15th Century Pink Dress

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?

St Felix Dress

Lol, the dress is significantly shorter than my shift, my hair is down, and I double wrapped my belt. Clearly I still had things to learn.

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.

Supportive experiment

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.

Kirtle Mockup

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!

Pattern Results

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.
Testing the Pattern

Here’s the lining, though it looks like have not decided on a neckline yet, since it’s still very high.

Pattern Cut and Pinned

Ah, here’s the neckline!  When I do this style of dress, I typically end up with an armscrye and neck line that are about the same level.
Lining Attached

I did not line the dress the whole way down, just to the high hip.  It’s there to add strength to the bodice portion of the dress, and hopefully delay stretching.
Sewing the Eyelets

Happy eyelets!

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.
Pink kirtle finished

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.

Pretty in Pink

Market Dressed

New belt!

Mini Update:

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!

I try to post my projects in an easy to read, dress diary type format. When I first started learning to sew historical outfits, I found dress diaries to be the most helpful learning tools. I want to contribute my projects in the hopes that they will prove just as useful for others.

4 comments on “15th Century Pink Dress
  1. Tasha says:

    Thank you for linking to my site. Your dress turned out gorgeous!

  2. Katie says:

    Love this! You do very beautiful work. Can you tell me how you did the apron / head covering in the first set of pics?

    • Morgan Donner says:

      The apron is simple bit of hemmed linen, with two corners tied around my waist. It probably measures around 45 x 40 inches. The ‘veil’ is just the same bit of cloth pinned around my head. That’s mostly made up, I do not have any medieval sources I can point to for that veil style.

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