Medieval Kirtle

After making a medieval smock, it was time for a kirtle!

Definitions are tricky, and I’m no expert on Medieval fashion, but as far as I could find the term ‘kirtle’ generally just means a close-fitting dress. Usually they were worn underneath another dress, or layered, but this depends a bit on the era and the social class of the wearer. Lower class working dress often had a kirtle as outer dress, while an upper class person would be much more likely to only wear them as a base layer.

Les Tres Riches Heures du Jean, Duc de Berry, created in 1416:

Blue kirtle worn over what seems like just a smock. Short sleeves, clearly working dress.

 

Kirtles were probably most often made of wool. The other option is linen, which was more often used as fabric for undergarments. I’ll be making mine out of linen, also because I’m mainly making this dress as undergarment for a silk burgundian gown and I suspect linen will be more comfortable (=less warm) than wool. But I also want to be able to wear it on its own, which means a linen kirtle as outer dress. I believe this did happen, but was most likely as a working outfit, and not really what a higher class lady would wear.

I’m making a green linen kirtle. There’s plenty of examples of green dresses, but in retrospect I’m not entirely sure how likely this would be, especially as outer dress. The reason for that is that linen can be a bit tricky to dye, it doesn’t take color quite as well as wool or cotton. Additionally, green isn’t the easiest color for fabric as it requires 2 layers of dye, a yellow and a blue one, dye specifically for green didn’t exist yet. That makes green a more expensive color. Taken together, it makes me wonder how likely it is that a linen, more lower class kirtle is green. If anyone has any thoughts on this I’d love to know!

I’m sticking with it though, as I do love the color. You do also see plenty of green in paintings, which makes me wonder if it’s because it was more expensive as a dress color, so showed status, or also because green paint was easier? Anyway, here’s an example of a green kirtle.

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Anyway, on to the dress diary! I patterned the kirtle using a variation of this method. The difference was that I didn’t lie down, and didn’t have anyone helping me. That mainly just meant more taking it off in between to pin, then putting it back on again. For the gores and sleeves I used the Medieval tailor’s assistant book by Sarah Thursfield as base. I read some conflicting things about the width of the gores, and in retrospect I think I made them a bit too wide. I suspect the variation comes from variations in gore height, mine are actually not that high up, which means they could be narrower. I might go back and change this in the future, but for now it’s fine.

After patterning & cutting, the first thing I did was sew the lacing holes. My kirtle will be front lacing, with 19 eyelets on both sides. Suffice to say, sewing those took a while.

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Patterning, fitting, cutting & sewing

 

With the eyelets done I could check the fit, and as that was right I moved on to the sleeves. Back to mock-up time! I’m pretty happy with how these turned out, and the mock-up shows I could move my arm, which was the most important thing.

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Never mind the huge seam allowances, I tend to be a bit cheap and avoid cutting in mock-up fabric. But I could move!

 

With the sleeves in, I made cloth buttons. Again, as I’d never done this before, google helped me out. This was a great tutorial, and after a couple of tests I got it down.

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Follow the link above to get a description, but this is what the process looked like.

 

After the buttons, time for button holes. They didn’t turn out very pretty, but they’re functional. My main problem was a combination of too many fabric layers (hem+facing made 5 layers in some places) and thin thread. I really wanted to use silk thread though, and I couldn’t find that any thicker, so I tried to stitch super close together and be patient. That took ages, and didn’t make it perfect, but a little better. Conclusion: try to avoid too many layers when sewing button holes!

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When buttoned they look okay, not perfect, but good enough.

 

Final thing was finishing. Although I did the main seams by machine (I know, cheating, and not correct at all but quicker), I did hand-finish all the edges.

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The neckline

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Hemming

 

So now it’s done! To take the pictures I also made a fillet (following the Medieval Tailor’s book again), and a round linen veil, 1m across. I was greatly helped by this tutorial for the size, and a short instagram tutorial she made for narrow hems. I think I need to wash the veil because it’s a bit stiff still, which makes it hang a little weirdly, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It definitely finishes the outfit!

The full dress:

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And a little closer (I do love the little sleeve buttons!)

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Inspiration – Regency in White, Red and Green

It’s Jane Austen day today, she was born 240 years ago today. So in honor of her, a Regency-themed inspiration post. And because Christmas Holidays are nearly here, some lovely winter and christmas colors. Dresses from 1800 to 1820 in red, white and green, three of my favourite colors.

Let’s start off with the all-time Regency favorite, white. Some portraits of lovely ladies in white.

