  I drew around it on a scrap piece of leather I had to create two new insoles.   The bridge strap, I made a bit wider to make it look more like the original chopines.

Sewing the straps on to the leather took a bit.  I kept confusing the left and the right and which edges to sew!  Reminder, never, ever sew after 10 pm and if something is confusing, double check it in the morning.  ...Okay, so I never pay attention to the first part of that reminder.  ;-D

Close up of the stitches on the back side of the insole.

Sewing the fashion fabric to cover most of the rope around the edge of the insole

Pulled over the platform

From the top

Once the edge was folded under, I pinned it to the base before sewing it all around.
My feet!  They fit!

The finished shoes

To show the height.  They aren't super high at all but they will help with hems!

The Challenge:  Protection
Material:  Silk ribbon, foam core, rope, cotton damask
Pattern:   Just what was the modern pieces that I redid to look more 16th century
Year:   I was going for about 1516 or so
Notions:  Thread
How historically accurate is it?  Although everything I did was hand sewn, it's still a modern platform.  It's enough though that it won't cause anyone's eyes to bleed.   :-)  They get about a 4 out of 5 on the visually accurate scale - you'd have to be close enough for me to kick you in the nose before you realized what was "wrong" with them.  
Hours to complete:  If I hadn't made it much more complicated than it needed to be, 6 hours.  Since I did, it was more like 9.   There was one side strap I had to take apart twice...
First worn:  I sort of wore them today but probably not until my next SCA event
Total cost:  The silk ribbon was stash I got at Fort Fred a couple of years ago.  The shoes were under $4 usd.  The cotton damask was a half yard piece of a bolt that I bought for $5 at the thrift store  last year - it had about 18 yards on it so...a few cents there?  The leather was scrap that I bought years ago for various projects.  I think I paid $20 for the box and I'm still using pieces five years later so...another few cents?  Really, this was a pretty inexpensive project for a new pair of chopines.   


  1. Wow, that's quite an interesting project! I can't wait to see them as part of an ensemble.

    1. Thanks! I'll have a few new outfits coming out before July that I'll wear them with. The problem with losing weight is none of your old garb fits!