Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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The Medieval Wedding Dress- the velvet gown

This is the final layer I made for my wedding outfit, it is a silk velvet dress inspired by the late 15th century over dresses. The gown is open at the front to allow for easy undressing, and to show more of the white dress underneath. This can be seen in paintings, though a closed gown would have been more common.

This was one of the most difficult garments I have ever made. The fabric is a silk velvet, sensitive, very thin and extremely flimsy; I so understand why silk velvet has been replaced by synthetic alternatives on the market (and it is not just a matter of price). The gown is fully lined with silk dupioni for support and look, and has linings in black silk taffeta and on the bottom, the same black high quality wool as in my love’s joined hose. I opted for the golden coloured silk because it did so well under the velvet, and made the velvet shine even more. if using a transparent velvet; try out different shades of lining fabric to find the one that gives you the look you want.

The gown closes with a small hook and eye at the waist, and then this belt is added. The bronze buckle and strap end is made after a painting from the period, and can be seen on houppelandes and similar overdresses from the period.

Working with the fabric. Here you can see the silk lining being laid out at the velvet to act as a pattern piece. The velvet was very sensitive, so pinning was only an option in seam allowances.

The fabric being so thin and flimsy, pinning it to the sturdier silk lining was a good help for cutting, basting and sewing. I treated the two layers as if they were one when sewing, making the seam allowances visible on the inside of the dress. Since the velvet is transparent where the pattern is, it was not an option to have the seams between the both fabric layers.

Front and back pieces of the body being laid out. With a patterned fabric, you might want to consider where to put your pieces, and in what direction. I let the two front pieces have the pattern laid out in the same direction, and then turned the back piece upside down, since the skirt would have the pattern visible in the same direction at the back of the gown. The two fronts doesn’t have to be similar in pattern, all contemporary art depicts uneven patterns on the front of dresses.

You may also note that the front lining pieces have the selvage running along the openings, since the velvet was stretchy, and silk stretch when cut on bias, I laid the pieces out diagonally on the silk fabric to have a non stretchy front, and instead add some flexibility across the body. This way, there is some small movement allowed over the rib cage, while the front lays flat against the body.

I sewed the gown together on the overlock machine, this was one of my best choices ever since the seam both helped with protecting the seam allowance and allowed for some stretchiness in the skirt. After the gown was put together, I hang it on my doll to let the skirts fall out. Fabric cut circular like in this case always seems to hang out unevenly…

And yes it did! I ended up cutting away between 10-15 cm in some places, but only 2 in the areas running along the fabric length. I was quite nervous- cutting a little each time and allowing for the fabric to adjust. There was some massive pinning and measuring and swearing going on at this part and frankly, I just forgot to take pictures because I was so frustrated. Here you can see the velvet skirts hanging out, the silk lining behaving all nicely and staying in shape.

After this, I worked with the hems and inside seams by hand. All the seam allowances were folded down, basted to the lining and then covered by a strip of silk fabric, whip stitched down. No ironing though; velvet does not go along with pressing so the seams were just smoothed out by hand. The front opening and the sleeves were lined with black silk taffeta, the same as love’s doublet were edged with.

The bottom needed a little more heavy lining, and I wanted something that could take some more wear than silk so I chose a thin wool tabby weave. Here it is, laying on the floor.

One of the seams, seen from the outside when finished of. The whip stitches securing the strip inside is not visible on the outside velvet, neither is the machine seam that holds it together.

I am very pleased with the dress, I really plan on using it in the future on events. It was not easy to make, but hopefully some of my experience shared with you will make you want to try one for yourself if you wish!

 

 

 


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The Medieval Wedding Dress; the silk dress

I am sooo behind writing about my different projects. I kind of have a bad conscience about it too, and I really try to work through all of my drafts, notes and old photos. I guess it has been quite the autumn and winter here, I really never post about those parts of life, but I like everyone else have tough periods in life. Life, dead and bills happens to everyone, as the saying goes. I am not going to talk about that today; I am going to show you my wedding dresses!

I made three different layers for the wedding outfit. A linen shift, a cream-white silk dress and the velvet silk over dress. The linen shift is made tight fitted, with thin shoulder straps and a supportive body, and then a loose skirt. Over that I also wore a linen petticoat with a strengthened hemline. It never shows, but it adds important stability to the cream silk dress so the skirt drapes the correct way.

Over these I have the silk dress, cream-white and lined on the inside with a really thin wool muslin fabric. The silk fabric is a taffeta, and even if that quality is a lot sturdier than other silks, it still needed to be lined for a better draping skirt and a smoother upper body. Here you can see some of the effect the petticoat has; making the dress skirt stand out a bit instead of hanging down. The taffeta also helps a lot.

The sleeves are unlined, instead I have the thin silk sleeves that is shown underneath. I didn’t want another layer underneath the silk dress, so the thin silk sleeves are just lose sleeves, attached by the arm hole on the dress. The lacing is made with silk thread, the same as I did the lacing holes with, and also the white freshwaterpearl belt. Around the wrist small pearls are fastened, kind of like a bracelet but easier to wear.

