Projects for Perfectly Period Feast – Burgundy

The West Kingdom Perfect Period Feast – Burgundy Guild (PPF-Burgundy Guild) is dedicated to exploring the time and culture of Burgundy in the fifteenth century with a goal of producing a Perfectly Period Feast on the theme in Fall of 2017.”

The Perfectly Period Feast is an event that happens in the West about every two years. The two years leading up to the feast are filled with classes, projects and research to enhance the “perfectly period-ness” of the Feast. November 2017 will be the PPF-Burgundy. The feast day is centered in 1450 to 1468 in a pretentious, wealthy merchant household. This will be the first PPF in which I’ve participated.

Inspirational Images

Pinterest board:

Items for the outfit:
White linen smock
Brown velvet V-necked overdress with black velvet collar and cuffs
Wide belt
Black velvet truncated henin
Red velvet or wool frontlet (to cover the kirtle)
Kirtle (I’m planning to wear my Hannah Brown kirtle which is the only one that sort of fits me at the moment)

Continue reading Projects for Perfectly Period Feast – Burgundy

Just a bit off the sides

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

Pictured here is the amount of fabric I removed from both sides of ONLY the front pattern piece of the bodice that took it from “filling in the cone in a not entirely flattering manner” and “actually working as a flattering and supportive bodice”. Honestly I’m a bit gobsmacked that removing that little bit from each side was enough. The sliver is at most 1/4″ wide in the center. That little adjustment made to ONLY the front pattern piece suddenly made my breasts stay up where they’re supposed to be. Color me surprised.

When I tried the pattern on I also realized the L value (46) is too long so I’ll be iterating this one more time with a shorter L value. When I’d bend to the side there was about 2″ of bodice below the bend point. I mathed it and figured out that I’d need to use a Bara tape of about 40″ long to end up with an L that caused the bodice to end at/above my bend point.

Starting with an L of 40, I then fiddled with the calculation Mr. Gnagy offered in his book and feel I may have backed into the way Bara tapes should be made for women.

The calculation in the book starts with your height and then subtracts 9 inches to get the “Cloak length”. All the rest of calculations are based on this. I suspect that since women’s garments are floor length it may be that you have to use the full length rather than the cloak length when building patterns for women. When I omit this subtraction I end up with a final value of L=38.6 which would easily round to 39.. which is comfortably close to 40 for me to call that good.

“Yes, but where do my boobs go?” Part 2

After much thrashing about I’ve finally landed on a “Low-neck bodice” pattern that’s close to fitting me. Close.. but not quite there.

Our story so far: (see also Part 1) I need a new kirtle. I’ve lost 50 lbs and my old kirtles are just not supportive any more. I don’t want to wear a modern bra under my kirtle so I just need to knuckle down and make a new one. Rather than going the easy route and doing what I’ve done before I decided to use the bara method described by Mathew Gnagy in “The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublet” and hints dropped by Mr. Gnagy on his facebook page about how to do this with a woman’s low-neck bodice(here). Then I ran into issues.

The bara method involves using graded tapes which are measured to the clients specific size. In this case it looks like I’ll need C (chest), W (waist) and L (length).

In “The Modern Maker” book he gives a graph which tells you how to setup the L based on your height. According to the book my L would be 34″ since I’m 5’5″ tall. Using this tape as my L for my initial patterns I ended up with a bodice pattern that was impossibly short. The “waist” of the bodice was barely coming down to my bra strap. I expected the waist to fall at my natural waist so I decided to use a longer measurement for the L value. After experimentation I ended up using an L of 46″. Either I’m completely off base and my new kirtle will have a much lower waist line than the period patterns.. or (hopefully) he’ll explain in the next book how I’m actually supposed to calculate this for a woman. Regardless I plan to use this longer value for L, at least until I learn better.

Initially when I measured for C I measured my bust over a super-supportive sports bra. This gave me a measurement of 46″. That is, with no compression applied by the tape it would take 46″ of fabric to exactly skim my already supported figure. When I used a 46″ bara tape and turned this into a sample bodice I found that 46″ was impossibly loose and would NOT work as a supportive garment. I went back and re-did my measurements and found that pulling the tape tight across my bust (as tight as I’d like the bodice to be) my new tape was 40″. I made a sample using this measurement and found it to be a bit too tight. This caused my bust to practically burst out of the neck line. I then backed this off to 41″ and find that I like the fit of that better.

