For the Golden Egg challenge, I made a warm, woollen coat. The purpose of 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:
insert the sleeves in the coat
hem the coat
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 too.
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!
The coat is made in 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. If you don’t want to use fur a folded down hem would do just fine!
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 a 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 the 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 today’s 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!
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Sources: if you want to check out some sources on 15th century clothing, I recommend some of these links:
This is my walk-through on how I made my green 15th c kirtle/dress in wool. It is not a complete tutorial with all details, so if you have never sewn before I recommend starting with a shift or other straight garment. If you want more good sewing tip, you will find many problems addressed in my other tutorials.
This is a common late 15th c middle dress for women, it is quite easy to make, practical and is shown in many different pictures from the period. Your choice of colour, neckline, clasps and other details will make it different, and if you choose a thicker wool fabric it will work as an overdress too. The artwork I have used is from 1470-1485.
You will need about 3-4 meters of thin wool fabric, I bought mine from Handelsgillet, they have a thin twill fabric that is easy to work with and quite historically accurate for the period. I fell in love with the perfect green colour… And you can see some examples of green kirtles at the bottom of this blog post and in other artworks from the period. The shade can be achieved with plant dying but is more expensive than a madder red or yellow, and I think it makes a good option for my outfit; a well of burgher from a city.
I lined my dress with prewashed, unbleached linen, but you only need to line the upper body for some stability, and that will need a maximum of 1 meter. I sew my dress by hand, with waxed linen thread. Running stitches for the main seams, back stitches in armholes and sides, and whip stitches for the seam allowances and hems, are all you need. The dress closes with hooks and eyes, be sure to have lots of them!
This is what the model looks like, it is really simple, and if you have a personal toile/mock-up for your upper body you can use that with some small modifications. The front opening should have a slightly curved seam to follow your body, and the closure makes the front pieces lay edge to edge.
Comparing to a supportive kirtle, you need a bit more room now for your bust area, it should be quite loose and lay over your breast, to get the shape of the period. Make a new mock-up in fabric and make the front pieces a bit wider, and try it out.
The sleeves are regular S-sleeves or a sleeve with a curved upper edge and seam under your arm. You can see both from the period, though the S-sleeve seems to be more common. The skirt is made up of 4 pieces in my dress. Here are the pieces I used together with my measures (around 36-38/small European size)
The dotted line on one of the skirt panel indicates a gore to save some fabric, but I wrote out the wrong number of pieces; the left panel is the front and you only need one of them. But this is just one way to create the skirt; you can use more pieces, gores, or just 2 wider parts.
The upper body back piece is whole, you can shape the back in the sides and with the help of the waist seam.
I lost my sketch of the outlay but made another one just to show you. Since I am a rather petite person, I can use the width of the fabric for most outlays, but if you are longer than I am (around 160 cm) you may want to lay the skirt panels out the other way. In this picture the panels are a bit wider in the back than that above, so you only need two. The front is straight or almost straight. Note also that I apparently drafted regular sleeves instead of S-sleeves, but you will get the idea…
After I cut out all the pieces, I basted the dress together to try it out. When happy with the fit and measures, I started to sew all the seams by hand. If you keep the correct basting stitches while sewing, you don’t need to pin and can easily work on the sofa, super cosy!
Make the dress in the following order:
Sew the upper body together, front and back pieces, and then sew the sleeves before you insert them in the body.
Sew the skirt panels together, but leave around 20 cm at the top centre front, to be able to put the dress on (the slit shown on the first sketch). I hemmed the body and the skirts upper circle separately, and then attached them to one another with whip stitches. This seam will get a lot of wear, so it is nice to make it twice or use a sturdy thread, like the buttonhole silks or a thicker linen thread, like 35/2.
When the whole dress was assembled together, I put it on my doll to hang out for some days, before I cut and hemmed the skirt and sleeves. If you have a doll, it is really good to leave the dress hanging for a couple of days before hemming, this will make the fabric in the skirt stretch out, and you can cut away excess fabric to make the hem even.
The front with its lining is sewn from the right side, first with basting and then with a seam. To make the front opening and the neckline more durable I added a second row of stitches around.
The hooks and eyes are fastened last. This is what it looks like on the inside, note that I have sewn the hooks and eyes not only in the loops but also at the stems/higher up. This will make your opening lay flat and give that characteristic look at the closure you can see on 15th c paintings.
And finally, some of my favourite artworks that I used during my research. As you can see, they are all green kirtles, of the same models, but with some different cuts, necklines, closures and headwear.
Historically accurate? My main aim with making this outfit was practicality, durability and a dress I would feel comfortable in, based on period clothing. With this said, I aimed to make the dress (and outfit) as historically believable as possible from my means.
The fabric is machine woven and dyed to cut on costs, but the pattern construction, sewing techniques, material and look aims to be close to the dresses from the period. Another modern take is the hooks and eyes, which are machine-made instead of handmade.
I rarely work with metal due to some problem with my joints, but I tried to make a couple of hooks and eyes by hand. It is not hard work, they got quite pretty, but I didn’t make enough of them for a dress.
One thing I did give a lot of thought was the lining. My experience is that lining a skirt with a different material that is sewn down in a slim hemline rarely gives a good result. But I was curious and gave it a try with the method of letting the skirt and skirt lining hang down before cutting and hemming. It worked quite well but gave me a lot more work than leaving the skirt unlined. In artwork, you can often see a lining inside the dresses, and this was a try to make one without adding warmth with another wool layer.
