Location: Barony of Axemoor, Gleann Abhann
Category/Level: Modern Recreationist/Intermediate
Project Update Blog: The Enchanted Tower
About Amy : I dabbled in the SCA back in college, and I’ve been dipping my toes back in over the last year or so. I am very comfortable using a sewing machine on a commercial sewing pattern, but I sew modern and vintage styles more frequently than medieval styles. I have very little experience drafting patterns; hence my hesitation to attempt a cotehardie. I haven’t settled on an SCA persona, or even a name, but this project is going to be a good opportunity to test out 14th century Western Europe.
Her Project: I’m planning to make a middle-class 14th century European woman’s outfit for myself. I’ve wanted a Gothic Fitted Dress/Cotehardie for several years, and this project is going to be my motivation to finally try one! Due to budget constraints – and the fact that this is going to be a wearable muslin – I plan to substitute cotton for linen and wool. My first layer will be a chemise, my second layer will be a fitted kirtle, and my third layer will be a Cotehardie. My accessory will probably be leather shoes as leatherworking is a different discipline and not something I’ve tried before.
This is a woman’s plain cotton underdress. The neckline is very wide to remain unseen while accommodating the style of the first quarter of the 15th century in Western Europe. All visible stitching was completed by hand: felling the gores, skirt and sleeve hems, and neckline. I’ve made this pattern before, so I was able to copy most of the measurements and tweak the ones that I didn’t love from my last go-around this time. The pattern came from a blog post on Reconstructing History. Inserting gores into fabric slits remains challenging, but I found a tutorial on La cotte simple that did help it to lie more smoothly. I’m happy with this garment and might consider investing in a more expensive fabric if I have cause to make another underdress.
1400-1425 France woman’s fitted kirtle. I’m proud of this dress because I tried some new-to-me techniques like self-drafting and flat-lining. Although I didn’t quite get the fit that I wanted even after several muslins, I did manage to get the front of the gown to lace closed. This leads me to believe that I was on the right track with the fit, but that I needed some more help, and maybe in a post-pandemic world I can get that help. I also wonder how much of that fit would be improved by using better fabrics (there are limits to what cotton can do) and more a fitted undergarment. The sleeves especially felt like they suffered because it was hard to make them any tighter when there was so much loose fabric from the underdress fighting for space underneath. Now I want to research more options for undresses. Also, as I feared, by making my underdress first, the necklines don’t quite line up and the underdress peeks out at the shoulders from the kirtle. I definitely don’t have time to fix the underdress, but I have some other ideas for making the underdress less visible.
I did cheat a little bit while I was making this dress. The most obvious visible cheat is that I used my sewing machine to sew the eyelets (technically buttonholes because my machines only sews rectangles). My second big cheat was applying some medium-weight interfacing to the facing along the eyelet holes to help prevent gaping along that front edge. It was effective, and I did enter into the modern recreationist category.
I hand-stitched the visible seams – skirt hem, sleeve hems, and understitched the facing around the neckline. I have no idea if facings are period, but I’ve noticed that flat-lining is popular in SCA circles, and I know that bag-lining is a relatively modern innovation. Facings are certainly an efficient way to finish those edges.
This dress may not be perfect, but it is finished, and now I can start on my next layer.