For these dresses I made full mockups in cotton fabric to get a feeling for the pattern drafting and models. Usually I like to improvise a bit, but now I somehow was patience herself while drafting… The skirts in both dresses are based on a full circle of fabric, that is what gives the dresses that magical drape and the deep folds in the fabrics. The mock-up was then taken apart and used as a pattern, here is half the skirt on the cream silk. Yeah, I actually cut out my fancy white silk dress on the floor, with heaps of fabrics laying everywhere. Creativity, you know…

More fabric, this is the other half of the skirt.

To prevent the silk fabric from fraying I sew all edges with a overlock. You can use a zigzag as well, but it is good to prep them in some way. I would have liked to sew all our garments by hand, but neither time nor my fingers allowed for it, so edges and some inside seams were made with sewing machines. The overlock really was my best friend when it came to the fraying silk fabrics.

I also reinforced the hemline of the dress with a thin fabric strip. This was pinned around the hem, and then sewn with a machine stitch. After that the lining was added so the strip was hidden on the inside between outer and inner fabrics.

Here is a nice close up on the silk lucet cords, the lacing holes and the matching silk belt with freshwater pearls. I really liked how the cream-colored fabric, the silk thread and the pearls matched each other

   

The dress has a waist seam, so it really is a circular skirt, a regular body with side seams/side lacing and set in sleeves, all in all a simple dress. Here you can see the waist line, the seam done by hand to get a good drape of the skirt and because the different layers of fabrics really liked to slip against each other.

A good view of the laced up sleeves from the side

And a view from the back, while walking in to get married.

This actually became quite the long blog post, so I’ll get back to you with the velvet over dress in a post of its own!

 


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Medieval wedding outfits

Working on my wedding outfit and thinking about all the accessories. Belt, purse, hose or socks, shoes, jewelry, hair-do. There really is a lot of choises, we have decided to not go all historical on this wedding, but I still want to keep the outfits based on historical paintings and finds. The most modern things will be my hair and makeup, since I wont be shaving my forehead and eyebrows…

A couple of days ago I finished weaving my silk belt, started half past nine in the evening… One should not calculate new projects during the evenings when one is tired. Lenght of belt; perfect. Threads left to weave; about 0,5 cm. I could tell you that this was all intentional because I’m such a bad-ass at weaving. But the truth is that I miscalculated and should have added an additional 10% of shrinkage to the varp threads. But, everything went well.

I have also finished of the belt with freshwater pearls and a strip of silk on the back, to make the belt more durable and stiffer. Bronze clasps is going on the ends, and then it’s all finished! I also made som pearl hangings to finish of the cords at my dress.

I have actually finished most of my outfit by now, with over a week left to the wedding. Of course I wont show you the whole outfit before midsummer’s day- that would be cheating. But undershift with extra skirt is all ready, as silk dress, overdress and most of the acessories. The shoes are already ordered from one of my favourite shoemakers; Stefan Eriksson and will be based on 15th century finds.

For hose, I have asked my grandmother to knit me some. It’s not historically accurate, but she really makes the best socks and I wanted to wear something she made since she is something of an idol on the handcraft area.

Also, I have found the perfect (ok, it’s a bit early in the history for pearl necklaces but it’s a wedding…) necklace to wear with the dress. Bought it at Double Wars SCA event. It is the one at the bottom on the picture.

Now, I´m up before 6 in the morning to have some internet time with a morning coffee, and then I will continue with love’s silk doublet, which he teared apart when trying it on. (“I hardly stretched my arms at all” he claimed when the arm seams at the back stretched apart and I got several hours of extra work trying to mend the extreme flimsy silk fabric. I don’t believe him…)

 


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Medieval wedding dress

I’m in the process of making my wedding dresses, which will be from the late 15th century.

Of course I want a nice looking wedding dress, but at the same time I want to be able to wear the dress on more occasions than the wedding. So I wont be having a pure white dress, since that is really unpractical. Instead, I have bought some lovely green (yes, I know I already have that green shade on several garments…) wool, a darker green velvet and a creme coloured silk fabric. This combination will be the wedding dresses, but it’s hard to decide exactly want I want to do.

But I have started with the basic dress in the creamy silk (or is it more like ivory perhaps?) cutting out the skirt and drafting the pattern. Now I have a bunch of orders to tend to, but after that I’m planning to sew wedding clothes only for a couple of weeks!

I also plan to make H a new outfit fot the wedding. We will match, of course, so I’m looking at the late 15th century and planning a doublet in silk (see below), hose in black wool, and an outer garment made of the same green wool that I bought for myself. The shirt will be in white linen or silk.

Anyway; I’ve made a pinterest folder with some inspiration and the different fabrics I’ve bought; https://www.pinterest.se/handcraftedhist/medieval-wedding-ideas/

If you have any input on design or practicality- feel free to send me a note here or on facebook!

Spara