Making a 15th Century Princess Gown Part 1 || Historical Reconstruction

Making a 15th Century Princess Gown Part 1 || Historical Reconstruction


Merry meet, good friend! Today I shall be attempting to reinterpret
the princess’s red gown from this painting, entitled ‘Saint George Slaying the Dragon’. It’s dated to around 1450 so I’m really excited
to get to explore some late medieval dressmaking techniques. First and foremost I must disclaim that, since
I was working off of a painted reference instead of an extant garment pattern, there was definitely
a fair amount of interpretation on my end of the process. Especially when we get into the land of sleeves
in part two of this video series. While in general I always strive to back up
my claims with historical evidence, I cannot claim complete historical authenticity on
this project, if only because we’ve now entered a distant realm of time in which so little
evidence actually remains to us. I’m going to do my best to point out any areas
of debate or uncertainty, and as always, please do feel free to chime in at the comment section
down below if you have any other additional insight. Now onto the sewing! For the basic pattern, I mainly used for reference
one of the few surviving tunics from the period, a woman’s gown discovered in Herjolfsnes,
Greenland, in the late 14th to early 15th century. It consists of center front and back panels,
and 4 slim side panels cut to shape snugly round the upper body. These panels flare out substantially at the
hem in wide gores to give a very full skirt, a silhouette that is prominently confirmed
in European artwork and statuary round this time. There are also gores inserted to the center
front and back panels of the extant gown, but since my reference seems to open down
center front, I’ve omitted the front gore and preserved only the one in the back. For the main body of the gown, I’ve picked
up this vibrant red wool. I’ve had to choose a partly synthetic wool
blend in order to save on cost, since I needed so much material. I have 9 yards here which should be enough,
but I must point out that my fabric is a luxurious 60 inches wide, whereas historically, fabric
widths tended to be much narrower and would have required more yardage. Wool was extremely prevalent in the medieval
wardrobe, particularly in England, as evidenced by the amount of wool textile remains recovered
from archaeological deposits along the Thames. I’m targeting my research specifically towards
15th century England, since the original painting is depicting the legend of Saint George, so
I’m hazarding a guess that the figures would reflect English styles of dress. Now it’s time to mark out the pattern pieces. I haven’t been able to find any definitive
evidence as to how this was done in the 15th century, but I do know there is evidence of
marking out being done with ink by the late 16th and early 17th centuries, so this is
the method I’ve decided to try out. It’s worked out surprisingly well: the ink
gives a strong, clear line without bleeding or soaking through the wool. We’ll see if this still holds true on some
of the silk later. I’m using a hand-cut quill to transfer the
ink, and if you’re curious how to cut one for your self, I happen to have a video explaining
all of the excitement, which I shall link here. Also, in case you’re wondering, no: I’m not
this tall. I’ve added an additional 5 inches to the hem
to puddle around on the floor, as seems to have been the fashion amongst medieval ladies
who apparently didn’t have to do much walking. So now that the main gown panels are all cut
out, it’s time to start putting it all together. I’m starting with the center back gore, which
is inserted by splitting the back panel on the fold of my center line up to the marked
point where I want the gore to finish, just a couple of inches below the waistline. Although upon reflection, I think I may have
placed it a little bit too low. The gore is attached to the back panel with
a running back stitch: that is, a running stitch with a single back stitch taken every
couple of stitches, to ensure that the seam is nice and secure. Excavated garments prove that the majority
of stitching was done with running stitches, unless a seam had to take significant strain,
and these skirt seams don’t have to do that much heavy work. I can completely understand why: running stitches
are much quicker, and there are so many miles of skirt seams ahead. The prospect of saving any bit of time on
this process is an enticing one. I’m using a dyed linen thread to do my stitching
here, seemingly the most common thread used in the period. Silk was also often used, but was expensive
and therefore mostly reserved for more costly materials, like silk fabric. There is evidence of cotton threads being
used, as well as wool. By the way, most of this archaeological research
I’ve sourced is from this wonderful text published by the Museum of London, called ‘Textiles
and Clothing 1150 – 1450’, which documents in excruciating detail all sorts of fabrics,
threads, dyes, garments, weave patterns, trims, buttons, construction, excavated in the City
of London dating to between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. I highly recommend you have a look through
it if you’re interested in reconstructing something from this period. It’s answered so many of my questions. Once the back gore is set in, it’s time to
embark on the long journey of seaming together the gown panels. Patterning Me is a fool and neglected to put
balance marks on these panels, so I’m hoping things don’t turn out too chaotic. Pro tip: don’t be like me. I had a bit of a think about what type of
stitch to use to attach all these panels. Since the bodice is very fitted, I didn’t
think a running stitch would hold it together as strongly as a backstitch would. But backstitching the approximately 32 yards
of seaming here sounded like it would take an unreasonable amount of time. In any case, the skirt seams don’t need to
take any strain, and wouldn’t need the strength of a backstitch. So I came to the decision to start off with
a backstitch at the bodice area, then change over to a running stitch a couple of inches
below the waist line where the skirt starts to flare. I have come across no contemporary evidence
to support this technique, but sometimes it’s just nice to experiment with a bit of logic. My handy Museum of London source observes
that the average stitch length on extant artefacts is between 2 to 4 mm, so that’s what I’m aiming
to reproduce. The brilliant part about not needing electricity
to sew is your projects are wonderfully portable. Finally, the center front seam is stitched
up at the skirt, but left open from hip level up. This seems to be a common construction method
for the 15th century houppelande, which I think the gown in the painting resembles. I’m reinforcing the first couple of inches
with backstitches, since there will be a bit of strain here when the garment is put on
and removed. The rest of the seam is finished with running
stitches. One thing that has become clear to me during
this process is that I don’t think my pattern quite properly reflects the gown in the painting. See all that gathering at center front there? …yeah. I’m pretty sure there’s supposed to be a waist
seam in this gown, with the front skirt panels gathered into the bodice instead of the long
continuous gore panels that I initially interpreted. Similar to, as I just mentioned, the 15th
century houppelande. So despite my best efforts, the gown I’ve
ended up with isn’t quite the same gown from the painting, but since the evidence I’ve
been working with is contemporary, my interpretation isn’t necessary inaccurate; just a slightly
different style. So at long last, we have the beginnings of
a gown. This is an excellent point for a fitting,
while all the seams are still unfinished. It’s much easier to unpick a bit of backstitching
than it is to undo the whole felled seam, so I’m off to go do that now. I think this is a nice interval to stop for
part 1. Still to come are sleeves, trimmings, buttons,
closures, lacing, and a whole lot of felling. Give us a subscribe if that’s anything of
interest to you, and I shall see you next time for some more historical sewing adventures.

