16th Century Florentine Gown

July 20, 2013 at 10:25 am (16th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Wow, this project actually has me adding a new category for the 16th century…. I guess its fitting that after such a long hiatus I would need to expand my projects into a later time period!

In planning for this summer, I found myself in a pretty good place for garb this year, and I really didn’t need to construct a lot of new items to get through this year.  I did want, though, a few items that can be quickly put on and would be relatively cool in weight for some of the hotter days.  And I’ve been wanting to branch out into a new style.  So, I decided I’d go with a later style, and purchased this pattern from Reconstructing History for a Florentine Gown.  While I’ve never used a pattern from them before, their reputation is exceptional, and this seemed like the perfect option since I was looking to dabble a bit in this style, but not stray too much in time and resources from the 14th century.

I will upload pictures in August, but I constructed three of these gowns.  They were relatively simple to put together.  The pattern covers a wide range of sizes, and I ended up tweaking it a little to get a hybrid pattern that seemed to best fit my measurements.  What fascinated me about these gowns was the research surrounding how to achieve the right look to the bodice.  Period pieces clearly show a smooth and supported bust, and there seems to be several predominant theories as to how to achieve that look. 

Let me be perfectly clear, here… I have done absolutely NO primary research on this, and I am relying on a few hours worth of looking into research by people much more educated on this topic than I am.  If you are looking to learn more about these dresses, please find those who know a lot more than I do on this subject.  Honestly, these are likely the only gowns of this style I will make, as I really wanted them for one specific wardrobe niche, and I didn’t have the time to thoroughly research at this point in time.  I wanted an overview of what was out there to know I was keeping my gowns reasonably correct, because what is the point of starting with a great pattern if you are then going to just do it wrong?  Bottom line:  I’m not at all certain I’ve gotten these right, but I’m pretty certain I haven’t gotten them blatantly wrong.

What I found indicated that the look of the bodice could be achieved through a combination of wearing foundation garments (which seem to be simpler versions of the gowns themselves, and may or may not have been designed to be more supportive?), as well as having many layers to the bodice itself (lining, interfacing, and an outer layer).  Since I was trying to make something like and cool and simple for Pennsic using linen, I decided I would strive to create what could potentially be considered a type of simple foundation garment for a more complete ensemble.  I wanted the right look for the bodice, as maybe I will someday use this as an underlayer, but I had no plans to embellish these gowns or even necessarily give them sleeves, and so they likely would not have been an outer layer.  At least I don’t think so.

I cut the bodice out of linen, and lined it in linen as well.  I modified the pattern a bit to try and achieve the correct look.  Since I relied heavily on how I make fitted dresses supportive through tweaking the seams right below the bust, I’m honestly not sure if I did this correctly or not.  It was a lot more difficult to adjust to side back seams as the only places you could really adjust, and ultimately I ended up “cheating” a bit by making the lining layer a little more supportive than the outer layer.  This resulted in the look I wanted for the bust, but also the smooth look of the overall gown, as the out layer was not as tight.  I have no idea if this is even remotely plausible for the period construction of this dress (Have I said that I am not entirely sure what I’m doing??)  but it seemed reasonable to me based on what I know about gown construction.

The bodice is front laced, and will have hand sewn eyelets, and I gather pleated the skirt.

Overall, I am happy with how these turned out as a first endeavor, and I know that if I do ever create another of these gowns I will definitely allow more time for research, as I found the discussion behind how the bodice appearance is achieved fascinating and I really wish I had more time to devote to making sure that I understood the options  and had done the construction correctly.

Updated with Pictures! :)

Pattern Pieces



Modifications to the Pattern (I raised the shoulder seam and took the sides in, then curved the side seams on the lining)

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This achieved a slightly fitted look (Sorry for the bad pics)

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Final Dresses… The green ended up the least fitted, the pink and blue are more fitted and have fuller skirts. 

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All New Projects Need a Plan….

June 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm (15th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Because I need a new project like I need a new hole in the head… but I think I finally have the proper motivation to begin working on something I’ve been wanting to do for years…. and so next up I will be doing my best to recreate the blue, black, and white outfit in the center of the April image from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1410).

