Diary Started 16 September, 2007 - Outfit finished 20 January 2008
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Research and background

Running costs

Charcoal wool, ex-skirt 80 kr
Linen lining (80 cm @ 59 kr) 47 kr
Silk sewing thread (~10 rolls for 10 kr) ~1kr
Hooks and eyes 10 kr
Blue wool twill 120 kr
Lilac linen lining ~50 kr
Linen lining for sleeves 30 kr

Total: 338 kr
16 September, 2007: Outfit started - This outfit started as a mere idea over two years ago. It did not move from theory into practice until this past week, when I finally put scissors to fabric and cut out the bodice.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. The idea for this outfit was to try slashing on wool, and to try the crafty curved shoulder strap cutting technique which I had seen used on a splendid English gown of about 1569, made by Bess of M'Lady's Wardrobe.

Now, I did get a little ahead of myself, as I had the bodice to a wearable state until I decided finally on the entire outfit. However, this is a dress diary started in medias res and I will now show you the general idea of the outfit.

Washer Woman from Splendor Solis aka My inspirationI was leafing through The Tudor Tailor by Malcolm-Davies and Mikhaila, looking for general inspiration when I found, on page 47, the very thing I was after. It is an enlargement of folio 31 of a manuscript called Splendor Solis. It's a German manuscript dealing with alchemy, produced between 1532 and 1535 (hence the very specific time-frame above). This shows women at laundry, and in the centre foreground there is one woman in particular wearing a black (square-necked) bodice and a blue skirt. The bodice as mentioned, was already cut at this stage and I was wondering what I could use for a skirt to go with it. I saw this image and I recalled the blue twill wool recently added to my stash. So, there it was, an outfit entire.

To make the outfit complete, I will add a pair of sleeves, slashed to coordinate with the bodice, and possibly an apron as well.

The Bodice Begun

Front Bodice chalked 11 September, 2007: Bodice ripper - I actually started construction of the bodice on this date, and I started by pulling out the pattern I had taken from my first corset, and the charcoal wool that was the ex-skirt. On the skirt I could still see the chalk outlines of the curved front shoulderstraps (fig. 1), so much of my work was already done for me.

Slashing templateBodice and InterliningAfter cutting out the bodice in the wool I used the pieces as template for the white linen lining. Then I took the paper pattern and cut an interlining layer of the same white linen and assembled the shell onto the interlining (fig. 3). Getting ahead of myself again, before herringbone stitching the shell to the interlining I slashed the wool bodice all over in a pattern I drew up on paper (fig. 2).

Slashed bodice, sideAfter folding in the seam allowances of the wool over the linen interlining I put the pieces of my bodice right sides together and whipstitched the bodice together. This is a period assembly method and creates quite a strong seam. After pressing both seams flat I stitched temporary lacing strips to the front and tried it on. Once it is on the body and put under a little stress you can really see the slashing all over. (Figs. 4, 5 & 6) I felt quite pleased at this stage, although I look a little too much like the German Landsknecht ladies that roam all over Nordmark. However, with the addition of the skirt and a corset underneath, that too shall pass.

The Skirt

Letting it hang16 September, 2007: Skirting the Issue - Having decided on the illustration in Splendor Solis I knew which cut of wool to use for my skirt and it was blue. Deciding to forego complicated trapezoids and triangles I will make a straight tube skirt, 45 inches long, using the full two metres of fabric, cartridge pleated to fit the waistline of the bodice. The wool is quite gorgeous, but needs a little help in the body department so I found a nice light lilac linen in my stash which would suit. However, some adaptations were in order.

Constructing the skirt first in linen I used that as an interfacing layer, cutting it to the finished dimensions. Since the linen was not quite two metres wide, I cut it down to 45 inches long and used the strip thus created to stretch the 1.65 metres into nearly two. Then I herringbone stitched the linen to the wool approximately 3 3/4 inches down from one selvedge. This overlap of the wool I folded double and then down over the linen to form a wide top edge which will pad my cartridge pleats nicely. Currently the skirt, with waist finished and awaiting pleating, is hanging from a pair of clamps (fig. 7) to let the fabric settle down and stretch if it wants to. Current total time spent on the skirt: 3 hours and 46 minutes.


8 October, 2007: To finish the outfit - Sleeves and attachment of skirt were the two items on the list in order to have a finished outfit.

Sleeve mock-upSleeve patternTo start with, the sleeves needed to be patterned, and I fancied being quite period, and also kill two birds with one stone so I made up a pattern from the extant Laton jacket from the V&A. The jacket is detailed in Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold, so what I did was create an inch grid paper and simply enlarged the pattern on page 121 onto that and made a mock-up sleeve. Thankfully I added plenty of seam allowance at the cuff, otherwise the sleeve would have been too short on my long arms. So the only alterations to the period pattern I did was to add two inches to the bottom of the sleeves, and add a little bit of extra ease in the upper arm, simply drawing out a 2 cm seam allowance while only using 1 cm at construction.

With the sleeves cut out they needed to be slashed to match the bodice. I used the same method with a paper template pinned over my fabric, this time slicing through it all with a scalpel rather than a knife. For the sleeves I decided to skip interlining and just go with a white linen flatlining. The sleeve heads I bound off with strips of on-grain black silk taffeta that I had in my stash. To attach the sleeves to the bodice I added two rings to lace the sleeves to the top of the shoulder strap. It did not work ideally and I will be working a row of eyelets in the sleeves, and add a strip of corresponding eyelets inside the armscye of the bodice for future wear.

Skirt attachedThe skirt then needed to be permanently attached to finish off the dress. First I put the skirt inside out and whip stitched up the front seam to a reasonable distance down from the top edge and pressed that seam out as much as I could. I had decided to decorate the skirt with strips of black velvet, and I attached one such strip at the line where the stitching of the turn-up showed through to the outside. This covered up that seam and added a nice decorative touch. I did not have time to add a second welt at the hem, but I will do that, and turn up the hem about two centimetres at the same time before I wear it again. To attach the skirt to the bodice I folded down an inch and a half at centre front, tapered off to no turn-down over about 2-3 inches. Then I pinned the skirt to the bodice with the divide and conquer method of achieving cartridge pleats evenly distributed all around the waistline and whip stitched the two together. To close up the bodice in front I added a line of hooks and eyes, which makes this kirtle extremely easy to get into and out of.

In order to cover up the fact that there is a seam right in front of the skirt I also threw together an apron by cutting out a rectangle of linen (70 x 100 cm) and hemming it on three sides. The waistline I pleated down to 32 cm and bound off with a strip of linen which continued on to form the ties. Unfortunately finished pictures will have to wait, as I did not have the wherewithal to have any taken at this outfit's premiere event (Nordmark's Civil War, AS 42).


Finished Kirtle20 January, 2008: In the end - Over christmas I attached the second welt of black velvet around the hem of the skirt. I did this by turning up about 1-2 cm of the hem outwards, and to cover the edge I stitched the strip of velvet offset about 1 cm up from the lower edge. Finally, the shoulder straps needed shortening, which I did at a shire micro event where I also had pictures taken, so check out the Picture Page.

Photo Gallery

For images I may not have linked in the diary, close-ups and overviews et cetera please have a look at the photo gallery.

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