100 Replies to “Making a 15th Century Princess Gown Part 1 || Historical Reconstruction”

  1. My son picked your video. He is 3 years old and sat through the hole video! At the end he tells me. She looks pretty mommy really pretty but my favorite color is blue not red😂😍

  2. Your work is so beautiful, and I love hearing your explanations for each step. One small critique, though, is that you speak so quickly that I sometimes have to rewind and listen again to tell what you said. Otherwise, this is wonderful.

  3. The Museum of London book is fascinating. Before I looked at it, I had no idea of the variety of fabrics available in the Middle Ages.

    I'm enjoying watching the construction of the dress.

  4. The way you speak just mesmerize me like bro does making historical stuff make u speak soo formally but then again not old enough to make you sound your seriously from then

  5. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy listening to you. Not only is the subject matter of interest to me, but your voice is so pleasant.

  6. It might be beneficial to add that even in the 14th century London was a very high class area as many monarchs as well merchant's lived there. So making the generalisation that woollen garments found in the Thames in London and a very small amount of South England are common for the entirety of England is most likely to be inaccurate. I know that to many Americans the UK can seem very small but wealth and fashion took a long time to spread to other places in the British Isles and even today London is an area for people with a lot of money. This is not to say that I don't like the video as I do very very much, I love 14th and 15th century clothing and I also love your channel. Thank you very much, keep up the good work.

  7. I’m going to be honest, I know nothing about this type of stuff, and wouldn’t usually care, but I find your videos so relaxing and interesting, I can’t help but want to explore this subject a bit more

  8. Great information about the backstitch, I usually just use running stitch for most seams but will now start to add a small backstitch every few inches for security. I usually use backstitch on the bodice sideseams and sleeves for added strength. I find hand sewing can often be as fast as using the machine but much quieter and therefore more popular with other family members.

  9. It's so gratifying to see someone else's fabric frays when they work with it! It always seems in these construction videos that everyone has some sort of magical secret to non-fraying fabric.

