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The Moy Gown



Figure 1: gown based on Moy gown, front

 
Background
 
This garment, presumed to be a woman’s, was discovered in a bog in Moy, County Clare, Ireland in 1931. The age of the gown is not known, but it is presumed to be from the mid 14th century to late 15th century based on its construction.
 
There are at least two very detailed accounts of this garment available. One authored by Kass McGann, who saw the gown in person and was allowed to make measurements, and one by Marc Carlson, who was in close contact with McGann. Both Mcgann and Carlson have made reproductions of the Moy bog gown.

The diagram in Figure 2 was made by Carlson, based on the actual tracing of the garment by Margaret Lannin of the National Museum of Ireland and allows for a detailed view of the remaining fragments. The most prominent characteristic of its construction is undoubtedly the trapezoidal shoulder blade gussets at the back of the bodice, which help to form a very large arm scye, which is labelled by some as “aux grande assiettes”. Newton discusses the grand assiette design Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince and gives examples of its usage post-1350 (eg., the poupoint of Charles de Blois, d. 1364). Geijer also discusses the grande assiette type design in her book, The Golden Gown of Queen Margareta in Uppsala Cathedral (trans.). This gown with grande assiette sleeves was purportedly worn by Margareta on her wedding day in 1363 when she was 10 years old. 
 
Figure 2: Moy Gown fragments. Drawings by Marc Carlson based on a tracing of the garment made by Margaret Lannin of the National Museum of Ireland.
 
Carlson quotes this paragraph from Dunlevy in his documentation:

"A coarsely woven twill of lightly spun wool, and may have had some slight felting on the inner surface. It has a low round neckline, with the bodice buttoned at centre front and tight sleeves buttoned to underarms. The skirt is shaped with a double gore at centre back and at either side. The front of the skirt did not survive. This Moy gown is of interest since it shows the sewing techniques of the time. Selvedges were used when possible, otherwise the fabric edge was thickened to avoid ravelling. All seams were welted but the neckline was finished neatly with backstitch on the inner face and the bodice fronts were hemmed. The seams of the skirts were sometimes left unfinished towards the bottom, the lower edge of which is so fragmentary that it would be unwise to conjecture as to whether it was ankle or calf-length. The difficulties surmounted in accommodating the sleeves are of interest. The fabric was wrapped around the arm and cut to extend close to the neck. A welted seam attached this to the body of the gown and continued into the sleeve. In this way the weakness of a shoulder seam was avoided. For further strength the two foreparts of the bodice were cut with narrow straps which extended over the shoulders and into triangular gussets between the shoulder blades. A gusset was placed at the front of each armpit for ease of movement and comfort."
Carlson writes:

“Contrary to what Dunlevy claimed, there were no welts in the seams. The seams are simple running stitches. The inside of the dress does appear "fulled", but it seems clear that this was because of wear and not fabric processing (it was more "fulled" in the folds where fabric rubbed against fabric and not "fulled" in other areas).”





Figure 3: aux grande assiettes
 
 Other points of construction include triangular gussets in the front of the sleeve to aid fit, and triangular gussets under the arm to shape the bodice. The gown has long triangular gores set at the waist in the front, at the sides and in the back to fit the hips and create sweeping fullness to the finished length. Additionally, the gown has cloth button closures down the centre front (although how far down the gown they originally extended is not known as those pieces are missing) and on the back opening of the sleeve. Marc Carlson writes “these buttons appear to be made from wads of cloth that is then covered in cloth, in a fashion consistent with other archaeological examples.” However, McGann states that no one had taken a button apart to examine its construction.  The buttonholes are set very close to the edge of the garment with the buttons attached directly to the opposing edge, which is consistent with other 14th-15th century examples. The sleeve pieces in existence do not extend past the mid-upper arm and although it is presumed that the gown had long sleeves, it is not known for certain.
 


Figure 4: triangular gores inserted under the arm, and at the front of the sleeve head



Figure 5: wrist to elbow button closures
The gown is constructed of 2/1 twill wool, with a thread count of 18 to 21 per inch along the horizontal and 20 per inch along the vertical.
 
 
Construction
 
The gown on display today is not a reconstruction. It is based upon the Moy gown, but the dimensions, materials, and construction methods have not been followed as an exact copy. Some of the differences are listed below.
 
