HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Slashing and cutting fabric- a tutorial

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…

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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The finished dress, a hot day in Visby a couple of years ago