Seeing Red

Red short-sleeved waisted cotehardie started May 28, 2012. Finished June 29, 2012.

Since my black waisted cotehardie (kirtle, cote, gothic fitted dress, whatever you want to call it) worked out so well I’ve decided I need a few more. Pennsic is coming and I’m very hopeful that the short-sleeved linen waisted cotehardie will be light enough to wear at Pennsic without dieing from the heat. So with that in mind I’ve purchased 8 yards of crimson IL19 linen from and 8 yards of cobalt (destined to be the third dress). Looking back at my inspiration images, blue and red seem to be the most common colors for the short-sleeved dresses.

I’m going to take the learnings from the black cote and incorporate that into the pattern for the new one.

Inspirational Images

Rogier Van der Weyden, detail Seven Sacraments 1445-1450

The Stark triptych, 1480

Red Waisted Cotehardie Todo:

– (done) Wash fabric (8-8.5 yards necessary)
– (done) Update bodice pattern based on changes to the black cotehardie (In fitting the black I found that the back of the bodice was too long. I’ve now shortened it on my permanent pattern)
– (done) Make a pattern for the lower sleeves (Update pattern to be 5″ longer and have a S top with seam down the back of the arm)
– (done) Update short-sleeve pattern based on changes to the black cotehardie (move sleeve seam down to the bottom of the sleeve so it matches up with the bodice side seam)
– (done) Add picture of updated pattern pieces
– (done) Cut out the bodice.(I used my pattern but I also removed 0.5″ from each side of the front opening so that I’m able to lace the dress a little bit tighter than the pull-over-the-head version)(Sadly, it looks like that’s not enough. The bodice is too big. Next time I’ll completely sew the bodice together and try it on before opening the front seam to add a lace)
– (done) Cut out the skirt and sew it together. (Four 58″ squares cut corner-to-corner and then french seamed straight edge to bias edge to make a full circle skirt)(next time: Cut the panels at 9″ wide at top/bottom and sew the panels together with bias edges towards the back of the skirt. End up with bias to bias at the center back. Better swoosh.)
– (done) Cut out the circle for the waist of the skirt (next time I will cut the skirt panels out so that this step is unnecessary)
– (done) Make the short sleeves (two layers of linen)
– (done) Sew together the bodice (I used fully enclosed seams on the sides and back) (Next time: Sew it entirely together and try the fit)
– (done) Attach the short sleeves to the bodice (sew down on one side then flip and hand sew down the other side)
– (done) Attach the skirt to the bodice (Put a box pleat at the center-back and then knife pleat either side to fit the top of the skirt to the bottom of the bodice. Sew the skirt to the front layer of the bodice and then flip the back layer of the bodice around to make a hidden seam on the inside).
– (done) Add facing and eyelets to the bodice. Facing started out at 3″ wide, folded in half, attached to the bodice with a 1/2″ seam allowance which means that the facing strip is ~1″ wide on the bodice. (eyelets are set at 1/2 inch from the edge and 3/4 inches apart. Offset a la “The Zen of spiral lacing”)
– (done) Fingerloop a lace. (it needed to be at least 52″ long)
– (done) Hem the dress
– (done) Adjust the bodice fit on the side seams.

I finally got the eyelets done and was able to try on the dress… only to find out that even with removing 0.5″ from either side of the front opening.. the dress is way too loose. The plan is to snork it in at the side seams. It feels just silly to have to adjust a dress before I’ve ever worn it.. but then again.. it feels silly to wear a dress that’s just too big. Also of note: the next time I’m making a dress that will have eyelets I will first sew the entire bodice together including the front seam and pull it over my head to test the fit BEFORE completing all B-zillion of the eyelets.

Later: Because the dress is just a bit too big I snorked the bodice in at the sides. I started by pinching the seams and moving them 1/2″ further in. This gave me strange stress flattening of the boob.. so I had to go back and remove some of the snorking. Frankly if I had a friend who could have helped me pin it tighter the process might have gone a lot quicker. Regardless, I stitched a bit, tried the dress on, marked in chalk where I thought it needed to be tightened/loosened, took the dress off, then seam-ripped or stitched it some more. After a few tries I finally got the dress snorked in enough and fidgeted the seams on each side enough that it doesn’t deform my boobs.

