I would like to show you how to make a medieval inspired dress. I wanted to make a heavy and beautiful dress, suitable for noble women. The first thing I had to do, before getting started with anything really, was to choose the perfect fabric for the dress. I choose a heavy and thick piece of cotton. It was woven in a coarse structure, which gave it an authentic look. The colour blue were expensive and difficult to create in the medieval, and blue was worn by wealthy people.
Usually I would recommend fabrics made from flax or wool, as they are the most authentic. Wool is generally very suitable for winter clothes, and for people living in colder climates it is necessary to keep the insulating and warmth of the fabric in mind. (Nobody fancies going to a medieval market wearing a jacket over your
costume. ;) ) Unfortunately wool can be a bit pricey, so I chose to use cotton.
Before you start this project, make sure that you have all of these materials:
- Fabric (You will need some meters, but measure yourself to find out exactly how many)
- Sewing machine
- A good scissor (do yourself a favor and get a sharp one)
- Pins (A lot of pins!)
- Paper to make a template (should be transparent)
- 4– 5 clasps or hooks
- Fur needle
- Razor knife
Step 1: Make a Template
The first step is to make a template, using your own measurements. This dress looks good if it fits well on the upper body, but it’s very important that it isn’t too tight.
Usually I would measure myself around the chest and waist, measure my height, my armpits and so on, but I felt a bit lazy. I’ve made many dresses in the last couple of years, and instead of measuring myself again, I used two of those dresses to make my template.
If you have not made many dresses before, I recommend that you measure yourself and make a template from scratch. It will give you a much nicer result in the end. Here is some inspiration on how to measure yourself: http://free-phpbb.info/img/how-to-measure-yoursel...
After measuring it’s time to make the actual template. Draw on your paper, and try to be as precise as possible. I used my transparent paper to make the template, as shown on the picture.
When the template is done, you can cut it out with a scissor. Do not use the same scissor for paper and fabric: The scissor gets dull when cutting paper and it is very annoying to cut fabrics with a dull scissor.
Making this dress I made 3 different templates: One for the front and back (both right and left side), one for the armpits (both left and right) and one wedge for the back part, to make it flowier.
Step 2: Draw and Cut
Now that you have got your templates, it is time to draw it onto the fabric. I like to use chalk when drawing on fabric, because it is very easy to see, and it can be brushed away easily afterwards.
Lay the fabric on the floor, and make sure there are no folds or bums – it needs to be completely flat. Now start arranging you templates on the fabric, to see where they would fit the best. Use some time solving this puzzle: It might save you a lot of fabric.
Now you can start drawing one of your pieces on the fabric. Remember to leave 2 cm around the edge of your template, as you will use this space when you sow. When the piece is drawn on the fabric, use the same emplate again, but this time make sure to turn it upside-down. Otherwise you will be left with 2 left shoulders
or 2 right armpits, and that tends to cause trouble.
Draw all of your needed pieces onto the fabric and double check that everything is good before cutting. It is very annoying to make a mistake here. The Picture shows how half of the final pieces looked. The pieces on the floor will be the back part of my dress.
Step 3: Time to Sow
Now it is time to sow the parts together. I started with the back parts: First I pinned it all together, which required a lot of pins, and then I sew it together. The Picture shows the back part on my floor.
Then I did the front part, but I wanted to leave the middle of the front open, and choose not to sew it.
I pinned together the shoulders, and sew them. (The shoulders of a heavy dress need to be strong, so make sure to sow this part very well, maybe even twice.) This connected the back and the front part, but I still needed to sow the sides (under the armpits) together. After doing so I was able to wear the dress like jacket (a strange jacket, I’ll admit), and see how it looked on me.
Step 4: Make It Neat
After trying on the dress, I realized that it was way too big for me (I always end up with too big clothes), and I had to take in the dress. This time I was more careful, and I measured it 3 times, before actually sewing and cutting it.
After correcting my stupid mistake it was time to make the dress neat. The neckline, armpits, sides and bottom of the dress were not suitable for a noble woman, so I had to fold them twice and sow them. The Picture shows how to make a neat edge. This ofcourse is only necessary to do on visible sewings. It took me a lot of time to do this, but the results are much better when you spend this time.
Step 6: Closing Mechanism
Now it is time for a closing mechanism, so that your noble goods will stay private. I choose to stitch on 4 hooks that I found appropriate for the costume. I wanted to wear another dress underneath this blue one, and to make that a visual effect I left a couple of centimeters between the left and right side of the blue dress. (That is a very clumsy explanation, but it will make sense later on.)
To make sure that the hooks would fit the dress in the best possible way, I measured it on myself, wearing my other dress underneath. Then I did a lot of stitches… Make sure that all the hooks with wholes are placed on the same side, and all hooks with hooks are placed on the other side.
The hooks that I used was purchased in my local sewing store, but it might be easier and cheaper to find some online. Just make sure that they are made from metal, to give the dress the most authentic look.
Step 7: The Dress
Now the dress is done, and you can go ahead and try it on. I like to wear my dresses with a belt, and this is necessary when carrying a medieval wallet, knife, spoon, ect. The dress looks good both with and without a belt, so it is completely up to you, what you prefer.
The dress is suitable for a noble woman, but you can make it even more beautiful, adding just a bit of fur. Without the fur it can be used for any season, but I needed a dress for the cold Scandinavian winter, so I decided to add yet another step and make a collar out of brown fox.
Step 8: Fur Finnish
When working with fur it is important to have a razor knife and a fur-needle at hand.
On animals with a thick winter fur the hair is very compact, so when you cut it the fur will “open up.” Because of this you only need to cut a few centimeters in with. DO NOT USE SCISSORS! This will ruin the fur. When you have cut some fitting pieces and measured the pieces and the neckline you are ready to sow.
When sewing in fur you will need a special tool: A needle with a sharp-sided end. This needle is not poking holes in the fabric/fur – it is cutting. The end of the needle should look more like a sword than an actual needle. (They can be quite sharp, so be careful not to cut yourself.)
Thread your needle and use pins to hold the fur in place. Now you can start sewing – the neater the better. ;)
Step 9: The Final Result
This is the final look of the dress, and I hope you like it.
All of the pictures I did was taken outside (it snowed at the time, it’s just not visible on the pictures) and I only wore those two dresses. Still it was not too cold. The density of the dress itself makes it warm and gives it a very nice flow. The fall of the skirt looks very nice and compliments the look and medieval style.
This dress could have been a much different dress if it had been made in another colour, fabric or style. The same dress made in a brown colour, rougher fabric, wooden buttons and no fur would be a completely different dress, suitable for other characters or situations. This is a pattern that can be used in so many different situations, as it is easily dressed up or down.
Overall it turned out as I hoped, and hopefully some of you will find inspiration in this project.
More power to your elbow and have fun! :)
Second Prize in the
DIY Dress Contest