10 May 2009

Blue linen foundation gown

Blue foundation gown, front
Originally uploaded by Catrijn.
Additional pictures: back view

Here's one from the archives: a dress I've had for a while, but haven't written up here yet. This is a blue linen gown/kirtle that's a very basic part of my 15th century wardrobe. I have several similar ones, but this one in particular is cut with a very wide and very low neckline for wearing with my Burgundian court gown (about which I will hopefully write soon); however I also wear it with an earlier houppelande, and by itself with pin-on sleeves.

Construction Details: Unlined linen gown, handsewn with linen thread. Four-panel construction with waist seam; skirt portion has gores at front, back, and sides. Eyelets are on a separate strip to ease working with panels which are curved at the center front opening. This eyelet strip is four layers of fabric thick, to prevent buckling and gathering (2 layers of the outer fabric, and 2 layers of a more densely woven medium-weight linen). The eyelets are densely worked, approximately 5/8 inch apart on each side, approximately 3/8 inch back from the edge, and staggered between sides for spiral lacing.

Known Problems: The two main problems with this gown are both the choice of fabric. Firstly, I cannot document either colored linen, or linen used as an outer garment for this time and place. My best justification is how comfortable it is in the summer. The second problem is structural: the fabric is simply too coarsely woven to be really good for this style. I think I have had to mend this more times than anything else I own, because in seams under stress, the fabric will pull out of the stitching, one thread at a time. I think I've now fixed all the problem areas with reinforcement and multiple lines of stitching, but a tighter weave would have performed better.

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