Diary started December 2003 - Dress finished July 30, 2004
On this page:
The result - Go on to the picture page (warning, large images, may take a while to load) to see various pictures of the finished outfit.

The Extras - Go on to the page on making the extras.

The Concept

Running cost of project:

Forepart/sleeve curtains (45 kr + 25 kr) 70.00 kr
Buttons 60.00 kr
Fur 100.00 kr
Shell brocate 400.00 kr
Stiffening 30.00 kr
Skirt lining (cotton/linen) 120.00 kr
Lining (crappy cotton) 30.00 kr
Farthingale 150.00 kr
Cable ties for corset 80.00 kr
Corset fabric 30.00 kr
Silk lining for bodice (0.5 metre @ 220 kr) 110.00 kr
Twill tape for hem (3.5 metre @ 19 kr) 66.50 kr
Lampshade in lieu of buckram 30.00 kr
Wire "Najtråd" 25.00 kr
Bracelet, French Hood billiment 29.50 kr
Fake-pearls 19.00 kr
Girdle-belt 90.00 kr
Total: 1450 kr
Some handy links I've been frequenting:

Not having enough to do I started a late period gown, inspired by Tudor and Elizabethan portraits online as well as the Ladies in the Shire making their own dresses out of the most sumptuous brocades.

Crazy as it may seem, before I even finished the Cotehardie I started looking at images and images and more(!) images of late period gowns. Tudor and Elizabethan gorgeosities positively drooling from pages all over the internet. (Sorry is that a little over the top? I'll stop now, promise).

Actually what inspired the obsessive searching for images was the ladies at our local sewing saturdays. Very wickedly they are sewing Elizabethans, and we have set up a curriculum of activities to create a late period outfit. One of the ladies, currently the Nordmark Princess, nearly exclusively lives in that period, while one other is making her first. So, looking at the gorgeous fabrics they've been bringing and working with I got a little jealous. And finding the perfect fabric at the store it was just too gorgeous to pass up. It is just about four metres and I should be able to squeeze out the skirt and a bodice out of it. I will also do the short tight sleeves followed by voluminus fur and "fake" pull on sleeves inside in the same fabric as the forepart. I've found a fur coat - mink - to scavenge to make the outer foldback sleeves.

I have been searching the net for good links and images and I found a few places, for example: Specific inspiration images: Details from the inspiration that I want to incorporate or need to think about:

The Corset

Having no late period underpinnings at all I needed to start from the ground up - or from the skin out. And at the sewing meeting on November 29 I got my measurements and started making the corset using the Custom Corset Pattern Generator. For my own future references the measurements I used were: This produced a pattern, drawn on a large newspaper, which I transferred to an old white sheet gotten from "Ö&B". Quite firmly beaten fabric that's going to last. I stitched up the sides and bottom edges with simple running stitch on the machine, snipped the seam allowance, about a finger's width, then turned it inside out and pressed all seams. Filling all channels with cable-ties took about fifty of them. Using an ordinary old pair of scissors I snipped them into the exact lengths I need. The upper and lower edges I bound with self-cut strip of bias fabric. For this garment I used an awl to make the eyelet holes and it's amazing how much easier this is to do with the proper tools and equipment (compared to my cote-kirtle). Funny thing about the fitting - the back wouldn't close up when I had a friend lace it - then it was pointed out that I might want to hoist my bosom up a bit. Doing that enabled the corset to close fully and produced quite a lovely twin cushion effect front and center.


Back view of the Farthingale not quite finished For the very important farthingale I am using Margo's Farthingale pattern, size 16-18. The fabric I'm using for it is a simple blue cotton. Cheap, and I had enough of it at home - well nearly.
The pattern pieces are very simple really, two rectangles and four triangular gores. The waistline is curved down in front and back to achieve the right fit - the pattern is based on the Alcega farthingale. It was relatively simple to put together, I did flat fell the seams if only to save myself the job of binding the edges, and added the channels using a simple white cotten woven tape that I bought 15 metres of. The boning in the farthingale is curtain wire which I also got 15 metres of. Measuring on the flat pattern-pieces, I calculated it to go to just over 12 metres, but a little bit of extra will never hurt.
The thing is finished apart from the lowest channel and stiffening, and here is a front view and a back view of the all but finished farthingale. I've sewn a channel at the waist to run tie it on, for now just using a very cheap "satin" ribbon.

The Smock

The seamstress in her underpinnings All of this also made me want the skin-layer. A simple smock. So in one day I cut out and sewed up a simple smock from a white linen fabric. The length of it is mid-thigh, but anyone who is looking underneath my farthingale isn't going to be worrying about that (I hope). The picture to the left shows the finished results of me in the underpinnings: Smock, corset and farthingale. (Although the corset in this picture is the first one I made, the one whose eyelets kept ripping, making me go out and get better fabric and doing it over again.) The smock has since become a blackworked one, with the thistle vine running up the front and side edges. It looks like a complicated pattern, but it really is quite simple and very pretty. The perfect finish for the neckline of a Tudor gown, I can probably reuse it for other outfits. The pattern is taken directly from "German Renaissance patterns for embroidery: A facsimile copy of Nicolas Bassée's New Modelbuch of 1568" Printed by Curious Works Press (ISBN: 0-9633331-4-3)

The Dress

The interlining/pattern The inside of the bodice, stitched down
The inside of the bodice, mounting
The dress is now officially started. A first pattern draft was made for a bodice on our local shire sewing-circle-saturday. This produced a toile which was used to cut out the stiffening (pictured left) for the bodice. I'll be waiting for the next meeting to bring all my fashion fabric to cut out under the supervision of more experienced seamstresses. To the right is a picture of the inside of the bodice, sewn up one side of the slanted back seam and the fashion fabric folded and pinned over the interlining. Plus a closeup of it stitched down. This will be covered later by the lining.

The skirt is also cut out, simply two panels of the full width of the fabric (150 cm) to a height of approximately 125 cm (which with seam allowance and generous hem makes it the right length over the farthingale. This will be lined in a cotton/linen blend to give it a little more body without weighing it down too much.

Bodice front Bodice back The bodice now has sleeves. They are attached, and just needs the lining to be finished, at least for the tight upper section. On this fur sleeves are to come - eventually. On this fitting session, the pictures left and right, I noticed that the bodice is a little too low over my hips, so it needs to be re-cut in that seam, making the curve a bit more pronounced just across the hips. Then I can attach the lining on the bodice and sleeves and call it done! After I have made sure the neckline is neat, measured, adjusted and attached the skirt that is.

Buttons Cuff blackwork The undersleeves were finished with buttons that are extremely cute. I also cut out the linen under-under sleeve that will be poofing out of this sleeve. It's going to be luscious, oh yes it will. The false chemise sleeves are basically done now too and I have started on the blackwork that will ring the cuff, counted work I take two threads per stitch in what is really a fairly simple pattern taken from Nicolas Basée's New Modelbuch, like the smock pattern.

Skirt test-mounted At sewing circle saturday I did the work cartridge pleating and attaching the skirt to the bodice, the image at left shows how the dress looked with the forepart skirt and the overdress skirt mounted the wrong way up on the bodice. One of the ladies pointed out that the pattern was upside down which nixed the plans of doing the waist-fitting before mounting and contouring the upper edge. Instead, the whole thing was turned around, I folded down 5 centimetres of the sewn together hem, now waistline, and ran thread to cartridge pleat the skirt. This was a fairly painless procedure, though the same can not be said for actually sewing the skirt to the bodice which left my fingers sore and a groove indented into my pinkie where I had clasped the silk buttonhole floss to pull it tight. This is not a job that the sewing machine can make easier for you - it is a patently hand-sewing job and I did it. Including leaving one pleat between the side back lacing where I cut a slit to enable me to get in and out of the thing. I also discovered, upon taking the dress home and finishing the slit, that I can indeed get out of the dress by using the skirt as leverage just as I suspected.

