One of the aspects I found the most interesting was the fur trim around the neckline and how it hung in the back. Since it is often depicted hanging loosely over the belt, it isn’t attached to the gown, and yet is part of the neckline. Honestly I found it to be a bit odd…what was its purpose? Why not just bring the collar around the neckline? And how do I deal with it?!
The next issue is how to deal with the layout of the gown. In earlier versions it has looser sleeves and body that creates gathers when belted. In addition the neckline isn’t as wide. By the end of the century the top is very tight with voluminous skirts and very tight sleeves. This means body, or more specifically the ribcage, chest and sleeve area changes over time. Another indication that specificity on the gown I want is needed. In the end, I decided on a middle of the road gown that has tight sleeves and fitted body, but not so tight it looks painted on or has the more circular neckline.
In looking at the construction of somewhat similar loose gowns in books such as Janet Arnold’s Patterns of History 3 & 4, it appears loose gowns are cut at an angle from around the arm pit. I originally considered making the skirt a full circle by going straight out from around my ribcage. I realized after making my daughters that this creates flat spots in the front and back and an excess of drape at the sides. Therefore I went back to an angled perspective and the addition of several gores to create the voluminous skirts.
As my material was a bit pricey, I only got 5.5 yards of it (it is 54” wide). It is patterned, and has a nap. This presented several difficulties in laying out the pattern to maximize skirt volume, maintain the pattern, being aware of the nap, and have enough for all the pieces. Luckily the nap is very, very small so it makes little difference.
Another thing in my favor is the fact that the medieval tailor appeared to not be overly bothered or concerned with the directionality of patterns or nap. The few surviving patterns layouts and a surviving sideless surcoat show this. What was important was minimizing layout waste. Therefore, I’ve decided to go with the following layout for my gown. (It is worth noting the length is only to where my bottom trim will meet rather than to the ground as I didn’t have enough fabric.) I am able to use the “waste” where the fold is to create two side gores with the nap going in the wrong direction and the other two for my sleeves with the nap going the right direction. This leaves me with very little waste.
As a note, I choose the “wool” because it has a small pile wasn’t bulky as far as fake fur goes. I’m not a big fan of most faux fur’s for a variety of reasons but primarily since it tends to be expensive but look fake, is traditionally rather thick and bulky, and the long fibers rather make me feel like an overgrown Muppet. However, this “wool” is very nice, super soft, looks amazing and is fairly easy to work with.
Once I had my pieces, it was time to assemble. First, sew the sleeves together and add the fur cuff. Next, sew the bodies together, adding the gores, leaving the front open from about hip area to the top and add the hood. Then I added the bottom trim and the trim to the opening and hood. After that, I attached the sleeves. Finally, I added lacing rings, which are actually #10S brass washers (a bit bigger than I used for the kirtle) to the inside and stopped just under the chest. Voila! The gown is completed. (Please ignore the modern belt, that's my next project...)