HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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15th century headwear

There are many looks on headwear during the late 15th century. Everything from maiden hair hanging loose with soft waves, to several layers of linen veils wrapped around the head, with wimples or jewelry worn. There is both visible and hidden hairdos, fake hair pieces, caps, hairbands and circlets, as well as decorations such as pins, jewelry and braids.

In this post, I wanted to show you a few of my favourite looks and how to achieve them in simple ways.

 

This is a great veil, and it is simple a very long veil wrapped in layers about the head. The result gives you a turban, or if you prefer, a layered look with a loose end hanging. To keep the veil in place, add pins.

Fabric: thin linen 52*250 cm (or longer; up to 4 meters would be doable I think)

The short side should reach from forehead to neck, the long side wraps around your head in several layers. Cut out a square piece of fabric, and hem it around all sides with a small double folded or rolled hem. Use vaxed linen thread, and whip stitch or tiny running stitches.

Put the long side over your head, drape the veil around your head and pin it at the neck (do not make anknot, that will be to bulky and doesn’t look right in the end). Wrap the veil several times around your head, and secure it with more dress pins. Alternatives; wear it on top of a cap, headband or hairband. Let the end hang loosely, over one shoulder.

You can also wrap the veil folded, to achieve a more smooth look. The “secret” with making the look hold and look nice? Practice, mostly. I like to wear a base, like a version of the Birgitta cap, and then pin the veil to this one. When I wrap the veil around my head, the layers will go a little different each time, to cover the whole head in a good way.

In this look, the layers are wrapped from behind, and then swiped from the ear, over the forehead and a little back, to achieve the V shape at the forehead. This looks need some more pins at the top of the head to stay in place.

Veil with sewn layers. This veil is an experiment to achieve the look seen on many paintings from the period, in very easy means. A more historically accurate way would probably be to use a very long great veil, or the “strip with sewn folds” with a veil on top. But if you want to look the 15th century part easy and fast; this is it!

Fabric: thin or medium thin linen 64*250 cm

Cut out a square piece of fabric, and hem it around all sides with a small double folded or rolled hem. Use vaxed linen thread, and whip stitching or tiny running stitches. Then measure and mark folds on one short side, as many as you would like (between 6-20 folds). Make the folds by hand, press them down, and sew them with running stitches. At the ends (the long sides of the veil) you can make the folds go together to add some shape to your piece.

Put the veil over your head with the folds at the forehead, and pin it at your neck. The veil should hang over the pin and hide it. Then twist the veil fabric around your head until you have used the whole length. Tuck the end in under some layers, and pin everything in place.

Strip with sewn folds

Fabric: thin linen 64*20 cm (64*30 cm for more folds)

This is made either to pin on a cap, or fasten on your head with pins or ribbons at the neck. On top of it your wear one or more veils. A practical way to style your existing headwear into the 15th century style.

Cut out a square piece of fabric, and hem it around all sides with a small double folded or rolled hem. Use vaxed linen thread, and whip stitching or tiny running stitches. Then measure and mark folds along the long side, as many as you would like and can fit (between 6-20 folds). Make the folds by hand, press them down, and sew them with running stitches. At the ends (the long sides of the veil) you can make the folds go together to add some shape to your piece. At the ends you can make the folds go together to add some shape to your piece. Use two thin strips of linen or silk ribbon to fasten the piece at your neck, if you don’t want to pin it.

Here is the strip, pinned down on a cap, and covered with layers of veils.

I have been experimenting with some other veils too, but I’ll have to come back to them another time when I have put together my experience and drafted some patterns for you.


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The 15th century coat

For the Golden Egg challenge, I made a warm, woolen coat. The purpose with the coat was to make an over garment from sources that would be warm, practical and fitting for the period. After using it for half a year I am very satisfied; it is such an easy garment and yet it looks great, is comfortable and versatile. I use it as part of the outfit, when the weather is cold or wet, as a robe when visiting the bathroom early in the mornings, as a picnic blanket…

I drew you a basic pattern outlay, if you want to try it out for yourself.

The small gores F1 and B1 are just to save fabric, so the main pieces are 2 fronts, 2 backs and 2 sleeves. If you have a toile or mock up that works for you, you can use that as a base and then just draw out the lines from the sleeve/neck as I did on the pattern.

The fabric I used was 310 * 150 cm, if you are taller or need a size large or above, consider adding some extra fabrics for lengths and sleeves. You don’t really need as much width as I have, but it will give you a very nice drape and look.

The cut and pattern are based on paintings and what pattern instructions I have found from the period. I think it is a possible take, though I have seen outer garments with S-sleeves, sleeve gores and more intricate patterns and constructions. The side seams can be found in some pictures, as well as in patterns of outer garments from later periods.

When you have cut out the pieces needed, pin/baste and sew the coat together in the following order:

  1. back seam
  2. shoulder seams
  3. side seams
  4. sleeves
  5. insert the sleeves in the coat
  6. hem the coat
  7. put in a closure at the front neck.

I used unbleached, waxed linen thread and a running stitch, folded the seam allowance to one side and fastened it down with whip stitches. The hems were finished with whip stitching to.

I also trimmed the neck and sleeves with fur, since that seems to be common in contemporary art. To avoid dipping the sleeve hems in food, I made the sleeves wide enough to be able to fold the fur inside the sleeves when working- this turned out very practical!

Materials:

The coat is made in a warm, thick wool twill, with a rich, deep brown colour that would have been quite expensive to dye. Other good colours could have been walnut brown, red or black.

Linen thread for sewing, since this seems to be common in most finds from the period.

Rabbit fur for trims, because that was the only fur I found that was up to my ethical standards about how you should treat animals (eco, small family garden breeding, killed and tanned in the area without chemicals). White fur to match the paintings.

The clasp is based on a find from the period and is made in bronze

You can wear the coat loose, or close it with a belt. I often wear it with the belt, as it is more practical. If you want tips on sewing a fur trim on a garment, check out my tutorial on the subject!

Historical sources and why I did a coat

The outer garment could be a dress as well, as there are lots of warm dresses lined with furs or fabric in sources. I chose the coat as I wanted a practical garment, and know from experience that a second layer of wool dress would not be versatile enough for what I needed. The sources I have used are from the second half of the 15th century, in todays Germany. The Golden Egg outfit is based mainly on the period 1470-1490, but the coat belongs to the end of this period rather than being the “choice of all women”. So now you can decide if you should go for the practical coat or the more common dress when making your outfit!

Sources: if you want to check out some sources on 15th century clothing, I recommend some of this links:

Lots of clothing from Dresden

My pinterest on the project

A portrait

About the black engraving