This is a tutorial with very detailed step-to-step instructions, and I will base other tutorials on this one and simply state “do as in the simple dress tutorial but…” so this is a go-to for many different garments. I call it the simple dress since it is so versatile, the base for so many other garments!
It is also suitable to make men’s kirtle, tunics and coats, just adjust measures and fitting to a male body. Most garments are more difficult to make for women’s bodies since the measures differ more, and therefore you will find more tutorials on my page for women’s clothing.
This is the dress we are going to make. Note that a regular S-sleeve does not have two seams, only one at the back. The reason my dress have two seams in the sleeves are 1. you will learn how to make that for doublets, jackets and 2. I saved fabric that I was short on.
If sewing on a sewing machine, pin from right to left, across the seam, to make it easy to remove the pins while sewing. If sewing by hand, pin along the seamline so as not to get the pins in your hand, or baste the seams before sewing.
When pinning; always lay your pieces on a flat surface (a table or the floor) and work on that while pinning. This will make the work easier, and the seams better.
Basting seams are an easy way to try the fit, size, movement and drape of skirts while sewing. Basting the armhole before sewing makes that seam easier to finish nicely. When you pin/baste together long seams, such as a diagonal cut gore with a straight panel, put the gore (the diagonally cut stretchy part) under the other one, when sewing on a machine the gore will not stretch.
Don’t be afraid to cut out your armhole according to your body. The sleeve should cover your arm, the arm joint, but fit snugly under your arm (in the armpit). A too shallow armhole will make your sleeve hang, but too wide will make movement hard. Experiment on scrap fabric first.
How many gores? Two are enough for undergarments and knee-long kirtles, four or more will give you more width, a smoother and more even fall of fabric and more movement when walking. Regular seam allowance is 1,5 cm. For hems 2 cm. You can pick whatever measure you want between 1 cm-3 cm, just remember what you chose. Seam allowance is mentioned as SA in this post.
Wash and iron your fabric before sewing. The fabric is prepped with chemicals to avoid mould or bugs during the shipping and selling process and could be stretched uneven after the weaving. It will also most likely shrink a little, so this makes you able to wash your clothes after using them.
Start with your measures:
Around your widest part on your upper body(often over the bust).
Length of the garment; from shoulder to hem.
Length of arm; from shoulder-elbow, while bent 90 degrees, to the wrist.
Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment.
Create your armhole (if you find this hard; try to measure around a loose shirt or blouse. The armhole should be a bit loose without hanging).
Length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores.
Draft the pieces you need on a bit of paper. Calculate the measures you need:
Around your widest part of torso: Divide in 2. Add seam allowance: 3 cm/piece. Add some extra for movement: around 6%. Example: around bust: 100 cm. Divide in 2= 50 cm. Add s.a = 53 cm/piece. Add movement = 53 + 6% = around 56 cm. Each piece is now 56 cm wide.
Length of garment; from shoulder to hem. Add seam allowance: 2 cm = hem + 1,5 cm for shoulders. Example: dress should be 140 cm when finished. Length of piece: 143,5 cm.
Length of arm; from shoulder (around elbow while bent 90 degrees) to wrist: Example: 64 cm. Add SA., so sleeve pieces should be 64 +1,5 +2 cm= 67,5 cm. Try on before hemming to adjust the length to your taste.
Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment): The narrow part of the sleeve. Check so you can put it on/off. Shape the sleeve to your taste so it fits comfortable around your arm while sewing the sleeve. This is just the starting measure.
Around your armhole (if you find this hard; try to measure around a loose shirt or blouse. The armhole should be a bit loose without hanging). The measure you got is divided into 2, for a measure of the sleeve hole on the front and back piece. Example: around my armhole, I have 56 cm. 56/2=28 cm. Each armhole on the pieces should be no more than 28 cm (measure the curve).
The sleeve base should be 2 cm wider than the complete armhole. 56 cm + 2 cm= 58 cm (measure around the S curve of the arm) add SA: 58 + 3 cm= 61cm is the sleeve base measure.
Length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores. For example: my measure is 38 cm. From the shoulder, I measure 38 cm and make a line, here is where the gores should be attached on front and back pieces. For gores in the middle back and front, cut a straight line to 1 cm below this measure (39 cm from shoulder) to insert them. Check out my tutorial on how to make these
Length of gores: length of the dress – length from shoulder to waist/hip + 3,5 cm SA. Example: 143,5 cm -38 cm = 105,5 cm + 3,5 cm = 109 cm.
The width of gores depends on what kind of dress you would like to do, your overall size and how much fabric you have. I recommend a measure between 50-80 cm for each gore. A lower-class garment might have narrower gores, a fancy dress wider. If you calculate on a larger size than this example, let the width of the gores follow the other measures. For example: if your circumference around your torso is 20% more, also add 20% width to the gores. This will make sure the dress keep good proportions and all the drape.
When calculating all these measures, draft them out on your pattern pieces to remember them.
Then, draft all the pieces on your fabric with a fabric marker and ruler. Check that you have made all the pieces with the right measurements and that all are drawn onto your fabric before cutting. Mark them with front/back/sleeve/gore.
Cut them out. If I work with linen, silk or brocade that will fray, I sometimes zigzag around all pieces on my sewing machine.
