I have always liked Saxon Gowns, they have a different look from the French and English gowns of the early 16th century, they have interesting construction puzzles, and an excuse to use several yards of velvet and fancy fabric is always a good thing.
After going back and forth with a friend on just how these gowns were put together, looking at lots and lots of paintings, and seeing what other costumers have done I decided to make one for myself.
I picked up some brown velveteen for cheap along with some jacquard in a similar color and started plotting.
I started a pinterest board for Cranach styled gowns to get an overview of what style elements I wanted to incorporate.
I have always been fond of the tall collared styled gowns and I haven’t seen many of them recreated so that is what I set my sights on.
I dug out my tall collared doublet pattern to use as a base for the bodice, this version of the patterns has a few issues so it would need a bit of adjustment to get things right.
I cut out a mock-up in muslin adjusted the collar and the back of the neck.
That basted in place I put it on my dress form and marked where the bust point fell on the form.
But when I tried the mock-up on, where I marked the bust point on the form, is not where my bust point is. This is important as I’m using the bust point as a marker for where the edge of the gowns fall.
So I marked on the mock-up where my bust point hit. This also gives me the basis for how wise the front gap will be in the finished gown. Once that was marked I trued up my edges and starting at the bust point flared the front out to form the collar, and I am left with a pretty good base for the gown bodice. The only thing left to adjust is the back collar.
I managed to sneak in a little bit of hand sewing this past week.
Family medical things have kept me from sewing but I’ve managed to work a little bit on this, here are some work in progress photos.
It still needs some work. The shoulders need to come up about 1/2 an inch to an inch, armscye needs to get cut down, sleeves reset after that, eyelets, hem evened and bound, small wedge added to the side seams to give me enough room in the bust, neckline needs to be wider and come down more.
I had two or three days with my internet not working or being on again, off again. So I started another hand sewn ruff (I may have a problem).
I just finished putting the neckband on and this time I made sure to sew down every tiny pleat that I could on both sides. I have no idea how they managed to sew the pleats to the band in the 16th century without high-powered lights, I had issues even with my ott light over my shoulder. I adjusted (enhanced!) the photo to show the stitching.
It’s done, it’s done!
I finished the full Elizabethan ensemble (it does need some ruffs but that is for another day) for my friend’s birthday/Gift-mas/every other holiday in the world for the next 300 years. I am now going to sleep the sleep of the dead.
So starting with the bottom layers:
Linen/cotton blend shirt with reinforced french seams. Cranberry wool skirt with tucked hem, a pocket and fingerloop braided closing.
Pattern Adjustments and Mock-ups
To me this is the annoying and tedious part of sewing, but once it is done we will have a bodice pattern that fits and we can use for various projects. If you already have a block pattern by all means use it. I’m starting from the beginning because this is stuff I wish I knew when I was starting out.
A small scrap of cardboard
A long Ruler
Paper to trace your pattern on
Muslin or calico for Mock-up(s)
Narrow Elastic or Ribbon
Tracing Wheel (optional)
To start we need a few measurements, so take a second to change into a fitted knit top and if you wear extra support under your garb put that on too. I’m wearing modern jeans to show where where your waist is not.
Natural waist: ________ Take string or narrow elastic and tie it snug around your waist, wiggle around from side to side till it settles. Make sure it isn’t twisted like mine is. This trick for finding the waist doesn’t always work, so a second way of finding it is to look at where your elbow falls, that will roughly tell you where your true waist is. (Thank you Elizabethan Costume facebook group for teaching me that proportional trick.)