16th Century, Waisted Kirtle

What the tuck?!?

Last night I finished stitching the tuck** onto the bottom of my Autumn Gold kirtle.
Just as I finished stitching the tuck I looked at it and had the following mini-conversation and epiphany.

Me: This tuck would be really convenient for pregnancy.
Also me: Or for young girls who have not gotten full height… or hand-me-down clothes.
Me: Yeah. But that stitch line really sticks out. It’s too bad I can’t cover it up.
Also me: Like with a piece of fabric? like a guard?
Me: Wha!! A guard would be perfect!
Also me: which probably accounts for why you only see this seam line for a short amount of time and then you start seeing guards on the under dresses.
Me: WHA!! NO! THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!!!

So cool, I’ve had the epiphany (I believe dress guards fulfilled a vanity need to cover up the tuck stitch line and were not for a strictly decorative purpose) now I just need to gather evidence. It seems plausible to me but I don’t actually have any hard proof. Yet.

** Okay a bit of background, I mentioned the tuck here in 2012 when I thought it was a “ruffle”.
TLDR: on kirtles in the late 15th/early 16th century, especially on middle/lower class women you see what looks like a “ruffle” at the bottom of the skirt. I first noticed this in 2012 and have since come to believe this is a tuck taken in the fabric of the skirt. A fold of the skirt fabric is pulled to the inside of the skirt. The fold stitching would be removed during pregnancy to let the skirt down for women who maybe could not afford to have a special “pregnancy” dress. The lower-most edge is longer than the upper edge and it would have to be eased across the seamline which I believe would look like the small puckers seen on the lower fabric.

Since then I’ve been thinking about it but never added one. After 7 years I finally added one to my Autumn Gold kirtle and acknowledge this is pure vanity.  I’m adding a tuck at the bottom of my skirt. This means that I have twice as much stitching to do at the hem and it’s adding a tuck that I will LITERALLY never use (no more babies for me) but I felt compelled to add it and I’m kind of proud of myself for doing it. So I’m referring to it as my “vanity tuck”.

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