Sew the pieces together in this order:
Make the sleeves
Attach the gores to dress front, back, sides
Side seams; front to back and gores so the sides will be completely closed
Sew the sleeves into the armholes
Hemming and adjusting length
Note: This work order goes for both the sewing machine and hand-sewing. When I make a seam I finish it off before starting the next one. That means;
sewing the pieces together front to front
pressing down the seam allowance on the wrong side (the inside)
cut down the seam allowance on one side
press again, the wider over the cut one
whip stitch the seam allowance down (can also be done when the dress is ready if you want to try the fit during sewing)
The reason to press the seams before sewing another one is that you will have flat and nice looking seams, and it will be easier to make the next one crossing the first. I really recommend you to at least press the seam allowance once, it makes such a difference!
Step-to-step for sewing the dress.
Pin the seam on the S-sleeve (the back seams if you have a sleeve in two pieces.
Sew the seam with running stitches or a sewing machine. Remember to fasten/lock all seams at the start and finish. Here 1 cm SA is shown. I prefer 1,5 cm to easy fell the seam and whip stitch it down.
Press the seams with an iron. If you use fine wool or silk, a damp pressing cloth (cotton cloth) can be used between iron and garment pieces to avoid pressing marks. In the photos below you can see the difference between a pressed and a new seam. Totally worth the effort!
When pressing: press the SA to both sides. Let it cool. Cut down one of the sides to half the width. Press the other SA over the cut one, pin down if necessary. This will create a sturdy seam when sewn down, saves you time and looks neat on the right side.
Pin and sew the other sleeve seam (if any). Press it the same way as the first seam. This is easiest with a sleeve ironing board, but if you don’t have any; press the seam with the sleeve laying flat on the board. Try to avoid creating folds in the sleeve with the iron.
These photos show the technique with and without a sleeve ironing board
This dress use 4 gores, one at the middle front, one back, and one in each side seam. The gores give you movement and a good drape to the skirt. On female garments I want the gores to start by the natural waist (where you are slimmest) to accentuate the curve of the hip and belly. On men’s garments, I start at the hip bone to give movement but no feminine curves.
Tip: When drafting your gores, do not make them into straight triangles, but make them slightly curved at the base. Like in this example: the gore should be 100 cm long, and as you can see the rectangle is just that, so the gore will be exactly 100 cm at the middle, but at the sides, you need to measure from the top and down, 100 cm, and that will be a bit shorter than to the line.
Why? To get the right measures, and a good shape at the bottom hem, as described in this picture:
The gores are cut at a diagonal/bias on the fabric. This means they tend to stretch more than the front and back pieces when pinning and sewing. To avoid this, work on a smooth surface and pin + sew the seams with the gore under the front/back piece. This is mainly a problem on a sewing machine with too much pressure on the presser, but also a good tip for hand sewing.
One gore has a seam in the middle to save fabric. Pin, sew and press this seam first. I like to place this gore in the back so it wont show, and to create symmetry in the dress. Then, cut the front and back center to be able to attach gores there. Make the cut line about two cm shorter than the gores; like this:
Start with the side gores, pinning them to the front. Sew them in place, and press both seams the same way you did with the sleeves.
Pin the front and back gores to the front/back pieces, right side to right side, one seam at a time. Sew it but leave the last 6-8 cm at the top. Repeat with the other seam, so you will have two gores with the tip lose. I prefer to make the tip by hand, from the right side of the garment
3 different ways to insert gores:
Press the seams you made, and press the SA on the front and back to either side of the slit, as if it was already done, from the wrong side. When reaching the end of the slit, the s.a will become narrower, and then disappear. Turn the piece and work from the right side. Pin the gore in the slit, so it lays flatly under the already pressed s.a of the front/back. Then sew it in place with a small whip stitch. With this method, you can check the gore to be sure it fits nicely, and it does not matter if it turns out a little bit too big; it will look perfect!
Another method is to sew the whole gore with this technic, if you sew your garment by hand. This is also historically accurate. Start with pressing down the s.a on the front and back slits, and then pin the gore along each side, and sew it from the right side using whip stitches. Press the s.a on the wrong side, and sew this down with whip stitches on the wrong side to, like when felling the seams in the sleeves.
If you only want to use the sewing machine, work on the inside of the garment, and continue with your sewing machine seam to the top of the gore, making the SA narrower as you go along the last 4-6 cm. If it is hard to see, fasten the seam, turn the gore up and sew it from the other side (still on the inside, just flip the garment from front/back to gore side). This might take a few tries before you get it right, just go slow and be prepared to rip the seam and try again if not satisfied.
When the gores in front and back are finished, sew the side seams; the side gores to the back piece and then the side seams (leave a hole for your arms for now. When all the gores are finished, remember to press all the seams!
I like to draft the neckline by hand for each garment, to be able to adjust it to each look I want. The secret is to try it on often, and just cut away a little at a time. You can choose between pinning, basting or sewing the shoulder seams before this. Make them the same way you did the other seams, but don’t press them yet.
Start with drafting a neckline, and armholes. Put the front and back on top of each other, mark the middle and draft a small neck-hole. Mine is 18 cm across, 9 on each side of the middle. Make it shallow, about 4 cm, just in order to try it on. You can then draft the shape and size of your neckline directly on your body in the shape you want (just put the dress on, inside out and draft in front of a mirror. Copy the side you liked best to the other side, left or right. The neck will probably just be cut down with some cm, depending on your size, while the front will be deeper. Remember to leave 1-1,5 cm SA; when you hem the neckline it will be a bit bigger than before.
