12th Century Dress – the Bliaut

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Mention a medieval dress to someone and the odds are the image they have in mind is a loose frock with long sleeves. Type ‘medieval’ into Google, eBay or etsy – and modern L.A.R.P and hand-fasting gowns of that description appear – with most of them sporting the iconic long, trailing sleeves.   The proper medieval dress of that description was called a ‘bliaut’ (and was apparently worn by both sexes, though later male bliauts tend to be shorter), and its variants were fashionable across Europe for about 100 years. The earlier examples of the dress of that type seem to be a continuation of the fashions of 11th century – loose gowns often with girdles and long sleeves getting bigger, longer and more elaborate; but it is the second part of the 12th century that celebrated the bliaut at is best  – here the look is far more slender, with a slim waist emphasised by the more fitted style of the dress, careful girdle arrangement and, of course those sleeves.

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Figure of Grammatica , from the Hortus Deliciarum, c. 1180

The most iconic look is represented by the famous statues in Chartres cathedral

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Figures from the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), centre portal of the west facade of Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France,

So what makes the Bliaut proper? Look out for these features:

  • Excessively long sleeves – fitted to a degree above the elbow, and opening wider below – and sometimes simply elongated cuffs. The lowest part of the sleeve is often square
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    sleeve shape.Chartres1, http://www.eg.bucknell.edu

  • Tight fit on the torso – often showing wrinkles – most likely caused by side lacing
  • Girdle – often wrapped twice around the body, with the ends hanging in front (though single girdles or no girdles are also seen)
  • Neck openings – can be round, keyhole, or V shaped, often decorated with embroidery, woven braids of applied silk bands in contrasting colour
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    Terence’s Comedies, St. Albans Abbey, mid 12th century, Folio 10 recto

  •  Sometimes the long sleeves are knotted for practical as well as aesthetic reasons
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example of knotted sleeves.Angers – BM – ms. 0243 F077v (fin XII) 2

Moe examples of bliaut and other fashions of 12/13thcentury – here – 11-13century fashions

There have been several theories concerning the construction of the bliaut. Some claimed that the dress is loose, but that the middle part is a corset, or a stomacher worn on top of the dress and secured by the double girdle. Some believed that the waist part was cut separately and the bodice part and the skirts were gathered and sewn on to it. Personally, I find the theory that it is the side lacing, (a new technique that appeared on the scene at that time), which makes the dress fitted and accounts for the wrinkles on the torso. It also makes sense from a costume evolution point of view – the basic, almost rectangular cut of the previous centuries is still used here with just slight adaptation – whereas a corset of any kind, as well as a stomacher, or cutting the bodice horizontally would be completely out of place, several centuries ahead of its time and too huge a jump to consider seriously. In my opinion it also points naturally towards the development of ‘cotte and surcoat’ –  remove the sleeves and unlace the sides and the garment looks disturbingly like later surcoats – though in this case male fashions and heraldic surcoats were probably a bigger influence.

The pleated nature of the fabric often seen on the sculptures is another enigma – most likely it represents very voluminous but light fabric, like silk, rather than fabric that has been pleated to a waistband, etc.  To what degree the statues and other representations in medieval art are artistic licence will probably remain a secret forever, so going with the cut, techniques and construction that were known at the time is a much safer bet.

If you wish to have a closer look at the variety of bliauts represented in art across Europe and the construction theories, have a look at this site – very useful! http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/europe_class/europe_bliaut.html

The pattern.

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I have used a pattern consisting largely of simple geometrical shapes – front and back are rectangles, often cut on the fold, or with a vertical CF and CB seam, with the waist cut out more to fit, thus softening the lines. Armhole lines sometimes seem to have been slightly softened too – they were probably the newest development in tailoring at the time! The gores are triangles. The sleeve pattern is the most innovative as it incorporates both concave and convex lines, softening the harsh geometrical look.

The dress can be of equal length, reaching the ground all around, or trained. If you can, make the gores as wide as possible – the bigger the hem circumference, the better the folds of the dress look. With the modern, wider fabrics it is also possible to cheat a bit and save time by cutting the front and back with wide skirts, incorporating the side gores, with only the front and back gores – a technique I used once. It did work, though it is incorrect for the period as the fabric widths were so much narrower.