Initially I measured my waist (for W) much the same way I measured for C (loose). Initially my W was 41. This, as with the C value above, was much too loose to actually be supportive. Especially when I reduced the C to 40/41. After a few iterations on the pattern I settled on using 38″ for W. This is as small as I can compress my natural waist comfortably.

So.. now that you’re all caught up. I have a bodice that’s conic and almost supportive. Sadly it’s not yet REALLY supportive. I think if I was in my 20s and had firm perky boobs I’d be all set to go. Sadly.. I’m in my 40s.. and perky is a thing of the past. Now, especially with my recent weight loss, my boobs are… what is the word which is the opposite of “dense”? … I’m going to go with malleable. Given a conic bodice.. and no other restriction.. my malleable boobs are filling in the cone in a not entirely flattering manner.

So, ok. I mulled this over for a night. I can see two possible solutions.
Either I need to fit the pattern more specifically to my shape.. and remove a bit from the sides such that my bosom will be unable to head south towards my belly button OR I need to size-down the C and W measurements 1 more inch.. and then use stretching of the pieces to encourage my bosom to stay up.

I went back to Mr. Gnagy’s bodice pattern and laid a ruler over the side seam for the front and finally noticed that’a not actually a straight edge. It’s subtly curved.

Posted by The Modern Maker on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Digging deeper I stumbled on this post on Mr. Gnagy’s facebook page from a year ago.

Posted by The Modern Maker on Thursday, May 12, 2016

If you look at the side seam you see that this is not a straight line from the top to the bottom. Instead there is an accommodation for boobs at the top of the pattern. So.. now I have a plan I will go and iterate my pattern some more.

“Yes, but where do my boobs go?”

As I mentioned I’m very excited to try out Mathew Gnagy’s methods and apply that to a late-15th/early 16th century kirtle. That said.. I will need back out some information from “how they did it in the 17th century” to make sure the garment I’m creating is as true to my period as I can make it.

Juan de Alcega’s 1589 tailors’ pattern book

F.59a – “Kirtle and low cut bodice of silk”

Mathew Gnagy has a version of this which is slated to be included in his next book (due out by the end of the year).

Being presented at Invocation of the Beltan Memorial Tourney as Mistress Sylvie. Photo by Joel the Brewer.

I’m terribly excited about this because of the super narrow straps that go over the arm. Very late in the Hannah dress project I realized that my neckline was incorrect for the period (1488-1515) and location (Brittany) I was trying to reproduce. I had honestly never paid such close attention to getting the time/place right on a garment before and doing so suddenly brought up that I’d gotten a detail totally wrong. Well, ok, mostly wrong. The neckline I’d used would be correct for a middle/lower class gal from Brittany but the upper-class gals were wearing the much narrower straps.

Alcega (and by extention, Mathew Gnagy’s) pattern has this very narrow strap. I buzzed about with eagerness to reproduce this before that little voice in the back of my head cleared its throat and forced me to consider the sides of the bodice. This bodice is conic. The sides are absolutely straight and have no indication that the bodice would be fitted to cup/support the breasts. Instead this appears to use the much more 17th century idea of shaping everyone to be a cone. It looks like the breasts will fill the cone and there will be no give in the pattern to hold the breasts up.

I spent about a day mulling this over.

Either I’m wrong.. and all my efforts at “fitting” bodices has been wasted effort.. or I’m right.. and they did something different (which eventually morphed into this conic shape).

So ok.

Alcega’s pattern book “Libro de Geometria, Pratica Y Traca” (Book of the Practice of Tailoring– Measuring and Marking Out) by Juan de Alcega, printed in Madrid in 1589. This details Spanish patterns. Much later time period, very different location.

I started by skimming “Tudor Tailor” and “The Queen’s Servants”. Both of those are focused on “English” dress styles later than I’m aiming for.. and both of those use the “conic” layout for the bodice.

Next I skimmed through “Drei Schnittbücher“. These patterns are from tailoring manuals from about 1590 from Upper Austria. Jackpot. Four of the dress patterns include an indication of fitting for the breast. Coincidentally, they all show the shaping happening on only the center front seam. These are contemporary to Alcega.. and still in the wrong location.

Finally I skimmed through my pin board “(black) velvet hat, Europe 1488-1515” and honestly I just don’t know. There’s a lot of pictures there that look conic. There are a few that don’t.