So— I need a plan.  Or at the very least, need to begin listing the components of this outfit.  And as a change from the normal, I believe I’m actually going to be starting with the hat that is pictured, and the reason for this is that I’m going to use that same hat for a different outfit for Coronation at the end of September 2011.

Once the hat (and the Coronation outfit) are done, I will move on to the under-gown, which appears to be a long sleeved bright blue fitted gown.  I will likely make this out of linen, as it can serve as a base layer for other things during summer events.  The over dress seems to be a short sleeved black fitted gown that has a wide band of white fabric at the hem, and is worn with white tippets.  To me, this band of fabric has the appearance of a lighter fabric, and does not seem to be fur or a heavy fabric, and so I will likely construct this gown and the hem out of linen as well, although I may use wool or velveteen for the over dress.  The white tippets will be linen.

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Fitted Gown 5/15/2011– Pink Wool to Match Pouch and Hood

May 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm (14th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Similar to the 5/14/2011 gown, this post is to help me remember what pattern I am using and what changes need to be made.  Please see that previous post for more details on the pattern itself and how I currently fit self supportive gowns.

Used pattern from yellow cotton, which was roughly drafted from black wool gown (current favorite of my self supportive fitted gowns) Changed the arm hole based on observations from the purple linen gown.  (Used paper pattern adaption)

Pattern has 1.5 inches seam allowance added to it, but based on mock-up, gown should be sewn with 1 inch seam and then fitted after to be supportive (sewing with 1.5 inches barely fits, so with lacing and fitting, 1 inch should work)

Pattern has no gores, but front and back gores should be added. (Sides gores are accounted for with the extra width built into each panel of the skirt) Gores are cut from 1 yard square piece.

Fabric used: Pink Wool

Thread for hem and eyelets: Pink Silk


Paper adaptation for the sleeve definitely helped, but my carelessness by cutting too quickly has made the arm holes just as large in this gown as in the purple linen.  Oh well, the sleeves are still okay, and next time, I’ll take it a little slower.

Sides have small puckers under the arms, due to not quite getting the fit right before putting in the sleeves.  Its barely noticeable, as its under my arm, and will likely not even show when I’m moving and walking, but I need to remember that the sides need to be fit all the way to the top before the sleeves are set in.

Update: 5-21-2011

This dress and I are no longer friends.  From the bust down, it looks really nice and everything fits properly.  However, I’ve discovered that there’s a good bit of stretch to the fabric, and so hanging the dress after sewing it has led to some.. issues.  The underarm puckers are now definitely noticeable, although I think some tweaking can fix that.  Also, the neckline has come out a bit uneven, and there are multiple wrinkles in the sleeve and neck seams.  Overall, I think I’ll be very happy wearing this dress with a hood, but will avoid wearing it without one.

Update: 10-28-2011

I have finished all of the hems and half of the eyelets for this dress.  It has taken me this long to decide I want to even tackle the issues with the side seams, and even now I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to just leave them be for a bit.  The dress does not scream “wow, what a disaster” and its really only if you analyze the side seams that you noticed the issues, and so I think until it needs to be re-fitted due to changes in size, I will leave it as it is and just refrain from wearing it when I want to look overly nice.  It has been a good lesson in the fact that not every dress needs to look fabulous to be functional, and this one will be a nice warm layer to either wear with a hood or under a better fitted gown :-)

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Pink, Green, and Purple Embroidered Hood with Elephant

April 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm (Current Projects, Embroidered Hoods, Sewing and Garb)

Cream wool hood to match pouch with flowers and elephants.  Hood is lined in pink wool, and is machine sewn and hand hemmed.  Linen thread (16/2) is used for the embroidery, and the vines are sewn with stem stitch, the leaves are done with back-stitch, and the flowers are outlined in split stitch.

Updated: October 2013– The flowers are done! The lining is sewn!  The hood was able to be worn!  I lined the hood in purple linen, and have photos below of both the finished stitching as well as images from Coronation on Oct 5th (Taken by the wonderful Cateline la Broderesse).