  • My wool gown has been hand dyed with synthetic dye, not natural dye.
  • I varied the dimensions of the gown in order to fit my body, please see Table 1.
  • I sewed the gown by hand using synthetic button hole twist thread and a modern steel needle.
  • The cloth buttons I constructed are made from circles of cloth which are self-stuffed to create a firm button with no raw edges.
  • The button holes are bound in silk thread, not wool.
  • The buttonholes on my gown extend only from sleeve hem to elbow, not to the top of the arm.
  • My gown has linen facings for the buttonholes and the button edges, whereas the edges of the Moy gown were just turned over and neatly hemmed. The cloth with which I constructed my gown is not as coarse and I felt that the buttonholes and button edges required further reinforcement.
  • The lower front portion of the extant gown did not survive, but I have added triangular gores in the front of my gown based on the symmetrical gores placement seen in other extant garment of the 14th and 15th centuries
  • I have finished the seams on my gown by pressing them open and tacking them down with a running stitch as indicated in the MoL Textiles and Clothing book for seam finishing in the 14th and 15th centuries.

 

 Figure 6: Pattern created based on that of the Moy gown
  
 
The gown was entirely hand-sewn, using running stitch (main seams), back stitch (reinforcing main seams and gussets), hem stitch (hems and facings), and buttonhole stitch. As noted above, I used a synthetic, and heavy-duty buttonhole twist thread for the main seams and seam finishing. At the time I did not have access to any linen, or silk thread. Later I did, however, manage to procure some silk thread which I used in the construction of my 46 buttonholes. I have to say that sewing with finely corded silk is much more finicky than with the sturdier buttonhole twist, as it is prone to twisting and kinking. In the future I will try coating the silk cord thread with beeswax.
 
Of the diagrams depicting this gown, there are none that I know of which show the sleeve shape and how to adjust it to fit to the shoulder blade gusset and arm scye. This was by far the most challenging aspect of constructing this gown. It required 4+ mock-up versions of the bodice portion. And even then, some tweaking of the seams was necessary. This is definitely a dress that needs to be personally tailored to an individual in order to achieve the fit that makes it a superior working garment. 
 
Of the sleeve construction, McGann writes:

The sleeves of the gown are very curious. Their construction is extremely simple, but almost demands that they be fitted on the body of the wearer. The sleeves are simple rectangles, each about 16" wide. The 16" edge is sewn to the straps described above, with the edge of the sleeve being sewn to the top of the shoulder gussets. The rectangular sleeve then wraps around the arm and attaches to the outside edge of the same shoulder gusset (the 6 ½" side) being turned 90 degrees in its journey. A 3 ½" by 4" by 4 ½" triangle is inserted in a slit in the front of the arm, around the area of the armpit. This gore helps the sleeve fit better. The result is a sleeve that hugs the shoulder but doesn't have the stress of a shoulder seam.”

In the construction of my gown you can see this 90 degree turn which McGann describes, above. It occurs where the back corner of the underarm gusset meets the bottom corner of the shoulder blade gusset.

In my opinion, the beauty of this gown lies in the wonderful arm movement it allows, while not causing stress on the arm scye seams. Of the gowns I have made in the past with fitted sleeves and small arm scyes, the weakest link in their construction was always at the back of the arm scye where the sleeve was set. Inevitably, it is this point which undergoes the most stress when the arms are extended in front. And, if anyone reading this document has ever performed light to moderate labour in a cotehardie-type gown, you know that the ability to extend your arms forward to cook, clean dishes, sweep floors, and perform a plethora of other normal household (and Event) tasks is vital. This is one reason why I believe that the Moy bog gown is a working-class construct. Another reason is the coarse wool cloth from which the gown was made. McGann describes the individual threads from the cloth as varying in thickness from 1 mm to 1.5mm.
 
I generally construct 14th and 15th century gowns which utilise the underarm to floor method of inserting side gores, and this was my first attempt at an out garment with side gores set from the waist to the floor. The triangular gores set into the sides, back and front of this gown do add the fullness that is desirable, yet, they also create a stress point at the gore insertion point which requires much reinforcement. In the extant gown there is a roughly 2” square piece of cloth which patches a hole at the top of the gores in the back of the gown. 



Figure 7: gown based on Moy gown, back
 
All in all, I am pleased with the gown I made based on the Moy bog garment. I am very proud of the fit I achieved with the shoulder blade gusset shaping the large arm scye and the fit of the sleeve. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely use the fine silk cord I purchased near the end of the project to sew the seams, and I’d love to hand-dye some wool fabric with a natural dyestuff.
 
