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Short-sleeve kirtle with wide front lacing

This costume is a short-sleeve kirtle, circa late-15th Century.  It is constructed from unlined medium weight olive wool and features a wide front opening with rust-coloured wool placket.  The spiral lacing across the placket is definitely the attention-grabbing feature of this simple dress.  I am wearing the kirtle with a fine linen smock, a simple linen headdress and a beautiful belt from Fettered Cock Pewters.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting  Memling, Lamentation, 1475. Detail of belt.

The wide front opening was inspired by many depiction in late 15th century art, including the two below by Memling. In the first image, the gown is worn over a very beautiful brocade dress and the front opening is filled with a black placket.  The second image also shows the front opening filled with black fabric, but we cannot be certain whether this fabric belows to a placket or an undergown.

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Triptych of Adriaan Reins (central panel), 1480, Memling.
Allegory of True Love, 1485, Memling.

The cut of the costume is similar to that of Herjolfsnes 39, show below after conservation and in pattern layout. It is constructed on a six-gore system, with two gores at each side and one at front- and back-centre.  The bodice in my kirtle is very form-fitted, and I added the wide opening in the front.


Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 39, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003

   Detail of side gores

The front lacing edges of the kirtle are reinforced with a tablet woven band of brown wool, made with two tablets and eight strands of yarn.  The tablet weaving offers an enhanced stability to the bodice and lessens puckering. 

The front edges and neckline are faced with fine tabby-woven silk.

The there is triangular gore (see Herjolfsnes pattern, above) in the sleeve back which aids in flexibility and stretch of the sleeve.

All in all, this is a very comfortable dress.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
I love love love your detail work! These are great pics!

I am curious though- I note that you are using alot of the Museum of London stuff for finishing techniques. They are great, and they undoubtedly work, but I am curious to know if you have any evidence for their use during this time period? I am ignorant and curious, not trying to crap on you!

Another small thing- would it be possible to put the bulk of the photo essay behind a cut? I love having the entry photo so we are clear on what we are talking about, but it is hard to scroll through my friends page without getting distracted by your pretty face and lovely work! :-D :-D

Hugs you!
Aug. 26th, 2006 02:53 am (UTC)
Hi Helen,

Thanks for the compliments, you're very kind and it means a lot.

You've asked a good question here. In the MOL book the tablet woven edges that they recovered are from the 14th century. Although they did recover tablet woven items from the 15th century as well. The tablet woven borders were found placed on the clothing on edges which were routinely under a lot of strain. I have simply continued this in my gown, but I am not aware of any extant garments from the fifteenth century that show this feature. It's unfortunate that very little extant clothing from northern Europe has been uncovered.

My interest is peaked, and luckily I work with several professional textile conservators at CCI. I'll ask them you question and see what they think!
Aug. 26th, 2006 02:57 am (UTC)
Oh, and I'm really sorry for filling up your 'friends' page with my pictures! I know that these entries are each quite long, but I promise that I won't be posting them everyday once I get the bulk of my work finished. I don't really want to put any cuts in this LJ, but if it gets to be to much scrolling I may just have to....
Oct. 4th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)
According to Maggie Forest, who has examined Herjolfsnes gowns nos. H33, H38, H39, H43, H45, H61, H65:

"The tablet woven edge that is extant in the London material also appears in the Greenland material."

Since the Herjolfsnes 39 gown was carbon dated to 480+/-60 BP, or 1420-1530, there is your primary source evidence for the tablet woven edge finishing technique.

Aug. 26th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)

Let me just congratulate you on your work, all of it, not just this dress. I hope one day I'll be able to make as many outfits as you.

But I am particularly happy that you decided on making this kirtle, 'Magdalena dress' I call it, just because of that Memling's painting :). Ever since I know about it, I've wanted one like that. And now, making it will be a whole lot easier since you have provided all this great details and photos. Thank you!

I am, however, still a bit uncertain about the placket.. I know at times it seems the only possible explanation but still.. we can't be sure they really used it. Will have to give it some more thought.

Oh, and by the way, did you decide to make holes out of preference? I'm asking this because the more I examined this painting, more clearly the usage of rings for lacing appeared in my mind. And I don't think I see them there just because of dread and laziness in making and sewing about 40 holes :).

Thnx again and keep up the good work!

Sep. 22nd, 2008 12:03 pm (UTC)
My name i Signe, and I am 16 years old. I'm from Sweden, and so my english isn't perfect. Anyhow, I am about to go to my very first "lajv", which basically is a game in which a huge group of people find somewhere to stay for about a week, and then they "play medieval". it's like role-playing. so everything has to be very accurate, with the right clothes and fabrics and so on, it all has to be as close as possible to "the real thing". and I am chasing all over the internet to find patterns for dresses and such so i can create my outfit. And i fell in love with your Short-sleeved kirtle with the wide front opening. And so I beg of you, is it possible for you to perhaps mail me the patterns so I can make the dress? it would mean the world to me if you would do that. Or if you could just put them here, on your web page, and i could print them out.
here's my e-mail. it's quite an embarrassing one, but i was only 11 when i created it so please excuse that. ok, here it goes; spicy_miracle@hotmail.com.

thank you in advance, Signe Hornborg (yeah, i know, it's an odd name)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )