I first learned about draping fabric on a body or dress form as a way of getting a pattern via CotteSimple.com. She has had two wonderfully picture filled tutorials up for several years now, one for a curved front seam pattern and one for a straight front seam. When a local class/fitting session came up in my local SCA group, I jumped on the chance to try this pattern making method.
We got together and pinned and poked until all the ladies in attendance had the start of a supportive fitted pattern. I made a quartered particolor dress: I think I had not yet figured out that most particolor portraiture from period depicted all the same color on one side of the body, and a different color on the other, rather than the jester-like mixing I used. Live and learn, right?
A few years after I made that particolor dress, I had grown a little, and the dress no longer fit like it should. When your body changes, you make a new pattern for a new dress, rather than reuse an old one.
I didn’t have a gaggle of girls to help me out with patterning this time, but I understood the basics well enough to get it by myself.
Before I jumped all the way into fitted, I played around with some fabric, seeing how much support I could possibly get with a pull on gown before I had to create an opening to get in and out. From the top right picture above, I get sort of close, but at that point, this thing was a pain in the but to get on myself. But if you are small shouldered and small busted, you might still be able to get away with no laced or buttoned opening. Done with my little run of experimenting, I finished fitting the dress in proper.
I made a few mockups, adjusting between each one, and eventually got a shape I was fairly happy with (above). The seams are mostly straight, the bust sits nicely, the armscrye isn’t too big… we were good to go!
This is pretty much the same pattern as the green mock up, just laid flat. I cut the front pieces at an angle because I was considering using this same pattern for a later period, pointed front gown, but never actually got around to trying that out.
Here’s the lining, though it looks like have not decided on a neckline yet, since it’s still very high.
Here all the eyelets are done, so I get to try on the dress. I was very pleased with the shape and support I was getting. Still need to hem the bottom, and I am going to widen the neckline a bit. I feel like the straps should be a tad thinner.
I did end up widening the neckline, although I didn’t ever get around to putting short sleeves on like you see in some of the little images on the right.
I still wear this dress many years later! Some thoughts on how I would have constructed it differently now:
- I would add short sleeves. That seems to be far more common in medieval imagery than sleeveless.
- I would lengthen the eyeleted closure in the front. It stops too early, and ended up getting ripped over time. Always go down to the widest point of your hips!
- Slightly more rounded neckline (a little higher and wider). That’s a little more common in the period pictures.
Otherwise, it has held up remarkably well! I think it might be the oldest dress I’ve made and still wear regularly!