The fabrics – Wool would be the most common, and certainly my favourite, though silk might be the option for the most affluent personages– and more frequently worn by the Franks in the Outremer – silk was cheaper there and more suitable for the climate. It is also through the returning Crusaders that northern European countries would have access to silk – in England at that time it was as a luxury almost unheard of, worn only by the wealthiest magnates of the realm – and usually even they could only afford it as decorative strips edging their bliauts. Silk garments were almost exclusively for royalty.

Lining – it is argued whether all the dresses were lined, and it is likely that some weren’t. For me, lining the bliaut is always a good idea, especially if it is trained. It looks better, lasts longer and wears better – the wool doesn’t cling if you happen to wear a woollen kirtle underneath. Linen is best, though silk can be used as well – probably in contrasting colours for the sleeves.  For economy reasons, if lining with silk, only the sleeves would be lined with the expensive fabric, the rest of the lining would be cheaper linen, as it wouldn’t be displayed.

Materials

6m of wool or top fabric ( more if you plan a trained gown or very long sleeves)

6m of lining

Silk or linen thread

Optional: silk for decorative bands, wool for decorative woven braids and girdle

Method.

  1. Cut all your pieces in your top fabric and lining.
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front piece cut -here using a modern method, cut together with the side gores

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front and back gores – back gore is longer as the skirts will be trained

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the sleeve

  1.  Sew the top fabric first – assemble the front part first (the front gore and the side gores if you are sticking to the period correct pattern), then do the same for the back – i you are having side gores at the back sew them in as well, if not, it is only the back gore.
  2.  Sew the front and back pieces at the shoulders  Press the seams open. Couch them down if not using lining or if the fabric frays a lot.
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gores sewn in, fronts and back sewn, shoulder seam sewn – sides still left open

  1. Sew the sleeves right sides together.

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4. Turn the sleeves on the right side. find the centre top of the sleeve and place it, right sides together matching the shoulder seam.  Pin the fabric of the gown around the sleeve and sew. Repeat on the other side.

5.You now have the entire gown assembled– but the sides are open from the armpit. Try it on, and see if the sleeve fit is correct, but also mark the length of the side opening – it should be just at the seam where the gore starts, but if your figure is fuller you may need to adjust a bit.

6. Take the gown off and sew the side pieces together. Press the seams open.

  1.  Repeat the same steps with the lining.
  2.  Hem the top fabric – at the sleeves, side opening and neck.
  3.  If you plan to decorate the sleeve edges, neck hem etc with embroidered bands,  bands of silk or  other trims, do it now – any stitches going through the fabric will not be visible
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the detail of the front – lining stitched, hiding the stitches from sewing on the handmade braid

  1.  Insert the lining – stitch it to the neck and sides first, then the sleeves , using slipstitch.
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silk lining of the sleeves sewn to the top fabric

  1. Hang the gown on a dummy or on a hanger.   If possible, leave overnight, especially if working in wool – the fabric will stretch a little bit. Next day, check that the hem is even, adjust if necessary and hem the top fabric.  Do not stitch the lining in yet.
  2.  Again, hang the dress. Pin the top layer and lining together, matching the seams. Trim the lining if necessary, then fold the seam allowance under and pin it to the dress hem.  Stitch together  In this way you should not end up with the lining being too short or not too long. Whatever you do, do not bag line the dress.

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  1.  Next step – the eyelets!  Mark the eyelets on the fabric around the side openings. Pierce it with an awl, then work an eyelet using a linen or silk thread. Repeat for all the eyelets on both sides

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  1.  Your dress is ready  All you need to do is to lace the sides with a line or silk ribbon, or a hand plaited lace.

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But – it is not the end. The dress on its own is only half the success – you will need a bit more to look and feel the part.

 Girdle –  the simplest way is to make one from a length of silk, or wool. You can also buy or weave one yourself, from line, wool, or silk yarn – the knotted ends visible on the girdles from the Chartres are most likely loose ends left unwoven. Make sure it is long enough if you plan to wrap it twice about your torso.

Undergarments.