Riesener Henri-François, 1836. Portrait of two young women, said to be the Baroness Pichon and Mme de Fourcroy. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

 

1810 Comtesse Daru – David

 

 

Portrait of Madame Genas-Duhomme Menjaud Alexander (1773-1832) 1802

 

Henri-François Riesener (1767-1828) – Alix de Montmorency, Duchesse de Talleyrand

 

Francois Pascal Simon Baron Gerard

 

Red is another popular color, used for everything from day to evening to outerwear.

Junge Dame mit Zeichengerät by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, 1816 Germany, Galerie Neue Meister (Dresden)

 

The Athenaeum – Portrait of the Elisabeth, Amalie and Maximiliane of Bavaria (Joseph Karl Stieler – )

 

Portrait of Princess V. S. Dolgorukaya, Henri Francois Riesener

 

Wife of General Dejea by Robert Lefevre, c. 1805

 

Anna z Zamoyskich Sapieżyna, http://muzeum-zamojskie.pl/

 

Green isn’t found as much in this period. It seems most common for outerwear, followed by daywear. For eveningwear it starts to be more common nearing the 1820’s.

Maria Antonia Kohary Princess Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

 

Comtes de Tournon, née Geneviève de Seytres Caumont by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

 

Pierre-Louis-Henri Grevedon (French artist, 1776-1860) Portrait of a young lady

 

1800 circa – Portrait of a lady in a green dress decorated with a cameo

 

Countess of Dyhrn with her child

 

Ida Brun by J.L. Lund 1811

A timeline in green

Because I love green, and always like time lines of fashion. This is by no means a complete overview of clothing in a certain era, but just a list of my own favorites.

15th century

Rogier van der Weyden, The Magdalen Reading, c. 1435–1438. National Gallery, London.

Hugo van der Goes detail – Margherita Portinari, Netherlands, 1476–78.

16th century

Bartolomeo Veneto 1530

Lavinia FONTANA (Bologna 1552 – Rome 1614) Portrait of Laura Gonzaga in Green

17th Century

Princess Mary Henrietta (1631–1660), Princess Royal, Princess of Orange by Gerrit van Honthorst National Trust – Ashdown House

 

Evening dress, 1680’s-90’s

18th Century

Jacket and Petticoat 1730s Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arketektur, og Design

Portrait of Juliane Fürstin zu Schaumburg-Lippe c.1781 (Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder | The Athenaeum

19th century

Centraal museum Utrecht (ca. 1805)

 

Redingote 1819 costume parisien

Gown circa 1830

McCord Museum, late 1840’s

MFA, about 1865

1875

1880’s

Ball gown, Jacques Doucet, 1898-1900.

 

And a timeline!

Timeline

Emerald inspiration

Every now and then, I stumble across a dress on an image online and think ‘I want to make that!’. Usually it doesn’t get made, or yet anyway, because I get that feeling much too often for my sewing speed. It’s still fun to dream though. Recently, I found two different green ensembles which I really loved. I adore this color.

La Mode Illustrée, 1864

This lovely drawing is from a fashion magazine. I’m not really a fan of the shade of pink on the left dress, but I adore the right. It’s such a gorgeous color, and would be perfect for winter. I’m not entirely sure about the bonnet though…

 

Portrait of Juliane Fürstin zu Schaumburg-Lippe c.1781 (Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder | The Athenaeum

This other dress is very different, different era, different silhouette and different season. I’ve always liked the green/pink combination which is so typical for the 18th century, and this amount of pink is just right for me. And she even has matching shoes, and what seems like a full flower bouquet in her hair!

So, two more items for the ever-growing wish-list.

 

Inspiration – Green Natural form

Natural form fashions are so interesting. It’s the period from roughly 1877 to 1883 where the bustle almost disappeared from fashions, before it popped up again. It’s also a period of crazy trimming, complicated skirts and trains. When browsing through fashion plates, I noticed a large number of beautiful green dresses, so here’s an inspiration post.

A lovely green/beige combination with red details. Perfect for Christmas?

 

A clear display of the influence of the oriental on dress. (I also love the yellow/red combination)

 

More asian influences. Look at the print on the bottom!

 

More gray-ish, but I love the elegance of this dress.

 

Green/yellow combination with buttons. I have to admit I also love the pink one!

 

Mint/yellow and moss/pink combinations

 

Of course, we need to include a dress with bows!

 

A walking dress in dark/light green. With a train, of course!

 

More pink & green, and more bows!

 

A green/black combination, quite simple for this period, but very elegant

 

A much more complex dress, with pink flowers!

 

This color combination is so interesting, green and purple. But it works for this dress!