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Sewing Tutorial:
Easy Cheaty Basic T-tunic: Chemise, Undertunic or Overtunic

Not historically accurate sleeves, but easy to make and suitable for getting started,
or for stallholders who need a basic look or for fun feasts!

The basic T-tunic for an early Norman medieval gown is possibly one of the easiest gowns to make for the beginner sewer and it looks nice made in a nice colour with embroidered bands at the neck and sleeves and worn with a coloured belt and hood. It hangs like a sack in a very unattractive manner until the belt is on, when it drapes much nicer. If you pick a bright blue or green it is very lovely! It also makes a very serviceable chemise or smock pattern for underwear for most time periods.

Re-enactors use a slightly more complicated pattern with underarm gores and a separate sleeve, but to make a slightly cheaty one which uses less sewing and fussing, you can cut the top of the dress and the sleeve all in one piece. This has extra gores to give this a fuller skirt and a bigger hem so it's more feminine. Using gores is a proper medieval dress-making technique and pretty easy as well. There are no zips or lacing in this gown. It pulls on over the head giving a lot of upper body room-to-move for active people and little ones! Made out of silk or cotton velveteen (for non-re-enactors) and with a train, it's gorgeous for feasts!

You can make it without the gores for an even easier gown.

Step 1
You need: your fabric, pins, scissors and a cotton shirt for sizing.

Don't use a stretchy shirt as it can give a false sense of how it will fit you. If you don't have a cotton shirt, get thee to an Op Shop and spend a couple of dollars and and get one.

Lie your fabric flat on the floor unfolded.

Step 2
Fold your shirt and your fabric in half lengthways.

If you arm goes to the edge of the fabric like the picture, HOORAY, you can make this with very little fabric at all.

If your fabric is skinny, you will need to fold your fabric double (two runs of fabric instead of a folded over piece) before you begin.

Your folded shirt matches the side with the folded fabric on the left hand side.
Step 3
Fold your long, skinny folded fabric again the other way so you have one fold where your shirt centre fold is and one fold at the top of the sleeve.

You should have your one piece of fabric folded in four with the neck in the top left hand corner. At the top of the arms, there is folded fabric. At the centreline of the shirt, there is folder fabric.

The loose edges of fabric are at the right and at the bottom.

Not sure what I mean?

Check the next picture to double check that you've folded it right.
Step 4
Looking at it from a different angle to double check you've folded your fabric the right way before you cut anything.

Your loose corners are at the bottom right.

Your corner fold where everything meets is at the top left.

Your shirt is sitting right in that top left hand corner ready to mark out your dress.
Step 5
(Sorry for the wonky picture.)

Marking out your pattern. This is not quite so terrifying as it sounds.

Always ALWAYS cut the seams a bit bigger than you think you need. You can always take a dress in but it's really hard to add pieces in once it's cut.

Your pattern is based around your non-stretchy shirt. Because it pulls on over the head, you need to allow extra room at the sides.

The underarm curves up and the sleeve follows your shirt to the wrist, tapering a bit as you go so the sleeves is close at your wrist. Make sure you are marking a little wider than you think you need to allow for seams. You can pin in again to make it smaller if you'd like to!

Your sleeve seam is on the fabric edge and doesn't even need hemming!

To get the size of your skirt, draw a line from the hip (the bottom of the shirt) to the very edge of the fabric. The wider your fabric, the more skirt you'll have.

Your centre seam is as long as you are to the ground. If you want a train, allow more. You will notice that you have room to cut an upside triangle called a gore. If you want to minimise your sewing, you do not need to use the gore.

Step 6
Just double check again that the fabric is folded the right way before you cut anything...

... it should look like this...

all the loose corners are in the lower right hand side?


Start pinning!

Remember, your gore is OPTIONAL but will give fullness if you like a full skirt on your gown.

Step 7
Cut your new dress out.

Unpin the side now that your dress is cut.

Swing the triangle gores around so it sits with the top of the triangle gores at the waist and the bottom of the gore at the hem of your dress like this.

Make sure you don't cut your head hole too large at this point. Plenty of time to think about what kind of neckline you want later.

You don't need to sew any centre seam as it's on a fold.

Step 8
Unfold your dress altogether. When it's spread out of the floor, it looks like this.

You are ready to fold your gown and sew the side seams.

Make sure your triangle gores are sitting evenly with the raw cut side of fabric towards the raw cut side of the dress body and all the selvedges on the outside of the dress. Now get to work pinning those gores onto the body of the dress. Make sure you pin the good sides together.

Depending on the size of the fabric you started with, the gores may be a little big. That's ok. Start the top of the gore at waist height. You will be able to trim the hem down later. (Or it you want the hem to be as big as possible, just trim the top of the triangle gore so it doesn't go as high. This can be a bit fiddley for first-timers, so you might want to not do that.)

At this point, it's exactly the same front and back. Choose the side you want to be the front and cut the neckline a little lower. Just a little. Remember, you can take more off, but it's really hard to put it back on. Okay so now you have a front.

The seam with the dotted line running horizontally through the neckline is where you fold your dress now.

Step 9
If you've folded correctly, you now have a dress which looks like this. Fold your dress with the right side of the fabric facing together.

Pin, pin, pin those side seams all the way from the hem, along the body, under the arms and down the sleeves.

Now very, very carefully check you can get it on over your head. If it's very loose through the body, take the side seams in a little. Try it on again. Still loose? Pin in again and try it on. Remember, it will be a little loose so you can pull it on over your head. Once you're happy with the fit and you've adjusted your neckline, sew your two side seams and you're finished!

Step 10
The finished product! Both of the photos on this page were made WITHOUT THE GORES.

Your new gown will hang like a sack a little at first, but don't be depressed. When you put your belt on, it will pull in at the waist like it does in medieval manuscripts and the picture at the top.

Add a pretty hood and pouch and you're all dressed!

This pattern also makes a very good undergown for the 13th century gown, the wide-sleeve gown and a nice chemise as well.

Happy sewing!

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