Making armholes is much easier if you already got a toile/mock-up to copy, but you can try this too: Put the dress on, inside out, and draft the armholes where your shoulder joint start, follow the curve at the front. Mark where the holes should meet at the side, as tight under the arm as possible. Do this at the back (ask a friend) or take the dress off and draft on a flat surface.
Now you should have a drafted line at front and back. Measure these ones, and compare them with the measure you took for your armhole in the beginning. Redo if necessary, the armhole should be a bit narrower than the sleeves (about 2-4 cm) in order to make a well-fitted sleeve. The front curve is deeper, and the back more shallow, but they should start and finish at roughly the same place on the shoulder seam and side seam. It does not matter if one line is a bit longer (front/back) than the other, as long as the circumference is correct.
This is the difference between the front and back of my dress. Note that I also cut down the shoulder seams to become a bit sloping. This is optional for you, if you have very sloping shoulders it will help you with the fit. If needed, do this before the shoulder seams are finished. Then sew the shoulder seams and press them.
Attaching the sleeves
The next step is to attach the sleeves, and I will be honest with you; it can be a bit tricky at first, so don’t give up if you have to rip the seam a couple of times before you get satisfied. The most important thing is to take the time to pin/baste the sleeve to the body and check it out. Don’t hurry!
You will have two sleeves, sewn together to tubes. Baste the sleeve cap (top curve of the sleeve) with loose running stitches.
If you want to check out how the fit is; baste the sleeves around the armholes, and try the dress on. Move around, stretch. Bulkiness at the front might be trimmed down a little. If the sleeve seems tight on top of the shoulder a bit more sleeve fabric might be moved upwards. Do not bother if the sleeve gets a little creased or has small folds, that will be possible to fit inside the armhole, that is what the basting is mainly for. When you think you have something:
Mark out the top of the sleeve (towards the shoulder seam) and the bottom (armpit on sleeve towards the side seam) with a marker or pin. Maybe there will be more sleeve on the back of your body, but that is just fine, you use it when reaching in front of you. Now you are ready to sew the sleeve into the dress!
This is a step-to-step on how to insert a sleeve in the armhole and make it fit. Use it as a guide if you felt unsure about the above: Turn the sleeves to the right side. Put the sleeves inside the inside out dress, and fit them into the armhole. They should lay right side to right side now.
Pin the sleeve marked shoulder – shoulder seam and marked armpit – side seam. Continue to pin the armpit, the part under the arm. Lay the fabrics smooth against each other, no folds.
The sleeve is a bit wider than the armhole, so it should make small waves, like in these pictures. This will be solved with the basting thread you sew on the sleeve. Gently pull them to gather the fabric of the sleeve a bit, in order to fit it inside the armhole. As the sleeve follow the arm hole curve better, pin it in place. The fabric should not make folds, but only gentle crinkles or waves. Adjust if you need. The basted and pulled together fabric should only be pinned to the upper half of the sleeve, never in the armpit.
When you have worked your way around the hole with pins and like the result, baste it in place with big running stitches. Make the other sleeve up in the same way, or try to make it the same… When satisfied; flip the dress to the right side, and try it on. Check the fit of the sleeves and your movement. A bit bulkiness around the armhole is ok, but there should not be folds or stretched fabric sections.
If it looks good, turn the dress back inside out, and sew the sleeves following the basting (with machine or backstitches). Then remove all the basting stitches.
To finish the seams, press them on a sleeve ironing board, or roll a bath towel firmly and put it inside the sleeve if you don’t have one. Press the SA down in each direction, then finish the seams like the ones before. I press them towards the body and whip stitch them down.
Wow, good job! Almost finished. Try the dress on again to adjust the length, hemline, sleeve hems and neckline if needed.
The sleeves should be a little too long when the arm is hanging, to fit nicely when you use your arms and bend the elbow. Check, mark any change you want to make, and do the same to the neckline.
Ask a friend to check the hemline of the dress so it looks even, mark a new hemline if needed. Remember to check the length with the correct shoes/belt since these can make a difference to how long the dress look. When satisfied, cut away any excess fabric and hem the dress. I prefer to fold the edge twice and whipstitch it down by hand. Remember that our SA for hemming was 2 cm. Thick wools only need a single fold before sewing.
Thats it! Now we have a nice dress, and you can use this tutorial for other garments as well.
Did you like this post? You can find a step-by-step video on a similar dress along with more guides and pattern on my Patreon. Join me there to help me make more tutorials!
Some time ago I made a medieval bathing dress in unbleached linen, and I wanted to share it with you. It is a simple project, perfect for an evening or if you want to practice hand sewing.
There are plenty of bathing dresses in paintings from the late 14th to 16th century in Europe, they can also be seen in different cuts and models, and some are clearly supportive shifts that you could wear under your medieval clothing. Mine is very simple but with an intake under the bust to allow some support, but still being easy to get in and out from. No lacing is acquired.
Left; Bohemian, Codices vindobonenses 2759-2764 in the Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek, in Vienna, Austria. Right: The Bathhouse Attendant, Bible of Wenceslaus IV. 1389.
This find is from A History of Costume, Kohler and is dated 14th century and described as a lady’s chemise or undergarment, the photo is old but you get the general idea.
Most of the pictures I have found seems to be dated to the late 14th to early 15th century, there are lots on the internet and I have a Pinterest folder on Medieval underwear so I won’t go into more historical sources today.
