So I get this email from a correspondent – I’m looking at you, Dana – asking about how my proposed embellishments compare to what we can see on the de Gheyn plates.
Simply put, they don’t, not really. What follows is my reasoning.
I’ve decided piping is the decoration to add (to my breeches, at least). But Dana points out – correctly – that the fellows pictured in de Gheyn’s plates are showing much more embellishment than mere piping.
Dig the pikeman at right. He’s not only got bunches of buttons going all the way up his leg, he’s got tape and frogging running perpendicular to the side seam. Cool.
Now have a look at the musketeer at left. He’s got parallel strips of embellishment running parallel to the side seam and round the knee opening, as well as a whole row of buttons right on the seam.
Presumably the buttons are decorative. I sincerely doubt these fellows were frolicking about with their breeches undone for any reason along those button lines. I could be wrong, of course, and as always welcome reasonable proofs that I am, but really: Why would a soldier need a vent on the side of his breeches?
Now have a look at the pair at the bottom.
This image shows one of each type.
So, Dana, yes, the embellishment does indeed appear to be strips of trim or ribbon or tape, sometimes parallel to the side seam, sometimes perpendicular, often with tassels or frogs at the termina of the perpendicular strips. Often there is a line of buttons right in line with the side seams.
The trouble with exactly replicating this is the lack of really nice trim or ribbon. The metallic trims I can find at a decent price are all … er … how can I put this politely … shite. They look plastic-y, or are the wrong shapes/weaves/whatever for the period, or je ne sais quoi.
Besides, if I use metallic trims or laces, I run the very real risk of looking like this with a musket. [shudder] Sod that.
There is another alternative: Tape. Again, there’s a problem. Historically-appropriate tape is hard to find. There used to be wool twill tapes available, but now they’re fracking difficult to find – if it were easy, I’d be carrying it in the RH store!
I considered dying cotton tape briefly, but Kass tells me that won’t really work, because it’ll look like I dyed cotton twill tape. In other words, it’ll look like shite.
So, friends, that’s for why I’m piping instead of just stitching down some tape or braid or trim. Never fear, though – I will be putting shiny brass buttons all up the side seams.
POSTSCRIPT: Robin, reading over my shoulder – dash it! – has just told me she’d teach me how to make tape out of the same stuff I’m making my piping. When we start that, there’ll be pictures.