That said.. I think in the snorking I may have twisted it. The lace doesn’t want to sit straight up and down. *sigh* Though.. I have been having back problems.. and in the front-facing and back-facing pictures my left shoulder -is- a lot higher than my right shoulder.. meh.. it could just be that I’m a little bent and the lace is perfectly straight.

New skirt cutting plan

Also, plan to cut skirt panels differently. Cut 9″ from edge top and bottom instead of corner to corner to save ~11″ of length and only lose a little bit of width.

Also, sew skirt panels together so that bias is towards the back of the dress (with center back being bias to bias) so the dress “flows” the same way on both sides. That will give me two flat edges at the center-front… and it will (I hope) hang less weird.

Lastly, I was lazy and used a straight reinforcement strip around the front edge and neck/sleeve of the dress instead of cutting out a bias strip. Under the eyelets it’s fine.. but I think at lease around the neck/sleeve it would work better if it was a bias strip. I may tear it off of this dress and replace it.


In early 2013 I gifted this kirtle to a friend of mine. It fit her nicely and she looks just smashing in it.

Progress pictures:

My 4-panel bodice pattern and short sleeve.

Fabric is 8 yards of IL19 Color: Crimson. Thread is Gutermann Color: 420

Sewing down the reinforcement strip around the front/neck edge

Eyelet positions marked on the inside with sharpie

Eyelets from the outside of the bodice

Eyelets from the inside of the bodice.

“Snorking up the sides” I’ve laid a white string over the line of stitches I added to the inside to get the dress to fit right. I removed about 1/2 inch at the seams from each side.

Fingerlooping a lace plus a bonus picture of His Evilness Emperor Loki the Kitty “helping”

From the front

Left side

From the back

From the right

Other Relevant Entries

Black Waisted Kirtle
Cobalt Waisted Kirtle
15th Century Tailed Cap (aka: Flemish Kerchief)

Waisting Away: Pics or it never happened

I ended up finishing the hat in the hotel room on Friday night but the dress was done before then. I wore this dress on the Sunday of Cynagua Spring Coronet 2012 to act as inspiration for my Lord Fearghus MacAirt. Fearghus went to finals but ended up losing to Sir Mari Alexander.

– I love the colors I think it really popped with the black and gold. BUT I do believe that black is -totally- the wrong color for a working woman’s dress. I’m ok with it.. as a re-enactor wearing “Cynaguan colors”.. as long as I keep in mind that Black at this time was pretty much reserved for nobility or sunday best.
– I like the fit. The dress was supportive all day even with being pulled on over the head. I do want to make the next dress with a lacing.. and plan to go back an re-do this dress to add eyelets and a lace.
– I like the hat but I think I’ll play with the pattern for a bit before I will call it finished.
– I thought I’d be annoyed by the squared off back of the neck… but I think I like the way it looks.
– The night before we left for the event I found a paternoster(rosary) I made YEARS ago. Since it’s an amber and coral rosary I thought it would match the dress sleeves well. I like the way it looks hanging off the left shoulder but I think I need to use a smaller pin for it.

– I ended up making short tapered tube lower sleeves. I don’t like the way they’re hanging. I think there’s too much chemise showing at the armpit. I’ll need to spend a while fiddling with a pattern for the lower sleeves to get them right. Also, reviewing the inspiration pictures, I pinned these on totally wrong. The sleeve should be on top. I think by doing it this way I could pin the sleeve up higher and cut down on the amount of chemise showing. I think this means that my lower sleeve will need to be a lot longer. The current sleeve is 15″ long. That is just barely enough to go from the bottom of the short sleeve to my wrist. If I want to cover the chemise I’ll need to make the sleeve longer. Probably about 4-5″ longer.
– I hate the way the dress looks with the belt (or rather the way I squish out above and below the belt). I’ll try wearing it with the belt looser next weekend and see if I just had it too tight. Otherwise I guess I’ll be wearing this without a belt. At least until I can buy the proper fittings for the dropped belt I see in some of the inspirational images.