The bliaut is not worn on its own. Like all the other clothes in medieval times, it was worn on linen chemise/kirtle/underdress, with optional woolen kirtle worn on top of the linen layer – ideal solution for colder months. The cut of the chemise/kirtle didn’t differ much from the earlier garments (discussed in details in article on the Anglo Saxon garments) – simple garments with gored skirts and tight sleeves – indeed the sleeves were sometimes so tight they had to be closed with stitching on the wearer – an option for the ladies who could afford maids. In the warmer climates it is possible that a silk bliaut would be worn just on a linen chemise

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a kirtle, Carmina burana

The sleeves and neck of the underdress could also be decorated with woven braids or embroidery

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wool kirtle with sleeve and neck embroidery

The hair.

The hair is a bit tricky. The fashionable style was simple two braids, often decorated with ribbons. Simple – if you have the hair for it. My hair, although long, is nowhere near that long, and plaited into two braids looks pathetic – no volume to it at all. The period solution would be to use horse hair to supplement your own tresses but in absence of horse hair, we can use modern extensions

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If you hair is short, simply plait the extensions and clip then onto your own hair. If your hair is long enough to plait as well, follow the steps below.

  1. Divide the hair into two.
  2. Take the extension ( they usually come in fort of one long skein of hair), fold it in half and  start plaiting with your own hair – 2 strands of extension and your hair as the third strand.

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  1. Plait  a few strands to secure them, then re-arrange the strands – you will need to divide the extensions so that the third strand is formed. If your hair is long enough, simply continue plaiting till the end of both real hair and extensions. Dividing the extensions tend to be rather messy, especially if you are using artificial fibre, but it can be done in such a way that it is difficult to spot where the real hair ends.

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  1.  You now have a finished plait. You can leave the ends loose, or secure them with ribbons. there are mentions of metal fillets used to secure the braids ends, and you can just see the contraption on the Chartres figures, but I haven’t found anything like that around – if you know where I can get them, please do let me know!
  2.  You can now leave the braid as it is, decorate it with long silk ribbons, simply crossing the ribbon over along the length of the braid

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There is an alternative method, where you can use only two strands of hair and weave the ribbon around them – but with the extensions it doesn’t look too good as the ribbons slide a lot!

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If you are a young unmarried woman, you can wear your hair in braids without any other covering – though chaplets of flowers will look nice on them.  Otherwise, you will need a veil and a fillet.

Veils at that point slowly started to depart from the big rectangular kerchiefs worn earlier, and were simple affairs of smaller rectangles or much more graceful oval ones. They were made mostly of linen, though silk was used as well, if the family could afford it. Veils were secured by a fillet – a hand of woven braid for common women , or a circlet of metal – in case of the noble ladies,  the metal diadem was shaped, with a slightly flared outer ridge, and often encrusted with jewels.

Mine was made to order, and is a simple brass hoop, slightly flared – and quite heavy – it definitely leaves a nice dent on my skin after the whole day of wearing it!

In the last decades of the  12th century a barbette started to be worn – a strap of linen worn under the veil, passing under the chin and pinned on the top of the head –  an example can be seen on the effigy of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

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.Eleanor of Aquitaine, effigy

Barbettes were useful as it was easier to pin the veil on and they framed the face nicely – they were in use for the next century or so finally disappearing in the 14th century, though chin straps resembling barbettes were seen with the 15th century hennins. They really herald a new style for the 13th century – with the hair gathered in a bun at the nape of the neck.

All you need now is a woolen hose and shoes – latchet style with pointed toe, often with straps , and if it is cold, a mantle or a cloak  semi circular or circular, wool, lined with either linen, or wool)

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bliaut in wool, lined with linen, neck decorated with embroidery on linen, handwoven woolen girdle

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Bliaut in silk, with silk bands decoration

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an Outremer princess – bliaut in silk, with contrasting bands of silk used as decoration and girdle, worn on a chemise only, in Jordan

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bliaut renedered in silk satin as a wedding dress.

There you have it, a nice and cosy woollen garment, or a lighter one in silk – whether for re-creating  Outremer fashions of for contemporary weddings  bliaut remains the iconic medieval dress. Elegant, graceful and stylish, it was ‘resurrected’ a few more times in the centuries to follow – in the late 14th/early 15th houppelandes and then in the Victorian times, when the Pre-Raphaelite movement reached back to the medieval times for inspiration ( the Accolade, lady of Shallot – and the Japanese gown from 1895 –, http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/digital_archives/detail_222_e.html).

