Portfolio: 1360s-70s gown of russet red

1350s-80s medieval gown thedreamstress.com07
The Idea and Inspiration:

One of my aunts is a keen genealogist, and thanks to her dedicated work in researching our family history and making it available online, I’ve recently discovered that I can trace my lineage in a direct line back through Charlemagne.  Most of Europe is descended from Charlemagne in some way or another, so being is great-somethingth-40+ generation granddaughter isn’t itself isn’t that exciting, but I still find it fascinating that I can look at a list and see the name of every ancestor back for over 1,000 years.

Well, every male ancestor that is.  The historical records are quite precise about documenting each Sir John or Robert de Peyton who has contributed to my genetic makeup, but the names of their wives are often unknown, or misattributed.  There is one particular wife of a Sir John who married him in the 1360s, but whose records are mixed up that I wondered about.  Who was this minor English noblewoman, and what was her life like?

Thinking about this coincided with a growing interest in 14th century fashion, and I decided to make a dress for my unknown ancestress – something appropriate to a young minor noblewoman – upper class, but not particularly rich, or important in a wider sense.  But, oh, how important to me!

This dress represents my first venture into medieval fashions, so I’m trying to balance historical accuracy, time constraints, and the knowledge that it’s almost impossible to get everything perfectly right first time.  So this is a learning piece: a chance to try the fit, techniques, and the various theories that surround medieval clothing, while knowing that there will be some things I’ll want to improve next time.  Because it is essentially a working toile, I’m saving time (and my chillblained fingers) by machine stitching all the long seams.  Everything else will be worked by hand.

Inspiration Gallery

Katherine, Countess of Warwick, 1369 Queen's Book, fol. 128. Hippomenes and Atalante. Guillaume de Machaut épiant les amoureux déçus. - Le Jugement dou roi de Navarre.Maître du Policratique. Enlumineur de l'œuvre reproduite Date d'édition - 1380-1395
Katherine, Countess of Warwick, d. 1369 Queen’s Book 128. Hippomenes & Atalante Judgement of the King of Navarre. Maître Policratique. 1380-1395
The Tacuinum Sanitas of Vienna, Late 14th century.
The Tacuinum Sanitas of Vienna,  Late 14th c.    

Fabric and Materials:

  • A felted 70/30 wool/viscose blend in dark red-brown.  In period this colour could have been achieved with a madder dye, or possibly a madder mixed with, or overdyed with, walnut.  The fabric and colour match the approximate status and resources of the wife of a minor English noble of the period.  The viscose content is less than ideal, but sourcing the fabric has proved very tricky, so I’ve settled for the blend.
  • Linen facings
  • Linen & silk thread to sew

The Undergarments:

The Dress Diary:

Research and helpful links:

Overall: 

Draping & drafting the pattern, and achieving an accurate silhouette:

   Buttons & buttonholes:

   Sleeves:

   Stitches, lacing  & garment details: