Diary started June 15th 2004. Dress finished June 25th 2004
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The Concept

The conceptGetting a little fed up with the Tudor dress that will never end, the results of therapeutic shopping saw me home with a length of fabric suitable for Bliaut making and my brain started working on the design and then the cutting layout.

I came home with a bit of quite sheer, flowy fabric that I thought I might make my first all self-made bliaut out of. The fabric is a brown colour, and I have enough of it to cover me, but it came in two cuts since I got it in the remnants bin. One cut is 170 cm and the other is 310 cm. This means that my first sketch for a layout with the front and back pieces cut in one long swathe was impossible.

Looking at period illuminations, books, statues and other people's pages about their early period clothes got me re-inspired to make one properly. I have the fabulous red dress that is made to look like a bliaut, but the fabric is quite horrenduous and very warm to wear. Plus it is quite heavy, and it sheds its screaming red colour to whatever I have on underneath. The white chemise is now ever so slightly pinkish in hue. The fabricsI am quite tall, 180 cm, so I need a lot of fabric to go from the ground up and then down again. Especially with the lengthened cors that a bliaut needs there is no way I can do that with less than 4 metres in one length. In any case, the fabric can be seen here to the right ontop of the pale pale yellow linen I also got at the same time. I thought the two might go together, but I'm not sure now I want to use the linen for a chainse that might never be seen much. I do have a white linen underdress which was made with the long rucked sleeves that is typical for the bliaut period so I can use that for this brown bliaut as well if needed.

Anyway, the biggest inspirations that I used as far as construction and practical matters were:
As for artwork that inspired me, I'm starting a list here.

The Bliaut is a rather controversial issue. The style of fairly fitted bodice and long trailing sleeves was only popular from say the mid 11th century to 1180 or so. There are no extant garments left from this time, that I know of, so what we have is really later clothes, the thought that probably a rectangular construction method was used, and the images in illuminations and statues from this time to look at. Admittedly the depictions of dress from this period in time does not, like in the 16th century, focus on details of seams and decoration so much of it is difficult to find and difficult to analyse. At about 1180-1190 the dress fashion changed to a transitional style with loose dresses while still retaining the maunch sleeves, as can be seen in the seal of Isabella of Gloucester according to the catalog (English Romanesque Art 1066-1200, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984).

The Layout

The cutting diagramAnyway, for the cutting of it, I did a layout on paper that seems to save me some space. The concept is to make this a gored dress with a slit V neckline, possibly make it somewhat keyhole-ish. The cutting diagram takes into account the extra fabric using it to self-line the torso part of the dress. I thought to do this so I won't have to worry about finishing the neckline with something else.

I need to go looking for trim of some kind for this one, but I'm not entirely hopeful I will find anything. First of all, I am not extremely well versed in what might work and secondly I am not sure where to go looking to find the right kind of trim that will look good.

As I said, this is an experimental run - at the therapeutic shopping trip I had in my hands some very very lovely wool fabrics which were all much too expensive for me, so if I am going to justify getting some five metres of that to make a dress I need to know that my pattern works first. Hence the remnant bin shopping.

Veil ideas for this period


Second tablet weaving attemptTrim ideas: Geometric, couching, outline stitch. Small images, lions and trees inside circles.
Placement: Around neckline, ?bicep?, cuff, and hemline.
Of course now if I use the tablet weaving that I just completed that problem goes away. Although the problem remains that I don't have enough to do more than the neckline opening. Trying to rectify this problem I started a second tablet weaving trim. It is cheap cotton and bits of it look really awful, but I should be able to get the neckline faced with this one! Whoo! I also learned quite a bit about tablet weaving during the process. Plus found loads of links. (Check the crafts for that write-up.)

The Finished, Unhappy and Ugly Result

The Ugly BliautThe Ugly Bliaut Where did I go wrong? I deviated from the plan. The sketch shows gussets at join between sleeve and pendant, I cut that out. Neither the sketch nor the layout shows the side-panels I added with laces sewn down at inverval to run more laces through. This is fine though, I could just as well have sewn the laces directly to the dress, but I couldn't have laced it fully closed in that case, so I added the width with panels, like on my red dress. I tapered the sleeves at random, making them ugly. I also ran out of the damned thread, so I had to do quite a few seams with yellow under-thread, and one and a half full seams with yellow both upper and under thread. The slit is also not long enough. It should have been down another five, seven centimetres.

In the picture I took here I had not yet stitched down the trim at the neckline, and the threads trailing down the back are the un-cut ends of this trim. I simply cut these off and folded the ends in and hemstitched it on. It looks alright. The other trim I am planning on using as a belt, although I still need to get belt-mounts for it, and shorten the bit where I was just starting and got the pattern all wonky.

The belt is much too good for this dress and has been used for other dresses after this bliaut experiment failed and I cut it in half, saving the skirt and lace to be used elsewhere. I also picked off the neck-trim to save for something else.

The Problems in Detail

Well, here we are, some time later and I have put together the bliaut out of the cut pieces I had. I have to admit to being pleased with some bits. Butting in a gore in the front and back slits of the dress for example: very good results, I had hardly any puckering or awkward pulling. The look of the pendant sleeve: also rather good, though it could stand to be longer. More on this picture later. The rucking across the abdomen area as a result of the side lacing, very nice. Trying to keep the pendants away from my hands I did a flicking of the wrist and the sleeves flicked back quite attractively. As for the rest, well, let us start a list.
  1. The bust area - Notice how there is a crease just above my breasts? Well, that is due to the tightness of the torso portion of the dress. It fits very nicely beneath them, making the nice rucking, but is too tight in the area above this. I had to undo a bit of the sleeve-to-underarm seam and insert the top point of the side-panel into this area to make it look this way even, and it is still not good. It just is not attractive.
  2. The top of the sidepanels (second pic) looks like I don't know what. The point inserted there makes the fabric stand out so it looks like I have some sort of flanges underneath my arms if I leave them hanging along my sides. It is just not attractive.
  3. Now the sleeve, the pendant is fine, but let us look up toward the body where I tapered the sleeve off. This turned out to be a bad idea, first of all it looks like my arms are burdened with enormous folds of flab hanging down from the upper arms. Secondly, the opening between straight sleeve to pendant is so tight that I must squish my hands ever so slightly to get them through. With the chainse worn underneath this I must make sure to pull through as much of the narrow sleeve as I want to be seen manually. Also notice the fold of the pendant just at the join with the narrow sleeve? That is from the flat felling, I do not know how to avoid it. It is just not attractive.
  4. The gores, now I did my best with these, but the first ones, the half-triangles that go on the side seams I did up the wrong way around, with the felled seam on the inside rather than out. That can be seen in the picture with the sidelacing. This is an excuseable mistake most of the time, but it is there and it annoys me. If I had thought and did it up the right way it would have been much more attractive. Also, on one side the curving in of the torso does not match up on the front and back pieces. Sewing on the side panels with the laces left the two sides unequal by about 5 centimetres. Just not good.
  5. The slit V neckline: it is too short. I looked at my red dress and added some amount to that slit, which I knew to be too short, but obviously not enough. It needs to be longer.
These problems were really not obvious until I had sewn together the side-panels to the gown, which are the last things to go on. It just made me sigh and I had to make myself finish the dress by hemming it. It is done now, but I have not stitched the trim in place if I am going to be using my tablet woven band.

To sum my experience here up I can say that the dress did not work as I made it, but next time I have this experience to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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