The cutting out; prewash your linen, fold in double in the length you would like, and then cut the A shape. I used the leftover fabric for gores in the sides (and at centre front + back if you like, it is optional) but this of course depends on your measures.
The first pictures show the general cut, the second the additional front and pack gores, the third the intake under the bust that give me the support. Do not take in too much, because then you won’t be able to get in and out of the dress.
About measures: The length of the dress measures from armpit to hem. The width is your measure around your bust divided in two (for front and back) add seam allowance but nothing more. Start the gores at your natural waist (if you are unsure, rather place them higher than lower) and pin the intake under your bust while wearing the dress with gores and side seams sewn/basted. Add shoulder straps last, mine is just double-folded linen cloth, whip stitched together and then fastened at the same position as I would have worn bra straps.
If you sew your dress by hand, use waxed linen thread and running stitches, and then fold the seam allowance to one side and whipstitch in place. This gives you a sturdy seam that is also quick to make. Hem the dress with running stitches or whip stitches, after your choice.
Making the dress in unbleached linen made it opaque even when it was wet, good for modesty. In artwork the dress seems to be white, may be visible nipples was a thing, or you would have to pick a very dense fabric. In some pictures, it is very clear that the fabric is transparent, but I chose the more sturdy and practical look. (update spring 2021: I have found that if you start with unbleached linen fabric, and sun bleach it yourself you will get an almost white fabric that is not as transparent as the modern bleached options in stores.)
The result? All considered, I am satisfied with the cut, sewing and look of the dress. It is also easy to swim in. Historically, being out in public in a bathing dress was not a thing, they can be seen on bathhouse attendants or in rare cases during the dressing/undressing at home or during dirty labour. Wearing it to the beach was certainly not a thing, but I liked to have a more historical dress instead of wearing a modern bikini when going for a swim at events.
The last tutorial was about how I made my first Houppelande (medieval overdress) that was an early houppelande, with a pattern layout that saved in on the fabric.
Now we move on to the opposite; a full circular houppelande dress that was the high fashion during the 15th century, and were worn by both men and women (with different lengths and fashion details of course) The construction method for this one is open for discussion; there might have been gores and more pieces according to different fabric widths during the medieval period. This layout is practical and simple if your fabric is 150 cm wide and you want the houppelande to be of as much fabric as possible, the small pieces allowing you to save in on the fabric a little.
The construction idea is from an article I found ages ago (that is now lost on the internet?) And later tailor’s books which shows very full dresses for women and coats for men. The shape, style and drape of this method also look similar to paintings of houppelandes.
First, you need a lot of fabric! How much depends on your length, in this example, I make a pattern that gives you a dress around 150 cm long; good for the shorter woman or for a man (since houppes for men usually leaves at least the shoes visible) That means you will need 5,2 meters of fabric for the dress itself, and then another 1,5 to 3 meters for the sleeves. Oh, and maybe a full lining too?
The pattern is basically 4 quarters of a circle; forming a full circle when put together. The small pieces save you some fabric, but you may cut out the full quarter circles if you prefer. If you go with the pieces, then sew them together with the quarters the first thing when you have cut them out, so you have 4 whole quarters.
Then, sew the shoulder seams together, that is the short straight seams above the arrows. Leave the armholes (on the pattern they are cut out as half-moons) and sew the sides together. To know how wide your armholes should be; measure yourself loosely around your armpit, or use a previous pattern. Add extra cm for movement; at least 5-6 cm.
The seam length of the shoulder should follow your shoulder; between 10-14 cm depending on how long shoulders you have. The armholes should be laying on the body, not falling down from the shoulder to your upper arm. Cut away what you don’t need, a little at a time if you are unsure.
When you are satisfied with the shoulder, armholes and side seams, sew the back and front together with each other, front to front, back to back. In the front, you leave an opening big enough so you can dress and undress easily. On paintings, some dresses are open almost to the hip. In the back you need to leave an opening big enough for your neck, try it on and you will understand! The open seam will give you the neckline on the back, and can then be cut for a rounder style if you like, or you could add a collar.
So, that was it- quick and easy yes? Now the dress should look something like the sketch above, and you can attach the sleeves to the dress. Sleeves? Well, that is for the next part of the Houppelande tutorial series. Stay tuned!
During the 16th century it became high fashion to slash or cut fabrics in a decorative manner, and this was taken up by mercenary landsknechts and women working and living in the armies as well. Being a fashion for richer or high-born persons, it was quite the dare for mercenaries to wear, but such a good way to show that you were a high earner with lots of status and gold on your pocket…
So, I wanted to share with you all my best tips for getting that slashed and cut look that you may want for your outfit!
But first, some good things to know:
The most important thing is the material to work with; wool is by far the easiest. In finds and manuscripts, you will also find garments made by silk or silk/linen and silk/wool blends, but those garments will have very small cuts (also called pinking) made with a specific tool and is a whole different story. So; chose a wool fabric. A felted, dense and tightly weaved wool is the best, this will give you a sturdy garment that won’t fray easily.
The slashing is not hemmed. I know many people do this because they chose a sensitive fabric, they are afraid it will fray and tear, or they have just been told that all raw edges should be hemmed or sewn. The standard is to not hem or sew the slashes, they should be raw, made with a very sharp tool, and yes- they might wear out faster than a garment that is not slashed. There are garments made with other techniques, for examples doublets with sleeves that are being made out of strips of lined/hemmed fabrics. These might look similar to cut garments, but the making is different.
