kirtle or gown
Noblewoman's Sideless Surcote
With Side Gores And Back Gore
Re-enactors can also use
this pattern. This is an overgown and always has something with
long, fitted sleeves underneath. This pattern has side gores and
a gore in the back for fullness. This is not a day-wear pattern
for working class people, since generally speaking the richer
you were, the more fabric you could afford for clothes and it
is quite impractical to work in.
Made for fancy formal events, it can be cut away quite a bit to
show off your beautiful undergown. I recommend a long train and
making two of these so you can line it with a contrasting colour.
This is almost identical to the Sideless Surcote pattern except
there are more gores and it can be trickier getting a gore in
You need: your fabric, pins, scissors and a cotton shirt for
sizing. I use about 6m depending of the fabric width.
Don't use a stretchy one 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 fo dollars and get one.
Fold your shirt and your fabric in half lengthways.
The good side of the fabric is on the inside.
If your fabric is very 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.
Fabric fold check! Your fold is on the left side. Your loose
sides are on right. Your shirt is sitting right in the top
left hand corner ready to mark out your surcote.
Marking out your pattern.
If you haven't done this before, it can sound hard. It's not.
This is a loose garment, so there is room for error.
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.
You mark your seam from the edge of your shoulder straight
down to your belly button and then curve out to your hip where
the dotted red lines are and then out to the fabric edge for
You will need to mark out 2 of them. One for the front and
one fo rthe back. You can cheat by cutting out one and simply
tracing around it to make the other one.
The bottom one will be longer at the bottom to make a train.
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,
You have room to also cut some triangle gores.
Okay, start pinning!
Just double check again that the fabric is folded the right
way before you cut anything.
... it should look like this...
Allow seam space for sewing, then cut your new surcote out.
Unpin the sides now that your surcote is cut. Take away the
Your triangle gores are updaise down.
It looks like this.
Swing your triangle gores around so the top of the triangle
is at the waist and the bottom of the triangle lines up with
Check that you have front and back.
Don't pin anything just yet.
Unfold the surcote and the gores so you can clearly see your
It looks like this.
One piece is longer at the bottom. This is your back.
You have 4 little triangle gores which are at the sides.
Don't pin anything just yet. We need to shuffle the gores
around a bit.
Okay- On the back of your surcote, that's the one with the
train, put one triangle gore on each side and pin them on.
Don't do anything with the other two gores just yet.
Your surcote should look like this.
Your top two triangle gores are going to be inserted into
the back of the train in the middle.
They will go where you see them in this picture.
Obviously, when you get to the bit where you pin them, they
will be set into the hem properly, not hanging out like this
This pic is just to show where you will put them.
If you have more fabric to cut more gores, this is also where
you add them, and if you're really keen, you can add another
small one in the front centre seam (not shown).
Sew your little side gores onto the main body of the surcote.
Remember the good sides of the fabric go face together.
If you have cut your surcote out on a fold, you will need
to make a slit up the back of your fabric the length of your
triangle gore so you can sew it in.
Pin first one side like this picture, then pin the other side,
then pin the centre together.
Remember, the GOOD side of the fabric faces the good side
of the fabric. You are pinning on the underside, so the seam
is inside when you're finished.
Before you sew anything, check that it's sitting nicely and
you haven't sewn any of the triangle gores on inside out.
They will be sitting weird if you've accidentally done that.
Now is the time to make adjustments.
Swing one piece around 180 degrees so the shoulder pieces
are touching. Make sure your fabric is the right way out so
you have the two good sides together.
When it's spread out of the floor, it looks like this.
The side you want to be the front is the one without the train.
Cut the neckline a little lower. Just a little. Remember,
you can take more off, but it's really hard to put it back
Okay so now you have a front. You will want to adjust the
front of your surcote so it is not as wide as the back. Do
that at the very end so you are allowing for hemming.
Pin the shoulders together, remember to check the good side
of the fabric is facing the good side of the fabric. You want
your sewing on the wrong side, so the good sides face inwards.
Okay, now fold your surcote so it looks like a surcote.
It looks like the pic.
Turn it inside out and pin, pin, pin those side seams all
the way from the hem to the hip.
Once you're happy with the fit and you've adjusted your
neckline, sew your two side seams and you're finished!
Now is the time to trim the front of the surcote (to roughly
nipple width) if you want a really cutaway garment. Remember,
you need to allow enough fabric to do a rolled hem around
the side openings.
The finished product!
You can also line this surcote with a contrasting colour.
All you need to do is cut two of these together and sew
them together. If you are doing this, just be aware that
sewing the armholes can be a bit perilous. Do them one at
a time. Do the neck seperately. Do the hem last of all.
ALWAYS pin and try on before you sew. It beats the heck
out of unpicking later on.
This surcote is lined with white silk and has gold metal
thread bands and embroidery like the inset picture (not
shown in this photo)
© Rosalie Gilbert
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