Winter dress based on a medieval pattern

Before cutting the expensive wool for the medieval kirtle I thought it might be a good idea to do a trial build to check for problems with the pattern. I bought 1.5m of a wool/poly mix which turned out to be a little thicker and stiffer than the wool I planned to use for the kirtle.


I didn't take many photos as it was only going to be a mockup, but I kind of like it. It is so far removed from the dresses made from cheap thin materials that you find on the high street. It almost looks like it could be designer. Which of course it is.

I tried it on without sleeves to start with and it felt very loose. Then I pinned on the sleeves and it tightened up nicely, went back to the right shape and felt very comfortable.

It was the first time I had added the flare for the skirt and I think I got it wrong. A proper medieval skirt would follow the bodice and hips and then flare. I've got no hips so started the flare about 2 inches below the waist. Turns out that's the worst place to start a skirt flare and it looks wrong at the back. For the final build I'll start the flare at the waist and curve it in to the pattern a bit more gently. This might not be medieval accurate as they seemed to start the flare lower rather than higher, but I think it will look nicer on my body type on the proper dress.

I inserted a hidden zipper in the back seam to make the dress easy to get on and off. This didn't work perfectly as the back seam isn't straight on the medieval pattern and the zipper is a little tricky to get past the upper back - that point that you can't reach from either below or above. Fortunately there was enough ease in the pattern to pull the dress on over my head without undoing the zipper.


I decided to fully line the dress as it is made from wool and therefore scratchy.I did some experimentation along the way.

The neckline was lined in the usual way for a modern dress. Right sides were sewn together, then the lining was folded over and understitched 2mm or 3mm into the wool seam allowance, then everything pulled the right way around and the neckline ironed for a nice curve.

Sleeves were a bit different. The lining was cut to the finished length of the sleeve so that the end of the lining was encased by the cuff hem as it was folded over.

The bottom of the dress was hemmed in the normal way and I had the bright idea to stitch the lining to the inside of the hem to make everything neat. My wool coat uses that approach. Unfortunately this approach only works when you get the lining length right, otherwise the lining will pull the hem upwards making a puff dress. I unpicked the lining from the hem and let it hang independently from the wool dress.

This dress was intended as a mockup to check out the patterm for the red medieval dress. It was useful for that and for the red dress I reduced the flare from the rear seam and modified the upper back fit. For this dress I had already sewn the zipper in so just reduced the flare at the rear by 4 inches overall. The back looked OK after that nmodification.


What I like and don't like

I did a photoshoot in the middle of Storm Dennis and the dress was quite warm. The medieval neck line is a little low so a scarf is useful on a winters day. A fashion scarf seems enough and it adds to the dress and completes the look.

I'm surprised the mockup made it into a finished dress that I might wear. Despite being a medieval dress (with the skirt below mid thigh cut off) it doesn't reveal it's heritage and looks almost modern.

The anti-static lining is too thin and the wool prickles the skin through the lining. It's one of the weird and wonderful modern wools with weave and prickly felt mixed together. Princess seams or darts would have helped reduce the wrinkles.


The pattern

The pattern can be found on the medieval kirtle page.

The pattern is the same for the kirtle and the winter dress and only includes the bodice part of the dress down to the hips. The only difference between this dress and the kirtle is the length of the skirt. When making the kirtle I made some compensation for the stretch of the wool but that isn't reflected in the pattern as it can also be used to make the lining from non-stretchy material.