Slashed and cut garments may not last as long as more sensible ones, or look very pretty after using for a while, that is the point with this fashion! You’ll have to be rich enough to order fine materials, pay a tailor to sew it for you, pay even more for the slashing and cutting, and then don’t mind that you will have to exchange the garment once it looks worn. If you are a more economically laid modern person, pick a wool fabric for your outfit, since this lasts longer than silk or linen.
Almost all slashed garments that I have seen have been lined with a second layer of unslashed fabric. This could be a regular lining or a whole garment that holds together the one laying over, providing stability and fit. I often use a linen fabric lining for wool and silk fabrics, but in the case with slashed guards (strips of fabrics) I place the guards on top of the main fabric, to make it visible through the slashing.
Feeling ready for some slashing now?
The pictures are mostly from my trossfrau dress project, this from a woodcut that I have copied and coloured to get a feeling for the dress to be.
I usually wash my wool fabrics, iron them and then cut out the pieces I want for the garment. Before I sew them together I draw out my slashes on the wrong side with a fabric marker and then cut them before I put the garment together. If you are not sure about the fitting, it is good to baste the garment together and try it on before this, since it is difficult to adjust fitting after the slashing is made.
I usually also draw out helplines during this stage; everything that helps you make good sharp lines placed exactly where you want them is good. A ruler, some mathematics and a marker go a long way. I also like to make a template to use while drawing out the slashes.
Do not slash all the way to the edges, remember the seam allowance and leave 2-3 cm along the edges to make it easier to sew the pieces together.
This is a larping outfit (only inspired by historical fashion) as an example of a durable slashed garment. The arms have slashes, but not the armpits or body, and the slashes ends some cm before the seams. Sewn in a medium-heavy twill, slightly felted.
If you want the garment to be sturdy and hold together, slash less along the armpits, side seams and crotch; all areas where the fabric gets more wear. If you look at historical woodcuts and painting, you may notice that tight fitted pants have no slashes at the backside of the legs near the seams, neither over the butt (there might be exceptions, as always)
The finished dress, a hot day in Visby a couple of years ago
Fur can be tricky, so here’s some help on the way if you are going to fur line your garment (like this late 15- early 16th century gollar). This method may be used with a good fake fur too!
I am guessing that you historically either treated the fur like a garment of your own (sew the fur together to a garment, then attach it to the outer fabric) or as a fabric lining (cut out the pieces of fur and stitch it to the seam allowances of the outer fabric once this is sewed together). A mix of these two might also be the case, due to the different challenges you face when fur lining a garment without it getting bulky.
If you only want a strip of fur on your garment, I find it easiest to cut out the fur pieces, and treat them like fabric lining; cut them straight and clean, join small bits if necessary before sewing them to the outer fabric. In contemporary art the fully fur lined garments seem to be the most common one, but some artwork you could interpret as only having trims in fur. Fur was both fashionable and warm and used in many garments, and I have a fully lined gollar. This one becomes too warm during summer, and also take a lot of space in the bag when packing, so I thought this new one would be a good alternative; fashionable, with the fur to warm me against the wind, but lighter in both warmth and packing space.
I started with my wool gollar; I cut out the main piece and the collar and sewed them together with running stitches. A common thread for the period is uncoloured linen thread, so I used that and waxed it to make it more durable while sewing backstitches. After the pieces were joined together, I pressed down the seam and cut down the seam allowance on one side, and felled the seam allowance with whipstitching. This makes the seam more smooth and adds durability to the garment.
I tried to lay the gollar out flat, for you to get a good look. Note that it is not a full circle, you want it to lay flat against your back and shoulders in a tight fit. The fit on the gollar you’ll have to try out on yourself; so make one out of scrap fabric if this is your first one!
I measured the collar and the front where I wanted the fur to be, and cut out strips of fur to match them. I then sewed them into place with linen thread and a small, regular needle. A thinner needle makes it easier to sew in fur, and pinning the fur into place makes sure it doesn’t stretch or slides. If you find it hard to use pins, try with fabric clamps/sewing clamps instead.
At the corners, I just sew the fur to the fabric and leave the leftover fur for later. Note that I treat the fur like fabric; sewing the furry side to the right side of the fabric.
When the fur is sewn onto the fabric, I cut away the leftover and trim the edges down.
At the corners I trim away enough fur so when I fold the fur inside the garment it will not get bulky but fit together edge to edge.
At the bottom edge, I want the fur to follow the curved front of the gollar, so I mark this with a pen and then cut it away.
After trimming down the fur, I fold it to the inside of the gollar, and pin it in place. Make sure it lays flat when wearing the garment; fur can be tricky and does not adjust the way fabric does. When you are happy with the fit, sew the fur in place with whip stitches, or attach it to a lining. In the corners the two pieces of fur should barely meet, the hair will hide the seam, so just sew them together loosely.
I chose to have a lining inside my gollar in a thin woollen fabric, to add warmth and make it easier to sew the fur down with no visible stitching.(a fully lined gollar can be seen in art.) For the lining, I cut out another gollar, without a collar (because the fur strip will cover the inside of my collar) and without the parts that would be covered with fur. When fastening the lining in the gollar, pin it or baste in place and then sew it at the same time as you attach the fur on the inside. Start with the collar, and then the front opening going down.
Sewing in fur is time-consuming and quite tiring for the fingers. Nice company or a movie is good to have!
