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Red c.

1380 Western European Fitted Gown, Lined in Blue Linen

Charlotte Zificsak (Lady Mathilde)

Northern Lights
March, 2004
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Red c. 1380 Western European Fitted Gown, Lined in Blue Linen

Charlotte Zificsak (Lady Mathilde)
Northern Lights - March, 2004


This gown is an example of a late 14
century (c. 1380 - 1400), fitted, self-supporting
versatile undergown, with silhouette common to England, France, and northern Italy.
The front lacing and fitted sleeves will allow the wearer to layer it with other clothing. It
is made with fine, lightweight wool, and fully interlined in blue linen for strength and
drape. The gown is 100% hand sewn and finished with silk twist, hand done eyelets in
silk, tabby woven silk facing at the front opening, a filament silk fingerloop lace, and a
brass lace chape. All of the stress bearing seams are flat-felled for strength, and the skirt
seams were finished with a running stitch, a period fabric-joining technique found
commonly in archaeological finds. The shape of the gown is based on contemporary
illustrations, and all finishing techniques were based on archaeological evidence.


From the 1340s until well into the 15
century, a fitted style of gown was worn by
women of all rank and age. Though there were a variety of silhouettes during this time,
and innumerable sleeve and decorative combinations, this gown was characterized by a
tight or body skimming fit, set-in long sleeves, and a fairly full skirt. Even once the gown
by itself became less visible over time, it likely became the under layer for continuing
fashions in the 15
century. Much of the construction, such as cutting and shaping, must
be guessed at, based on studies of the silhouettes depicted in period illumination.
However, the Museum of London has published material detailing extant textile finds in
deposits along the Thames River.

My intention is not to re-invent the wheel; much work that has gone into experimenting
with the fit and cut of the bodice of these gowns has been done by other researchers,
namely Tasha McGann (Mistress Marcele de Montsegur) and Robin Netherton. I, myself,
have used their research in performing numerous fittings for self-supportive 14
gowns for women of all sizes and shapes. My goal here, however, is to take that research,
and combine it with the information in the Museum of London publications and create a
dress that provides the wearer with the correct silhouette, and uses period appropriate
techniques and finishing details.

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The Late 14
Century Silhouette in Art
This is a non-exhaustive set of examples depicting the 1380s silhouette.

Roses, from the Theatrum of Casanatense of
the Tacuinum Sanitatis, late 14

A wedding, The Parament Master, c. 1380

Joan de la Tour, c. 1377–86

Gode Cookery [on-line].
Crowfoot et al, p. 181, Joan de la Tour, weeper from the tomb of Edward III
McGann, Love Layers [on-line], p. 23.
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The Author in Her Representation

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to Front
to Back
Materials and Techniques

Pattern and fitting

• The gown was fit using a mock up made directly on my body using the method
described at Tasha McGann’s website, Cotte Simple
. This method uses the idea
of negative ease (fabric being used to shape the body) to achieve a fitted, bust
supportive silhouette. Because a curved front seam can be difficult to re-fit for
different body sizes, I decided to experiment with slightly straightening out the
front seam. The straighter front seam doesn’t work as well with my body shape,
as it tended to flatten me rather than support me, therefore I will probably return
to using a deeper curve in this seam to achieve a more comfortable and natural fit.

• This gown is cut with four main body panels, with gores between the panels to
achieve fullness in the skirt. Each body panel is shaped to fit the torso, and the
skirt panels fall straight to the floor from the hip. The gores are inserted at the hip
to begin fullness at that point. Cutting the gores separately from the body panels
also allows for excellent fabric conservation.

• There are two right triangle gores inserted into each seam, with the exception of
the back seam, which is an entire isosceles triangle achieved with the cutting
method (Fig 1). The gores in the front seam are inserted with the on grain side in
the center, and the bias sides attached to the body pieces. The side gores are
inserted in a sort of “pinwheel” pattern, always with bias to straight. This was an
experiment to see what kind of drape was produced. I saw no advantage over an
isosceles gore, as the front, and will likely not do this again. As all four of the
body pieces are cut with only on-grain seams in the skirt, this gore layout will
never result in a bias attached to a bias.

