I have been reading up on 15-16th century medieval Europe, including art and clothing, for some years now and haven’t really been into the 14th century for a while; I even sold of my Moy Bog gown and some other dresses. But then my friend J told me she wanted to brick stitch embroider a couple of purses, and I could have one in exchange for a minor handcraft effort (at least I thought so- I’m not really into embroidery…) and then I would need a fitting dress to that… And in almost no time I had this one finished, a hand-stitched cotehardie made of thin wool twill, with silk lining, silk lacing at the front and short sleeves.
The dress is for the higher classes, and in pictures from the late 14th century, it is worn with a kirtle underneath (a tight-fitting dress often with buttoned sleeves). Then it seems like the dress remains in the beginning of the 15th century, and is worn as a kirtle/middle dress with loose sleeves for a more fashionable look. After that, the dress seems to change a bit into the waist seam dresses (like my blue Weyden dress). This kind of dresses is very common in contemporary art and you can see them in different countries, with long or short sleeves, a laced front or a hidden side lacing, and with buttons or lacing at the sleeves.
If you would like to make a dress like this for yourself, search late 14th and early 15th art sources (I have some at my reading tips) or look at my Pinterest board about cotehardies.
Here are my best tips for making the dress fit nicely:
- Fit the sleeves in carefully, they should be snug around the arm for both good movement and the right look.
- Make the lacing holes 1,5-2 cm from each other, no more, to make sure the lacing will not show the shift underneath.
- Use a lining inside the dress to make it more supportive for the bust, to add shape and draping to the skirt. If you have a tight fabric budget; just line the upper body.
- Try the dress on often during your work with it, and make the lacing before hemming and neckline. Also, you may fit in the dress at the end for that perfect look by leaving the side seams open until last. These are also good to leave open (just back stitch them and secure the selvedges if necessary by zigzag or whip stitches) for adjusting shape, support or weight loss/gain in an easy and fast way.
In these photos, it is worn with loose silk brocade sleeves, but I’m planning on making a kirtle for it with long sleeves to wear under. On the head, I wear my hair in temple braids, and then a silk tablet woven hairband. The veil is pinned down to that, and then I have a woollen hood for warmth. The gloves are modern and just for warmth, it was really chilly to go out with just one dress.
This was the first event trying it out, and after that, I have been adjusting the dress a bit. Inside lining; the silk fabric getting snowy outside.
Hairband, pins and veil.
Historical accurate? The model is quite common for the late 14th and early 15th century, and the silhouette of the period is a rather straight and smooth one, which I have tried to achieve by making the dress a bit loosely fitted around the waist and hip area, in order to get the lean look of the time (I am built a bit too curvy for the 14th c ideal). The woollen twill fabric with its blue colour is representative for the periods upper class, blue is a common colour in women´s clothing during the medieval period, and the twill weave is fine and good looking. Dresses showed in period art often has a contrasting coloured lining, but it seems that this was most often in wool, linen or mixed fibre fabric, while silk blends seem to be more common during the 16th century. For a more historical dress, I would have lined the dress in very thin wool or made the whole dress out of silk. The pink, hand woven silk was chosen for its cheap price (1/3 of a wool fabric of the same weight), its look and the lightness of the fabric, making the dress comfortable and not hot at all.