This post will be updated throughout the creative process, with notes and photographs.

I. I started by using a self measured pattern for a cote hardie out of Holkeboer’s Patterns for Theatrical Costumes, (I have an older edition, which is falling apart).


This is a great pattern for someone just starting out sewing and is fine if you don’t mind wearing a bra underneath your gowns. It can pull in unflattering ways, but is generally a nice enough gown once it’s all put together.

Picture 018e

II. Then modified it to become self supporting using the instructions from an online tutorial.


My main issue with this method is that it requires a second set of skilled hands. Otherwise it’s difficult to get the shape to fit properly and this can happen:


Especially useful is an extra set of hands belong to someone who understands the pattern method and the aesthetics of the period. I am fortunate enough to share a house with my sister who is a talented fiber artist, and with a few extra perusals of the tutorial we figure out how to shape the pattern.


Secondary issue was a self created one. I recommend a lot more care than I used when trying on a fully stitched up muslin in the adjustment of one’s ‘girls’. Let’s just say that I have a pretty good idea of what a mammogram is going to feel like.

III. I had a lot of fun measuring out the chemise fabric for cutting. It was 119 inches Wide.

Width. Fold and Measure Pieces

I’ll tell you what, it’s a pain in the rear to iron that much fabric, as well as lay it out for cutting.


It has really turned out nicely. So far. I haven’t finished the seams, the edges, or added the sleeves. But it is fairly supportive. I’ve even learned how to breathe (and adjust) my way into it!


IV. I still haven’t worked out the sleeve pattern. The specifics of the shoulder shape are frustrating me. It has been a few years since I made one of these, so my memory for the method I worked out has faded considerably. I have, however, put together the bodies of both the chemise, and the cote, both using the same pattern. The chemise is made of a moderate-light cotton. The cote a linen-rayon blend.


The cote itself is turning out absolutely gorgeous. I had no idea rayon was such a nice addition to a natural fiber fabric:


V. I plan to add detail, of one sort or another, in this deep mossy green linen:


New Work ~ 25 April 2011

A. Progress has been made. I have yet to fit the sleeves, but I made two choices that are going to make this project so much easier to complete in the short remaining time before its debut at the event this coming Saturday and won’t make a huge difference to the overall aesthetic of the style.

1. The chemise (underdress) is going to be sleeveless. This takes away the worry about overheating in the California weather with the planned long sleeves on the purple gown. It won’t be as good for sweat protection, as the undersleeves would help absorb moisture. But it saves time and I think will be a little better for my overall health. Also, this saves a bit of time.

2. The cote is no longer going to be laced up the front. I stitched the front seam closed, as I knew I’d still manage to get it over my bust, just as I did the chemise, with a little breath work.

The overall look is going to be just as beautiful, and I think a little more so, as the eye won’t have the distraction from the smooth lines by the lacing.

B. I stitched up the back seam.


C. When stitching the front seam I made a little mistake in the curve and ended up with a very odd pucker just at the top of the breast. The seam allowance was much greater than needed (I always give myself extra out of fear of cutting things too small), so I need to tighten it in a good bit anyway. Currently it is not very supportive.

009 008

Without chemise:

With chemise:

D. After I finish the seams on the chemise and the cote, I’ll work on the purple sleeves and the veil. So far I think it’s looking pretty lovely.


Update: 28 April 2011

Stuck on the Sleeves:

Plan 1.
a. Long sleeves for chemise
b. Short sleeve with attached tippet for cote (according to Holkeboer)

Plan 2.
a. Leave off chemise sleeves for heat stroke prevention.
b. Long sleeves for cote for elegance.
c. Long tippets in green linen.

Plan 3.
a. Long sleeves for cote
b. With Green Tippets.
c. Long sleeves for chemise for proper look.

Plan 4.
a. Long chemise sleeve for sweat absorption and proper look.
b. Short sleeve with attached tippet (per Holkeboer).
c. Line tippet and sleeve in green linen.

Decisions Decisions!!

007 040 073

Decision! Going with choice #4 ~ Lined Tippet Sleeves:


As you can see, I offset the pattern a bit so the seam matches with the side seam of the bodice, and the tippet will lay towards the back of my arm. Would have made the modification farther towards the back position, but did not allow for that shape with the amount of fabric left for sleeves.

Update 4-28-11 midafternoon

Sleeves are done! and gorgeous. Purple fully lined in green.

The pattern from Holkeboer needed modification, as stated above, for where I place the seam on my sleeves (I match the sleeve seam to the side seam of the main part of the garment), and how the shape of the tippet fell when worn. It still needs a bit of adjustment next time I make this style.


I want the tippet to hand behind my arm, basically centered at the elbow. Instead it draped farther along the side of my arm.
(In anatomical terms, it still hit the full back of my arm, but I am speaking more from the perspective of one standing with the arms relaxed at the sides).

This is a lovely view of the green folded out.
Sleeves - inner
You can see how much farther across my forearm the tippet extends than is preferable.

The steps that followed ~ seams pinched in and zigzagged, hems and necklines rolled, waistband made.

May 6th, 2011

The dress has been completed and worn to its first event!

I need to make one change, in that the front seam ended up a bit curved so it puffs out oddly. I’ll use a straight edge to mark the correct path of seam, pin or chalk it, and straight stitch it, then trim and zigzag.

I pulled the side seams in and was instantly supplied with much better bust support. No need to fuss with the front or back. It was really a matter of too much material around my midsection.

As for how I finished the gown for last Saturday’s event:

I was unable to re-acquire my period leather belt in time, so I was a bit stuck on how to complete the ensemble in a satisfactorily Medieval fashion. And then I came across this image from a Baronial Investiture in Atlantia:

ToC (197)

The couple shown here are Baroness Elizabeth and Baron Talun, who always tend towards precision in their historical accuracy.

I do not know how these particular ensembles measure against history. I know there was a bit of a rush to complete these garments before the actual investiture. Both the tippets and the garter are stunning additions to the ensembles.

The color of the tippets is questionable, according to my recent tutelage. I have been instructed that this style tippet was only ever white or yellow. If I had done the same style sleeve, I would also have chosen to go against the historic norm and would also have chosen green tippets.

Perhaps the hip belts are completely accurate, or perhaps in order to make things look great, creativity was called in to finish the job.

In any case, I took this beautiful detail and added it to my own dress ~ creating a garter of the green linen with which I lined the tippet-sleeves. You can see it excellently in the photo of the green inside of my sleeves, above.



6 thoughts on “Project: 14th Century ‘Versatile’ Gown

  1. I think it looks quite stunning and I love the green garter as substitute for your belt (which will be on it’s way soon).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s