This weekend was a lot colder than expected.. so I don’t think this event is a fair test to see if the dress will work for Pennsic. That said.. I’ve already ordered and received red and blue linen which is destined to be two more dresses like this.

Overall.. I’d call this a winner.

January 25, 2014. After splitting the front and adding eyelets and a lace.

January 25, 2014. After splitting the front and adding eyelets and a lace.

Waisted Cotehardie Todo:
– (done) Make fitted pattern for bodice
– (done) Cut out and sew together the bodice
– (done) Cut out and sew the skirt together
– (done) Cut out the circle for the waist of the skirt
– (done) Sew the skirt and the bodice together with a binding strip
– (done) Remove skirt. Adjust the length of the back bodice.
– (done) Sew the skirt and the bodice together with a binding strip (again)
– (done) Make the short sleeves (two layers of black linen) and attach the short sleeves to the bodice
– (done) Remove skirt(again). Sew the skirt to the front layer of the bodice and then flip the back layer of the bodice around to make a hidden seam.
– (done) Make a chemise to go under the dress.
– (done) Hem the dress (it took 3 days of commuting so ~6-7 hrs)
– (done) Finish the neck, wrist and hem on the chemise.
– (done) Make the lower sleeves (I have some lovely gold linen set aside for this)
– (done) two-tailed linen cap (more details posted on this later)

Edited to add:
In Januray 2014, just after I gave birth to my son, I updated this dress so that it would be open down the front with eyelets so it could be closed with a lace. This turns out to be fantastic breastfeeding garb.

Future projects for this outfit:
– knee high linen hose
– appropriate belt and pouch
– Adjust short sleeve pattern. Rotate sleeve pattern so that the sleeve seam matches up with the side seam
Adjust bodice pattern so that shoulder seam is moved to the top of the sleeve cap (?? no proof of this.. but the current placement “feels” wrong) I changed my mind. I’m going to leave it as it is.

Other Relevant Entries

Waisted Kirtles
Crimson Waisted Kirtle
Cobalt Waisted Kirtle
Mocha Waisted Kirtle
15th Century Tailed Cap (aka: Flemish Kerchief)

Waist not..want not

I am a big giant dumb ass with OCD tendencies that run amok.

So I’m working on this 15th century linen kirtle. The bodice is two layers.. and the skirt is a single layer.

A while back I decided that I’d use a binding on the seam between the skirt and the bodice. It seemed like the best way to attach the skirt. I don’t want any raw edges exposed..and the only other thing I could think of was attaching it as a french seam.. and that just seemed awkward.

So I sewed the dress together including hand finishing the second edge of the binding. Then I tried the dress on.. and found out the bodice was a little bit too long in the back.. so I removed the skirt, shortened the bodice and reattached the skirt. Reattached as in I have entirely, 100% finished with the hand finishing on the binding strip.

Then when I started on the sleeves I decided that instead of using a binding strip on the sleeves I’d sew the sleves down on one side.. and then hand finish the other side. I’ve finished one of the sleeves (and I hope to goodness I don’t have to pull it off because the stitching looks lovely) and I’m sitting here.. idly thinking about the dress..and musing to myself how sad it is that the waist seams binding is so bulky.. and is making the waist seam stand out a bit.. and at the same time I happened to stumble on a flickr picture that someone posted about how they attached the skirt on their dress…. and now I’m just kicking myself. They attached the skirt to the front side of the bodice.. and then flipped the other edge of the bodice and hand sewed that down.. it’s much nicer and less bulky than a binding.

Picture 1, attaching the skirt to the outside fabric.

Picture 2, hand finishing the bodice on the inside.

So now that I’m thinking about it.. I’m going to have to do it. Stupid OCD.. now that I see how it should be done.. there’s NO WAY I can leave it as is. So yes, I will be removing my skirt for the second time and sewing the damned thing back together.. AGAIN.

BTW: Is there a sewing term for this kind of seam? I want to be able to use a term to describe what is happening and have people able to understand what I’m talking about without having to redefine the process each time I mention it.

Once twice.. three times…

I’m making good progress on my waisted cotehardie. I badly wanted to wear it this last weekend (very hot Mist/Cyn war).. but sadly it’s still far from being done.

