Medieval accessories

When planning my late 15th century burgundian gown, the plan was always to make a ridiculously large henin to go with it. After all, the crazy hats are one of the most fun parts of late medieval fashion.

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.

I wanted something like this. I really love the floating veils. Although probably unpractical, they’re such an eye catcher. The tall henins are generally called ‘steeple henins’, and they are always worn with a veil. The veil can either just be lain on top, extending from the back, or suspended as in these pictures. These are called ‘butterfly veils’.

Chamado de Adorno borboleta

 

However, as I had an event to wear my burgundian dress to about a week after I finished it, the first hat I made was a bit more practical. I didn’t really have time to figure out how to keep the veils in place, nor to hem all that fabric for the veil, so I made a simpler, shorter henin.

It’s always good to have a more practical option at hand anyway, plus it looks adorable on my bear.

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However, I did still really want the crazy tall hat. So I’ve finally made that one.

The base is the same as the shorter henin, just lengthened, and taken from the book ‘the Medieval Tailor’s assistant’. It’s about 40cm tall, taken from a shape which would be about 50cm tall if made into a full point. I made it open up top though, so the wires would have something to come out off.

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The base is buckram, as for the other henin. Not very historically accurate, but easiest for now. From what I’ve read, the originals might’ve been woven baskets, but as I can’t weave basked reed I’m cheating.

The base is covered nearly the same as the short henin as well. Black cotton inside (because it’s easiest, though not period), silk taffeta on the outside, and a black velvet band on the inside bottom to make it grip with the velvet fillet. One change was an extra layer of black cotton between the silk and buckram, as the texture of the buckram shows through the thin silk a bit in the original. The other was that I added a round bit of millinery wire to the bottom of the cone this time, to help it keep shape a bit better.

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The cone was hand-sewn into shape. And then it was time for the wires! This was the part I’d been dreading most. Although the book advises to take 2 wires and extend those from the tip of the henin, I took a slightly different approach. This was done mostly to try to stabilize the wires as much as possible, and stop them from swinging around. Instead of taking 2 separate wires, I took one very long piece to make the shape. This means they’re connected to each other at the bottom, and makes it a lot harder for the tips to swing sideways. The other change was to make them extend quite far into the henin itself, instead of attaching them at the very tip, again for stability.

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The right shape, but they moved around way too much, even without veil.

 

Nevertheless, my first attempt was rather wobbly. The shape was okay, but in retrospect my wire was way to thin. I could’ve known, as the book advices to use 2mm wire. When I actually took that advice for the second version (2mm fencing wire was what I used), it was way better and much more stable.

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Much better. This is the final shape, before going into the henin.

 

The wires were sewn into the henin. At the bottom, the horizontal piece keeps the wire from slipping down. At the top they come a bit closer together to fit through the hole, here they are attached again. I also stitched between them, to keep the wires from pulling the top of the henin into a wider shape.

 

With the wires done, it was time for veils! I ended up using silk organza, my veil is 2m by 75cm. One edge was the selvage, the other parts were hemmed by hand to get a very narrow finish.

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The veil is pinned to the henin middle front and back. Additionally, I pinned the veil to itself after the vertical parts of the wires. This keeps it from slipping forward, and keeps the parts at the sides hanging back from the face.

 

It’s very pretty all put together, the veil definitely makes all the difference!

 

The whole construction stays on my head in several ways. First, it’s worn over a velvet fillet. This one I made for the earlier henin, and it’s cut on the bias so it can be stretched a bit and tied securely. Secondly, the velvet band on the inside of the henin creates extra grip on the fillet, keeping it from sliding. Finally, the hair is put into a high bun. My hair is quite long, so I have a substantial bun which supports the henin. All in all, it feels pretty sturdy and I can move easily without feeling like it’s going to slide off.

 

In addition to the shorter henin, I also cheated on the belt the first time, and wore a elastic one from H&M. It was a fantasy event anyway, so probably not many people noticed, but I did go on a scout for a better one.

On that same event, I found a stall from Pera Peris, a German company who do reproductions of medieval buckles, jewelry, etc. They even had the perfect buckle and matching belt end, just not with them at the time, so I ordered it online eventually.

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It’s based on this portrait by Rogier van der Weyden, and perfect in style.

Ritratto di giovane donna (Rogier van der Weyden) - Wikipedia

 

The buckle is 5,5cm wide and made for fabric belts, and I made mine out of black velvet, same as the collar of my dress. Although I like the brightly colored contrast belts as well, given that my dress is bright orange, I figured that’d be bold enough. The belt end is actually on the other side of the fabric than the buckle, as it flips over when closed. (As you see in the van der Weyden portrait as well).