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Update:  September 2013– I have crossed the point of no return and begun to fill in the flowers… moving slowly, but determined to finish this hood soon! :)


Update 8-19-2013:  The flowers are all outlined, and the purple centers are all filled in!  All that is left of the embroidery is to fill in the pink flower petals and this will be done!!! :-)

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Update 5-6-2013: I finished all the vines and leaves!!!!!! Onwards to the flowers!! :)

Update 5-13-2011:  Thus far, this hood is kicking my butt.  I thought I had a system for laying out the design by making a mock up of the design that was hood shaped.  Somehow, when I went to transfer that to the actual hood, the curve was off and it was very hard to get the space between the design and the hem even.  In the future, I think the mock up plan might still work, but I will try to cut the hood with extra length to the hem and just measure that space again when the design is finished.  For this project, I finally managed to get it close, and will be able to hem the hood to make the design look evenly spaced.  The hem will also be a little larger than planned due to scorching a portion of the hood edge (see aforementioned butt kicking by the hood).  Hopefully all will work out in the end.

I tried split stitch in the center of the flowers, and it looked very sloppy.  I’m not sure if its just that the space is too small, or if it was because i was working without a hoop, but it was very frustrating.  Gave up on that for the moment and moved on to the stem stitch, which thus far is going okay.  Decided to work the stem stitch all in one direction rather than deciding which way the vines were growing.  Will upload a few photos tonight if I think of it….

Update 3-14-2013:  Wow…. almost two years later and I’m *still* working on this project, although I’ve made quite a bit of progress and I’m happy to say the end is in sight.  Still no photos, but I will hopefully have some soon.  I have almost completely finished the vine work and the leaves for the pattern, having used stem stitch for the vines and satin stitch to fill in the leaves, and I will then begin outlining all of the flowers in back stitch in order to fill them in as the final step.  While the vine work has taken me at least 6 months to complete, I think the flowers will work faster, and I hope to have this project (finally!) completed by the summer.

Updated 3-17-2013: Pictures!  I finally have pictures!  Here are a few photos showing the pattern on the hood, and an up close image


of the stitching for the vine work as well as the colors for the flowers once I get to that part.

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Embroidered Hood Based on Quilt of Tristam (14th C)

August 27, 2010 at 11:33 am (Current Projects, Sewing and Garb, Tristam Hood) ()

So its time for a new project!  I realize I haven’t updated any of my old projects yet, but I might as well start updating on my current ideas before I end up even further behind! I have greatly enjoyed working on the embroidered pouches that I’ve done, and I love the hood that I completed this past spring, but one aspect of these projects that was nagging at me was that I had little foundation for the designs I’d chosen.  I chose them because they were pretty and simple and I felt they were a good way to increase my experience and use the color schemes I’d been hoping to use.  But I wanted my next project to have a better basis for design.

With this in mind, I set out the other night to find an image to base my next design on.  In the process, I got distracted (Really, is this surprising), and ended up cleaning out a bunch of old documents I had printed when I was looking into quilting a few years ago.  One of those documents held an image that captured my attention and had exactly the type of designs I was looking to use in this project!  Intrigued, I paid a bit more attention to the papers I was paging through, and discovered that the image I was looking at came from a quilt dated to the end of the 14th century!  It was my lucky night– a design I wanted AND it came from the exact time period I was seeking!

So, I am now embarking on a new embroidery project using “The Tristam Quilt” as it is catalogued in the V&A database.  In particular, I am using the rose and vine pattern that can be seen in this image (as well as in many other places in the quilt).

So now that I have  design that I can document to exactly my period, I’d love to take this project up a level and really pay attention to what I’m doing and how that relates to work that can be found from the 14th century.  And I think the best way to start is probably to make a list of those questions that I need to answer before I even really begin any sewing.  I know that I’d like this design to be embroidered on a hood, and I have a general color scheme in mind, but I’d like to research a bit more about how this design would have been used (or at least something similar would have been used, since obviously I’m straying from the design slightly by not turning it into a quilt).  So, onwards to the questions!

1.  What style of hood was common to the 14th century?  (aka, do I really need a liripipe?)

2.  What would the hood have been made of?  (Linen, wool, etc?)  Any color limitations?

3.  Can I document a contrasting color for the lining?  What would it have been made of?

4.  What stitches should I use to sew the hood?  What type of thread?

5.  What stitches would be used in the embroidery?  What type of thread?  Color limitations?

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