  10. If you made and sold your patterns -you would slowly have all my money! 😆
    Keep up the great work, I’m off to watch part two now 😃

  11. Transferring patterns… I believe they would have used soot or lampblack, not ink. It washes off and was readily abundant. The reason for my thinking was reading how soot was used for make-up and sketching (also in ink) in art. I think they were as accustomed to it as we are pencils.

  12. 2:10 this is not necessarily the case, although St. George is the patron saint of England he himself was a Roman soldier of Greek origin, which is obviously not being reflected in the dress of the figures in the painting.
    As the artist of this painting, Jost Holler, was French it is more likely that the clothes the figures are wearing are a reflection of the contemporary French fashion, as it was common in this period for artists depict historical figures in contemporary dress and setting.

  13. And here was I under the impression that cotton was an entirely New World thing, and that in the Old World they only used flax/linen, wool, and silk fibres. So I looked it up. i was wrong 🙂

  14. That’s incredible. Not only your commitment to your craft but also that the ladies of that time who would have been sewing like this, probably in low light too. How many hours of work did this project take?

  15. Hey, found your channel through the hairdo video. I know nothing about stitching or 15th century, but this just gives me such a warm feeling that I can't help but watch it.

  16. It’s very good to see younger Americans revelling in their European cultural heritage. Enjoy it, we saved many thousands of years of it for you.

  17. Dumb ,newbie question, when you cut out the pieces why did you leave space from the edge of your pattern and not cut right along it?

  18. Just for historical reference this was at the time of the English wool dominance. Wool was a huge export over to Flanders and then all over Europe, so just because wool is famous for being used in England, English wool was used all over Europe.
    There are huge medieval churches all over the Eastern Counties of England known as wool churches because wool merchants paid for them out of their profits.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Clare+church+&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwizktDfzrPgAhXYLRoKHSQfClkQ2-cCegQIABAC&oq=Clare+church+&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-img.3..35i39j0i30j0i5i30l3.33075.43564..44347…1.0..0.957.3778.18j6j5-1j1……0….1…….5..0i8i30j0j0i67.BnCVl5wUfJ8&ei=oWFhXPO9BNjbaKS-qMgF&bih=659&biw=1024&prmd=inmv&rlz=1C9BKJA_enGB592GB592&hl=en-GB#imgrc=stci9m4VVTuqDM

    Here’s one, tiny village with a wool market, huge church, build by the local wool merchant guild.

  19. Wouldn't they have used prick and pounce, with chalk or powdered charcoal, much the same way as artists marked walls for wall paintings.

  20. A reason for the "puddling" of the skirt hem is to keep drafts from going under the skirt & freezing milady's nether regions.

  21. Good heavens! You are so meticulous! I have no patience with sewing. The only reason I do it is I don't have the money to buy a historically accurate regency/ victorian/ edwardian wardrobe. And I would never have the patience to hand sew everything! I cheat and use a modern sewing machine!

  22. I am a historian and just love your sewing projects. My mother used to make her own clothes and often created entire garments by hand. Her stitches were so tiny and patient.
    Your dress is beautiful. It helps that you are so very pretty and small. I can't wait to see it finished.

  23. How do you adjust your patterns for your size? I'm nearing plus size and would like to reconstruct older gowns but would have to make the patterns much larger.

  24. I suspect that the reason for those waist gathers is a much less fitted pattern rather than a separate skirt. I’m sure enjoying your work whilst lounging about with a bum knee and knitting.

  25. I would imagine that the only reason medieval dress makers found all of this work doable is that they were paid a lot of money by someone else for the hefty amount of labor, especially in the winter months where light was scarce. I can’t imagine they would want to put this much work in for themselves alone, with or without the sumptuary laws.

  26. I’m thoroughly envious of your stitching proficiently and I look up to it a lot ~ 💕

    Ps. You look like an actual doll!

  27. Great videos! In your research, have you come across a good source for learning about historical leatherwork by chance? I do leatherwork for ren faires and that.

  28. I have no idea what lifestyle you lived to achieve such a lovely way of articulating, but I am deeply envious. Your enunciation and accent is just beautiful to listen to, and you have a beautiful, efficient way with words. If you ever decided to narrate a book, I think you'd be received very well.

