Once I had Justin's Dominican Friar get-up under my belt, I decided it was time to start something for myself.
I really love the look of the Elizabethan gowns with the fitted bodices and full skirts, but I thought that the techniques necessary to make that happen might be a little bit advanced for a novice like me. I opted instead to make a kirtle and surcoat using the Elizabethan Comfort Pattern by Margo Anderson. There aren't many small, fussy pieces, you're sewing mainly in straight lines, there aren't any specific requirement for underpinnings, and best of all, because it isn't fitted, you don't need a dress form.
Once I had the pattern in hand, I headed over to Hancock Fabrics to see what I could find for material and I found the following:
The taupe fabric with the diamond pattern was in the clearance bin. The darker greenish fabric, which is an upholstery weight silk blend, wasn't clearance, but it WAS 40% off so it ended up being only about $8/yd when all was said and done...and I was absolutely in love with it.
My initial thought was that it's olive green. But it really isn't that yellow. But it isn't really brown. It kind of defies description. I didn't bring a swatch with me when I went to pick up the thread for it, and I eyeballed it. I grabbed an olive-ish green. WAY OFF. I brought a swatch when I went to exchange it...and the thread named "Army Drab" ended up being the perfect match. So there you have it.
The whole thing went together quite easily, really. I used store-bought bias tape to finish the neck and armscye on the kirtle.
To save myself some cash, I used an old bed sheet to make the main body of the kirtle. That actually worked well. I was going to use the eye side of some hook-and-eye tape, but then I decided that I'd go whole-hog and hand-sew the eyelets. It was actually a fairly painless process.
I did the eyelets on the armscye of the kirtle an on the sleeves:
And on the back of the kirtle:
I did end up ditching the ribbon for lacing the back in favor of some nice linen cording. Works much better.
The sleeves lace into the armscye like this:
I somehow managed to cut the thing about 6 inches too long...and it seemed to be too long only in the front. I'm 99.99997% sure I didn't cut the maternity hemline, so I don't know what the hell happened. In any event, I had to do some alterations there. I used my friend Jamie as a dress dummy.
Once that was done it was time to move on to the overgown. Once again, a very straight forward process. Everything went really smoothly until I realized that the armscye and front opening were supposed to be finished with bias tape. Well, I'll tell you that there isn't a bias tape manufacturer in creation that makes bias tape in a shade to match my dress. So all of a sudden, here's Jessie, making her own bias tape. It worked out really well though. Margo Anderson's very thorough instruction manual actually included information on how to make your own bias tape. So crisis averted there.
I ended up doing some handstitching in a couple places, like the collar:
And the wings:
And the bias tape on the front opening, which I apparently didn't photograph.
The problem with using the machine on stuff like this is that you'll inevitably end up with machine stitches showing. I'm not militant about historical accuracy, but I do want it to look nice. I used machine stitching on the armscye, and I wasn't about to pick that all out and do it over again, but I did change my technique going forward.
So once that was all done, it was time to fine closures and trim! I kicked around several different ideas for closures, including frogs and buttons with ribbon loops. The frog thing didn't really trip my trigger, and buttons and loops would take too long, so I decided that metal clasps were the way to to go. I found the perfect ones at The Pillaged Village! The price was way right at a $1/pair, and the antique gold color matched my dress perfectly.
The trim was slightly harder. I looked through about a zillion websites and didn't find anything I really liked, and I couldn't really settle on a color scheme because the dress color was so weird. The selvedge edge of the fabric did give a little bit of inspiration as to possibilities though, so that helped.
I finally stumbled upon Calontir Trim. This guy has LOADS of gorgeous trim, and I have to say that his prices are reasonable and he's a very nice guy to work with. I found this trim and absolutely fell in love. I ordered 9 yards on the spot.
The borders actually ended up being really well placed, because I was able to use brown thread in the sewing machine and run the line of stitches right next to the border on each side. Can't even see the machine stitches unless your fact is right up next to it. In which case we've obviously got other issues, so....
As a side-bar, I did make myself a corded petticoat and a smock:
It's like posting a picture of my underwear.
I didn't take a picture of the corded petticoat because it's not really worth looking at. I used an old twin-sized bed sheet. I tried numerous different types of rope and cording and really had a hard time getting anything to work right. I finally ended up getting a couple packages of cotton clothesline, and braiding lengths of it together and slipping those lengths into channels sewn onto the petticoat. It gave just enough shape to keep the skirts off my ankles so I wasn't tripping all over myself. It'll do for the time being.
I couldn't very well go traipsing around the Renaissance Faire in this awesome dress and nothing on my head. So I made my best attempt at re-creating the awesome test caul I did before...it went okay. Somehow the seam on the band ended up on the side, and it was a little bit snug...I had to get barrettes to make sure it stayed on. Then I decided to throw together a hat. What I really wanted was an attifet, but I couldn't find a pattern anywhere, so I just did a floppy soft-brimmed hat using this pattern from The Sempstress. I'd post a link, but her site seems to be broken right now. I picked up one of those little baggies of random bits of ribbon at the craft store a while back, so I used some off-white satin ribbon for the hand band.
I pretty much hate this hat with a passion. It's period, but it looks like hell on me. I will not be wearing it again...at least not willingly. I might even go so far as to say that I hate millinery in general. My husband says this is because I didn't have immediate success like I have with everything else I've tried sewing. I say it's because making hats SUCKS. I would seriously contemplate paying someone else to make a hat for me. I really, really hate it.
Here is a picture of the whole ensemble at the Faire:
Pretty sweet, no? I'm very pleased with the end result. I have plans for altering things here and there...but that's a tale for another time.