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Burgundian gown, mid-15th century

The gown is made from warm brown coloured wool in a heavy hand. The trim is also heavy weight wool. The gown closes in front with lacing rings, as were quite commonly used in the 15th century. The rings are hidden from view on the underside of the gown.

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This is a very simple garment. It adds an easy and loose layer of warmth and is always worn over a kirtle. In the King Rene manuscipt, Le Cueur d'Amours Espris, women are depicted removing their Burgundian-style gowns to reveal short sleeve kirtles which lace up the front. The kirtles have black inset pieces pinned to them, which gives the characteristic filled neckline seen in many portraits. This is how I typically wear the gown. The photo below shows the placket pinned to a short-sleeved kirtle which is worn under the gown. 

The gown is worn with a wide belt, cinched above the natural waist.  This high placement of the belt and fullness of the gown gives the illusion of roundness and fertility, so prized at the time. The images below show full frontal view, placket placement on the kirlte worn beneath the gown, side view, and the sleeve back.

Clockwise: full-length frontal view showing fit of gown through upper body, increasing in fullness to the floor; placket pinned on kirtle worn beneath gown; side view; and sleeve back showing triangular gusset.

King René, Le Cueur d'Amours Espris, placket pinned on bodice of kirtle.

The pattern for this gown is based on portraits from the era and cutting styles seen in the Herjolfnes dresses. I have added fullness to the gown by using underarm-to-hem side gores. The sleeves are tailored to the arms, but not as tight as may be found in the full-sleeve kirtles of the time – this dress was meant to be worn on top of a kirtle and the sleeves and arm scyes are more relaxed.

The hand-stitching that I used in the construction of  this gown consists of running stitch, hem stitch and back stitch. The seams are all finished by flattening out the seam allowances and then tacking them in place with rows of running stitch. This adds a stability to the vertical line of the seam. As both pieces are constructed of wool, the seam allowances full naturally when hand washed and there is little to no unraveling.

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The gown was inspired by the style of dress often depicted in early-mid 15th century art work.  The female donor figure from Memling's Last Judgement tripych, below, wears a gown of similar cut (note the interesting sleeve attachment).  Her gown has a thin white border which might be fur or textile, and the long sleeves are fitted to the wrist and then flare and extend to cover her hands to the first knuckle.

      Hans Memling, Last Judgment Triptych (left wing),1467-71


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 26th, 2006 11:17 am (UTC)
Sleeve set
Is the sleeve in the pic. attached only at the top, do you think?
Aug. 26th, 2006 12:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Sleeve set
Yes, I believe it is attached only at the top. It's quite a neat picture. I initially intended to attach mine in the same manner and then picked it all out and set the sleeve completely instead.
Aug. 26th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Sleeve set
Was it the way it fitted, or the way it looked, that changed your mind?
Aug. 27th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Sleeve set
It was the way it looked. I decided that a sleeve set like that should have the seam under the arm and very little shaping in the sleeve head.

The sleeve that I cut for the gown had had a seam at the back of the arm and a shaped sleeve head. It worked much better set into the arm scye.
Jan. 7th, 2008 05:48 am (UTC)
belt buckle
I recently made a lovely version of this.. though with time constraints i didnt actually finish the set in sleeves of the underdressAnd i actually closed the under dress with lacing in the side seams so that i would have the smooth front.. i think i will do it the way you did next time.. front lacing. I faked the belt with a leather belt that was too long becuase i didnt have time to figure anything else out... but what kind of belt buckle did you use. I have seen some pretty brass filigree buckles and end of belt treatment (in portraits) but i cant find a source for them.. what did you use to cinch in the belt and get it to hold since its a lot of fabric to keep cinched in... a wing and a prayer doesnt quite do the trick... (lol finished outer dress could fit a pregnant 250 pound woman... and i am oooh so not that large- but it is nice to have a dress that could survive weigh changes unlike any of my elizabethan wear)
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Re: belt buckle
don't know if this is way too late for you - I'm on a similar hunt and found this
Mar. 12th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
Re: belt buckle
That's a lovely buckle. Hefty price, though.
Mar. 12th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
Re: belt buckle
Thanks, Monochrome_girl, I hadn't noticed this question.

My belt is made from two heavy pieces of felted black wool, with heavily starched buckram sandwiched between. It is closed with heavy-duty hooks and eyes, with a row of pearls sewn at the 'buckled' edge for decoration. It holds marvelously.
Sep. 18th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
Head piece in portrait
Beautiful work on all of your gowns mi'lady.

Do you have any thoughts on the head piece worn in the portrait? It looks like silk with beadwork along the edges.

Thank you

Sayyidah Yasmeena
MKA Nicole
Mar. 12th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)
Re: Head piece in portrait
My thoughts exactly. The edge bordering her forehead has that scalloping that you see on some hand-stitched rolled hems.
Feb. 3rd, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
I'm actually planning on doing a re-creation of this same dress though because of the season and location it's going to be worn, I'm thinking of doing heavy linen instead of wool.
Feb. 3rd, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
I meant to add, your dress is LOVELY!
Mar. 24th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
Beautiful gown! I am making one this year!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )