Sunday, July 12, 2015

Project Complete: Late 14th Century Brown Wool Surcotte


A wool surcotte suitable for the very late 14th and very early 15th centuries.


I don't have a specific source for this one, as it's mostly a conglomeration of styles. For the most part, this dress is close to the general style seen on effigies and funerary brasses on late 14th century middle class women, but I can't draw too close of a comparison there. I really just wanted a dress that I could slip on over any of my fitted dresses, and an excuse to do front buttons, and still have a dress suitable to my period.


This is another dress that uses my current symmetrical pattern. I'm still really happy with how it's working for me, especially when it comes to the pattern layout and fabric conservation. If you were following me on Facebook when I was putting this dress together, you may recall that I shared the method I use to cut gores. It's a handy trick that cuts out a lot of time. In terms of the basic construction, this dress isn't anything new. The real differences come with the finishing.

In many ways, I tend to gloss over finishing details on my dresses. I think this is a throwback to when craftsmanship wasn't on my radar, and it's a bad habit I would really like to break. So for this dress, I looked for ways to include finishing details I don't normally do. The buttons were a major part of that, since I usually only do a few buttons on the forearms, if I bother to do them at all. By forcing myself to put a row of them front and center (literally), I had no choice but to pay attention to finishing and do them right.

I used a strip of linen as a facing on each side of the front opening. You can see this type of treatment on some of the London finds (Dame Helen explains a bit about these in her post here.) I also stab stitched the very edges here. Not only does it offer a nice detail, it adds a bit more strength to these edges. I haven't seen that on anything in particular- I just liked the idea.

I didn't have any silk that was remotely the right color, so I mined my pearl cotton stash and found a brown that works. It's not an exact match, but I like that about it.

I used my own method for the buttons, again using pearl cotton since it's stronger than the sewing thread I was using. I used more thin strips of linen to face the neckline and sleeve hems. The seams are flat felled.


This was one of those projects that fell out of nowhere. When I purchased the wool 2 years ago or so, I didn't have a plan for it, but I don't think this would have been the dress I made if I'd had a plan. This dress happened because I wanted something nice, that looked pretty and could fall into my "formal wear" category when I needed it to. I also liked the idea of going into my apprenticeship ceremony in neutral colors- just a hint of symbolism that meant something to me if to no one else. 
Photo by Lady Marrissa von Atzinger:

This dress feels very luxurious to me, despite the blandness of the color. I think it fits well, though slightly more loose than I had intended, and the short, straight sleeves are very comfortable. In the end, I don't think there's anything I would have done differently. Always a plus.

See more photos of this dress over in the Flickr album or on Facebook!


  1. Stab stitching the edges of the facing is also seen in the London findings. Both on facings for buttonholes and lacing. :)

  2. I'm a plus-sized woman in 14th century Flanders as well! Thank you for posting all your pictures! I think you look fabulous and very period! Really beautiful job on your Apprentice gown! I'm just starting to work on a Surcotte much likes yours and you've been very inspiring! Can I ask how much yardage you ended up using for yours? I'm not quite sure how much I should get and I don't want to go overboard. Thanks so much!

    1. I've been using a symmetrical pattern that allows me to get a dress like this brown one out of 5 yards of 60". I just purchased some 54" linen at 5 yards that may almost not be enough. I try to get my main bodice panels side-by-side across the width, so you'll need to know the total width of your bodice panels (at their widest point) to know if they will fit that way on the width of your fabric. My panels are 60" long, then I cut my gores at a standard 45" long. That leave a bit more than 1 yard for the sleeves. Hope that helps!

  3. That last photo with the hands clasped is awesome. All the details come together perfectly. I wish that there was SCA where I am, you are so inspiring!