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1895 silk gown, kyoto, Kyoto

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grey houppelande with open sleeves reminiscent of the 12th century fashions

Nowadays the style became popular with the fantasy movies like the Lord of the rings – the flowing, gentle lines work perfectly as the attire of the timelessly elegant elves.

Bibliography.

Kyoto Costume Institute, http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/digital_archives/detail_222_e.html

Gutkowska – Rychlewska Maria, Historia ubiorów, Ossolineum, 1968

Francois Boucher,  A History of Costume in the West,

  Britannica:   http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/107728/Chartres-Cathedral

The Bliaut throughout 12th Century Europe, http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/europe_class/europe_bliaut.html

 

 

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Anglo Saxon kit

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Early medieval styles and clothing is very often thought to be dull, coarse and unattractive – a sort of a potato sack with a girdle.  The stereotype might not be far from the truth as far as the lowest classes are concerned, however, once in the realm of middle and upper classes of society, one can discover an astonishing wealth of fabrics, colours and details. True, the basic cut remained more or less the same, but the ornamental details and the richness of materials more than made up for it.

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New Minster Charter 966

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Austrian National Library, Cod. Ser. N. 2701-2702, Fol. 252v,

In this article I will concentrate on a wealthy 9th century Anglo-Saxon woman and man – the outfits presented here were made for Black Knight Historical for Living History presentations. The cut of the clothes is pretty simple, but that was not what presented the challenge here: it was doing the research to get the clothes right in the first place! For that, I found the Anglo Saxon England website extremely useful and the study of the extant garments neatly presented by Mark Carlson was of enormous help as well!

Let us start with the male garments.

Throughout the early and middle medieval periods fashions changed very slowly. The most important aspect of everyday life was usually practicality, and so the basic clothes of that period are simple, practical and durable.  The rudimentary attire of a man a commoner or a noble man would consist of the following layers.

Loincloth – a piece of fabric worn with hose or under trousers, usually depicted on the representatives of the poorer strata of the society

Braies : simple 2 legged trousers. Made in wool or linen – with the advance of Hose (single legged, tailored to fit the leg tightly and attached by a drawstring to the braires),  braires replace the loincloth and are worn underneath. With the advance of Norman fashions later on, they can become very voluminous indeed!  http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/trousers/breechesindex.htm

 

The early braies and late the hose was often secured at the lower leg with winingas – long strips of cloth binding the calves – often with a criss-cross binding of a woven braid on top of the woolen winingas. Winingas were wound spirally up the leg and then secured by tucking the end under, or by a metal tag hook

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hooked tag, 7-11th cent, uk detector finds database, ref.number 12751

Undertunic ( smoc or serc) a linen  A line garment with light cuffs and often split hem at the sides – a predecessor of a shirt!,

Tunic, or overtunic (cyrtel) a linen or more often, a woolen garment on top of the undertunic. Tunics were of varied length, from mid calf to over the knee, and long sleeved.  Often the length of tunics worn one over the other could differ– and the top one could be just a bit shorter to show off the contrasting colour or hem decoration of the undertunic. Their cut was simple- early ones were simply made up of rectangular pieces, split at the sides – later on gores were used to give the tunic skirts more volume. They were not always made of one length of fabric- many finds show that they were often cut from much smaller pieces obviously depending on cloth available (http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/skjolha.html )

 

Often, the neck, hem and sleeves were decorated either with a woven braid or with embroidery – worked either directly on the garment or on a linen/silk/woollen band of a contrasting colour and then applied to the garment itself.

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Junius Manuscript, late 10th to early 11th cent., p 53

The tunics were usually belted with a simple braid or with leather belts.

A mantle or a cloak was worn over the whole attire – a large variety of styles seem to be in evidence, from a simple rectangular piece of thick woolen fabric, to semi or circular ones, often decorated with braid and pinned with a brooch.

The outfit would be complimented with shoes or boots and a woolen cap.

The set my client has decided on was 2 tunics and a rectangular cloak. He already owned braies and winingas and a linen undertunic, but wanted a slightly longer woolen tunic and a shorter one to go on top – and the cloak to compliment the image and to keep him warm in winter.

The tunics were cut in the same way, with only the length being different – the overtunic has shorter sleeves too to show off the embroidery on the longer one.

