Sunday, October 19, 2014

The 1530s Gown

I apologize for the long wait for this post, but I have completed my Tudor-era gown! I really like the way it turned out, but there is a lot that I would like to change for future projects if I decide to do another one.

Here are some pictures from the construction:

My Chemise- mostly hand sewn,
My chemise was worked up from an old bedsheet- I wanted to be absolutely sure of the fit before I used good linen for it, and I'm so glad I did! The neckline ended up being too wide as I got overconfident in my ability to work from directions rather than a pattern... but once inside the dress it didn't make a massive difference as the lacing held it up just fine.

Kirtle bodice (fully boned!)
Closeup of the kirtle eyelets- all hand stitched. 

My kirtle by far took the most time to work up. The front is fully boned with reed for the period correct support (and was marvelously comfortable) as well as some of the main seams in the back. To be honest it looked awfully uncomfortable, but after a full day of wear I can safely say it's almost more comfortable than modern clothing. Pants are weird... but I digress. Here's a picture of it on my (new!!) dress form, after fitting it for a week to get the boning *just* right:

Yes, that's my chemise. And yes, it did get fixed! :)
And yes- RED petticoat. Are you shocked? 
The top edge of the neckline needed to be beaded and jeweled in some way, so this is what I came up with for that (you can see the chemise has been fixed by this point). I also worked up a quick necklace to match, and it really was a fantastic finishing touch!

Wow, it almost looks like I know what I'm doing!

Darn, eyes are closed but it's still shows the skirts best. 
Once the bodice was fitting right, I cut and added the skirt to it. As you can (mostly) see, the front is the full gold brocade, while the back is plain white cotton with the brocade around the bottom 18 inches or so. This is actually period- brocade was pricey so they would cut corners as often as possible to save a little more money. I did have to hem the skirt a little more than anticipated, but I would much rather have the deeper hem than a skirt that is too short!

Fitting the outer gown bodice.
Once the kirtle was done, it was time to fit the bodice for the French gown. this took a lot more than planned, and at best it is still a completely fudged job. My seams aren't period correct in the back, the boning is off (yep, more reeds), and the construction- while solid- is honestly mostly a hodgepodge of various ideas and by no means accurate. But... it looks nice, right? ;)

It took a week but I was finally happy.
It took a full week of fudging seams to be okay with it. It still makes me crabby, but it really did look just fine. Those ripples in the above picture were corrected later on and you can't see them now.

Here is my finished gown!! I wish I had taken a few more pictures of working with that outer skirt- it was well over 8 YARDS of fabric and double lined with cotton. Hilarious to try to squeeze it all onto the bodice, but with the help of some cartridge pleating they fit just fine! The sleeves were a fun sewing job- faux fur (if you have never tried it before) POOFS tiny little fuzzes into the air when you cut it that simply do not go away. I am still finding fuzz in weird places around my house. 

All in all, it was a super fun project and ridiculously fun to wear for a full day. It wasn't nearly as warm in all that fabric as I thought it might be, and I was happily comfortable all day long. Boning with the reed was definitely a good plan and I can see why they used it back then. It's breathable and gives the support required without being ridiculously uncomfortable. Walking with a train took some learning, but eventually I got the hang of it and really had a grand time!

Edit 10/20/14: Pictures found!!
Watching a woodcarving demonstration.
You can see me in this one on the far right, watching knights. Well, looking at the ground, but I was really watching knights! If you look closely too, my husband is in the blue hat in the upper right. I also made his outfit. 

I really wish I knew why I was looking at the ground here too. Goodness... lol. The black pouch and belt I purchased at the event and I love how well they complete the outfit! You can't see it in here, but on the other side of my waist I am also wearing a small dagger I bought. Teehee... ;) 


  1. So many layers! This is really interesting.

  2. I know! I thought for sure I would roast alive in it, so many layers and probably close to 25+ pounds of fabric, but I was pleasantly surprised and was very comfortable. It was about a 65*F day, and overcast in the morning. I did get a lovely sunburn on my shoulders later in the day though. :-/