Creating medieval dresses had never really been on our to-do list. But when we were thinking about going to the “Phantastischer Lichter Weihnachtsmarkt” (a medieval Christmas market) in Dortmund last summer, it quickly became clear that we would need medieval costumes to wear on that day. In this Taixtile podcast episode, we talk about the two winter medieval dresses that we made for that occasion. Enjoy!
Creating medieval dresses had never really been on our to-do list. But when we were thinking about going to the “Phantastischer Lichter Weihnachtsmarkt” (a medieval Christmas market) in Dortmund last summer, it quickly became clear that we would need medieval costumes to wear on that day. In this Taixtile podcast episode, we talk about the two winter medieval dresses that we made for that occasion.
Nany created a surprisingly modern-looking underdress inspired by a 15th-century find from East Tyrol at Lengberg castle. This is why it is often referred to as the “Lengberg Bra”.
This underdress features fabric inserts in the chest area and is described by Nany as very comfortable to wear. The pattern is from Cathrin Åhlén, who makes it available on her website.
Clara, for her underdress, followed a guide from the book ‘The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant’ by Sarah Thursfield. She used a natural linen fabric she had in her fabric stash. While the invisible seams were sewn with a sewing machine, the seam allowances were hand-finished with a linen thread. These seams are on the right side of the fabric, ensuring a softer surface against the skin for a more comfortable wear.
Nany and Clara took different approaches to creating their kirtles.
Nany created her pattern digitally and adjusted it to her own measurements using 3D programs. This allowed her to save some work when creating the mock-up. The dress itself is made of wool with a linen lining. The sleeves are closed with handmade buttons. While she machine-sewed the invisible seams, the visible seams and buttonholes were hand-sewn to give the dress a more authentic appearance.
On the other hand, Clara draped her dress on herself. The book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant” proved helpful in this process as well. With the assistance of her partner, she pinned two fabric pieces directly on her body. Since dresses from this era rarely have seams or darts, Clara tried to eliminate them entirely. She achieved this by distributing the extra material to the center front, the side seams and shoulders.
Like Nany, she used a sewing machine for the invisible seams but switched to hand-sewing for the visible ones. Unlike Nany’s dress, Clara’s is not lined. However, she pressed open all major seams and stitched down the seam allowances with a running stitch. This was primarily due to her fabric, which, contrary to her initial belief, is not 100% wool but polyester or a similar material, making the seams difficult to press.
Nany’s original plan was to sew an outer garment, a so-called Houppelande, to accompany her kirtle. She didn’t manage to complete it by the Christmas market deadline but intends to do so in the coming months. She already has the fabric for it.
Clara, on the other hand, sewed a cape from two strips of faux fur that she had in her fabric stash for ages. This was a rather experimental process where she draped and pinned the two pieces to her mannequin. Due to limited material, she faced constraints in the length and width of the cape.
Crucial for Clara was having a covered upper body and neck with the cape, as she didn’t want to feel cold during the medieval market.
Clara only has shoulder-length hair, which is not ideal for medieval hairstyles. Therefore, she turned synthetic hair into braids and pinned them on the sides of her head. With the help of a veil made of finely woven cotton, it gives the illusion of being her real hair.
In the future, Nany would like to sew a veil that has horns on the sides, typical of the 14th century. However, she still only has a vague idea of how she wants to realise the whole thing.
Since kirtles typically do not have pockets, it was Nany’s plan to sew herself a purse. The yellow fabric is also intended to be used as lining for the Houppelande, ensuring that all parts of the outfit are cohesive. The bag is adorned with beads and self-braided trims.
Clara is considering sewing a summer version of the kirtle someday, perhaps using linen.
Nany is also open to the idea of making a summery dress. Given that many medieval markets in the vicinity mainly take place in spring and summer, it would be logical to create a slightly airier and more summery variation.
Stay tuned for that!