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 thoughts on “Making a 15th Century Princess Gown Part 1 || Historical Reconstruction”

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

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

  • Magnus Andres Lescano says:

    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

  • 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

  • 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!!!!

  • Athena Stewart says:

    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.

  • 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 . . .)

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

  • Elizabeth Cember says:

    My theory on fiddly bits in medieval garments is that they were made more rectangularly and then taken in to fit the wearer.

  • I would imagine modern industrial sewing would be stronger than mediaeval sewing. From your experience do you think people would have taken a natural greater care when getting in and out of garments then?

  • _ KawaiiKitten _ says:

    Do you think it’s possible to hand sew an entire very simple midieval tunic in about a week and a half? Asking for a friend

  • This is so cool I wish this stuff was taught in schools we always learn about asian and africa and tribes yad yada and a shit tone about greeks and Egyptian… I would LOVE to have learned more about this stuff since I am white and pretty much every founder of America and the majority white Americans descends from these types of cultures…

  • You are so amazingly talented. I did some sewing in high school but that’s it. My mom used to sew. I love your narration as well. Beautiful and calming voice. Binge watching your videos right now.

  • Beautiful! Question: With quilting I have found that polyester blends are harder to sew than cotton or wool, so what needle are you using?

  • I understand that you're trying to experience it like they did back then, but it'd be quicker to use a sewing machine. You could still make it accurate with a modern sewing machine.

  • I love how dedicated you are to historical research and methods. Your videos always inspire me to sew and work on my own projects. My senior project is to hand make 15 dolls of book characters. Watching you put all this effort into hand stitching makes it seem like less of an impossible task. So, thank you for that.

    P.S. I love both your voice and how you do your hair. So classy!

  • Kristine Mærsk Werner says:

    I really, really love your channel and your videos! Your attention to detail is amazing. I do late Iron Age/Early Middle Age reconstruction of Norse and Scandinavian garments as well — oh what I wouldn’t give to pick your brain over a cup of tea.
    Ever thought of coming to Iceland? 😅

  • This looks like a fun project! I haven't done much sewing since my cosplay days many years ago, but attempting a historical recreation garment looks like a incredibly fun challenge to jump back into it! I ADORE medieval history; I might try this for a Celtic or Norse outfit!

  • Interestingly although Saint George is patent Saint of England he was was Turkish. Something I believe is so often omitted. It doesn't add to anything it's just interesting to know I guess

  • Why is it so weird to imagine her doing normal things like going on a subway or sitting in a park or going to a grocery store… like NO I refuse to believe this… she would fit in more living full time at a Renaissance Faire XD

  • Was it common for thread not to match fabric? I noticed that even in your white garments you use a dark thread and here you use a light. Why?

  • How did you use a running stitch for everything below the waist to the skirt hem? Was it sturdy because of how tiny the length was?
    How did that hold up to stress and wear during the fitting?

  • Do you have a template for this, so that I could make my own? This dress is gorgeous and I’d like to make one for a doll for an art project for school

  • Frederika Mitchell says:

    This was the inspiration for my final piece in my high school textiles, although I went with something similar as the dress had to be made within 1 week. Still thank you for the ideas..!

  • Oh my gawd…. that is so much work!!!! I'm a seamstress as well, and I cant imagine making everything by hand! Although I've never had the problems I've had with machines with hand stitching. This is amazing!

  • My mother-in-law has such a unique patience and skill with creating clothing and garments, I never thought I'd see her level of attention to detail until I found you! It's amazing to see someone else with such a great talent.

    Also, I'm amazed at the way you talk and articulate. So elegant and sophisticated!

  • Your dictation is so perfectly concise it is elogant! You clearly have a great deal of both intelligence and skill. Thank you for sharing your efforts and thoughts! So pleased to have stumbled upon your channel.

  • Just a couple of things. Did you take dance (ballet) as a child? Your posture and movements are very graceful. And your complexion is really beautiful. Your hand stitching is remarkable. As an aside, can you imagine what work went into making some of these garments?

  • The English economy was based on the Wool trade in medieval times. You would find English wool in almost every country, including Russia.

