Project: Pink Wool Supportive Cote
What it is:
At the very beginning of the15th century, the use of a fitted garment had shifted from a luxury item for nobility to a regular item for all of the wealthy classes (including the middle class). These French and English style dresses were essential for achieving an ideal physical shape under both full houppelandes and other fitted over gowns. With no waist seam, a front lacing and gores in the skirt, this is suitable as an early 15th century item. I place it roughly in the 1410's. It is meant to be an under dress almost exclusively, but that will come in time, as my surcote selection is quite thin at the moment. The outer layer is worsted wool in a rose-pink, and it is fully lined with a pale natural-colored linen. There were a few moments during this weekend's event when a cool breeze came through and I wished I'd had another layer over it. I counted that as a good thing, though, since it means that it's ideally weighted for an under dress.
How I made it:
I used the pattern I'd created at the start of my charcoal gray wool dress and cut the full-length panels of the lining and gores. Same as before, I assembled the lining, wore it around for a bit, then refit it to get the final pattern to cut out the wool.
The differences between this pink cote and the charcoal gray kirtle are minor alterations, but they made a big difference.
First, it's probably about 2" more fitted in the torso than intended. I had made an error by forgetting to leave seam allowance below the lacing area, and didn't realize it in time to correct it. My only option was to lose an inch on both sides of the front seam along the lacing strip. I get better support because of the tighter fit, and in comparison to the way my breasts look in the gray dress, I get more lift than squoosh.
Second, instead of placing the gores at a specific length, which resulted in them being placed a bit too low on the dark colored kirtle, I positioned each specifically to accommodate the widest points of my natural curves. This brought the side gores up to my waist rather than hips, resulting in a more comfortable fit and better drape in the skirt.
Finally, with my recent sleeve experiments under my belt, I created an extremely fitted sleeve with more comfortable accommodations for mobility in my shoulders. A future addition will be five buttons at the wrists on each side, but for now I'm just slipping my hands through the (very) narrow opening. I'm not sure which button method is best for me- that's something I haven't mastered yet.
The "hidden" seams were sewn with a machine using white silk thread. I had hoped to use a white linen thread for the hand sewn finishing, but the white showed up too clearly against the pink. After testing some of the other threads I had, I decided to locate a matching thread instead. The closest match was Gutermann cotton quilting thread. The seam finishing was completed by hand.
I added a wide band of wool to the inside of the hem to conceal areas where the lining ended a bit too short. The band was sewn on by machine, folded in and secured at the bottom by machine, then finished at the top by hand. The stitches at the top only go through the lining and do not show on the outside. The eyelets are finished with three strands of matching pink cotton embroidery floss. The lacing is a 4-strand fingerloop braid made with the same floss with beeswaxed ends. You can learn more about that here.
What I think about it:
I am massively thrilled with how this cote turned out, and I feel confident that I'd properly tackled the issues I found at the conclusion of the charcoal gray kirtle. It was a pleasure to wear this weekend and I felt very comfortable both because of the weight of the gown as well as its construction.
One issue I see in the photos that I was not aware of while wearing it is a pulling of the center front seam upward in the skirt. As this happens on the gray dress as well, I believe this is caused by the upward pulling of the lacing. I would like to investigate if pulling the lace tight in a different manner (outward instead of upward) would decrease this.
As stated above, I would also like to finish the sleeves with buttons. I think the extreme fit of the sleeves require that detail and would only add to the beauty of the cote.
I am also excited about moving on to a few much needed surcotes now with two supportive dresses ready to do their job!
To view more of this dress, check out the Flickr set!