The pattern I used was based on the one from Mark Carlson site – I decided on two side gores with no front gores however:

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skjoldehamn tunic pattern

 

 The materials:

2 m of honey mustard wool

2 metres of herringbone weave wool

2 metres of thick pale red wool for the cloak

8 metres of hand-woven braid to decorate the cloak

0.5 m of linen for the neck and cuffs embroidery

Silk yarn for embroidery

 

Cut out the body of the tunic first, making sure there is enough space for movement.  Cut out the sleeves, underarm gussets and side gores.

Sew the gussets to the sleeves first. Sew the shoulders together and then stitch the sleeves to the  body – mark the middle line of each sleeve, and pin it to the shoulder seam- to make sure it is symmetrical.  Sew the gores to the front of the tunic then fold the tunic at the shoulder seams and run one long seam from the cuff to the hem, stitching the sleeve, front and back and gore to back pieces in one go. Repeat on the other side.

Turn the tunic to the right side, try it on and adjust the length and the width of the neck opening.

Repeat for the other tunic.  Once sewn, I finish all the edges by hand using linen or silk threads, and couch down all the interior seams: it flattens them out and gives even a partially machine-sewn garment an authentic look. All I had to take care off was the embroidery – and that took much longer than the tunics!

As far as the patterns and techniques are concerned, I found Jane Stockton article most helpful – very detailed instructions and a nice selection of patterns. http://www.axemoor.net/pdf/1_Embroidery_for_Clothing.pdf

Start with preparing your fabric. I used two rectangles, one for the neckline and one for the cuffs.  I drew the design on the fabric and attached the fabric to my wooden tapestry frame. Make sure the fabric is taunt and stretches evenly in all directions.  Now for the lengthy process of embroidering. I used lovely silks from Sally Pointer (http://sallypointer.moonfruit.com/), divided into two threads strand.  I opted for the chain stitch as being relatively easy on straight lines, curvy lines and it is good for filling in shapes nicely as well. It takes a few trials to get the stitch length sorted out, but after a few minutes of practice, I was ready to embroider in earnest. And embroider I did-  and for quite some time too!

Once you have all the embroidery done, take the pieces from the frame, and cut them to shape – make sure you leave some fabric so that it the raw edges can be folded under and stitched to the tunic without compromising the pattern.

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embroidery for the tunic1

 

Iron the pieces carefully and pin onto the fabric. Stitch the folder edges to the main fabric with small, even stitches.  Once in place, iron again – and you are done!

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embroidery attached to the tunic

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With the tunics out of the way all that remained was the cloak, and that was pretty straightforward: cut a rectangle of fabric, hem it and it is ready. You can line your cloak, or leave it unlined, and you can put some decorative touches to it embroider the corners or hems, or, as in this case, you can sew a hand-woven braid on top of it.

Braids were woven using either small heddles for simple patterns or  tablets with holes ( pic.13) – three, four six and eight varieties can be bought from at  any re-enactment fair, and the basics of weaving are easy. http://www.stringpage.com/tw/basictw.html

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heddle weaving

 

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horn tablets for weaving

 

 

Female attire.

 

Similarly to the male garments, women from that period had a lot of choice as far as fabric, colours and decoration was concerned, even though the basic cut remained simple. The layers a wealthy woman would be wearing would be:

Undergown (smoc) – an A line kirtle with tight sleeves, reaching probably all the way to the ground. It was most likely that women would were one in linen (a later chemise or smock) with another one  in wool  over it.   The second layer is often called the overgown as well as the distinctions here seem to be rather blurred. I usually assume that the undergown is the linen or fine wool dress with long narrow sleeves, always reaching to the ground, on top of which you can have the overgown with straight  or flared sleeves.

Overgown proper ( cyrtel) – as mentioned above, a woollen garment with straight sleeves, which In later times started to flare our a bit leading to the long trailing sleeves , particularly evident in the 12th century Norman fashions.

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chartres figures

It could have been lined or unlined – the pictorial evidence seem to suggest that both solutions were used, though contrasting lining would present a nice decoration with  the flared sleeves style.

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The Encomium Emmae Reginae , Queen Emma

As far as length is concerned, again it would be  ground or ankle length- though it is argued that it was indeed sometimes a bit shorter, probably depending on the amount of fabric available – or maybe to show off the contrasting colour of the undergown. Whatever is the case, my client opted for the slightly shorter version. Gowns and undergowns are often shown hitched up over the belt – a practical solution for such a long and voluminous garment!