 
Table 1: A comparison of dimensions between the Moy bog gown and my gown
 

Construction area
My gown
Extant Moy bog gown
 
Shoulder gusset (grand assiette)
Top: 5”
Bottom: 7”
Sleeve side: 3”
Centre back edge: 5”
Top: 8 ¼" to 8 3/8"
Bottom: 8 ¼" to 8 3/8"
Sleeve side: 6 ½"
Centre back edge: 8”
Shoulder strap
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: 1”
Strap length: 9”
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: ¾”
Strap length: 8”
Underarm gusset
Top: 4”
Front side: 5”
Back side: 4”
Top: 2”
Front side: 3 ½”
Back side: 4 7/8
Sleeve gusset
Top: 2 ¾”
Sides: 3 – 3 ½”
Top: 3 ½”
Sides: 4 – 4 ½”
Sleeve
Top: 17 ½”
Buttonhole side length: 28”
Button side length: 23”
Top: 16”
The length of the sleeve is not known
Buttonholes
Distance between: ¾”
Number and distribution: 13 from sleeve hem to elbow
Distance between: 1.1”
Number and distribution: unknown number from sleeve hem to shoulder blade gusset

 
 References

Carlson, I. Marc, A Reconstruction of a Garment from the Moy Bog, Co. Clare, Ireland
http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/moy3.html

Carlson, I. Marc, Some Clothing of the Middles Ages. Historical Clothing from Archaeological Finds,                                              
http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/bockhome.html

Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-c.1450. (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4) London: HMSO, 1992

Dunlevy, Mairead. Dress in Ireland.  London: Batsford, 1989 (as referenced and quoted by Carlson)

Geijer, Agnes m.fl., Drottning Margaretas gyllene kjortel i Uppsala Domkyrka, Stockholm 1994

McGann, Kass, What the Irish Wore. The Moy Gown – An Irish Medieval Gown
http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/irish/moy.html

Newton, Stella Mary, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince. A Study of the Years 1340-1364. 1999
 
 

Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
mc_cadieux
Dec. 4th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
Wow, it fits wonderfuly.

Having making 2 of those myself, I too can attest that this construction is most incredibly and surprisingly comfortable :)

I just love your work, it's always so perfectly accomplished and well documented.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 4th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks, MC! Your comments mean a lot to me as I am such an admirer of your work.

Each time I put on the gown I am surprised at how comfortable it is. I know that this one won't be my only Moy!
larmer
Dec. 4th, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
Wow!
matildalazouche
Dec. 4th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
forest_lady
Dec. 4th, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
Very nice work!
matildalazouche
Dec. 4th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
buttongirl
Dec. 4th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC)
YOu so totally rock my dear! :-D
matilda_z
Dec. 5th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
Rock on!
rectangularcat
Dec. 6th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
wow that's talent!
matilda_z
Dec. 6th, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
mikepictor
Dec. 6th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
Ok....apparently I missed the fact you have this journal as well.

I am speechless....you do phenomenal work! Somehow you keep exceeding yourself, and you set your bar pretty high fomr your first sca event.
matilda_z
Dec. 6th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
That's so sweet of you!
florentinescot
Dec. 7th, 2006 04:41 am (UTC)
I'm not sure whose link I followed to get here, but *wow* -- not only is that Moy Gown gorgeous, but so is everything else!
renna_darling
Dec. 13th, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC)
Your gown looks lovely! I'm very impressed with your work. Where did you end up finding the silk thread?
matildalazouche
Dec. 14th, 2006 02:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

http://www.treenwaysilks.com/yarns.html

I bought the silk thread from Treenway Silks. It's the fine cord, listed under the reeled yarn category. It comes in white, and is about as fine as modern buttonhole twist thread. (Looks very similar to a picture of silk thread I saw in Textiles and Clothing.) It is easier to sew with shorter lengths of silk thread (18") than with longer ones as kinks can develop. Next time I'll try running it over a piece of beeswax. All in all, I'm very happy with the silk thread from Treenway and the quick service. I bought 100g approx. 600m, it's enough for many many projects.
qtkite
Feb. 26th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
I stumbled across your journal, but you do fabulous work. It makes me want to get up and sew right now.