Well, so okay. I guess my previous efforts have not been wasted.. but this time I’m going to try out a new style of bodice for my next kirtle. We’ll see how that turns out.

The continuing pursuit of a better kirtle

Someday I want my garb to hang like a well made suit.”
– Posted by me on Facebook Feb. 5, 2017.

Un traje para Pitti Uomo 89

Posted by Sastrería Serna on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I’ve often joked that every time I fit myself for a new self-supportive kirtle I lose 50 lbs (friends have also remarked that if that really worked then they would never stop fitting themselves for new kirtles). This time is a little bit different in that the reason I’m doing a new fitting is because I am currently down about 25 lbs from where I was when I made Hannah “Brown” kirtle and it’s starting to no longer work as a “supportive” garment. See previous iteration at In pursuit of a better kirtle.

It’s been about a year and a half since I made the last dress and despite the fact that I haven’t been posting much here (and I haven’t been actively creating things from the early 16th century) I’ve still been reading quite a bit of very interesting and illuminating books and since I’ve been distracted with other eras (6th c. Kentish Anglo-Saxon/10th c. Norse) the ideas have had quite a bit of time to marinate. So when I finally came back around to wearing early 16th century garments and finally got to the point where I need to make a new 16th century kirtle the ideas that had been mostly in the back of my mind sprang to the front and demanded attention.

Foremost among those is the thought that “I’ve done it all wrong”. To be fair, I did what seemed logical (given no other guidance) but under new light the old ways were.. well wrong. The thought exercise goes like this: “If I’d done the previous dresses ‘right’ then I would be able to adjust the fit of the garment so that it works for me over a wider range of weights. BUT, since the method is ‘wrong’ instead I have to create a whole new garment to adjust the fit.” I was aware that my previous method of creating the kirtles was not very tolerant of size changes.. and for the most part I’ve lingered in the neighborhood around the original size so that the dresses have been usable for about the last 5 years. Not bad.. but I could have done better. Funny enough, the “better” way to do it was probably the more period way too. I’m not 100% certain on that.. but all signs point to it.

The primary influence here was Mathew Gnagy‘s book “The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets“. I resisted buying this book for a long time since my husband has no interest in wearing a late period doublet.. and the pattern considered here is a 17th century doublet. It’s out of period for the SCA.. and I just didn’t see how this was going to be useful. Boy was I wrong-ish. Mathey Gnagy comes from a bespoke background. This is the methods use by super-high end tailors to make stunning modern suits. Mr. Gnagy has taken his knowledge as a high end tailor and reviewed “period” garments and then written a book detailing the steps you need to go through to get the proper silhouette with traditional tailoring techniques. It’s all the things I wanted to know about “how did they do it” beyond basics questions that no one was writing about. Reading this book made me super anxious for him to publish the next two books he’s committed to write (Pattern Manual: 1580-1640 due by end of 2017 and Women’s Kirtle coming up after that).

This book led me to “17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns” which was just published this year. After I received that book and read over it I found out that they had already published another book with Women’s patterns. Both of these are fabulous additions to a late period recreation library.

I’m not completely certain that all of the methods shown in these books were used before the 17th century, but it seems reasonable that some of them were. These types of things did not spring like Athena from the head of Zeus, fully formed in the 17th century. I’m fairly certain that some form of these methods was used earlier than that.

In short the method is to create the garment with the outer fabric and the interlining and sew this all together (seams, eyelets, binding, etc) and then attach the lining in such a way that the lining could be easily removed in order to make alterations to the garment. Reviewing the patterns I’ll also need to change the shape to be more period correct for the late 15th century (more shallow point/no point at the bottom of the bodice). Sadly, because Mr. Gnagy’s other books aren’t out yet I’m having to extrapolate both from the 17th century way of doing things.. and the “men’s” way of doing things. So, since the “right” books aren’t yet available (and I totally could not afford to participate in Mr. Gnagy’s Kirtle workshop earlier this year) I will again be making my best guess.. but this time I hope it’s a better guess.


