Sunday, August 22, 2010

Panniers: The Making Of

Panniers - from the French word "panier" meaning "basket" - are basically just that - baskets. They're sort of giant basket-pockets that hang on each side and make your hips look really big. It was cool to have huge hips in the 1750s. If you had big hips, you could make good babies! Now, because most women don't have hips that span several feet across (seriously, check this out), something had to be used to make those huge hips.

There are a few different methods, from what I've read and uncovered, of making panniers One method largely resembles a hoop skirt, except flat in the front and back. This type is apparently the "French" style. Another method is much more angular, and only goes down to the tops of ones knees. This type seems to be of English descent. The third option is "pannier pockets," which seem to be the simpler version of panniers. I'm not entirely sure how historically accurate the pannier pockets are - they seem to be accurate, but I have not read anything yet either proving or disproving them. I'll update as I find more information.

I found directions from Picture Perfect Panniers online, which was very handy, as I didn't really want to have to wait for a pattern to be shipped to me. This was the main impetus behind choosing the pocket pannier style. Additionally, having huge pockets like that really tickled my fancy. I just had to make them. I chose a white linen in the middling range of fineness, and got to work.

 The website's directions made pockets that went down past my knees. This didn't seem very efficient to me, so I developed my own pocket dimensions based on my somewhat petite size. I then cut out the pieces and started sewing. Also, instead of using bias tape to make the casings, I folded the fabric to make casings.

The pannier in this picture is very nearly complete. I used wire coat hangers as boning - not the most historically accurate, but better than a lot of other options - and finished up my giant pockets. The hardest part was closing the side of the pannier after I'd added the boning. As a postscript to this project, I added cotton ribbon down the sides because the wire coat hangers were poking through the rather loosely-woven linen. I would NOT recommend coat hangers to others. Plastic is actually the most closely resembling modern material to period boning.

After I was finished with the panniers, I put on my chemise, stays, panniers, and a skirt over the top to judge the effects. The first snapshot is the result of that endeavor (ooh, silhouette!), while the picture beneath it is of the completed panniers (prior to adding the cotton ribbon down the edges).

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