Pattern for turnbacksDry assembly of sleeves Getting the nerve I finally decided to make a mockup turnback out of the same fabric as my corset is made out of. I got much too much of it and it is sturdy, so a quick think and a couple of measurements and I drew a rough design out on the scrap I had at hand. The rough estimate turned out to be fairly good, I adjusted to create a smoother curve and the pattern to the left is the result. The top bit is made from the fashion fabric, same as the dress, lined with the blue cotton/linen mix I used to line the skirt. I had gotten overmuch of that for just this purpose. The larger piece is then going to be the fur, backed with more of the lining material. Blue to melt in, and not the fashion fabric because I did not have enough. To the right is a fair estimate of how the sleeve will look once finished and mounted. The chemise sleeves have blackworked cuffs, which need to be gathered or pleated to a band. Over that is the undersleeves in the same orangey-red curtain as I've used for the forepart. Over this is the fur-lined turnback which is attached to the upper third of the sleeve which might be visible and unto which the turnback will be fastened with (probably) safety pins.

Skirt attached, hemming in place Wearing the whole thing again for sewing circle I needed help with the hemming. There was not much for me to do but stand there looking pretty. The image also shows the strip of blackwork embroidery that I did - it's a thistle vine - put where it will show after I have mounted it to the smock. The chemise can also be finished now - I know how to make the pretty edge with holes in it (whatever it is called) and I can just repeat the same thistle vine up the sides of the neckline and call it finished. It was left unfinished for months, just waiting for the rest of the dress to get wearable so I could judge what to do with the neckline.

Also, the lining - I ripped out the naff cotton/whatever pale green/blue/gray fabric I had there. It had three things wrong going against it:

The new silk lining These three very strong reasons compelled me to go out and get something shiny, something slippery, something thin that would not boil me alive inside the dress. Something a little more period. There is one such material to be found. Silk. Real silk. So I went to Olsons and got half a metre of the most gorgeous deep blue silk, ripped out the existing lining, trimmed off excess fabric, ironed it out and laid the pieces out on the silk. Perfect fit with no waste is what I like. The whole thing is quite a treat to work with and looks absolutely smashing if I do say so myself.

The ribbon pinned to the hem The ribbon reinforcing the hem July 4 - It has taken me a while to get my thumb out and finish the bits on the dress that do not rely on other pieces, but finally on a sunday evening I got inspired to finish some hems. I did the underskirt/forepart, reinforcing the forepart fabric at the hem with some ribbon I had left over from making the channels in the farthingale, as well as adding iron on hem webbing thingy at the front. (It came with my curtains but was never used - I have to use it at some point, right?) That done I turned to the gown itself and first pinned three metres of WIDE blue ribbon I had bought for reinforcement along the hem, then I hemstitched it on quite carefully by hand, at the very bottom doing just one pass to fasten the folded in seam allowances of shell and lining fabric together with the ribbon. At the top I made sure to only catch the lining and not the shell. For the most part I succeeded and the ribbon lies straight, reinforcing the hem nicely.

Coming with this update is a gratuitous shot of the dress hanging on the wall next to my desk, half obscuring a framed piece of cross-stiching I made.

The sleeves 11 July - At another extra sewing circle sunday at another shire member's place, I finished things for other projects, and also got a fairly good picture of the sleeve arrangement that is to go on this gown. First of all I had a picture of the finished sleeve flat on the bed, but this gives no real idea of how it will look, so I managed to get the lovely image of the sleeves all worn on my right arm. Stuffing in the chemise sleeve inside the fore-sleeve I had to fluff that out first of all, then inside the fur turn-back I had to grab the foresleeve to make it stay in approximately the right position on the arm.

This test shows that I really must do something about the fore-sleeves. They are too long to fit without wrinkling and I might need to move the buttons closer together, finishing the back edge at a slant I also need to figure out some way to join it to the fur-lined turn-back. I also need to somehow attach the chemise poofs inside the fore sleeve.

