CLOTHING PATTERNS & TUTORIALS
COMMERCIAL PATTERNS & WHAT
TO DO ABOUT THEM
FUR & LEATHER NAMES
... and what to do about them.
Many commercial patterns are available
but most of these are a mixture of time periods designed to appeal the
the Renaissance-fantasy crowd.
commercial patterns are available but most of these are a mixture of
time periods designed to appeal the the Renaissance-fantasy-goth crowd.
They are usually not even close to providing a decent medieval
pattern and they are harder and more complicated to make than an actual
medieval pattern. Remember, just because it has the word "medieval"
on the packet, doesn't mean it is.
Modifications of almost ALL of the patterns below ARE NECESSARY for
reasonably authentic results! They are included here only as a starting
point for sewers. If you're a historical re-enactor, you
might want to try PERIOD
PATTERNS or RECONSTRUCTING
HISTORY which you'll need to buy online and have shipped
So what's a medieval
dress supposed to look like? There are a few styles, but one of the
easiest is the 4-panel dress. There's a seam at the front and back in
the centre and a seam up each side. There are set in sleeves with a
seam that runs three-quarters around the back of the arm (if you have
a suit jacket, go look at the sleeves and you'll see what I mean). It
can have triangles inserted into the bottom of the seams in the body
of the dress to make the skirt part fuller. It can lace or have buttons
at the front and can have buttons all the way up the sleeve. You can
wear a dangly arm wrap called a tippet with it. The blue dress in the
menu is made this way. A lot of old school patterns for sundresses have
the same 4-panel construction and and can be lengthened to make a decent
sort of dress.
Please remember that even
a bought pattern will need to be tried on and pinned to your own body
shape for the best results!
kirtles and tunics
I've included a big picture here because it's a pattern
that's pretty much got it right. Ladies, it comes in all sizes
and really does look like the one pictures here. Historically,
it's pretty much put together right and you'll look great. If
you don't want the lacing (which can be at the back or front)
just sew that seam up. Most medieval dresses buttoned up the
sleeves. This pattern can be bought from Spotlight and is my
favourite commercial pattern.
and Ladies Basic Tunics
Avoid the over-the-shoulder sash and the Roman. The others are a
pretty good basic pattern. For the men, the tunic can be made long,
short or anywhere in between. For the women, a round or T neckline
can be decorated with embroidery or braid. Extra triangles of fabric
can to put into the bottom hem seams to make the skirt wider. The
dress will pull on over the head and be pulled in with a belt (either
thin leather or fabric).
with small hanging sleeve, Sideless surcote
Do NOT use the blue dress. The outfit on the right is okay. The
cream underdress should actually be two seperate dresses and not
one dress with a fake undersleeve, but in the interests of keeping
it simple, it's not too bad. It would lace at the back or pull
on over the head. The red surcote would
be worn over a dress with plain sleeves and doesn't need the lacing
at the sides or trim around the bottom.
I have this pattern. The basic gown or kirtle used a massive amount
of fabric (approx 8m) for the dress alone. Sleeves are excellent.
The low, wide neckline is nice. I'm really not too convinced about
the placement of actual seams on this one but it's better than most.
The red sideless surcote is very long, perfect for banquets. Altogether
not too bad if you have nothing to work from.
Surcote & Cotehardie
Do not use the red dress, it's fantasy. Avoid it at all costs.
The yellow sideless surcote is a fair sort of pattern. Uses approx
6 metres of fabric, and the same for lining. You can make your
own with less fabric. I haven't heard if the underdress pattern
is a good one. Anyone out there used it? Please let
15th century Burgundian gown
The bottom right picture is good with some modifications. The
collar needs to be fabric or fur, not lace. Fake fur usually looks
dreadful, so a black cotton velveteen works well. The sleeve needs
to to a straight sleeve. Usually this dress opens at the front
and is laced on the inside and covered with a really, really wide
belt. The V piece you see is your underdress showing, not a sewn
in bit. The big picture on the left is too late for a medieval
event. It's Renaissance. Avoid the top right pic.
Century Yorkist Gown/ Burgundian Gown
A pair of 15th century gowns and hennins. Between the two patterns,
you get one good dress. Start with the dress on the left, but
use the sleeves from the dress on the right. The sleeves should
be permanently sewn in and leave off the frills at the wrist.
Do not use the big sleeves!! Again, the collar looks bad in fake
fur, so use a black velveteen instead. The pointy hat (hennin)
is right. Usually this dress opens at the front and is laced on
the inside and covered with a really, really wide belt. The V
piece you see is your underdress showing, not a sewn in bit.
or Womans Basic Tunic
This pattern can be found in Op shops here and there and can be
used for both men and women. Widen the shoulders a little for
men. Man can have a split up the front or sides. Try to keep the
sleeves straight. For women, use this as either an underdress
or to use as an overdress, you can widen the sleeves or keep them
straight and make the bottom hem flare out to add fullness. Pull
it in at the waist with a belt.
for hoods & cloaks
Headwear played an important
part of dressing in the middle ages. Hoods can be both plain or decorative
with daggues (the bits that hand down around the bottom) and long liripipes
(the long dangly bit on the hood at the back). Hoods can be made particolour-
one colour on the left, another colour on the right. Cloaks tended to
be plain and were functional. No crushed velvet or shiny satins
I believe this pattern is a bit expensive, but the hood on the
top right hand side is GREAT!! This is exactly what would have
been worn. You can make this pattern without the daggues and just
have a straight bottom instead of the curvy one if you like.
or women's cloak
ONLY the top two patterns are any good medieval wear. The bottom
two are not suitable.
For better information on how to make medieval
clothes, try Sarah Thursfield's excellent Medieval Tailor's Assistant
and remember, it's usually the good choice of colour and fabric which
really makes a dress shine rather than a complicated pattern.