Late 15th century burgundian gown

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.

2017

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.

c.1449 Late Middle Ages- Houppelande 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 lady in yellow has the hanging part of the veil folded back up. Note the gold loops. This image is from King René's tournament book.

The crazy steeple hennin with butterfly veil. Unpractical, but fun!

Google Image Result for http://resources42.kb.nl/MIMI/MIMI_MMW_10A11/MIMI_MMW_10A11_235R_MIN_2.JPG

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.

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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.

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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.

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Burgundian gown – Placket theories

I’ve been brainstorming about making a burgundian gown from my brocade silk. With the brainstorming came some research. I’ve never done anything before 1800 before, so 15th century is entirely new.

Most burgundian gowns seems to be made up in 2 different ‘fabrics’. One for the main gown, and one for the collar and cuffs. Some also have a strip along the hem of the second fabric. The main gown can be plain or very fancy. The collar and cuffs often seem to be made of fur, although fabric/velvet examples also exist.

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Fur collars. Brown left, ermine right.

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Fabric collars

 

The burgundian gown itself is fairly simple to figure out. It either has loose or fitting sleeves, a full skirt and a collar. The back often shows that the collar also runs in a v shape in the back. The dress is fitted around the bust and looser underneath, worn with a belt to fit it through the waist. Different variations exist, in the exact shape of the neckline, the fullness of the gathers and the sleeve shape.

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Some back views

 

It gets a little more complicated when looking at what’s worn underneath. Most medieval dresses seem to have both a linnen shift and a kirtle underneath. A kirtle is basically an underdress and can either have short or long sleeves. It can also be worn on it’s own, or layered. Most kirtles lace/button in either the front or at the sides.

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Shifts, with straps or sleeves

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Kirtles. Side-laced left, front-laced right. Either with long or short sleeves. Separate sleeves could also be pinned to the short sleeve of the kirtle.

 

When wearing the burgundian gown, you can see a little of what’s worn underneath. Because the neckline is a deep v, you always see a little ‘placket’ there. Also often shown in paintings are the skirts, as ladies lift the skirts of their burgundian gown to show the one underneath.

That’s where it gets interesting. One would think (this was my original thought as well), that both the placket in the v and the underskirt would simply be those of the kirtle worn underneath. Side-lacing ones when you don’t see lacing, front-lacing ones when you do. And maybe they are in some occasions, but often in paintings you see a different color underskirt than placket. The big question therefore is, how would this work?

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All of these show a different color placket than skirt underneath.

 

I’ve done some googling, and from what I can find there are a few different theories. No one is conclusive, as so little original material exists. Images of women dressing & undressing exist, but are not all that common. No images I’ve seen are really obvious. These are the different theories, I’ve provided a link to the pages where I first read about each of them. (Ergo: none of these are my own, so I don’t take credit for any of them)

1. There’s a simple square/triangle of fabric pinned over the kirtle along the neckline. (Theory credit/where I first read about it)

The page where I first found this has an image about this as well. I should note that this person has since moved on to theory nr. 2.

2. Two different kirtles are worn. One below with a high square neck, one on top with a lower neckline. This way you see the bottom gown in the v neckline but the top one when raising the skirts of the burgundian gown. (Theory credit/where I first read about it)

Supported by these images, depicting several stages in a story. Left you see the red kirtle and first gown with black collar and lacing in front. In the second image, she wears the burgundian with blue collar on top of the one with the black collar. This way, when lifting the overskirt you’d see the laced gown(black collar), not the red kirtle. I do have to say I’m not 100% convinced by this image, as the belt also changes color from left to right image. It might just’ve been an inconsistency in coloring by the artist. Nevertheless, it’s a valid theory and layering dresses seems to’ve been quite common.

 

3. There is a piece of fabric attached to the burgundian itself. Connected on one side of the v, pinned shut on the other side.  (Theory credit/where I first read about it)

This sounds logical as well, but somehow doesn’t seem as plausible to me as the other theories. The author of this one preferred theory nr. 4 herself, also because of some of the evidence for that.

 

4. There is some sort of ‘wrap’ bodice worn on top of the kirtle. (Theory credit/where I first read about it)

Inspired by these images. On all of these, there seems to be a very short bodice worn. In the leftmost image, you can see where it stops around the waist. In the second image, you see something is covering the lacing at the top. In the third image, you see the black ‘under-layer’ stops just below the waist. The glimpse of white at the sleeves also suggests this doesn’t have sleeves.

The author of this theory gives some more ideas on this, just follow the link above to her page to read more.

Stark Triptyque 1480 -detail

 

5. Skirt theories. There’s a separate skirt underneath the kirtle, there’s an under dress with a different skirt/bodice fabric or the skirt of the under dress has a broad border of different fabric.  This seems a bit less likely, as even a waist seam was pretty new in the late 15th century. It doesn’t seem so likely that they would’ve made completely separate skirts, or skirts of a different fabric than the bodice. The border you see on outer dresses as well, but none as wide as would seem necessary for the effect you see in paintings. (Theory credit/where I first read about it)

6. Final options would be that two under dresses were worn, and both the burgundian and upper under dress are lifted to show the skirt of the dress at the bottom. Although it’s likely that more than 1 under dress was worn at times (as shown by paintings with different skirt layers), I’m not entirely convinced. It seems to make most sense to just lift your outer dress, to grab 2 layers and leave the 3rd just seems a bit too fiddly to me. (Theory credit/where I first read about it)

 

I quite like the 4th theory myself. I want a black silk placket under my burgundian gown myself, but I already knew I wouldn’t have enough fabric for a full kirtle. This solution seems more ‘stable’ than theory 1 or 3, but still requires little enough fabric to make it feasible for me. That means I’ll probably make a chemise, kirtle, placket/bodice, burgundian & headdress for this project. Whenever I get started on it, that is.