The Red Elizabethan – oops!

Red Velvet Elizabethan

Back in November I did a bunch of work on my Red Velvet Elizabethan ensemble – and a bit of blogging about it.  I assumed I’d written all the relevant blog posts, because I’d thought about writing them so much, but I went looking for the final project status wrap-up for the year, and realised I never wrote it!


When I last blogged about it, I had an inspiration image:

Death and the Maiden, British (English) School, c.1570, Oil on panel, 65 x 49 cm, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Death and the Maiden, British (English) School, c.1570, Oil on panel, 65 x 49 cm, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

And the ensemble had a finished bodice, and an assembled skirt, which just needed to be put together.

Red Velvet Elizabethan

I have since done that:

Red Velvet Elizabethan

From the back, it looks spectacular:

Red Velvet Elizabethan

Look at those pretty pleats!  (very timely):

Red Velvet Elizabethan

From the front?  Not so much:

Red Velvet Elizabethan

Granted, it looks a lot better on a person than on that dressform, which is too big for it, so the bodice won’t laced closed.  But even on a person, the lacing doesn’t sit totally smooth, there is a bit of wrinkling in the bodice, and the front pleats aren’t deep enough to sit nicely.

Re-doing the skirt pleating is easy enough, but the bodice is a bit more of a concern.  I’m trying to decide if I need to completely re-do it with a more solid foundation and front hooks rather than lacing, as per Janet Arnold.  Alas, no help from  the Tudor Tailor – why does it do early Tudor & Jacobean but not a single classic Elizabethan gown?!?  Gah!

If the bodice front is frustrating…well…not shown are my attempts at sleeve rolls.  The diagonal striping on the sleeve rolls of my inspiration image did my head in compared to all the patterns in Arnold & the Tudor Tailor, and my sleeve rolls are…well…they might be something, but they aren’t sleeve rolls.

What I really need to do is have a good try on of the dress, but it’s gotten to hot for that.  So what I’ve done instead is to shove it away in a box for now.  I won’t need it again until next Nov, I’ve got other projects to focus on, and sometimes you just need to put something that doesn’t work aside until you can think about it again.  I’ll pull it out in time to figure it out, get it right, and submit it for the Historical Sew Monthly Red challenge (how timely! 😉 )

And, of course, if any of you reading have extensive experience in Elizabethan and wish to give advice, it would be much appreciated!


  1. A truly beautiful accomplishment! I love the Red Velvet and the back is perfect. I can see your concern with the tie front, but as you said, try it on (when it is cooler) and see if it fits correctly. Then, if not, change it up to hooks. For the front pleats, I looked at the painting and the pleats seem very shallow in the front, like yours. I think your dress is beautiful and would only suggest a tiny tacking of the front pleat to make it look a bit more crisp. Only my suggestion, your gown in amazing! Bravo!

    I’ve been sewing since I was 7 yrs old; now 51. I’ve tackled only children’s period clothing and several wedding & ball gowns. I enjoy your blog! CJ

  2. Wow, you certainly reach far and doing amazing things with these projects. I stick with conventional things, but I sometimes have to put projects aside to deal with when I am not completely frustrated with them.

  3. Hmm, I see what you mean. I recall reading somewhere (probably Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d) that some of these bodices were lined in buckram. Perhaps that might solve the wrinkling problem?

  4. Some light boning the front and buckram (or duck) will probably help with the front wrinkles. As for the shoulder rolls – what shape did you cut out? They should look like (American) footballs that have been slightly deflated on one side. Not really the best description but hopefully it helps a bit.

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