Braun Melanie, Luca Costigliolo, Susan North, Claire Thornton, and Jenny Tiramani. 17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017. Print.
Gnagy, Mathew. The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets. Charleston SC: Printed by, 2014. Print.
Johnson, Caroline, The Queen’s Servants: Gentlewoman’s dress at the accession of Henry VIII, United Kingdom: Fat Goose Press, 2011. Print.
Tiramani, Jenny, Claire Thorton, Luca Constigliolo, Armelle Lucas, and Susan North. Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns Book One. London: V&A Publishing, 2011. Print.

Adventures in Hair Taping

I am only just barely allowed to carry a girl card. I have long hair (mid-back).. but I pretty much lack clue about how to do girl things with my long hair. Recently I find myself fascinated with hair taping. Specifically it seems that hair taping is exactly the base needed to keep ear irons, a tudor coif and finally a round bonnet and frontlet in place. To that end I’ve started doing hair taping under my medieval head dress. In doing this I’ve run into a few issues.

Method 1: From “The Tudor Tailor” p. 142
The model’s hair is waist length. Requires two tapes cut long enough to go twice around the head.
– Run a part down the center of the whole head.
– Start braiding each side just behind the ear.
– Incorporate a ribbon into the braid. The braid is bound and tied off leaving a length of ribbon hanging free.
– The plaits are crossed over the top of the head and secured with a couple of hair pins.
– The ends of the ribbons are crossed again at the nape and tied together at the top of the head. The loose ends are tucked in and pinned.

Method 2: From “The Tudor Child” p. 140.
The child model’s hair is probably shoulder length. The braids start on the back of the neck and end at the top of the head. Tieing the tapes together is sufficient to keep the braids on top of her head.
– Lay the tape across the back of the neck.
– Run a part down the center of the whole head.
– Incorporate the tape into the braids.
– Pull the braids up to the top of the head and tie the tapes together.
– Use pins to hold down stray hair.

Method 3: From Tudor Tailor “Off With Their Hoods” demonstration at Costume College 2015 (Photo set from FB Elizabethan Costume Group)
Jane, the model, has very long hair. Possibly butt-length.
– Lay the tape across the back of the neck.
– Run a part down the center of the whole head.
– Wrap the hair with the tape (or incorporate the tape into the braid itself)
– Smooth the tape down the hair and then end the braid with a half hitch to hold the tape in place.
– pull the braids up and over the top of the head.
– Stitch remaining tape around braids to hold them in place.
– Once the stitching reaches the bottom wrap any remaining tape around the front of the braids until you can tie it off at the top of the head.

My issues:
– As always doing this to yourself is a PITA. Issues may have been resolved by getting someone else to do this to my hair but that’s not a good long-term solution for me.
– I found that coiling the tape around the hank of hair to be highly insecure. Once the hair hanks were wrapped pulling on the tape to secure the braids to the head caused the tape to slip off the braid. I’ve “fixed” this by going with the second method and instead incorporating the tape into the braids directly.
– My hair is shorter than Jane’s hair. I suspect that some of my “falling out of the stitch” issues are occurring because I can only wrap the braid once around my head with the tail ending up just above the opposite ear.
– Where should the braids start? behind the ear, base of the skull, low on the back of the head? I’ve been starting right behind the ears. I’ve had best luck when I start off super-tight with the braid. If the braid is too loose the hair just slops about on my head.
– How do you keep the braids affixed at the crown of the head? When I’ve stitched the hair onto the top of my head I’ve noticed the braids slipping towards the back of the head. I currently have no solution for this other then using more bobby-pins.
– How do you keep the braids from slipping out of the loops with which they’re sewn onto the head? During the day I’ve noticed the braids slipping down towards their starting point. Do I just need to sew tighter or is there some trick I’m missing? The best I’ve come up with is to be sure to pierce the braids occasionally when stitching them on.
– Is there some magical way to take this out without ending up with a snarled mess?

All that said, once my hair is up it makes a fine base for a coif, round bonnet and frontlet.

Recreating Veils and Hairstyles of the Middle Ages: 14th Century Italian Hair Styles

Princess Dress

Fitting started 3/8/2016.
kitty_dressBlue waisted linen kirtle started 5/13/2016, handed off (with unfinished hem) 6/9/2016.


Fitted, self-supportive (ie, not bra underneath). Short sleeved, waisted kirtle. Front opening. Bodice will have two layers of linen, skirt will have one layer of linen. Square necked. Edges bound. Silk sleeves tied in at the shoulder.

Inspirational Images
Continue reading Princess Dress

How now Brown Gown?