  29. Her name is Princess Sabra of Cappadocia or Libya, depending on who you ask.

    St George, a Roman soldier, rode to Cappadocia or Libya, we’ll say Cappadocia, as that was the original story, and he came across an old hermit. The hermit told him that the whole town was in panic, as there was a dragon. He said they made a deal with the dragon to give him one person a month so long as he doesn’t harm the others. The king decided that all the citizen of Cappadocia should carve their names into a piece of pottery and put it in a bin, and every month, a name would be picked out.

    One month, the king went to pick a name, and the name he pulled out was none other than Princess Sabra. According to his own law, he had to give her to the dragon.

    George stayed with the hermit over night and the next day, he went to slay the dragon. He made it to where the dragon slept, and made out the shape of a woman. He stabbed the dragon, and the dragon went to attack him as it woke up. He coaxed Princess Sabra into taking off her belt and throwing it at the dragon, and like magic, it wrapped around the dragons neck. He took the opportunity to chop the dragons head off. Later, he and Princess Sabra married.

  30. I have always wanted to sew my own clothing, but your videos are inspiring me so much more. I have neither the space nor time to dedicate to doing it atm.

  31. WAIT is that how you're supposed to say Herjolfsnes I've never actually heard anyone say it out loud before other than me and I say "her-GEOLFs-nees"

  32. I LOVE your videos. Your voice is interesting to listen to. Your so witty. Your gorgeous as well! Keep the awesome content coming!! 🤩😄💪🏼💃🏻👏🏻☕️🎀

  33. I do medieval reenactment (in Britain) and I was interested in making my own costume and I was recommended a book called 'The Medieval Tailor's Assistant' by Sarah Thursfield. Its her interpretation of common garments from 1100 – 1480. I have met her and she expects her book to be taken as gospel (even know her methods can not be true for the whole of Britain during this period) but it does provide a good amount of material to base patterns of and an idea of common shapes used around certain dates.

  34. I am impressed by your ability to hand sew and the level of detail you have achieved here, it's so inspiring. The gown is gorgeous even without sleeves, I envy your craftsmanship. I don't know that I personally would have the patience to sew this dress in original practice, but I have a bunch of silk fabric and a dream, maybe I'll give this a try. If I do, I'll probably try doing this with French seams so I have less hand stitching to do, my hand stitching is a train wreck and I'd really hate to let my inexperience make things look bad. However, I will try doing a mock-up first to try and get a feel for what I'm doing, I have miles of this white cotton and I'll try making the dress first using that. Hopefully, this adventure goes well. If it doesn't, you can be sure I will turn whatever I make into a summer dress because California is hot in the summer and I refuse to waste fabric

  35. Omg when you were finishing off that seam with JUST the perfect amount of thread – more satisfying than slime videos or asmr imo 😂👏🏼😘

  36. I’m planning on going with my grandma to a 15-16th century tour where they are dressed and speak like the people from the time I also plan on hopefully making this dress or one similar in order to kinda fit in there xD

  37. I'm torn between wanting to call this dress a houpelande, or a cotehardie, but it's honestly neither, which confuses me greatly.
    I looooove cotehardies and will get myself back into one one day.
    I'm extra happy that you had period-appropriate music playing as well. There is nothing quite like the 'squashed duck' sound of a crumhorn.

  38. I’m makeup my one! It won’t have sleeves, but rather it is sleeveless with billowy sleeves! Thank you

  39. 3:14 – “Eleven Panels (and one gore) later…”

    For those of us who can’t always translate loopy handwriting.

  40. Your voice is quite nice to hear, it has a calm cadence that makes me think of "old times". I also love how you base your work in investigation, deduction and creativity, somehow you remind me of Sherlock Holmes… So cool

  41. Did anyone else watching this play the original stronghold game on pc, and if so was this background music on it? Rewatching this video and paying more attention is giving me weird flashbacks to that game

  42. I love that you choose what I would consider to be time appropriate music. ( at least from my historical movie soundtrack experience) And oh the joy of making it to the end of a stitch line before your thread runs out!!!!

  43. They had chopines, shoes with high platforms. Cities were filthy, with the night soil thrown out the window onto the street. Hence, chopines and pomades for the filth and the stench.

  44. If the original wearer had been wearing pattens (to save shoes and skirt hems from outdoors mud/dirt/etc.), that would have given her a couple extra inches of height, so the skirt wouldn't have puddled quite as much. (Although you'd think she would have at least hitched it up enough to clear the ground . . .)

  45. You just gave me the idea of making a medieval dress for a witch ball I will be attending ! Buying the pattern right now !

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