Back Sides Front

Fig 1 Gore styles

McGann. La Cotte Simple [on-line].
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• The sleeves of the garment are close fitting to
the wrist, straight sleeve with no buttons (Fig
2). There is slight ease at the elbow to allow
for the bending of the arm. The armhole is
cut very close to the shoulder to allow for
maximum arm movement. The main seam of
the sleeve, going down the back of the arm, is
flat-felled for strength as, especially near the
top, it is under quite a bit of stress.

Fabric and fiber choices

• The red fabric used for the gown is a very
lightweight wool, which may contain a small
quantity of silk. It is tabby woven, and the
thread of the warp is much finer than that of
the weft, which I believe gives it the satin-
like sheen. This fabric is very delicate to
work with, as it tends to unravel very easily.
All seams are stitched with spun silk thread,
100/3 Au Ver a Soie. Seams under stress are
stitched with two strands, although some
finishing was done with a single strand.

• The gown is fully interlined in blue linen. I cut the outer fabric and the lining
fabric together and basted the layers to each other immediately after cutting. From
that point on, the two layers were treated as one layer of fabric for all seam and
edge treatments. The outer wool fabric is very delicate, and a seam would not
likely stay without some sort of reinforcement. Interlining in linen allowed me to
create a supportive gown with strong seams. An historical example of a gown
lined in linen is the Uppsala Gown, also known as the Golden Gown of Queen
Margareta. According to Marc Carlson, on his website, “this dress is made from
gold fabric, a blend of gold and silk. It is made from four quarters, with no gores,
and attached sleeves. From the waist up, it is lined in heavy linen. From the waist
down, it is unlined.”
Heather Rose Jones, using the same source as Mr. Carlson,
describes how

the [Uppsala gown] (at least the upper part, if not the whole) was lined
with linen, but the details are not given and cannot entirely be retrieved
from the photos. At the seam lines, the linen lining seems to be sewn to
the main fabric (as well as the lining pieces being sewn to each other).

Frères, The Marriage at Cana, c. 1380, Pl. 58.
Carlson [on-line]. Mr. Carlson’s cites his source for the Uppsala gown info as Geijer, Agnes, Anne Marie
Franzen and Margareta Nockert. Drottning Margaretas gyllene kjortel i Uppsala domkyrka. Stockholm:
Kingl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 1994. [The Golden Gown of Queen Margareta in
Uppsala Cathedral].
Jones [on-line]. Also referring to Geiger, same reference as Marc Carlson.

Fig 2 Example of tight fitting
sleeves without buttons. Also an
example of the 1380s silhouette.

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I cannot clearly prove that my lining method was used in medieval gowns;
however, there seems to be little proof of any particular type of lining method. I
used a process which functionally gave the most strength and protection to the
seams of the delicate wool.

Period seam treatments and finishing techniques

• Because the torso seams are taking the most stress, these are flat-felled to provide
double strength. The first line of stitching was done with the pieces right sides
together, with a half back stitch in silk thread for maximum strength. One side of
the seam allowance was folded over the other side, and stitched to the main body
again with a half backstitch.

• The most common way found in the London textile deposits to join two pieces of
fabric was with a simple running stitch, as described:

Today the most traditional form of seam is that where a line of stitching
runs parallel with the two raw edges to be joined, and it has to be
assumed that by the middle ages too this was the most usual method for
joining textiles. Although a number of seams of this kind survive among
the London textiles, the stitching threads have almost completely
disappeared, leaving well-defined stitching holes. From this evidence it
is possible to show that in the majority of cases a fairly fine running
stitch was usual for holding the two edges together.

As the skirt seams on this gown are under little stress, I decided to use the running
stitch. In order to protect the raw edges, the seam allowance was then folded
outwards and tacked down with running stitches:

Added strength was given to these seams through the use of a row of
running-stitches on each side of the seam, worked through both seam
allowance and outer layer; parallel with and close to the seam (about 2-
3mm). This held the seam allowances underneath flat…

Unfortunately, this leaves a very weak, single row of stitches joining these skirt
pieces. I will probably never use that particular seam treatment again, due to its
unstable nature.

• The hem and neckline were both finished using the same treatment. They are both
essentially a double folded hem held with hemstitch, and reinforced with a
topstitched running stitch along the edge. Even though most woolens in the
deposits were hemmed with a single fold, the delicate nature of this wool required
the edge protection of a double fold. The addition of the running stitch gives the

Crowfoot et al, p. 155.
Ibid., p. 156.
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edge a pleasing and firm flatness, and was done on some single fold hems to
provide additional strength.

