Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions sent to Caroline

Compiled by Caroline Vincent

I find that I spend a lot of time answering the same basic questions – so, before putting fingers to keyboard, please look through the questions that have already been asked and see if there is an answer to your question.

In general you should bear in mind that my main interest and research is in the British mid 17th century clothing, this is my hobby (I have a completely unrelated day job) and I do not make clothes or patterns for commercial purposes. I will endeavour to help anyone with their questions, but I may not manage to reply straight away.

I would like to know more about making stays/corsets or other historical garments:

Either try the link on my homepage to the Elizabethan corsets or try the books listed in my useful book list, especially:

Corsets and Crinoline

By Norah Waugh

Published by Batsford

ISBN 0 7134 5699

The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600 – 1930

By Norah Waugh

Published by Faber & Faber

ISBN 0571 085946

Period Costume for Stage & Screen – Patterns for Women’s Dress 1500-1800

By Jean Hunnisett

Published by Players Press, Inc.

ISBN 0-88734-610-3

Patterns of Fashion, The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and
Women c. 1560 – 1620

By Janet Arnold

Published by Macmillian

ISBN 0333 382845

I am making clothes from earlier (or later) periods than your stays can you help?

Try the books listed in my useful book list or look at contemporary paintings from the period.

How did women in the 17th century live?

I have spent many years researching 17th Century costume, if you want to
research the lives of 16th and 17th Century women I recommend you start
with the following books:

The Weaker Vessel

by Antonia Fraser

Published by George Wiedenfeld & Nicholson Ltd, London

ISBN 0 297 78381 5

The English Family 1450 – 1700

by Ralph A Houlbrooke

Published by


Women all on fire – the women of the English Civil War

by Alison Plowden

Published by


Where can I get ridgoline endcaps (or other items mentioned in your articles) from?

I am based in the UK and find ridgeline boning in habadashery
departments of department stores or in fabric shops. It is usually
hidden with bits and pieces like velcro and pipe cord.

I have assumed you have tried ridgeline on a word search. (or is it
ridgoline?). Try needlework supplies as well.

Julie Yoder from the Clann Tarten advises that Ridgeline is available in the U.S. from
Greenberg and Hammer, Inc., 24 W. 57th St., New York, NY.
They apparently carry Rigelene, the endcaps, steel boning by the cut piece or by
the pound, and thousands of other sewing necessities.

How much boning should I use?

Amount of boning? Now that’s a question. As I have a wooden Busk which
I can use centrefront I don’t need that much to stiffen. Following
patterns of historic stays I find that a bone every half inch works for
the front and back. I usually put a few lines of boning at the side
seams as well. It depends how much support you need/want, how much
stiffening you’ve got and a basic ‘feel’ for the stays.

Metal boning would probably be better then plastic boning, if you can
cut it safely. If you can get ridgeline-end caps the ends would be
safer and more comfortable, but if you can’t get ridgeline, the end-caps
will be equally hard to come by.:-)

Where can I buy 17th century-style clothing

If you are a re-enactor in the UK you will usually have no problem getting clothing to suit most pockets and tastes from a number of traders who are to be found at larger re-enactments and at a number of re-enactors fairs through out the year. Caveat Emptor – buyer beware, please do a little research before you buy. If you live elsewhere I am afraid that I cannot help you.

Where can I get patterns for my school production of the Three Musketeers

I don’t do patterns, I scale up original patterns from the books noted in my useful book list. I’ve had a look at commercial patterns which might be of use to you. Many fashion houses do have ‘fancy dress’, especially in Autumn for Halloween and also for Thanksgiving. Available at fabric shops or haberdashery shops. One I looked at which might be suitable for a theatrical production is Butterick no.6305. It might be numbered differently in America.

It is no good for re-enactment but I hope you find it useful.

I’ve read the FAQ and can’t find an answer…

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