When the fur (and lining) is attached around the gollar I stitched the lower hem with whip stitches. To make the seam smooth, I cut away some excess lining fabric, as can be seen in the photo. So; adjust the lining, cut off excess seam allowance, pin and whip stitch.
To fasten the gollar you can use dress pins, small fabric strips, ribbons or lucet braided strings, hooks and eyes or do as I did; add a fancy clasp at the throat. At the end of the sewing, I didn’t really like that the fur was so visible at the bottom, so I trimmed it down quite hard. Another option would have been to let the fur finish on the inside of the gollar, so it was not so obvious that the gollar was not fur-lined all the way around. Cheating is hard sometimes…
The clasp is a late 15th century find from Sweden, with A standing for “amore”. It added nicely, but for a commoner, a hidden fastening would do better.
A note about fur; I recommend you put some thought and money into the purchase of fur. There are still many fur-fabrics and farms that treat animals like shit, where the animals suffer greatly to become your hobby-based garment. If you buy rabbit skin for 7-9 Euro/skin you probably support these farms, even if not buying directly from them. A better option would be to buy fur from local farms where you can visit the animals, and get to leave the skin at the tanner yourself. You can also find good choices on the internet, buy second-hand or choose fake-fur from the fabric store (not the most historically accurate, but I rather go modern than using unethical furs) I had the fortune of finding a lady breeding rabbits in her garden as a part-time income, and got to buy furs from her, tanned locally by a handcrafter. These were about 30E a piece, so really reasonable in price!
Volare Digital Capture
Some examples of gollars being worn by 16th century common people during dances. Some of them seem to have a fur line around the hem (as being fur-lined) while others could be unlined or lined with fabric.
More sleeves! If you have checked my “Pin on sleeves” tutorial, you will find some likeness with this garment, but I wanted to some nice tips when doing these ones. First some inspiration:
I started by drafting the sleeves from the pin-on pattern; the same as I used for my golden sleeves below (laying under them, you can see my original sleeve pattern for comparison)
First, I have tried out two kinds of sleeves that are tied at the arms; my wedding dress and lately, my 15th century Italian silk dress. The difference between these two sleeves is that my wedding dress is just opened at the seam in the arm and then closes with strings, while my green/black sleeves are cut out to make the chemise even more visible. Also, the green sleeves are tied at the shoulders and therefore loose; I can change them for others at any time. The wedding dress is sewn together, the sleeves sewn after the sleeve tutorial I have on my blog.
Here you can see the wedding dress, the sleeves are quite straight, and the chemise is puffing out between the laces. When making these sleeves, you just sew a regular S-sleeve but leave it open above the elbow. Hem the edges, and make lacing holes and sew on laces on the edges. These ends with a pearl decorated cuff, but a regular sleeve will do fine.
The green sleeves look like this when cut out:
I started with my basic loose sleeve pattern in scrap fabric, pinned it on my arm and tried out where the gaps with chemise sleeves visible should be, then I cut away the excess fabric, and here you can see the result. The sleeves are in pure silk fabric, and I wanted to make them reversible to be able to choose between green or black ones for my dress. So I cut out two identical pieces of fabric for each arm, here you can see the black sides. Remember to make them mirrored, one for each arm.
I then pinned the fabrics together and marked out where the ties were going to be. Here you can see both layers of fabric.
I decided to sew them on the sewing machine since they are going to be turned inside out afterwards, so the seams would not be visible. But if you like; just follow the steps but sew them with runningstitches or backstitches instead.
To make it easier; sew the ribbons at the same time as you sew the sleeves together. I cut out the silk ribbons (40-50 cm each) and then pinned them by the seam allowance around the sleeves, on the inside between the two fabrics.
And sew around the sleeves. Leave an opening for turning them; I left the wrist open. Here you can see the silk ribbons in the seam allowance, just make sure they don’t slip away or get under a seam when sewing.
All done! Trim the edges by cutting away tips and seam allowances at the corners, turn the sleeves inside out and iron them flat. Since I want them to be reversible, I will make sure the two layers of silk fabric lays smooth and even edge to edge around the garment so the black won’t be visible when turning the green out, and vice versa.
Now it is time for some hand sewing; start by making lacing holes for the ribbons. I make them with a sharp awl, and whipstitch them with buttonhole silk thread.
After that, fold the fabric edges at the wrist to the inside of the sleeves, and sew that side closed with small whipstitches by the edges. If you use fake silk ribbons, you may burn the edges carefully to make them melt and not thread. If using pure silk, you will have to sew the edges or finish them in some kind of way. I folded mine twice and sewed them down with whip stitches and a thin silk thread (for sewing machines). This part took the most time on the sleeves, with the making of the sleeves on around two hours and the ribbon hemming around 2,5 hours. I failed to photograph this part, apparently, there was some movie time on the sofa instead. But this is what it looks like when done:
The silk ribbon has two lengths and these are pulled through the hole and then knotted. Either a simple knotted loop like this or a regular bow can be seen on art. At the shoulders, the sleeves are attached to the dress by similar holes and ribbons, three on each shoulder.
And finally, some good advice when making silk sleeves:
Silk often needs to be lined to get that really good look, chose a thin fabric in silk, cotton or linen or a mix of these to get a historical lining which also works great.
Silk is not a stretchy material, so make your silk sleeves a bit larger than your woollen ones.
Try them on while working to be sure you get the look you want.
Straight sleeves lay more flatly on your arm (white dress), while cut out sleeves gives more volume, pick the model that fits your project.
