Friday, March 4, 2016

A 16th Century Kirtle by Designs From Time

Just recently finished this beautiful kirtle for myself - - A rare treat, as I'm always the last one that I sew for!

I took over as Head of Household for the Queen's guild at the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire and the first thing I did was to elevate our garb to a livery.

I found this beautiful middle-weight Crimson red linen:

I'm allowing each household member to embellish theirs with black grosgrain ribbon in whatever pattern they wish.


I literally spent three days hand sewing all of this grosgrain ribbon trim (about 8 to 10 hours a day). I'm not a garb-nazi nor do I make it a habit to criticize the work of other costumers, but I feel it's a cheat or a lazy shortcut to machine sew on trims for 16th century era clothing. I also do NOT machine hem my skirts. Yes, it takes a while longer, but the aesthetic is so much better!
I drape each individual pattern for my clients. rather than try to fit a pre-made pattern to my clients, I draft a pattern that fits each individual client.


Most costumers or reenactors use metal stays in their bodices, pair of bodies (corsets), and kirtles, but I DON'T. First of all, metal stays aren't historically accurate, but more importantly, if you're portraying a middle or working class character they restrict your movement and are painful!

Last year I had a kirtle commissioned because I was SO busy I didn't have time to sew for myself. I paid out over $500 on labor and fabrics and when it arrived I ended up tearing it apart and redoing much of the work. It was so heavily stayed it was darn near bullet proof!  She even placed metal stays in the back! They dug into my back and waist within the first couple of minutes, and I could not begin to imagine wearing it ALL day at faire!
Historically, working class and lower middle class (lower Gentry) would not use stays - not even for the lacing bars. They simply used three layers of fabric. For the upper class kirtles that were worn underneath an over-gown they were stayed with reeds or cording, but metal stays weren't invented until the 1800s.

Many heavier, bustier women feel they need the extra support and feel they absolutely NEED metal stays, but if you construct your kirtle properly you can get away with minimal stays.

I absolutely do NOT add stays in the back or the sides. I do add a few rows of stays in the front using a lightweight product, and use 1/4 flexible metal stays for the lacing bars in front. 

If you're interested in a commission for a kirtle here's the listing on my Etsy store.

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