Sunday, February 12, 2017

Project Complete: Red Wool Cote


A supportive cote of wool suitable as the bottom or middle fashion layer for early 15th century outfits.


This type of dress is a hybrid type that combines the basic silhouette of the early 15th century with some dress details that originated in the late 14th century, such as the front lacing and the buttoned forearms.

I talked about the rarity of front lacing in the imagery available from the early 15th century at length here. Fashionably-speaking, it seems that visible front lacing was not used in the early 1400's, but we also know from our own creation/wear/use of these types of garments that some type of opening that is tightly closed is necessary for them to function correctly to shape and support. The best theory we have is that a dress of this type, laced closed in the front, was plausibly still in use as the first layer over the body linen.

Detail from fol. 138v, The Comedies of Terence, (BnF Arsenal, MS 664 reserve) first quarter of the 15th Century.
Throughout 15th century manuscripts, we find examples of layered dresses. The top dress is the unlaced gown, stylish for the period, but we get few clues about the bottom layer beyond the full skirt and the tight sleeves. It is this layer that this red dress is meant to serve.

We also can very occasionally spot buttons still in use on the forearms of dresses in the 15th century. One of the clearest examples of this is from Rogier van der Weyden's "St. John Altarpiece", below.

From Saint John Altarpiece, by Rogier van der Weyden, circa 1455.
While it seems that I would be incorrect to wear this dress as my outer layer, I must confess that not only have I already done so, but I will probably do so again in the future. It's not to blatantly disregard what I believe to be correct, but rather to add versatility and variety to my garb wardrobe.


I shared an in-progress update in my previous post that gave many of the starting details. I completed the eyelets using Trebizond silk, as planned, but ended up running out. The only option I had for the eyelets was a size 12 pearl cotton that ended up being a better color match. Even though it isn't silk, I liked the way that thread worked up in the buttonholes.

I used that same thread to create the lace. I went with a 7-strand finger loop braid. I'll think twice about doing that again, however, as it took 4 hours of continuous braiding to get the length I needed. The finished cord is, however, really fine.

I used facings on the neckline, front opening, buttonhole edges, and cuffs. The hem is a simple double fold.

Not actually calculating hours worked, this dress was completed over 11 weeks, which is the longest any single dress has ever taken me. The type of wool and stitch type choices I'd made had a lot to do with that.


There's a lot that I love about this dress. It's flattering, both is shape and color, and I'm very happy with the quality of my seam construction and finishing. There are other parts, however, that didn't go quite the way I would have preferred.

The biggest of these is that the curves in the sides of my front pieces didn't ease into the straighter back sides as cleanly as I would have liked. I attempted steaming to reduce the wrinkling, but it did not work on this worsted flannel. In the end, after a few attempts to make that look better, I moved on. It will be something I will want to tackle on the next dress using this kind of wool, but for this one, I'm simply marking that down as a victim of the learning process.

I'm also not completely happy with the way the dress fits on the upper portion of the center front. There's a bit too much excess there. It was unfortunate that I didn't see that until the eyelets were in place and I was laced into it for the first time.

Back to a positive, I'm really happy with the look of the sleeves. While the buttons are a little too large, I like the statement they make.


This is a great addition to my wardrobe. Not only is it a color that my garb collection was previously lacking, the fit and style of it should offer me a lot of options. The wool is a thin, sturdy weave that will be suitable year-round, which gets me one step further along my journey toward more wool and less linen.

You can see more photos of this dress over on Facebook or in the Flickr album.

Also, if you haven't already, check me out on Instagram!


  1. Gina B. from FacebookFebruary 12, 2017 at 2:34 PM

    This dress looks so great on you, what I long way you have come! I love to see how you have progressed, and thanks for posting along your journey. I have learned a lot following your progress.
    I really love the separation you have accomplished on your waist, you look marvelous!
    I am so happy for you!

  2. I agree with Gina. You've come so far and should be rightfully proud of such a lovely dress. In particular, those buttonholes are fab.

  3. It came out very well. I'm impressed with the fit you've achieved through the torso in particular.

  4. I love the color, and the buttons! You did a really impressive job with the fit. I see what you mean about the extra in the upper front, but it's such a small thing to get off when you got the rest of it so right! You should be proud of your work. It's very, very well done.