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New_Minster_Charter_966_detail_Mary

On top would go a mantle- a circular affair in wool, with lots of drape, or, again, for the practical reasons, a rectangular cloak like the men’s one would do the job just as well

Headwear – most women would wear a wimple – a rectangular piece of linen, draped around head   and neck, often secured with a fillet- a braid or metal circlet worn on top. Veils were popular among the ecclesiastical community, but with time secular women would wear a veil and a circlet on braided hair as well- again depictures in later centuries and mostly among Norman fashions.

 

My client opted for a woollen undergown (she already had a linen one) decorated with embroidered bands of silk, a shorter overgown decorated with a woven braid and a rectangular cloak in lovely chequered wool.

I used the following:

3.5 metres of fine, deep aubergine wool

3 metres of red wool

2 metres of chequered wool for the cloak

8 metres of hand-woven braid to decorate the overgown and to serve as a girdle

0.5 m of yellow silk for the neck and cuffs embroidery

Silk yarn for embroidery.

The cut and pattern were almost identical to the men’s tunic, but obviously longer. Also, the overgown sleeves were straight and not narrowing.

For the instructions of how to make the gowns, follow the instructions given in the male attire section – they are the same!

 

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embroidery for the undergown

Here are the two outfits worn by Ian and Kindra at the Norfolk Cathedral Christmas Fair – and don’t they look snug and dashing!

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Kindra getting ready – but the image shows the underdress nicely!

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Bibliography:

 

Anglo-Saxon embroidery  http://medieval.webcon.net.au/loc_england_anglo_saxon.html [Accessed 02/03/2011]

Anglo Saxon England: http://anglosaxonengland.net/rana/docs_files/Anglo-SaxonClothes.pdf [Accessed 01/03/2011]

Basic tablet weaving: http://www.stringpage.com/tw/basictw.html [Accessed 05/03/2011]

Corbis images, documentary  http://www.corbisimages.com/Enlargement/AW003493.html [Accessed 05/03/2011]

Carlson, I. M. (1996-). Some Clothing of the Middle Ages Historical Clothing from Archaeological Finds. Retrieved 10/03/2011, from http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/bockhome.html

Jane Stockton,Embroidery for Clothing – Anglo-Saxon,http://www.axemoor.net/pdf/1_Embroidery_for_Clothing.pdf [Accessed 02/03/2011]

Joan Clarke, English Costume through the Ages, The English Universities Press LTD, London, 1966

10th and 11th Century Clothing in England: A Portfolio of Images http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/rhuddlan/images/[Accessed 05/03/2011]

 

 

Vikings in Wales…

Image  We have recently been on a short holiday – well, sort of holiday – not much rest and rather a lot of work with 5 planned photo shoots, 4 of which we actually managed to shoot ( weather was uncooperative on one occasion)….. the last day, jut before packing up, we got  a bit of a drier spell so could shoot the vikings – just a few pictures showing some of my old kit, and Lucas’ new bits… We forgot to take loads of funky kits with us ( my new clothes, jewellery, knives etc), but thought it was worth giving it a shot…. so a coat was finished in the morning, and the minute the last stitch was made , the rain eased off and we packed up and drove to the beach…

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tablet woven braid stitched onto the wool using a linen thread

We shot at Freshwater West beach – and the cold wind made it rather challenging, especially since the photographer was also to model the kit…

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Lucas setting up….

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and encountering a few problems…. 🙂

 

but finally we got the equipment working and we could snap a few pics!

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am wearing a linen dress with tablet woven woolen braid, a woolen danish style overdress, with linen braid, and a Rus style coat in wool, lined with fur. the coat is a garage fire survivor – a bit charred, the fur is a bit distorted by heat, and a bit smelly – but still usable….

 

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Lucas opted for Rus style too here – loose trousers, with winnegas, linen tunic and a woolen coat, lined with linen, decorated with a linen braid. and a wig…. :-0

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swapped my coat fora woolen mantle here… on first seeing this picture I had a good laugh at how silly Lucas’ wig looks. and then realised that my hair does not look much better and I am not wearing a wig! 😦

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hair behaving better here…

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braving the cold without any outerwear – a better view of the dresses…

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and a close up of the gear….

