A Dress … finally


I had a block for my torso, but because I have been thinking about the evolution of fashion and because this is a early 16th century dress I had a friend fit me.

When I got it home and tried to cut it up, as I was warned it was not symmetrical, so I evened it out… basically eyeballed it. In the end I had two layers of linen and lined the neckline and the arm holes with the bias tape. Lucky I had just enough. It came together rather quickly. So quickly that I go excited that it would be done soon … boy was I wrong.

The Skirt

I had read allot about skirt construction, and there were a few things that I wanted to try, mostly to see if they made any difference at all.

  1. The waist of the skirt should have a few layers of fabric so that the pleats are stiffer holding their shape better.
  2. Cartridge pleating should be used to attach it to the bodice so that it doesn’t add the bulk of the pleats to your waist line.
  3. The hem at the bottom should be lined so that when you are walking your foot will kick the hem away… and be less likely to find it way under your feet.

069First thing was to cut the fabric, in all the reading I didn’t really find any patterns per-say. Frantically, I found an explanation to take you hip measurement and double it. While adding extra inches at the bottom to make the panels of the skirt look like a key stone. Period pieces would have used a rectangle and added a gore to the sides … so I took a short cut here. I doubled my hip measurement for this skirt, but I could have easily tripled it. Next time I think I will… but for a linen dress it’s fine.

To stiffen the pleats I had already bought organza because, when I started researching I was reading from modern tailors… apparently they swear by silk organza… and after using it I can see why.  I finished all of the seams by hand, which took longer that I would like, because I used french seams. My rationale was that it would be thinner than felled seams, not sure if that would make a difference. The cartridge pleating wasn’t that hard, I actually think its easier than setting them with pins.

084The good news is that all this work made a HUGE difference it really flares at the waist. The hem was last… and frankly I was slightly discouraged by this point. This had taken me over a weeks worth of work and I was hoping to be near the end.

For the hem again I cheated.. instead of investing in felt to stiffen the hem I used a nylon woven band, neon orange, at that. It was there I’m not made of money. My sewing buddy gave me half a yard of dark olive linen which was perfect because I needed some incentive to finish the thing.  I would like to say that I cut a curved guard and fitted on there. But that didn’t happen I made a strip with my two colours and sewed it on.

Overall I am happy with the skirt, there are definitely things that I would have done differently but of the three things that I wanted to try I am happy to say they all made a difference to how the skirt sits, and moves.

.. but I’m taking a break before I do the sleeves…


Cap “without a hat … it just looks like your wearing a long dress”

Domenico Ghirlandaio: Portrait of a Lady, 1480

Woman’s cap – from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wanted to make a cap. The idea being here, to replicate as close to possible portraits of the time … I had a great tutorial from Katafalk for the structure to work from … But I really wanted an embroidered cap.

In the portraits you can see that there is embroidery, but its hard to see the pattern. So I struggled finding a motif.  until I found an beautiful embroidered cap on The Met’s web site.

What figured prominently on the cap was the couching with the metallic thread, and what set me free was that I could see in the extant example that it wasn’t perfect.

The process it’s self, is like wrapping a ribbon around an abnormally shaped Christmas present … and if its not perfect… well that’s OK.

I also added some bone beads around the front to try and recreate the look from my inspiration for this piece – Domenico Ghirlandaio: Portrait of a Lady, 1480.

100092096The only problem at this point is that its a little too fancy to wear with a linen dress…