Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures

Tutorial Apron Dress

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One of the dresses that I still like after using for many events, is my viking age apron dress (it’s actually one of my oldest piece of historical clothing). It´s made of a tabby woven wool and the construction of the dress is inspired by the find from Hedeby. The pattern is made by 4 pieces and is quite simple, you´ll achieve the fitted look by making small adjustments according to your body.
As you probably already noticed, there are amazingly many different variations of reconstructions and suggestions on how the skirts may have looked, and I also think there were different variants during the viking age. However, I decided to imitate the find from Hedeby, as this has a piece of a probable seam preserved, and gives a suggestion of how the skirts/panels may have been assembled. After reading some discussions on the website Historiska världar and looking at gold figurines, I also chose to do it with a trail, with overly long skirts. That’s my interpretation of the trail on the figurines and picture stones and I was curious about how the fabric would fall with such a model. After a while, however, I cut off the excess fabric that made the overly long skirt, since I got irritated about the trail dragging mud everywhere and getting in my way. It was a nice view though, the long skirt trailing behind.

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Here is a list of what you need, and some easy steps to follow to make one of your own!

What you need:

  • 2-3 m *1.5 m fabric (2 m= small, 3 m=large)
  • scissor
  • measuring tape
  • markers for fabric
  • pins
  • needle and thread or a sewing machine
  • a friend to assist with the final adjustments on the dress

The measurements you need:

  • Armpit-hemd (3) (as long as you want the dress to be) + 3 cm sewing allowance at the bottom, and 5 cm at the top if you would like to make the dress with the higher look (like my green one) when measuring from the armpit; start as high up as you can get under the arm. you will cut out space for your arms movement later.
  • Width around your body (1) (the widest part of your body, often around your chest/over the breasts. Divide this measurement in 4 and then add 4cm to each piece (seam allowance and leisure of movement)
  • Armpit-waist (2) (in this case, your waist is your slimmest part of your body, after which the dress is going to get wider)

I chose to make my dress rather figure close, but a more loose style will make it possible to wear a pair of underdresses under it, which can be nice during colder weather. The dress is built by 4 pieces of the same size and shape. They start out straight and then gets wider at the waist.

The amount of fabric you need depends on your measurements, but I drafted up three different ways of putting your pattern pieces out on your fabric, depending on how much fabric you want to use.

For the draft to work you need to have a fabric that is 150 cm in width, and that you doesn’t need a longer dress than that. 1F + 2F is the two side pieces, 3B + 4B is the front and back ones. The bottom-left draft shows how you can use the fabric in an effective way by doing a gore in one panel.

The upmost pattern takes 250 cm of fabric, and gives you a dress lining of 80cm *4= 320 cm. You can absolutely do with less; the one at the bottom- right gives you a lining of about 270 cm, using just under 200 cm of fabric. This is for a small-medium sized person. If you have a larger size, remember to add width not just to your upper area but to the skirt as well, to make the dress drape nicely and give you space to move.

After cutting the pieces from the fabric (but before you cut them after your figure) you will want to bast them together in order to try the size and fitting. The dotted lines on the picture above indicates were you can make the dress a little bit figure close (waist/under the breasts, under the armpit and at the back). When you try out the dress, remember to have your shift/dresses underneath so it wont get to small. If you’re using a modern bra during your viking adventures, then also wear it during fitting sessions.

When the dress is done, I usually make the straps in the same wool fabric as I made the dress itself. Make them as narrow bands (folded double) and sew them on to the back of your dress at the same position as your bra straps would be- this will make them lay comfortable on your shoulders. In the front you may sew them down to the dress if you haven’t got tortoise brooches yet, otherwise use these to fasten the straps to the dress. I prefer to do a loop at the end of the strap, and then another one at the front of the dress; these you can clearly see in finds from the viking age, and it also makes it easier to use the brooches without damaging your fabric.

If you want, decorations is a nice way to spice up your apron dress. A tablet woven band, a small piece of silk fabric or a silver thread posament is find-based decorations from the viking age. Good luck with your sewing!

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Author: Linda at Handcrafted History

I am Linda, running the blog and business Handcrafted History and living in the middle of Sweden

2 thoughts on “Tutorial Apron Dress

  1. Som vanligt tydliga instruktioner och jättefint slutresultat! Har bara en liten fråga (som kanske egentligen är mer allmän): Är det svårt att få på den sen? De ser nämligen alltid så figurnära och tajta ut?

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    • Ja, de kräver ju en del ålande och att man har armarna lyfta ovanför huvudet när man drar på sig dem. Men de ska inte vara så tajta att det blir åla-sig-in-i fodral, det är skärningen, att du syr in klänningen lite när du har sytt ihop den, och val av tyg som bildar den där formade looken =)

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