After making a medieval smock and kirtle, it was finally time to start on the dress that started the whole medieval journey: a silk damask burgundian gown.
This project originally started with this fabric, which I found for a bargain and couldn’t resist.
It took a while to decide what to use it for, but eventually this painting convinced me to make a late 15th century burgundian gown.
Mine will be a little narrower through the bust and sleeves and with a wider neckline, making it a bit more late 15th century.
The journey started with figuring out the layers here, and I eventually decided to make a smock, front-lacing kirtle, placket for the neckline and burgundian with black velvet collar and cuffs.
I adapted the pattern from my kirtle to make the burgundian gown. I drafted the collar following the book the Medieval tailor’s assistant, and gave a little extra space around the waist. Not too much, as I was going for a rather fitted version of the burgundian.
Inspiration picture for the shape and pattern adaption. Bottom left shows the kirtle pattern behind the new draft of the burgundian (front). Wider shoulder with drawn-on collar, extending the line below the waist, and slightly widened on the side as well. Bottom left is fitting with sheets!
The skirt was drafted following the layout kindly shared by A dressmakers’ workshop here. Basically, the front opening is put on the straight of fabric, the skirt angling away, and only the back has a wide gore. Because the way the front is cut, the fabric falls to the front and you only need the back gore. It’s quite clever, and makes for very efficient cutting.
My cutting lay out. Front and back are facing the same way. The gore was cut on the fold of the empty part at the top. Upside down, but as you can see on the right you have to look closely to see when the fabric turns.
I got a bit lucky with the fabric in that the center of the pattern was close to the selvage of the fabric, so I could cut rather efficiently despite having to pattern match. I did opt to cut the back gore the other way around than the rest of the dress. You have to look quite closely to notice the pattern is upside down there, and I now have enough fabric left to make something else with the rest.
I did all the main seams by machine, and finishing by hand. When I’d put in the back gore, however, I didn’t like how it fell. I put it too far down, when it should’ve extended directly from the waist. So unpicking happened, and I moved it up a bit, which worked a lot better.
Left was before; right after. Much better
After the main construction, it was part to work on the lining including the collar. I somehow got the idea to only line the top part and hem. Not the easiest thing in retrospect, but I didn’t have enough fabric to do it otherwise, so partial lining it was! The velvet for the collar was sewn to the lining, and then the whole thing was sewn onto the dress and turned inside out. Took a little fiddling, but I got it right in the end. This tutorial by Izabella from Prior Attire was very helpful!
The collar finished, back and front. Still has some pins at this point, I later tacked the collar to the dress to help it stay flat.
Next up: Sleeves! I adapted the sleeves from my kirtle pattern slightly, just widening it a bit in the bottom part so it would still fit over my kirtle. The bottom of the sleeves have black velvet cuffs.
Top right shows sleeve fitting, here shown with the dress turned inside out, so you can also see where the lining stops. Bottom right is sewing on the cuffs, left the finished sleeves.
After the sleeves, the final thing was the hem lining. I made it about 50cm wide, which just fit out of my fabric with careful planning. I wanted it this wide so I could pull up the skirt to my belt, as walking outside in a train at events isn’t usually the best idea.
Top: finished inserted sleeves. Bottom left: pinning down the hem facing before hand-stitching it in place. Bottom right: tucking the skirt into my belt. Doesn’t work too well yet because the belt is elastic, but shows the general idea.
Of course, you cannot wear a medieval burgundian gown without some sort of crazy head wear. I eventually want to make a steeple hennin with butterfly veil, but I ended up finishing my dress 3 days before an event. Because the large hennin would take more than 3 days and it’s a good plan to have a slightly more practical head wear choice as well, I made a shorter henin for the event.
The crazy steeple hennin with butterfly veil. Unpractical, but fun!
For now, I went for something more like this.
First up was a fillet of black velvet. Cut on the bias so it stretches around the head, this is worn as a type of head-band and serves to keep the head dress in place. It also has the very characteristic black loop over the forehead. I tried to turn a velvet tube inside-out, but my pulling thread broke half-way through so I finished the loop by hand.
Black velvet fillet with black forehead loop.
The pattern for the hennin is from the Medieval tailor’s assistant again, the base made out of buckram. I covered it in black silk, with a cotton black lining (because I ran out of linen). The side edges are turned over, the top and bottom finished with binding. Velvet at the bottom, to make it grip to the fillet better. The sides were stitched together by hand. The finishing touch is a black velvet frontlet draped over the front of the hennin. I might make a veil as well in the future, but as I didn’t have the fabric yet I left it off for now.
Making the hennin. Top shows the buckram (testing for size) and the lining before it’s stitched together. Bottom left is the finished hennin, bottom right is the complete thing modeled by my bear.
The finishing touch was to make a placket for the front of the dress out of black linen and silk. This was a day before the event, so I didn’t really take pictures. I ended up pinning the placket to the burgundian as that worked best, but it still wrinkled and shifted a bit. So I think I’ll be extending the placket to go around the body, as was my original plan.
I’m very happy with how the dress turned out, and although I have some small projects left to update it, it’s now wearable! I ended up using a black elastic belt while I look for a proper medieval version, but it actually looks surprisingly okay for something so modern.
Thanks to my friend Sophia for taking some pictures last weekend at Castlefest! I took down the small train for the images, but wore it up the rest of the day to prevent the people behind me from stepping on it.