Sunday 24 February 2013

Folk Costume Bosom Cloth

For the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s fourth challenge, embellishment, I decided to make a new bosom cloth (bröstduk or bröstlapp) for my folk costume, from Oxie in Scania (Skåne), Sweden. Since pregnancy and nursing has changed my figure, I really need one to keep me safely inside my very low necked bodice, even with several layers worn under it. There’s a mental picture for you. I suppose I could use a new bodice, but I don’t have money to buy the silk for one at this time. This will do for now, unless I decide to make a wool bodice... that’d only require a very little silk for trim.

 Excuse the wrinkled skirt and apron - the whole outfit
 has been packed away in a box since we moved last August.

Even when making the old bosom cloth it felt wrong, as it was not from my parish. At the time I didn’t know what they were supposed to look like where I’m from, but since then I’ve become a very little bit wiser. Just a little though; there are very few images of them, regrettably. What they seem to have in common though, is horizontal strips of silk, gold or silver ribbons, and gold or silver lace. It seems small scraps were used, and piecing are more rule than exception. Often the strips don’t go all the way to the edge, but only just cover what will be seen, if that. As for colours, I have no idea. I improvised as best I could, and if I learn I didn’t do it right, I’ll have to make yet another one in future. But that is part of the deal when making historical clothes, when you learn more, you often find what you believed before was wrong, or only part of the truth.

The base for my bosom cloth is made from several layers of newspaper pages, glued together with home boiled flour glue (one part flour, three parts water, boil until it becomes a thick fluid). It is cut to a half circle shape, and covered in front by black broadcloth, and in back by unbleached linen, both of which I stitched in place through the paper, so they would keep still. 

As I can’t afford silver or gold ribbons or -lace, I kept my decorations simple, using what I had at home. After plying with my scraps, I ended up liking this best: a green, pleated silk strip at the top, and three strips (yellow brocade, burgundy red and the same green) stitched to the wool. A strip of brown cotton is used for binding. The yellow silk is pieced in two places, and the green silk, left over from the pleating, is centred; though short, it’s long enough that the black wool won’t show when worn.

It is worn tucked between the shirt or, like here, the knitted spedetröja, and the silk bodice, and should be kept in place without fastening. I’m thinking of maybe cheating, and sew one hook and sewn bar to each top side to prevent it slipping, but don’t tell anyone. I used pins to hold it in place for the pictures, and that worked too, and might even be period. I like how the bosom cloth looks, very neat, everything staying where it should be. In all, I think I look very proper. Still need to make a new bodice though.

The Challenge: #4 Embellishment
Broadcloth, linen, silks, cotton.
None, I used what information I could find on museum databases, and made it to fit the neckline of my folk costume bodice.
First half to mid 19th century.
blue and unbleached linen thread.
How historically accurate is it?
Tolerably; it’s in the spirit of the few originals I’ve seen, all materials are period, and all seams are made with period stitches.
Hours to complete:
Maybe five.
First worn:
For the pictures. Hopefully I’ll get to wear it for Midsummer.
Total cost:
All materials were in my stash, so none at this time, including the small amount of flour used for glue.


  1. Awesome, I really appreciate the color and creativity put into the Scanian costumes.

    I'm a bit provoked by the fact that Scanian traditional dress is worn to a much lesser extent than e.g. those from Dalarna, despite the fact that your tradition is at least as distinguished and unique as the Dalecarlian tradition. In that respect you are doing a great job Sarah (keeping the Scanian costume tradition alive)

  2. Very beautiful!

  3. Tusen takk!

    I am finding your posts fascinating, especially those on folk dress. My husband's family came from Dalarna in the late 1800s to America, and I have been tracing them back from there in the local church-books. I hope to make folk dresses for our daughters -- sooner than "some day"!

  4. Jag menade naturligtvis "tusen tack". (Blush.) I can't always keep Norwegian and Swedish and Danish straight, if I write without thinking about it!

  5. How very interesting. I know nothing of native or folk Swedish clothing, so thank you for sharing. Looks incredibly well-made and fantastic!


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