The Finished Dress

Front view of me in the dress
Another closer look
Full Frontal Frock
18 Aug - The dress itself had been finished for months. One of the fur-lined sleeves was all done except for putting together of all the layers and I had one day left in which to finish the other details to be able to bring this gown to Visby Medieval Week. It was perhaps not top prio, but I had packed and was ready to go except I still had hours before I had to be anywhere, so I decided to give it a go. Now pretty much this entire gown is hand-sewn. The parts I did on the machine was the skirt - I ran the panels through the machine to attach them to each other and their lining. The bodice is fully hand-stitched, the fashion fabric to the interlining, the pieces to each other and the lining to the inside. She cap-sleeves are hand-stitched in the same fashion.

The last of the fur-lined turn-back sleeves I did by machine. I could not really stomach doing it by hand again, I think that is what kept the task being done for so long - and amazingly the crappy sewing machine that I have on loan did rather well at sewing through mink and linen/cotton. This meant that the sleeve was fairly simple to put together and all I had to do was attach it all, somehow, to the sleevecaps on the dress itself. Before that though, I assembled the layers.

First the false chemise inside the fore-sleeves. These are not stuck together in any permanent way - I used a single pin at the wrist to know how much to pull the chemise back inside the fore-sleeve. What I did then was roughly pleat and hemstitch the chemise to the very top of the turn-backs. I chose to do it this way since the false chemise sleeves are very long and I figured this might take up some of the extra length. This done I then attached the fore-sleeves where the fur-lining starts inside the turn-backs with three or four whipstitches in one single spot at the top. I interpret the images in this way, leaving the lower part free as in the famous red dress of Jane Seymour. I then turned the cap sleeves on the bodice inside out and whipstitched the triple-layered sleeve in place. Amazingly the circles I had to fit together were quite well matched and I did not have to ease the two edges very much at all. I chose to attach the over-sleeves at a slight angle so that their central upper line is offset in toward the body somewhat when I have my arms folded in front. I did this in the hopes that it would help with the draping of the fairly heavy sleeves.

That left me with one finished dress. I still had no accessories to speak of, but at Visby I found a pretty little girdle belt which I used at court, and to cover my hair I used my little white linen cap. It looks wrong, very wrong, but it would have been even more wrong to go bareheaded, so I chose to wear it. In the pictures you can practically see how pleased I am. It was all VERY comfortable actually, the skirt provided a nice area of shade and cool for my legs, the corset was comfortable, nothing cut in anywhere. I felt like a princess which makes this project a success in my book.

If I want to be critical, and I do because that is how I learn, I will say that the bodice did not lie smoothly on me. I have no idea why, possibly it is too long in the waist, possibly I needed to pull it up further. This dress really needs the French hood, and I also want something to extend the girdle belt I found so that it is not that pathetically short link of perfect circles that stretches not even a hand-span. Also the chemise stuck out too much in the back, but I got dressed in a pavilion in very short time without mirrors, I think I can forgive that error. I also did not see very much cleavage, I did not have to do the Elizabethan-lift when I put the corset on which I think might be because I had just spent a week living in a tent, probably dropping a few pounds and centimetres off my body so that the corset was larger than usual on me.

The Headgear

What I imagined I would wear to this dress was of course the French Hood as detailed above, but I am thinking about it still. I may go with the lovely caul idea, or a flat cap and coif, or a hairnet. The Sewing Circle hostess lady loves doing hairnets, I may persuade her to make me one. In any case, I've been starting to collect links and information about the making of these.
Links pertaining to French Hoods etc:

The Accessories

Ah yes, the frou frou, the crust, the frosting! I am envisioning pearls. One fairly tight choker and another longer chain that may be left to dip in two gentle curves before the middle is tucked right in the middle of my décolletage. I scrapped the idea of earrings, since ears are not seen in this period. Of course not forgetting the sash or girdle-belt... I have really no idea about how to make this though. Nor do I have design ideas as yet. I am sure it will come to me when I need it, but I did purchase a sash that is orange/red/bronze in colour that I can use in the mean time. In any case, I moved these thoughts plus the headgear with construction to their own page.

Picture gallery

Additional images not linked to directly in this Dress Diary can be found on the Gallery page.

Valid HTML 4.01!