Friday, March 2, 2012

Medieval Times

This post is long overdue.  And was written/edited multiple times in the past so forgive the random jumble of info, especially at the end.

This year for our annual trip to the Renaissance Faire I decided I wanted to try out something from the Medieval world.  I did quite a bit of research which you can read more about in the dress diary below, but first I'll just share pictures and basic descriptions.

I made a 14th Century linen kirtle out of beautiful drape-y navy linen.  I don't have a picture of just the kirtle unfortunately.  My friend helped me fit it to perfection.  Thanks Jenni! :)
At the last minute I decided to make something warmer to wear over it.  It was October and pretty chilly, but actually on the day we went it wasn't super cold, just windy.  The layers and the fur did their job!  This was a very last minute, slap and dash project unfortunately, so I'm not entirely happy with it.  It's an orange wool surcote with a vintage fur collar I had tacked on to it.  I didn't have very much fabric for the surcote so it's not the perfect shape or perhaps totally accurate.  But it did the job of keeping me warm!  The fur is also not the right size at all but it used to be on my old roommate's mother's coat or something, and I figured it may come in handy for something else someday, so didn't want to cut it up.  Plus, last minute sewing!  You know how it goes.  
I also made some accessories.  A veil (pictured below because of the wind), headband, a hip belt out of metal medallions and a purse based on historic ones but not at all accurate in any other way than shape. :P  But I needed something to carry my stuff in!

The dress was a little long but I think it lent more to the historical accuracy. :)  I had to lift it up and carry it around most of the time.  Makes carrying food to the joust a little tricky! 


My shoes are modern ones I bought a couple years ago because I hoped they would work with a costume like this someday.  You can also see more of the handmade buttons on my sleeves.  Unfortunately I don't have a better picture but they are historically accurate!  Basically they are circles of linen that I gathered into a ball and attached.

Here it is with the veil which I couldn't wear most of the time because of the wind!  It's just a circle of silk organdy (or organza? I never know the difference, it's not super stiff, but not super soft).  My hair didn't come out.  I wanted side ear braids but my hair is just too thin.  I opted for a long braid over my shoulder instead.

Our group at the Faire.  I am the odd man out, the rest are in Tudor/Elizabethan, including, you might recognize, my outfit from last year on my friend Quinn! :)  I loved how Jenni's kirtle came out!  And it was so fun getting to know our newest member Carrie.

I loved wearing this outfit.  Though the surcote wasn't exactly what I wanted and the collar too big, I felt very pretty prancing around the faire!  And the linen kirtle might be the most comfortable thing ever!

So I had started a post as I was working on things, so I'll include that here, just as a kind of "dress diary".  This gets long so follow the jump if you want to read more!

I started a medieval costume for the Ren Faire a few weeks ago when the fabulous Jennil helped drape a kirtle on me!  I've been researching and reading for months now about medieval costume.  I seriously have like 6 books out from Harvard's library (or Inter-Library Loan when necessary) about this era.  Can I just say how grateful I am that I can get access to all these costume books without having to buy them?  I can't always get everything I'm looking for, but it's more than I'd be able to afford if I had to buy them!  And then I can cross reference! :)

So the books I've found most helpful have been "The Medieval Tailor's Assistant" and Herbert Norris older but still interesting (and somewhat accurate) "Medieval Costume and Fashion".  It goes into a lot of detail, even if the pictures are mostly idealized.  After doing all the research, including many sources online in regards to actually making/draping a kirtle, I decided I wanted to do early/mid-14th century.

(Tangent: This happened to perfectly coincide with a great book series I just discovered two weeks ago.  The River of Time series is great YA Lit set in early 14th century Tuscany, before the outbreak of the black plague.  Though, I have to say, I think her descriptions of most of the clothing in the book, especially when it comes to the women's, were totally wrong.  Did she even look at pictures?  Maybe I just couldn't picture what she was describing correctly but there was a lot of talk about back buttoning gowns, and no mention of head veils or scarfs, just hair nets every once in a while.  But I really did enjoy the series so much it further cemented my date for my own costume to the 1330's-40's.  Now, I'm not limiting my geographic region at all, in fact it was hard to find out what exactly the differences would have been between English, French or Italian gowns of this era.  But anyway!  On to what I'm actually doing!)

