Historical · Sewing

My 14th Century Wardrobe

January is a big month! In the online community surrounding the girly Japanese street fashion known as elegant gothic lolita (lolita or EGL for short), January is the month where you document your entire wardrobe of dresses, blouses, and accessories that belong to this fashion! This has been a tradition since long before I joined the scene, back when the communities of the internet hung out on livejournal and geocities websites. Each person would take pictures, compile the photos into a post, and then share it for friends and admirers to fawn over the cool dresses you bough over the past year. I’ve been having a ton of fun documenting my lolita wardrobe on my instagram, and thought that it would be a fun thing to carry over to my historical re-enactment life!

I’m not big into building a super detailed and thought out persona for the 14th century, I took a class on 1st person interpretation & living history character building and I’m just not sure theres enough information about the daily lives of people 650 years ago to build a sturdy character around. The class I took was focused on the 1890s and I had trouble finding the information I wanted with such a recent date! My loose, slightly vague, persona is that of a mid-14th century southern French woman. She would have lived in a city or town in the Provincial region of present-day France. Maybe Avignon, lots of fun religious history in Avignon! She would have been upper-middle class, perhaps the daughter of a well-to-do merchant or something. I really haven’t done much research into this, I just make clothes that show appear in manuscripts with little to no regard for who these people actually were.

With that said, lets move onto the clothes!

Dark Teal Wool Coathardie

This gown was based off of a number of mid-14th century manuscripts & effigies. The teal blue colour was hand-dyed by me with modern methods. It features long mitten sleeves, pewter buttons, and brown accents in eyelets and embroidery around the neckline. Dress is machine sewn with hand-felled seams with hand worked buttonholes & eyelets.

Butter Yellow Silk Coathardie

This silk gown was one of the first things I ever sewed for this period. I was so nervous to start all those buttonholes! Unfortunately there was a mishap where I was trying to was the dress quickly the evening before an event and threw it in the dryer on what I thought was “fluff air-no heat”. It was not. The dress shrank a bit in the heat of the dryer and now I need to add more fabric to the sleeve gusset. This is the dress where I decided Cassandra, my character, would have an older sister. Hand-me-downs are totally period right? This dress is a really beautiful butter yellow that of course refused to photograph correctly in the lighting of my room. I used red whip cord for lacing and added cute embroidered details along the neckline, cuffs, and lacing panels.

Blue “Silk” Sideless Surcoat

This guy was the VERY FIRST 14th century dress I made. I’m not sure what my problem is with starting with the top layer and working down but I should maybe reverse that order. Makes more sense to start with the inner layer and work up. Anyways, I’ve actually never worn this dress out, even though I think its really pretty. I guess I’m afraid my friends will laugh at me for blatant use of modern materials. The story of how I came to buy this fabric is interesting. My friend had told me that one of her friends was closing a fabric shop she had owned and was liquidating her stock. She was going to set up a literal “trunk sale” in the parking lot of our school in the back of her minivan. I had class until late the day she was supposed to be there, so by the time I showed up it was totally dark. I’m never one to pass up a bargain, so there I am, rifling through some lady’s trunk with my iPhone flashlight. I found this beautiful satin fabric, she swore it was silk, so I bought the whole bolt. What can I say, I’m efficient. Months later I finally drag it out and do a swatch test and I find out its really more of a rayon/poly blend of some situation. Oh well, still cute, I just won’t wear it near any fires.

I made the mistake of fully lining this dress in a linen, before I knew there were different weights of linen out there, so its extremely heavy and the godet in the back has started to pull out due to the weight of the dress. I still think its pretty though…

Pink Working Class Linen Dress

My most recent creation! After making both a wool dress and a silk dress, somewhere around hmmm, May? When events started taking place outdoors and it started to get warmer, I decided that I desperately needed a comfy linen gown to wear when it was hot. I didn’t get started until July, and at that point Pensic was looming and I still only had wool and silk. Great for Gulf Wars last year when we woke up with frost on the ground, not so great for middle of summer heat. As such, this dress is not quite finished yet. The inner seams still need to be felled and a whip cord needs to be made.

Linen Chemises

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These wrinkly guys are what I could find of my chemise stash. I swear I have 3 more of them somewhere! Two are sleeveless and hand-me-downs from my friend Sarai. Maybe I’ll put sleeves on them at some point, but for now they work as sleeveless! The one with sleeves I made and I kind of hate it. Despite re-making the sleeves twice, the dang things are STILL to tight on my arms and incredibly uncomfortable to wear. I need to buy another bolt of the lightweight linen to whip up a more sleeves, and a few more finished chemises.

Bathhouse Smock

No, this is not the worlds plainest viking apron dress! This is a supportive smock designed off of a 14th century Bohemian manuscript depicting a bathhouse. The maids in the images wear a long linen smock. I made mine out of natural coloured linen, and it was great for lounging around camp at Pensic!

Dagged Wool Hood with Majestic Liripipe

I love this hood! Its so warm, so jaunty, and so exciting. I made this hood like, 3 days before my 2nd event, when I realised a) it was an outdoor event, b) it was supposed to be cold, raining, and snowing, and c) I had nothing to keep myself warm. Decided go big or go home, and made this oak-leaf dagged hood. Its all machine sewn with hand done embroidery. I wear it so often that my Award of Arms has a drawing of a squirrel (my local groups heraldry) wearing a green dagged hood. Oh, and did I mention the liripipe? If worn unbelted, it drags about a foot behind me. Talk about jaunty.

Wool Open-Face Hood with Liripipe

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The second wool hood I made, because I was bored, I think. It is hand sewn with silk thread, and worn open. I’ve got buttons to attach to it but haven’t gotten around to that yet. It also has a liripipe although not quite as majestic as the dagged hood.

Veils, Wimples, and Other Head Coverings

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In this picture starting from the left, we have a silk wimple, a linen half circle veil, and my linen St. Brigita’s Cap. I’m a big fan of wimples and veils and all that sort of thing, I think they look so cute and remind me of when I was 6 and pretended to be Maid Marion. Or Sleeping Beauty. Or one of the Red Wall mice. Clearly I was destined to re-enact the 14th century.

Accessories & Accoutrements 

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This is a photo of all my other stuff I can use to complete my look. The bag with the red chevron on it is my badge of station for being my Baron’s Arts & Science Champion. The top pewter pin was given to me by the previous Arts & Science Champion, the bottom pin is a naughty one based off of my favourite 15th century German wood block print. The blue needle book was given to me for 12th night by a dear friend, and holds the lampwork veil pins I made myself! My two pewter rings are also there, one with a pink stone and one with blue. Underneath all that is my very dirty all purpose rag. I use it to do all manner of things, wrap baked goods, wear as an apron, a place mat, you name it! Next are my pair of linen tippets, because what kind of self-respecting Frenchwoman doesn’t have a pair of tippets. Lastly is my sad drawstring bag that needs redone, you’ve served me well old friend!

I’ve only been really seriously re-enacting and making 14th century clothing for a bit over a year. I went to my first event in September, 2018, and I count that as the beginning of all this, even though I had made a few 14th century garments prior to that event. It’s pretty cool to see how far I’ve come in just a year! Feel free to make your own historical wardrobe post, I think it would be a neat way for historical costumers to showcase all their fun projects!!

Thanks for reading!

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