If you don't mind, I would love to add you as a friend so that I can more of your wonderful work as you post.
blaze2242
Mar. 14th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
I am hoping to create my own copy of the Moy Gown, what a great resource this post is! I can't wait to get started now.
julia_spring
Jun. 12th, 2008 09:38 am (UTC)
Hello! I see you haven't posted in a while, but may I friend this blog? Your work is wonderful.
matilda_z
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Please feel free!
morrghan92
Sep. 10th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting your work. I find hand sewn garments fascinating. I hope you don't mind if I friend you, as I would love to keep up with your projects.
zabacorporation.blogspot.com
Oct. 16th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
Very nice work. I like the natural colour of it and the way you made this dress.
arctic_wolf4025
Nov. 27th, 2008 05:48 am (UTC)
Beautiful gowns. I hope you don't mind, but I friended you, because I know I will forget about this page if I don't.
apryl_knight
Aug. 14th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)
Stunning gown! I friended you to keep track - I'm going to make something for a Medieval faire at which I'll be performing in February, and I'm torn between the Moy gown or a kirtle and sideless surcote.

Thank you for the pictures, as well as your fabulous work!
glvalentine
Dec. 15th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
I came across this entry while Googling the Moy Gown. This is an amazing reconstruction, both in terms of execution and documentation; thanks so much for sharing!
arwen_lioncourt
Jul. 6th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
Fabulous Grande Assiettes!
I have had this webpage bookmarked for years. I used to do late 1500s, but I'm changing my SCA name and time period back to 1450s. I just love this look!

I think the Grand Assiette sleeve treatment explains the seams I keep seeing in mid-late 1400s working-class paintings. Some gowns have a "yoked" long back collar and extra seams near the armsceye. Extenstion of the GA? Hmmm.

I also wonder if the GA gave rise to the sideless surcote/Gates of Hell gown worn by queens/saints.
pesachovitzch
Mar. 21st, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)
WOW
I am speechless. My scadian wardrobe level is currently at the ren faire level-aka cruddy and cobbled together. I am trying to rectify the situation. You are an inspiration. I friended you so I could see what new wonders you might grace us with. One of these days, I want to do a gown all the way-spinning thruugh sewing. I doubt it will actually happen, but I can dream. My friend is growing the cotton to spin, weave, and bobbin-lace-embellish her own handkerchief. the first year's crop was insufficient, but I have started to help her spin.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 1st, 2011 09:56 am (UTC)
I'm .....
....in love !!!! Really i want exactly a gown like that.....Beautiful!!!! keep up the good work.....best, vanessa
(Anonymous)
Oct. 18th, 2011 12:17 pm (UTC)
:)
Wow, you've got huuge talent!! I love your work, I am still afraid of sewing something 'big' myself not to waste a nice material I bought, but I'm so much tempted to give it a go. And this might be an irrelevant comment, but ahw you are soooooo beautiful. You have a face of a photomodel!
cindifigo
Nov. 2nd, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
Very enlightening and beneficial to someone whose been out of the circuit for a long time.

sheleniel
Mar. 2nd, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
Nice work! And thanks for the pattern!
Chloe Gillespie
Sep. 30th, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
Very nicely done!
Thanks for your documenting how to make this gown. I'm very interested in making one for myself. I've previously been making garb by buying and adapting commercial patterns that are moderately accurate. Now I would like to get a little more adventurous and draw up this pattern for myself especially since I don't want to pay for it. I'll probably do it on the sewing machine though because that's what I'm used to and don't overly trust the strength of my hand stitching and I'm too slow. An idea I had was to use wool feted 'beads' for the buttons because they come out looking very similar to the fabric buttons you have here. They don't require any special equipment to make all it takes is to roll up some merino wool roving and dunk it in warm soapy water and roll it about in your palms for a while. I don't imagine this technique would be too far off since they were using wool for the gown anyway and it doesn't require any modern equipment to make. Plus doing felted buttons this way might save a lot of time since they only take about 5 minutes each to make.

Edited at 2013-09-30 01:07 am (UTC)
matildalazouche
Sep. 30th, 2013 02:15 am (UTC)
Re: Very nicely done!
You can do it. Give yourself lots of time to experiment with the pattern. I cut 4 muslins while trying to figure out the piecing on this gown. But, it was a good process and I didn't rush it. I like your idea of the felted woollen balls for buttons. Certainly is a very authentic way to make small buttons. :-)
chellywood1
Jun. 7th, 2014 08:34 pm (UTC)
These costumes are gorgeous!
I'm designing some Barbie doll clothes for a YouTube production of Romeo and Juliet. Since your costumes are from relatively the same era, I've found your site super helpful! Thanks for posting everything from links to patterns. It's all helpful!

Are you on Twitter? If so, look for me, so we can see each other's postings.
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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