I've had 5 yards of this gorgeous, soft, flowy navy blue linen for a while.  Originally I was going to do an Anglaise with it, but it's absolutely perfect for this dress.  I've lined it with another nice natural medium weight linen.  This is actually my first all linen project!  Kind of crazy.  Anyway, I ended up using a mash up of techniques.  I took the draped pattern pieces, which only went to my hip level, and cut them following the instructions here.  The four panels were cut straight down, splitting the width of the fabric evenly and then triangular gores were set into the CF, CB, and side seams.  I'm not sure how happy I am with this set up, as when I'm just standing the gores disappear between the 4 panels.  The Medieval Tailor showed a different cutting method, with  the fullness taking up the whole width of the fabric for each piece, eliminating the need for gores.  Don't know if this would have made a difference in the hang of the dress, I'm guessing yes, but it seemed like the first way was a much better use of fabric, so I went with that and I'm glad I did.  I had just enough for the whole dress including long knuckle length sleeves.  I was able to get a lot into the skirt as well.  Each gore was a full width of the fabric along the bottom, which was 58", so the circumference of my hem is around 290!  Whew, maybe that's too big, now that I think about it, but it sure looks pretty!  I am not looking forward to hemming that... it may get a small machine rolled hem...  Oh, I also cut the hem length super long.  I love the look of the puddles of fabric at their feet, but I'm not sure this is going to be that great of an idea.  It's not super practical, and seeing as I'm going to be wearing this to a dirty outdoor event it may be a bad idea...

I'm machine sewing most of this dress.  As my first one (and with an event just two weeks away) I didn't want to spend a ton of time hand sewing.  I am doing the lacing eyelets down the front by hand.  It would just look wrong otherwise.  As of Sunday night they are now all done! :)  I tried it on and am mostly happy with it.  I forgot to do offset eyelets so the two front openings don't want to stay lined up with each other.  Boo.  Also, I seem to have lost a little more weight since draping the pattern (that or this is really stretchy linen) and it's not as tight as I'd wanted.  I even knew this and compensated in making bigger seam allowances in front.  Luckily (or not, in my eyes) I don't have anything to "hold up" really, so it doesn't make that much of a difference. ;P

I also drafted out a sleeve block and pattern using the instructions from the Medieval Tailor.  This was so great!  I don't think I'd ever seen instructions for sleeve drafting this way, but it seemed to work really well.  I need to make a mock-up and see for sure, but I think it's going to be good!  And now I have a basic sleeve block!  So great.

So, all that's left is sleeves, and hem, and figuring out buttons for the sleeves.  THEN, it's on to the accessories for hips and hair.  I was going to make a sideless surcote but after reevaluating my real life schedule I just don't think it's going to be possible, but that's fine because I couldn't decide what I'd wanted to do anyway.  Instead I'm just going to focus on making a hip belt and a circlet & perhaps either side cauls or a veil.  I was looking for just a super simple gold circlet, but I've only been able to find silver.  So I thought about making it myself with buckrham covered in gold lame fabric.  I think it would actually look surprisingly good.  I also just had a brilliant idea, I might use more of the lame to make round fabric buttons for the sleeves (which are period anyway- well fabric buttons, not so sure about using a different color).  From far away they might look like the circular woven/braided buttons and they'd certainly be much cheaper than actual metal buttons!  Hummm, we'll see, must ponder more. 

Belts have also proven hard to find.  But after much searching on ebay I think I've figured out a solution for a belt I can make myself that might look ok using flat metal filigree medallions attached to one another.  I also need to figure out if I want to do a veil or not over my hair.  I'm thinking no, just because I don't like the look of them.  It seems though that most costumers wear them, but the ladies in medieval manuscripts aren't always wearing them!  So I think I'm good. :)

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