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.
Her final thoughts on her C3 experience:
Thank you for hosting this!
I’ve wanted to make a dress from this period for about 10 years now, and apparently this was the push that I needed to actually do it. It’s not perfect, but that’s okay! I think part of what’s been holding me back for so long was that I wanted my first gothic fitted dress to be perfectly fitted. This one isn’t, but it’s done. Pattern-drafting is hard, and it’s okay if you aren’t the best at something the first time you try it.
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.
In keeping with the rest of my outfit this is a gown meant to be worn by a middle-class woman in France circa 1400-1425. I substituted cotton* for linen for budgetary reasons. The gown is simple and relatively efficient, I made the whole thing with only 5 yards of fabric plus the lining. *I say that the gown is made of cotton because that is what I intended when I went to the store. I had a lovely blue selected, and found a bolt that was nice and thick so I was confident that I could get my full yardage. However, when I went up to the counter to get it cut the clerk unwrapped one cut yard of fabric and then another, and it became apparent that if I wanted a single cut of yard I would need another bolt. I went back to the same section and pulled a nearly identical bolt of fabric, but didn’t look closely at the label. After pre-washing the fabric I went to iron it and noticed that it had a lot more stretch to it than normal, so I think that I may have purchased a cotton-poly blend. Oh well.
Drafting the dress was challenging since this was something I don’t really know how to do, but I followed the tutorial offered by another C3 member. I can’t remember his name now, but it’s posted on the Stars and Garters blog, and it was a 6-panel gown. I didn’t get the fit quite right, but I got it done, and that is worth celebrating for me.
The bodice of the gown is lined in white muslin, and I used the same fabric to line the hanging portion of the sleeves. the bodice is flat-lined, but the sleeves are bag-lined. The sleeves should be lined in fur, not cotton, but that’s not practical in my current climate, so I used something else.
I had time to make one lucet-braided cord out of cotton embroidery floss to lace up the side of the gown. I also attached my first aglet to that cord, which was exciting. Unfortunately, the gown requires 2 laces, so I had to make do with ribbon on the other side. Imperfect, but it holds the gown together.
I made a necklace out of coral beads. I’ve seen a few of these on portraits of women throughout Europe in the 1300s. I’m not sure if it was right to make an alternating pattern of large and small beads or if it should have been large beads and knots as is seen on modern-day pearl necklaces.