 

So,  a pretty basic set of kit, no riches here, but i think we got a few nice images – hope you enjoyed the post!

 

costumes: Prior Attire,

linen braids on Lucas’ coat and my overdress –  Nordulf

my shoes – Slawek Rokita

photography – PItcheresque Imagery

 

 

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The Petal Dress

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Well, Spring has truly begun in the UK, and as soon as the  trees started to blossom, I was on a mission – it was time for the spring part of our seasonal collection ( following Autumn made with leaves, and the two winters; Polaris  with snowflakes and Desolation with lunaria). The sketch was done  months earlier, and I knew what I was after – a dress made with real petals – the oriental inspired look was added en route somewhere:-)

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 I wanted to use real petals – but ones that wouldn’t wither and die in a day or two. The answer was The Real Petal Confetti Company – I used their petals for my wedding, over 2 years ago, and the left overs are still going strong in my cupboard. The samples were ordered, and once delivered, I experimented with different adhesives to see which ones work best. PVA did the trick….

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 How much to order though? I ordered 13 pints first, and added 6 more later on…. since the dress itself was a simple cheap calico, the price of the petals was the major expense for the project – still,  comparing with historical gowns in silks etc, it came pretty cheap!

The foundation was created in calico –  I adapted my Victorian princess polonaise pattern to create the shape of the top part, and inserted my second zip ever!

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husbands do come in useful… 🙂 pinning the back here…

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mega zip!

 

And then the bottom part was created out of two roughly semi oval pieces…. Think a circle skirt but with a train – so it ends up as an oval… sort of…:-) the two parts of the dress were then stitched together

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 The easy part was done – now for the petals…. the first part of the dress was made during one of my usual Stitch and Bitch sessions with Julia from Sew Curvy.  The available dummy was too slender to fit  my frock, so I roughly padded the thing with spare paper and covered it with clingfilm to prevent the glue from sticking to it.

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smothered in clingfilm….

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and the first petals on!

At the end of the day, I had the top part all covered up….  roughly 7 hours of non stop work…

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the waist was left uncovered – I’d planned a sash there…

 

The following day it was the skirts part – a bit more tricky….

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after another  4 hours….

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 Then the dress was neatly packed into the car for the return trip home…

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 Home – what shall i do with the rest of the evening – well, surprise surprise, more petalling!  It was  mildly addictive – or maybe I was just a bit obsessive? Just… One…. more… petal…..!

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 Well, at that point I  ran out of petals  and time. so more petals were ordered and I had 2 week break to work on commissions etc.

   While waiting for the petals to arrive, I practiced make up and hair do….

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the first attempt….

 

We also sourced the location –  and at that point Paul from Mockford Photography joined the frenzy and suggested Japanese style gardens as an alternative to a cherry orchard ( they seem to be rather scarce near Bedford…). In the end we settled on the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes,  and after obtaining the monks permission to  shoot there, we named the day, trying for the day with the best forecast…

Paul was also pinning some interesting images onto our Pinterest board –  and something is telling me that we are going to revisit some of the images in a different attire, allowing for a greater freedom of movement…. so watch the space….

The dress was finished  the day before the shoot – and the glue dried nicely overnight. In the morning we packed our toys and drove to the Pagoda. The weather was nothing as forecast, steady cloud cover, but we did get a glimpse of sun towards the end.

The location was perfect – lovely Zen styled gardens, and an authentic Japanese cherry  tree – in full blossom! both Lucas and Paul took turns shooting and assisting, as both had very distinctive ideas of the resulting images they wanted to achieve. Me, I was just  trying not to get too cold and  to hold on the the eyelashes ( turned out I used rubbish glue….)

 

The video documenting the creation and showcase pictures is here – do have a look!

The results –  first, piccies by Pitcheresque Imagery

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 and some gems from Mockford Photography

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 Paul’s blog with more pictures is here

 and just to finish it , a few behind the scenes shots!

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Paul at work

 

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   So  it is all done – and   just to let you know, the petal are still holing strong a year on…..  though the frock did have a make over in November – have a look what it looks like in a halloween edition!

