The Tailoring Test

Sometimes, when one is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff to learn about a topic, it helps to make an outline of the knowledge you want to tackle.

To make it more interesting, I framed my outline like a test. Or series of tests, really.

The first section: What would I know if I was an actual tailor’s apprentice of the 16th century. The second section: What would a journeyman know? And finally, what would a master tailor know?

It’s really helped me learn a lot. It’s also caused me to branch out into totally unexpected areas, like economics and social history and agriculture, while hunting down answers to particular questions.

Here it is:

The Tailoring Test

Apprentice-level questions

1. Write up an apprenticeship contract. What does an apprenticeship contract look like? what must it contain?

2. What is the process of apprenticing to a guild? What are your master’s obligations to you, and yours to him? Is money exchanged at any point along the way?

3. How many fellow apprentices do you have? How old are they? What families are they from?

4. How many hours a day do you work? How many days a week? What sort of work do you do for your master? Where do you sleep?

5. What materials are in your shop? Include: types of fabrics, tools of the trade, other objects.

6. What is the size and layout of your shop? What furniture is in it?

7. What does your shop do with its cabbage?

8. What sort of ready-made garments might you have in the shop? What items does your shop not make?

9. When should you use linen thread for stitching, and when should you use silk?

10. A client comes to your master desiring a new gown. However, he does not have the fabric with him. What are your master’s options for obtaining the fabric?

11. Demonstrate all of the stitches used in making garments, and describe what each stitch is used for. Use authentic thread size & stitch length. Thimble usage is required.

12. Demonstrate three popular pinking patterns, a 1 ft square each.

Extra credit: While working late on a silk gown, you accidentally get candlewax on the skirts. To avoid a sound thrashing, how do you get rid of the wax? Demonstrate.

Journeyman-level questions

1. As a newly-minted yeoman tailor, what sort of work do you do? How long will you be a journeyman? What is your life like?

2. How do you go about setting up shop? Do you stay with your master or strike out on your own? What influenced your decision?

3. Describe the merchant taylor’s company, that you are part of. Who is in it? What does the guild do for you? What are your responsibilities to the guild? What do you like best about the guild? What do you dislike the most?

4. Sketch the arms of the Merchant Taylor’s guild. In the yearly processions of the guilds, what place in line does the Merchant Taylor’s guild hold?

5. It is 1580. for each of the following fabrics, list the description (fiber, weave, & weight), the source (country(s) of origin), the width(s) the fabric comes in, and the cost per yard: fustian a’napes, serge, rash, velvet, frieze, holland, lockram,russet, kersey, chaungeable taffeta, say, cotton, tissue, sarcanet, cypress, buckram, broadcloth, straits & narrows.

6. Demonstrate taking a client’s measurements and drafting a doublet and hose pattern from them.

7. Demonstrate laying out this pattern on 22″ wide silk & 60″ wool broadcloth with the least amount of wastage. Use Alcega to start with; if you can improve on his layout, do so.

8. Demonstrate, step by step, the construction of a doublet & hose. Alternately, demonstrate the construction of a pair of bodies & a loose gown.

9. Say you have your own shop. How much is the rent?

Extra credit:
You are translating a garment for a patron who’s put on some weight. While altering, you notice a grease stain and are unsure whether it was there already or whether it happened after the garment came to the shop. To be on the safe side, you decide to get the stain out. The garment is made of red silk velvet. How do you go about removing the grease stain? Describe two recipes.

Master-level Questions

1. Using authentic drafting methods and pattern shapes, without reference to any written notes, draft patterns for the following:
men’s doublet, men’s paned trunkhose, woman’s doublet bodies, a kirtle bodies and kirtle skirt/woman’s Straight-bodied gown/women’s flemish gown, a cassock or dutch cloak, a doctor’s gown, and a cloak. You can, if you wish, replace two of the above with a pattern for a horse barding, a pavilion, a set of bed hangings or a set of Catholic vestments.

2. For each of the above, make a pattern of the garment up out of canvas/muslin and fit on the person whose measurements were used.

3. For each of the shop items listed above in the Apprentice section, list the cost of the item, how many you have of it, and how often each needs to be restocked.

4. When you become a master, what sort of work will you do? Will you specialize in men or women’s dress? What are your plans for the future? Will you stay a yeoman tailor, or enter the Fraternity? Will you seek service with the court or with a nobleman, or open a shop of your own? What other areas of business are you interested in getting into?

5. Describe your relationships with any other merchants or crafts necessary to your trade (haberdashers, embroiderers, skinners, furriers, etc), and describe how and where their work coincides with yours. Detail methods of payment and credit used, and conflicts that can arise between the different crafts.

6. Give a brief history of the Tailor’s guild as you know it. Include a description of the career of one famous member of the guild, that you would have known. Describe your guild livery.

7. You are elevated by your guild to membership in the Court of Assistants. What are your duties? Two years later, you are elevated to the position of Warden. What are your duties now?

8. Describe two different clients of yours. Include their station and occupation, the types of garments they request and how often they request them, and other individual habits.

9. A client brings in cloth of gold and silver, and wants a cloak made out of it. Your client is a minor nobleman who is a Knight of the garter. It is 1580. Do the sumptuary laws of the time allow him to wear this garment? If not, and you make this garment for him, are you liable for any fines or legal action? If you are, how do you handle this client’s request?

10. You discover that your fellow tailor and good friend, Hugh Humfrey, has received a large order for livery for 14 men, due in a week, and has temporarily hired a foreign journeyman from Flanders to get the work done cheaply. Is this legal? If not, what should you do in this case?

11. Describe the process of making a garment, from the time a patron walks into your shop until the garment is delivered to him. Include:
-how you both agree on what to make.
-where the materials come from: what the patron supplies, and what you supply
-How, in detail, is the garment constructed?
-who does what on making this outfit–apprentices, journeymen, you?
-How long did the garment take to make?
-Describe the final fitting, if there is one. What is checked? What sort of changes/complaints/issues might the client come up with? How should you counter them?
-Write up a bill for the work done, charging reasonable rates for your work and for any materials you bought during the making. Secretary hand a plus.
-How and by whom would the bill be payed?
-How and to whom would your garment be packaged and delivered?

Extra credit: Based upon the amount of time spent making this garment & the amount charged to the client, subtracting the cost of your own materials (sering wax, thread, pins, salary to Journeymen, etc) how much profit did you make on this? How much work would you need to do a day to turn enough of a profit to pay the rent on your shop, buy food and clothing, and pay your guild dues?

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