Eyelets and lacing

• The supportive undergown would likely have been laced to allow for another
gown to be worn over it.
The front opening is worked with eyelet holes to allow
for lacing of the garment. As the front
opening is subject to heavy stress, I
attached an on-grain tabby woven strip of
silk broadcloth as a facing, and stitched
the eyelets through all layers. An extant
example of a neckline facing was attached
in the following way:

In both instances a 3mm fold of the
curved woolen edge has been turned
inward and covered with a 5mm-wide
strip of silk held firmly in place by
two rows of tiny running-stitches
which slightly puncture the upper,
outer surface. The lower edge of each
facing is additionally held in place by
small slanted hem-stitches,
approximately 3—4mm apart.

The facings applied to buttonhole edges
were worked similarly, but without the
rows of running stitches. Button or eyelet
holes would hold the fabric in place
without need for the additional stitches.
There is one example of eyelet holes
surviving in the London finds, and they
are stitched to a silk tabby woven facing
with evidence that it was part of a wool garment.
The lacing holes are offset to
allow for a spiral-lacing scheme without shifting the opening (Fig 3).

Ibid., pp. 156-7.
Ibid., p. 165. Effigy of Catherine Beauchamp, countess of Warwick, c. 1370-75, St. Mary’s Church,
McGann, Love Layers [on-line].
Crowfoot et al, p. 160.
Ibid., pp. 164, 166.

Fig 3 Example of offset eyelets for
spiral lacing.

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• The eyelets themselves are finished with Grandeur
twisted silk, silk pearl #5. I opened the hole using
an awl, and worked a buttonhole stitch around the
edge, carrying extra thread between the facing and
the front to work the next eyelet
(Fig 4). I
underestimated the size that I needed, and the
eyelets are not as large as I would like; next time I
will start with a larger hole.

• The gown is laced with a fingerloop braid
executed in Trebizond, a 3-ply filament twisted
silk. Such braids were found in the London
deposits, including five loop silk braids from both
the first half of the 14
c., and the last quarter of
the 14
As my eyelet holes are small, I chose a
five loop braid, “A Round Lace of V Bowes”

• The lace chapes, or aglets, are made out of .005”
thick sheet brass, with two holes punched in the
wide end. After securing the end of the lace with
stitches, I applied beeswax to the end to allow it to
slide into the chape. I inserted the lace into the
chape, and tightened the metal around the lace.
The chape I created was a little too large, as the seam overlaps. Most of the extant
examples from the London deposits meet at the edges, but a few examples have
an overlapping seam.
I crimped the metal around the base of the chape, and
additionally secured the chape by stitching through the punched holes, thereby
securing it to the lace.

Crowfoot et al, p. 164.
Ibid., p. 166.
Ibid., p. 138.
Swales et al, p. 27.
Egan et al, pp. 281-285.

Fig 4 Eyelet Holes

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Carlson, Marc. Some Clothing of the Middle Ages – Tunics – Uppsala Gown. 1998
(accessed March 21, 2004).

Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Frances Pritchard; and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing:
c.1150 – c.1450, vol. 4 of Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 2
Suffolk, Boydell Press, 2001

Egan, Geoff, and Prichard, Frances. Dress Accessories: c.1150 – c.1450, vol. 3 of
Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 2
ed., Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2002.

Frères, Draeger, ed. Les Grandes Heures de Jean de France, Duc de Berry. Paris:
Bibliothèque Nationale, 1971

Jones, Heather Rose. Archaeological Sewing. 2001 (accessed January 13, 2003).

Matterer, James L. ed. A Boke of Gode Cookery: Tacuinum Sanitatas. 2004 (accessed
March 21, 2004).

McGann, Tasha Kelly. How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Layers: An
Analysis of Fitted Dress Styles Depicted in the Art of the Late 14
/Early 15
2003 (accessed March 21, 2004).

McGann, Tasha Kelly. La Cotte Simple: An Exploration of Clothing and Accessories of
the Late 14
and Early 15
Centuries. 2003 (accessed March 21, 2004).

Newton, Stella Mary. Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340 -
1365. Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1999.

Netherton, Robin. Gothic Fitted Dress Workshop. 2001 (accessed March 21, 2004).

Swales, Lois, and Williams, Zoe Kuhn. Fingerloop Braids, vol. 108 of The Compleat
Anachronist. Milpitas: The Society for Creative Anachronism, 2000