I finished sewing down the binding strip between the skirt and bodice and -then- I tried the dress on. Overall I like how the dress is fitting but after nitpicking for a while I decided the bodice was too long across the lower back. So I marked where it needed to be shorter, removed the skirt and binding strip, cut it down and then finally reattached the skirt.

This time I tried it on BEFORE finishing the binding strip. Now I -really- like how the dress is fitting. So over the next few days I’ll finish the binding strip and start working on the sleeves.

Flidais gave me a copy of her short-sleeve pattern for her cotehardie. I made a mockup with her pattern and tried it on. The fit is mostly right at the armseye but a bit small in the bicep. I fiddled with the pattern and came up with an update. The update was pretty close but still needed a bit of fiddling. So I fiddled it a bit more and last night attached it to the bodice. Unfortunately I sewed it on backwards. *sigh* (it was late at night and I was watching TV and not paying attention) So tonight I’ll remove the sleeve, re-attach it and then try the dress on. If it works well then I’ll be all set to make the sleeves out of the “real” fabric and get that part of the dress done.

Originally I thought I’d use a binding strip to add the sleeves but I changed my mind. Since the sleeves are two layers of linen I think I’ll sew them in on one side and then hand-finish the other side. This will end up with a less bulky seam than if I’d used a binding strip and should be strong enough to hold up since those seams aren’t -really- under stress.

Assuming I get the mockup sleeve removed and reattached correctly. And assuming that once I try it on I don’t need to fiddle with the sleeve pattern any more, I should be able to make the final short sleeves for this tonight.

Black shall be the color

Ok.. all productivity was put on hold during the move. Luckily the move is done now.. now it’s just the interminable unpacking.

Anyway. I’ve decided I want to wear my black waisted cotehardie for Cynaguan Coronet May 25-28. A while ago, when I thought I’d be able to wear this for Gaston Phebus, I put together the bodice. At the moment it’s totally sewn together and I can pull it on over my head and shimmy into it. It’s fitting.. but not as tight as I’d like it to be. The current plan is to make the skirt portion and attach that to the bodice. Then, if there’s enough time, split the front seam of the bodice open, roll each side back 3/4 of an inch and add eyelets for spiral lacings. The idea is that I really want it to be wearable for Coronet (pull over the head).. but long term I want to be able to lace the dress tighter.

Cutting the skirt panels

To that end I’ve finally laid out and cut the skirt portions (yes, that is the fabric laid out on the back patio.. it’s the only big flat surface I could find to lay out the fabric to cut it corner-to-corner). I’m going to do an unlined skirt.

If my mental image is right.. I’m doing 8 sections where each section is 1/2 of a 58″x58″ square of linen. The sections will be french seamed together with a bias edge to a straight edge.. and if I figured it out right.. that should just about make a skirt that drapes very fully. In fact, I -think- that will make it a full circle skirt.

After I get the triangles sewn together I’ll cut out the top of the triangles to fit the length of the bottom of the bodice. I think I will be cutting the top of the triangles so that the tops are flat and ~8″ wide. If I was math smart I probably could have laid that out when I cut out the skirt.. but that math eluded me.. and since I didn’t want to mess it up, I decided it was ok to end up tossing a circle of fabric where all the triangle points come together.

When the skirt is attached to the bodice the skirt will be lined up so that one of the seams exactly matches up with the center front seam on the bodice and the opposite seam exactly matches up with the center back seam on the bodice. Then I’ll take up the excess of the skirt by adding a box pleat to the center back..and knife pleats evenly to either side until the excess is taken up. Then I think I’ll us a binding strip to attach the skirt to the bodice. I could french seam it.. but a binding strip seems much cleaner. Changed my mind.

The dress will have short sleeves with pin-on lower sleeves. I think I’ll also use a binding strip to attach the short sleeves to the bodice. Changed my mind. See next post.

Then I just have to hem it an I should be good to go.

Sunshine inspired productivity

I had a relaxing weekend at home. It’s rare. In fact since the beginning of the year this is only the second weekend I’ve been at home… and the first weekend was the weekend where we did an open house.. so that doesn’t really count.
Continue reading Sunshine inspired productivity

Abortive beginnings

Diary started June 23, 2011
Black short-sleeved waisted cotehardie started March 5, 2012, finished May 23, 2012.

