Grey/Blue Italian Kirtle

Pennsic is on its way and I need clothing before then.  Time for a new dress!

I really liked the bright blue dress I made a few months ago and I have been looking at some of the gamurra dresses others have made, and thought that I would like something similar.  Thus the lacing rings you see.  But I forgot about rounding out the neckline; too mentally stuck on the later style I guess.

My mom had a bunch of this pale lime green (if you can imagine such a color), that was a really nice weight, but kinda lame color.  I had some Rit navy blue dye on hand, and thought  to try and dye it.  Now, I didn’t use the whole bottle, and I was dyeing 5+ yards of fabric, AND I didn’t remember to add the salt that the package recommends.  So the color I got was definitely not navy blue.  I would call it a Bluish Grey, but I have already had a few comments about it being light purple, so take your pick.  Whatever the color, I was much happier, and ready to use it for garb.

I didn’t think to take a picture before I sewed the bodice together, but the pattern was taken from my bright blue dress, with a few alterations: Made the back and front necklines an inch lower, and added a bit of curve to the bust area, to make it a better fitting supportive garment.

Blue/grey Bodice

Very pleased with the fit of the bodice.  I could have gotten away with making it just a tiny bit smaller, in order to have a larger open area for the lacing to go across.  I am thinking that it might stretch, and the lacing might not look so nice using lacing rings.  If it becomes an issue later on, I can remove the rings, and sew some of my usual eyelets instead.

After the bodice came the time to pleat.  I really debated a long time on what I wanted to do with the pleating.  Usually I go for your standard cartridge, but I was maybe thinking something different.

Pinning the Skirt on

What I ended up with was something I might call “Lazy Cartridge”.  I wanted the look of bigger pleats (not tons of tiny ones like usual), so I sewed the skirt down in approximately .5/.75 inch sections.  I saw something similar in VMG’s flickr:  except that hers became rolled pleats.  (Please do go look at her gallery, it’s wonderful!)

I started sewing the skirt on, curious to see what the ‘Lazy Cartridge’ might turn out to look like when the dress was being worn.

Lazy pleats

And this is what it looks like!  If you really fluff out your skirts, which I did indeed do for this picture to show what I was talking about, you will get a bunch of funny U shaped wrinkles in the skirt.  On the bright side, it almost doesn’t even really do that unless you go out of your way to fluff up your skirt.  It is also super easy to fix, by inserting your hand into the U, you can smooth the pleat back against the body, and the funny U shape completely disappears.  Also, it seems to make the skirt pop up a fair bit at the waist, which I have never quite gotten with regular cartridge pleats.

Close-up of Pleats

The dress is still a ways from done.  I need to hem it, and even though I love the way the puddle of fabric looks around my feet, I don’t love tripping, or having to constantly hold up my skirt.  I will likely add black guards to the bottom of the skirt, because I really really like the way they look.  Also, I am sort of trying to make this a bit of a chimera kirtle, usable for several different counties (namely Italian, German, English, and Flemish).  With the right accessories, I could hide the features that make this dress distinctly Italian, and pass off as middle class from various other places.  Guards on the bottom of skirts is something that all of these places have in common (I don’t see it much in the Netherlands, but I bet there’s a source for it somewhere).

Love this picture!

Aside from  any alterations I might need to make to the dress still, I also need to make a partlet, a shift, an apron, a pair of sleeves, a pocket, maybe a coif, and so on.  So expect more updates on those things within the next month.

UPDATE: Sleeves have happened! They are very simple, but fun, and complete the dress nicely when I wear them.

Bluegrey Sleeves

I got to wear this dress to Pennsic, with a pair of new red socks that I am absolutely in love with and simply must find more pairs of the same.



So those funny little ‘u’ shaped folds I mentioned earlier?  I ended up sewing several pleats to each other on the inside, about 4-5 in a group, and that has pretty much gotten rid of all the funny U folds.

More matchy goodness

Very silly poses aside, you see that matching doublet that my Mr is wearing?  It was a little bit small for him, so when I was figuring out doublet pattern stuff for the second IIRC competition, I remade it into a doublet for myself.
Before and After
New Tent!

And as it turns out, this dress actually works pretty well with a corset!  There’s some silly wrinkles from pins to keep the bust from drifting down, but that’s fixable with more attentive pinning next time.
Kingdom A&S
I often do not wear the matching blue sleeves on my arms, but instead I’ll pin them to my shoulders, and let them hang behind my arms.  You can see women doing similar things in Alessandro Allori’s Birth of a Virgin (1595).


8 thought on “Grey/Blue Italian Kirtle”

  1. Courtney says:

    Hi Morgan! I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I love your blog. You are a PHENOMENAL artist!
    I’m currently making a new working-class dress for ren faire, and am hoping for the same general effect as this dress. I would love some advice if you have the time. Did you put any internal boning or cord stiffening in the bodice? How many layers of lining and interlining did you construct it with? And is the skirt a big rectangle or does it have gores?
    Thanks so much for posting all your wonderful photos!

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      Thank you! I am glad my diaries are helpful and inspire you to make your own stuff! :D

      This particular dress did not have any boning or inner support when I first made it. It was just blue linen, lined with cotton muslin. It worked pretty darn well for the first couple wearings, but over time the fabric stretched and loosened up, and you can clearly see a good bit of wrinkling at the stomach, and a big crease under my bust in some of the photos. I would recommend a layer or two of canvas interfacing, that will help the bodice keep its structure. You can bone the bodice too, and although it is probably not period until the very end of the 16th century, and really not needed unless you have a lot of bust to wrangle.

      My skirt is just a big rectangle, I think it is 3 fabric widths, so it probably has about 170-180 inches of hem. (Which is really too much for the class of garment I was aiming for, but damn it looks nice in pictures.)

  2. Emily says:

    I don’t know what it is about this dress, but it’s probably one of my favorites. I figure if you never ask you’ll never know, so here it goes: When you sew the skirt onto the bodice with this technique or any of your others, do you finish the inside any further? Or are there just loops of fabric “flapping about” inside? Just a bit intimidated with how amazing and easy you make it all look! I’m sewing a skirt, and would like to finish it properly! Thank you.

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      After wearing it a few times, I did end up going back and grouping 4-5 ‘loops’ together with a few stitches on the inside, this prevented them from popping outside the skirt while I was wearing it. That’s it though! Very easy!

      1. Emily says:

        Ah, now I see what you mean now that I’ve done it myself! Really happy with how it came out. Oh, and for when I do this again: The top of your dress’s skirt edge is incredibly neat! Did you hem(?) it before adding the pleats? Thanks again for your incredible website!

  3. Leah says:

    Love this and your Sailor Moon piece. How many yards of fabric do each of these take?

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      Usually, I can do a dress like this in 4 yards, maybe even just 3 if it’s a 60 inch wide fabric, and I don’t mind the skirt being a tad less full.

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