Since I made my first houppelande (late medieval overdress) some years ago, I have been thinking about putting together a tutorial for you, to make it easier to understand the construction techniques behind the dress.
As it turned out, the houppelande dress is a bigger project than I thought at the beginning, so I’m doing the tutorials in different parts so it will be easier for you to find the model you are most interested in, and to get a nice overview of the whole dress style.
I start with my first woollen houppelande:
This was somewhat of an experiment trying out both pattern and what it would look like finished. I could not find my original sketch for the pattern layout, but it did look something like this:
Some notes; this type of pattern layout work well in a tabby weave since it doesn’t matter if you turn your front and back pieces, but you can also use an even sided twill like I did. If doing this type of pattern on a patterned fabric, you can have the pattern one way on the front pieces and the opposite on the back pieces, which work really well I think, if you want to save on the fabric.
The amount of fabric needed for this layout, in size small, is 150 cm * 280 cm (I used 3 meters of fabric, so I had a slightly larger hem.
F=front, B=back and FM= front middle gore. S1 and S2 are the sleeves. I always recommend drawing out your pattern before you do it on your fabric, it gives you the opportunity to see if all the pieces have room and if you can add some extra circumference to the skirt. I also use to draw out how the garment will look finished, to give you an extra idea of the result. The small cut out pattern piece I use to draw the pieces faster by drawing around it on the paper.
This is what it looked like once I had cut out all the pieces. After cutting, baste your pieces together to try them on, or sew them at once. I used running stitches and back stitches for parts where there was more stress on the seams (like around the body, the armholes, and the top of the front gore). I also pressed the seam allowances down and whip stitched them. You can of course sew your dress on a sewing machine if you would like, just be sure to pin or baste the skirt lengths first so they don’t stretch uneven.
Always pin or baste your pieces together when they lay flat on a surface. After this is done, you can have the garment in your knee, sitting comfy on the sofa and sewing without having the seams getting all uneven. I started with the front gore, then sew the front and back pieces together. The sleeves were made after the “fitted sleeve” tutorial.
The hem is folded twice and whip stitched down, and the sleeves and front opening is lined with soft, cut sheepskin in a matching colour.
The dress is sold since some time back, and I moved on to make another kind of pattern construction (as I usually do). I liked this one because of its simplicity, it was very comfortable and not bulky around the upper body. Another pro was that it didn’t take a lot of fabric to make it. I really liked the fluffy lining since it gave a lot of extra warmth.
The style is somewhat unusual in art but can be seen at the start of the houppelande period in some regions, though with a tighter upper body, the sleeves were full length and often somewhat tighter. For paintings and art inspiration, check out my Pinterest board about Houppelande dresses
What I didn’t like was that I dragged the hem of the dress after me everywhere, without getting the comfort of a warm and thick enough fabric to protect me from rain and chilly winds. So the next one became a bit sturdier in fabric, and with more fabric…
Åh, äntligen en ny tutorial! Efter att tredje vännen frågat hur jag gjort min nya hängselkjol (som inte är så ny längre, den är nästan två år) så fick jag äntligen energi till att göra den här beskrivningen. Konstruktionen är verkligen superenkel, bekväm och tygeffektiv. Perfekt till dig som vill spara tyg, sy för hand eller bara göra en lösare hängselkjol.
Beskrivningen bygger på att du har ett tyg som är ca 150 cm brett, och kjolen på bilden blir ca 130 cm lång. Anpassa måtten efter dina egna mått. Tygmängden som går åt beror på dina mått + hur lång kjol du vill ha. På bilden är 1 ruta = 10 cm, så det går alltså åt 2,2 m tyg till mina mått. Rita ut en egen skiss på rutat papper innan du börjar så kommer du förstå hur bitarna hänger ihop!
Den här beskrivningen utgår mest från den mönstertekniska hopsättningen- om du vill veta mer om sömmar och tekniker kan du kika på mina andra beskrivningar och sytips här på bloggen =)
Räkna först ut dina mått, och rita upp mönstret på rutat papper. Hängselkjolen består av ett helt framstycke, och ett tvådelat bakstycke som läggs ut lite omlott på dubbelvikt tyg. För att få lite extra vidd i kjolen så kan du skarva den enligt förslaget på bilden (bakstycket är alltså skarvat i nederkant med en liten kil).
Mått runt bysten/bredaste delen av bröstkorgen=måttet på kilens smalaste del: dela i två och fördela på bak och framstycke. Kom ihåg att lägga till sömsmån. På bilden är måttet ca 90 cm (40 cm på framstycket och 50 cm på bakstycket). Eftersom hängselkjolen inte börjar mitt på bysten, utan en bit ovanför, får du vidd nog till att röra dig och ta på/av kjolen enkelt.
Längd på kjolen; mät från armhålan och så långt ned du vill att kjolen ska gå. Lägg till sömsmån på ca 4 cm. På bilden är styckena 130 cm långa.
Kjolfållens vidd blir 2*tygets totala bredd så 2*150=300 cm.
När du har klippt ut dina bitar så kan du först skarva bakstycket mitt i, sedan sy på ev kilar i nederkanten. Tråckla ihop fram och bakstycket med varandra och prova; klipp ur lite för armhålan om du vill och markera var hängslen ska fästas.
Sy ihop sidorna, fäll sömmarna och fålla alla kanter. Avsluta med att sy på hängslen- klart!