 

I also made it a longer than in the portrait above, as it’s more flexible in length this way. You do see longer belts, interestingly enough they often seem to close in the back! That’s why you often don’t actually see buckles on the belts of burgundian gowns, they’re hidden behind the person. The belts tied in the back also seem longer than those left in front.

Regnault de Montauban, rédaction en prose. Regnault de Montauban, tome 1er Date d'édition : 1451-1500 Ms-5072 réserve Folio 385v

« L'istoire de Jason extraite de pluseurs livres et presentée a noble et redouté prince Phelipe, par la grace de Dieu duc de Bourgoingne et de Brabant », par Raoul Le Fèvre Auteur : Raoul Le Fèvre. Auteur du texte Date d'édition : 1401-1500

 

So now I finally have the outfit fully complete! I hope to wear it next weekend (if it stays dry, fingers crossed), some pictures of the full outfil will follow after.

Edit: A first picture of the complete outfit! See my facebook or instagram for a small video as well, as the veil moves beautifully!

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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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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.

A kirtle or, under gown, is a garment worn by men and women in the Middle Ages(15th century), a one-piece garment worn by women from the later Middle Ages into the Baroque period. The kirtle was typically worn over a chemise or smock and under the formal outer garment or gown.kirtle  sotto la veste, è un indumento indossato  nel Medioevo (15 ° secolo), un indumento di un solo pezzo indossato dalle donne  Il kirtle era indossato sopra una camicia o grembiule e sotto il mantello o abito formale.

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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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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Back to basics

In my plans for 2017, one of the big projects was a burgundian gown. That means medieval, 15th century to be exact, and a totally new period for me. And, of course, a new period means new underwear.

Medieval underwear is relatively simple, especially compared to the 1870’s bustle period I did last time. Although not a lot has survived from the era, we have enough visual material to get an idea. The general consensus seems to be that a smock/shift of linnen is worn close to the skin. Linnen could be easily washed and bleached, and was therefore suitable as first layer. You see both sheer and solid smocks, with straps or long sleeves. We know very little about construction, the most common guess is that these are similar to smocks in later centuries.

Lara Corsets - 15th century guide to Women's clothing during England's War of the Roses. The detail on some of these images is astounding.:

Smock with longer sleeves

corset-like undergarments? You can see the lines of stitching which form channels for what is probably cording. An undergarment like this would completely explain the shape and fit kyrtles from the mid14th century thru the 15th. I don't buy the tight, supportive dress theory at all. A corseted chemise such as these would be far cheaper to make in the first place and remake ...:

Smocks with straps

On top of the smock you normally see a kirtle, a basic dress. Kirtles come in various types, short/long sleeves, lacing front or sides, with/without waistseam. They are often worn as under-dress, but also on their own for the lower classes/work wear. A burgundian gown would always have at least one kirtle underneath. Evidence also exists that more than one kirtle was worn at times.

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

Short-sleeved kirtle on top of a long-sleeved smock

 

Kirtles also often seem to serve as supportive garments. One medieval bra-like garment has survived, so these did exist, but they seem to’ve been more rare. Generally, the kirtle is cut in such a way that it sits very flush to the body, especially under the bust. That provides the necessary lift/comfort.

Bild

Lengberg castle bra

 

So, before I start on my burgundian gown I’m making both a linnen smock and linnen kirtle. The kirtle is in progress, the smock is done! I’ve chosen to make a long-sleeved smock, as you often see hints of smock sleeves beneath kirtles with short sleeves. I also want quite a low neckline, so I can wear it underneath any type of kirtle neckline.

The pattern I went with is quite simple, identical front & back. A basic flared bodice block, with straight sleeves with gusset. Main inspiration came from the Medieval Tailor’s assistant book, although I kept the bodice straight down to the waist and flared from there. It’s made of plain linen.

Basic construction was done by machine to save on time, because no one is ever going to see the main construction seams on my smock. Finishing was all done by hand. In the end, I might have cut the neckline a bit too deep and it tends to fall off my shoulders when worn on it’s own. I suspect wearing a tight-fitting kirtle on top will fix that though, so I’m okay with it.

This is the only construction image I took… Finishing the neckline in a very narrow seam, because I’d cut it a bit too deep.

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And finished! I should probably iron it a bit…

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The finished neckline

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Holding out the sleeve, sowing the gusset and basic rectangle construction.

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