  • Shaianne Chavez-Fields says:

    I absolutely love this video! I would definitely be interested to see you recreate this gown with a waist seam just to compare and make it a bit more accurate to the painting. But honestly, I just think this gown is gorgeous

  • I love how much research you do and it is historically educational and interesting this is. I am not huge into sewing but this makes me very interested in starting.

  • Emma Kjaersgaard says:

    she sounds like a young immortal who's excited about all the stuff she missed before she was born and now wants to catch up on it

  • Kendall Calloway says:

    I just came across your channel, and I never knew making clothes was so intresting. You've inspired me to start a clothing project. I love the History you add in your pieces as well. Definitely got a subscribe from me 🙂

  • I don’t know if you add your own captions or someone else does, but either way they’ve made your videos so much easier to watch as I usually need captions for these sorts of videos because of my ADHD. Thank you!

  • No one can ever tell me that I don't watch anything useful. As well as being a fashionista in her own right, Bernadette has effectively become a fashion historian. I can feel my brain cells expanding! Jk brain cells don't do that, unless it's dying… So that wouldn't be good

  • Matthew Daniel Gordon says:

    Um, 6:30 😍😍😍 hubba hubba! Did you ask that guy for his number? You would look great on a first date with him wearing that gown you made.

  • Man, these videos are so interesting but her obnoxiously forced British cadence is making my blood boil. It's SO incredibly unnatural – there is no place in America that speaks that way, and in some parts of some videos, she slips into her ACTUAL cadence and vocabulary. Ugh JUST SPEAK AS YOURSELF! Not as some stuck up, posh, elitist Brit without the accent!

  • Your videos made me want to learn how to sew
    My mom (a professional) was so happy to hear this! She's actually really interested in your videos so you'll get her as a subscriber soon😂💕💕

  • Beautiful! I greatly admire your work and enjoy your videos. Pardon my curiosity, but I was wondering why you used pins instead of basting. Are pins authentic to the period? You would know better than me, I am just curious.

  • yukiandkanamekuran says:

    Is there any way you can sell your patterns? :0 i would love to make something like this but I don't have the knowledge you do.

  • Why aren't all the pattern pieces laid in one direction? Was it a means of saving fabric? In close-up, the fabric appears to be a gabardine, which has more weft than warp (or vice versa, I forget) as well as diagonal lines/ribbing. So making some pieces "upside down" would affect [1] the drape of the fabric (esp. since you're not cutting on the bias as one does in modern couture), [2] make the direction of the diagonal ribs non-uniform. Maybe I'm just imposing modern principles, but it would probably matter if the dress were silk or velvet if the pattern pieces were not cut in one direction.

    Also, I'm impressed that you made a pattern with so many bodice pieces. That's a lot of math.

  • When did you sew the lining? Before or after you attach the individual pieces?

    And can that ink and quill method be used on linen?

  • I'd love to see a 16th century Germanic princess (or just a noble) gown (if only because my family was enobled by the Holy Roman Emperor in the 16th century in Luxembourg). There's actually gamespiece with a likeness of my great (however many times) grandmother in the Victoria and Albert museum, though I believe it's in storage.

  • Seven Eyed Fox Studio says:

    I never thought to push the end of the needle backwards into the last loop. I always try to shove the needle through at the end. I feel so stupid. Lol It seems so obvious to do now. Lol
    Anyways…. love your videos!

  • I've always loved medieval music. Thank you for putting in there. The combination of sewing and music and the commentary is really soothing, I must say… made my anxieties melt away. Thank you.

  • you, a talented and well educated fashion historian: don't be like me 5:01
    me, a dumbass in all meanings of the word: one step ahead of you

  • I'm just intrigued you did this by hand, I'm just making a dress in school and I'm not even done yet ._. (Maybe because I only have one lesson every week)

  • nice attention to detail and very professional. Also you are very pleasing to the eye. I very much enjoyed the hand stitching.

  • Bernadette Banner: finds something wrong with the closure
    Me: looks at painting than dress*
    Uhm uhm uhm…. there’s nothing wrong

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