 Oh, and the summer edition is already  being planned…. expect corn dollies, poppies and cornflowers as inspiration 🙂

Early Mantua – and La Maupin Style Shoot

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I have always wanted to have a go at an early mantua – the period is relatively unrepresented, and I simply wanted to experiment with pleating and the look a bit more. Recently, I have been offered a perfect excuse – we were providing  accessories for a lingerie shoot, featuring a collection inspired by that ultimate famme fatale and adventurer – Julie d’Aubigny (1670–1707), better known as Mademoiselle Maupin or La Maupin. The lingerie company was non other than Kiss Me Deadly, photographer Iberian Black Arts, and the models were Threnody in Velvet, SINderella Rockafella and It’s Jess. The location –  the stunning White House in London, property of a Polish prince.  To boot, Gemmeus  was sending some pretty spectacular bling to be used in the shoot. How could I say no?

And so a deal was struck – I will provide shoes, wigs, swords, fans, hats etc, all loosely connected with 17 and 18th centuries, and  in return we could shoot our own historical stuff in the place.

And so the fabrics were purchased ( silk taffeta for the mantua, silk grosgrain for the skirt) and work started –   and in a few days the outfit was ready. The  article on making the mantua and fontage is already commissioned by Your Wardrobe Unlockd, so won’t disclose much about the process of making here- but I can post the finished outfit!

Below – a collection of pictures from the day , kindly taken by Pitcheresque Imagery

We were the first to arrive  – so we unpacked the delivered goods, and went to explore the house, planning the shoot….

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Wigs and extensions galore….

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my newest shoes from American Duchess came along for the ride too!

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Bling from Gemmeus

 

And then the proper fun begun

 

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mirror fun – standing hand in hand with myself…

 

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more mirror fun…

And since the theme was La Maupin,  I simply couldn’t resist going back to my fencing days – so grabbed the prop and challenged the tog to a fight…

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Fight, damn you!

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and back to being civilized….

 

Soon after we finished, the girls  were about ready – all  suitably enhanced by the arts of Sammm Agnew

a few behind the scenes shoots….

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Jess looking stunning….

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Lucas all ready to do his bit as a prop in a role of a drunk/dead courtier…

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🙂

 

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girls at play

And even I got  put into the KMD  bra and girdle and told to play to the camera….. Sammm did a fantastic job transforming me into a perfect extra for a Meat Loaf video – scary as hell, but love the look!

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yes…. you did not expect That in a post about mantua, right? 😉

The day finished with a  lovely group shot of the team

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Many thanks to all involved in the shoot – it was a great day and I am looking forward to see what fantastic images will Morgana have for us!

Hope you enjoyed the post – a bit more eclectic than usual, but hey, variety is a spice of life!

The video  from the shoot can be seen here – enjoy!

 

Gentlemen prefer blonds.Apparently….

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For the Jubilee on 2012 I was, rather unexpectedly,asked to work at  Holkham Hall again – the unexpected part being the theme as I am not a great fan of vintage fashions and have no interest whatsoever in any clothing once we get into the 1920ties…. still, I knew that working in Holkahm, at an event organized by Black Knight Historical, will be quite an experience – so a contract was signed, and I was to be none else but MM….

Yes, I know, I am a brunette –  but  the hark hair is artificial intelligence and I have been faking it for the last 20 years or so –  my natural colour is darkish blond…

Me age 17, in Hamburg....

me, aged 17, in Hamburg

 

There was no way I was going back to blond, and no way I chopeed the tresses off – so a wig was needed.

In the end I bought 4 wigs – and only the forth one was tolerable…

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tiring to master the pout….

 

The famous white dress was obtained from a fancy dress shop, huge white knickers were bought, and in the last moment I snatched a stole – the weekend was supposed to be cold.

And so I spent 3 days pouting, posing, chatting to people and singing; parading in a fashion show;hanging out with Audrey Hepburn and riding a bike with James Dean. and all the time being rather cold in my flimsy white dress:-(

Not a lot of pictures am afraid as Lucas was being an alchemist at a medieval event – so just pictures snatched by friends ( thanks to Lucy Cornwallis for hers!

getting ready....

getting ready

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singing my heart out….

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Simon as James Dean 🙂

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two celebs:-)

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Molly as a perfect 50ties housewife – equally at home in the kitchen…. and on the catwalk during the fashion show….

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and the whole team:-)