I’ve spent quite a while thinking about this and finally set to work on this a few night ago. I have a bodice which I’ve used for my german gowns. That bodice ends at around the bottom of my ribs. I fiddled with this pattern and extended it down so that the bodice now ends at my natural waist (I added ~3″-4″ to the bottom all around). I also fiddled the pattern so that it uses side seams.

Then I threw the brown linen I’d set aside for this project into the washer. I only have 5 yards so I hope that’s enough. I suppose if it isn’t I’ll have to order more linen.

[Edited: After I’d washed the linen I realized it REALLY wasn’t enough and went back to the drawing board. Then the project sat around for almost a year before I took it up again.]

15th century waisted kirtle


Once upon a very long time ago I made and wore a cotehardie. Unfortunately I didn’t think that cotehardies are particularly flattering on me. After the yellow cotehardie I wore a lot of basic tunics.. and finally started making German gowns. The bodice on German gowns is a lot shorter then the bodice needed for a cote. On my German gown the bodice ends at the bottom of my ribs. For the cote to look right I needed to bring the bottom edge down to my natural waist. That’s probably a 3″ difference. I’m awful bumpy below the ribs.. and in the German gowns I can camouflage that with the very high waist.. I’m not able to do that in the cote. Regardless after many years of -not- wearing a cotehardie I’ve decided to try it again only this time I want to do a 15th century waisted cotehardie.

In retrospect I think the issues with the yellow cotehardie mostly came because the skirt was fairly narrow.. and frankly I wasn’t that good at sewing.. so although the fit was adequate, it wasn’t great. Luckily, I’ve gotten better.

This time I’m planning to do a cotehardie (cote, kirtle, gothic fitted gown, gothic fitted dress, whatever you want to call it) with a waist seam. The addition of a waist seam will allow me to get a lot of added fullness in the skirt. I’ll add pleats to the back of the skirt to take up any excess (and to allow for sufficient flair over my hips). Lastly, I want to make this out of linen with short sleeves and an unlined skirt. Hopefully that will allow me to wear this at very hot events (eg: Pennsic) without overheating.

Research and Background

These dresses are seen in a lot of images by Flemish and French artists in the late 1400s.

Details to include:
– Supportive bodice with front, back and side seams.
– Spiral lace closure in the front that extends below the waist seam
– Waist seam at natural waist
– Rounded neckline front and back that has a reinforcement strip on the inside. (Though, if I was doing a strictly french fashion it looks like the front at least would be squared)
– Long sleeved chemise that barely peeks up above the neckline and comes to about knee height
– Short sleeves with pin on lower sleeves of a different color.
– Skirt pleated into the waistline. I plan to only have pleats in the back.
– Trapezoidal gored skirt.
– Belt worn at the waist, or, more comomnly, low on the hips
– White linen tailed cap
– Open hood

Inspirational Pictures

See Also:

Kirtles with a waistseam
Three kirtles illustrated by Rogier van der Weyden c. 1445-50.
15th Century Female Flemish Dress: A Portfolio of Images

Blue 15th Century Kirtle with Trapezoidal Skirt Panels (finds from london)
The kirtle the medival dress of the 14th century

Will the Real Fifteenth Century Sleeve Please Stand Up?

Lara Corsets & Gowns: 15th Century Women’s Clothing During England’s War of the Roses

Robin Netherton: The Gothic Fitted Dress FAQ

The Hundred Years’ Wardrobe: A Sewing Experiment

Men’s and Women’s Work Clothing: A Portfolio of Images Simon Bening, The DaCosta Hours. A lot of working women images from 1515 with short-sleeves.

Tangible Daydreams: Contrasting gores in cotehardies
In My Lady’s Chamber: Contrasting gores in medieval dresses debunked

Dress Diaries

Black Waisted Kirtle
Crimson Waisted Kirtle
Cobalt Waisted Kirtle
Mocha Waisted Kirtle

Other Relevant Entries

15th Century Tailed Cap (aka: Flemish Kerchief)