Processing into court for the ceremony. Photo by Joel the Brewer.

Brown velvet gown started March 29, 2016. Finished April 23, 2016.

For my laurelling ceremony I want to wear a gown over my kirtle. I lucked upon a great deal on brown cotton velveteen at $3.20/yd. So I got 10 yards of it.

This is going to be a brown velvet gown with a center front opening which will be held closed with hook and eye at the bodice (open on the skirt). The gown will have a waist seam and very wide sleeves (which can be folded back). The sleeves and the skirt will be lined in black cotton velveteen. The neck and the hem will also be bound with black velveteen. For this dress I’m going to use stuffed box pleats as shown in “The Queen’s Servants” page 46.

The sleeves will be very wide but I want the seam to be at the underarm (lined up with the side seam) and end up at the bottom of sleeve drop at the wrist. For the sleeve, I want a very wide sleeve which can be worn down (to the back of my knuckles) or can be rolled up partially(~3-4 inches) or half way up the arm. When rolled back I want the rolled back portion to sit flat against the sleeve it’s rolled up against. When I was fitting the sleeve I found the if I used a basic flared sleeve the rolled back portion didn’t sit flat. To fix this I updated the sleeve to go straight after it flairs out enough for the depth of the sleeve I want (see pattern).

Originally I thought I’d do a train.. but I finally decided against it. Realistically the number of times I’d wear the gown with the train down is approaching one and it seems silly to spend time and effort developing a pattern for and then sewing a feature I’d never use.

Inspirational Images

Continue reading How now Brown Gown?

Early Tudor White Partlet

Partlet V2.  Closer.

Partlet V2. Closer.

Planning began February 10, 2015.
Accessory finished March 19, 2016.
V2 finished March 30, 2016.
V3 finished April 17, 2016.


I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at early Tudor (1488-1515) pictures from France and Brittany and I’ve noticed quite a few of them have something white at the neckline. I believe that to be a partlet (sometimes called a gollar). Most of the time I see this under the kirtle layer. Occasionally I see it over the kirtle. In images from France/Brittany I’ve only seen the white partlet under the gown (in some Italian images the white partlet can be seen over the outer gown). Occasionally I’ll see the black partlet worn over the gown.. but the black partlet will be a different accessory with its own post.

My son is 2 and I tend to pick him up and carry him quite a bit so although I believe it would be correct to attach the partlet with pins (though I do boggle at trying to do work with pins that will come out and/or poke you) I’m going to make mine with ties instead.

The plan:
I want to make a white linen partlet from two layers of light weight linen ( IL020).
I will setup my pattern to eliminate shoulder seams.
(v1) This will be sewn closed under the arms and tied closed at the center front.
(v2 & v3)This will tie under the arms and be sewn closed at the center front.
This style of partlet does not have a collar.
I’ll wear this over my chemise but under my kirtle.
Continue reading Early Tudor White Partlet

In pursuit of a better kirtle

Hannah Brown worsted wool sleeveless waisted kirtle started January 17, 2016. Finished March 5, 2016.

I lost 10 lbs, gained 60 lbs, had a baby, lost 60 lbs and refit my bodice. I’ve had time since the last time I made a fitted kirtle to consider my construction methods and design choices and to make some new choices based on new information.**


breastbandSmock – The first layer of linen worn against the body. Often called a shirt, shert, hemd or chemise.

Kirtle – (kirtle, cotehardie, cote, gothic fitted dress, whatever you want to call it) The support layer. A dress worn over the smock. It supports and shapes the breasts. In middle/lower class this may be the only dress worn. The type of kirtle described here is appropriate for the late 15th/early 16th century (eg. 1480s-1540s possibly earlier/later). This is later (1540s and later) sometimes referred to as the petticoat.

Gown – The fancy dress worn over the kirtle. Made of expensive fabrics and sometimes fur lined.

Breast Band – (outlined in dotted lines in image to the left) In the kirtle the breasts are kept up by having the pattern tightly fitted to the body. There is a band about 2-3 inches wide which runs below the breasts on the rib cage. If this band is nice and tight and on-grain it’s impossible for the breasts to “droop”. Above the band the breasts are shaped by the space available in the pattern and the tautness of the fabric both from the side seam and from the shoulder seam. Below the band the pattern should at most skim the the body. I do not recommend shaping the body below the breast band.

Continue reading In pursuit of a better kirtle