Sunday, March 18, 2012

New dress plans

I've got two new dresses planned, each using twill wools that are both very lovely. The first dress isn't extremely over-the-top exciting, but it will require some pattern experimentation. The second, however, will be a great bit of fun as I test a theory.

A late 14th century surcote is the first gown. I will use the gold wool for it, and I've decided not to line it. Instead, I will use some linen strips to reinforce the neckline and sleeve hems. The sleeves will be 3/4 length and slightly belled.  It might also have pocket slits.

Elina over at Neulakko recently completed a dress with the same idea (except she did long sleeves), so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. There's an issue, however, that I have which makes me different than Elina- I can't really pull off flat-fronted dresses with nothing going on to make the chest area interesting. But that's the only downside to making the dress- and I think it's one I can find a solution to if I do a full pattern and play around with it. I also think that if I can make sure the underdress fits right and puts everything where it's supposed to be, then the looser surcote will look just fine.

In terms of patterning, the surcote is fairly straight-forward. Before remembering Elina's gown, I'd been looking at the "Women's Fashionable Surcote" pattern in The Medieval Tailor's Assistant (p. 20). The front and back are rectangles that are joined to two gores at each side. The gores possess all the fitting, though this is not a fitted dress such as a supportive cote worn underneath. There is merely some shaping to create a curvier silhouette.

This particular dress style isn't necessarily appropriate for early 15th century Flemish, but it has a place in my persona's context. Edyth hails from England, where her family has Norse roots. As a middle class woman, she would doubtlessly have had clothing passed to her from older generations that she must still rotate through her wardrobe, even if they are not exactly the most fashionable items. A late 14th century English super tunic, therefore, is not a completely out-of-place item to include in my garb closet.

I picked up muslin the other day to create the full pattern first so I can make sure that the dress really will work for me. I'm willing to accept a fair amount of alterations to the concept of the gown except in one area. Since its true intention is to act as a warmth layer, I do not want to make any changes to the pattern that would compromise that ability. This rules out making the neckline very low as a way to add chest-area interest.

The second new dress is what I'm calling a Weyden Kirtle, since most of the images that show it are Weyden's. The best example of the kirtle I speak of is Weyden's Magdalen from the Braque Family Triptych, ca. 1450. In this highly detailed painting, Weyden gives us not only a beautiful example of early Netherlandish realism, he also gives us seams!  One of these seams, though, is a bit on the ambiguous side- a shadowy seam-like line that runs from the seam of the yoked neckline into the armpit.

Several months ago, Heidi from Medieval Threads used this exact image to create a new kirtle, and during her patterning process, she speculated on the possibility of a raglan sleeve. Ultimately, she used a set-in sleeve, but as she'd raised the question, I started to be on the lookout for any other examples that might also suggest (even if still somewhat ambiguously) that raglan sleeves were present in 15th century Flanders.

I found enough that I think I've got the makings of an argument! I'll have to find them all and post them later, but I've got 2 others that I can remember off the top of my head.

Based on this evidence, I've determined 2 key elements that make up a Weyden Kirtle. The first is obviously the raglan sleeve. Second is that the sleeve is fixed into a yoke-like collar that, in almost all examples, is squared or slightly sweetheart at both the front and back. To get the most out of the raglan sleeve, I think it will need to be at least elbow length.  Some of the examples are long-sleeved, while others are short sleeved, though, so it's not really a style that has an inherent particular use as an over gown or under dress. My instinct is to make it an over gown so that the detail of the yoke and sleeves can be shown off. At the same time, however, the period images suggest that the dress could be worn on its own over a smock if so desired. It will have to be a versatile dress that's tight enough to work on its own, but not too tight to restrict layering it over another dress.

Though there's also variation among the examples on placement (or existence) of lacing, I'm planning a regular front lacing. I'll be using a light blue twill wool for this one, and I'll line just the bodice and sleeves with a natural gray linen. I got extra muslin to play with the pattern on this one, since making a raglan sleeve sits squarely in the "never done that before" category for me!

Overall, I'm really excited about making these new dresses, but I'll need to concentrate on making the dark colored wool dress already on the drawing board, since it will be the supportive dress under these new gowns (at least until the pink one is also complete.) I've been putting off making any dresses, but I've regained a stable weight and shape since the end of my last pregnancy, so there really isn't anything stopping me at this point. I have some concerns about how much my bust will change when I decide to stop breast feeding, but I can't hold off on doing something with all this fabric forever!

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