Sunday, August 26, 2012

Medieval Dress For Renaissance Faire 2012

I finally finished the dress, which by the way is called a Bliaut.  I made tons of mistakes along the way but I’m very proud of my work.  My efforts were concentrated on historical accuracy and ensuring that I, in fact, made a dress and Not a costume.  Costumes are flimsy things that are constructed of poor materials and are not made to last.  Clothing is made to be used and of better quality fabric and I kept this in mind while I worked on the Bliaut.  Of course, the first mistake I made was purchasing a Brocade fabric when Bliauts are made out of Silk.  Well, now I know better for next time.

Actually, I finished the dress around 2:00 am this morning just in time to go to the Renaissance Faire today!  I did a lot of walking and I’m exhausted!

First I’ll show you some progress pictures and then I’ll follow it up with a picture of me wearing the dress.

I forgot to take a picture of the fabric before I began to work.  Here, I have the beginning of a dress that is mostly pinned and baste-stitched.  The sleeves you see here were not quite right, so I redid them.

Continuing my research, I learned that during the Medieval period grommets had not been invented yet.  All lacing was done using hand made eyelets.  I lost count at 40.  My hands hurt - a lot!

Another thing I learned is that lacing was done is a spiral motion instead of the criss-cross motion we use when we tie a corset or shoe laces. Here, I'm testing out the eyelets and practicing the spiral motion (the dress is inside out).  My hands, kept out of habit, trying to criss-cross the cord.  Also, the Bliaut is laced all the way up the upper sleeve.

There are many variations on the sleeves that were fashionable during that period.  I decided to scale down the bell sleeves this year because last year I had a difficult time managing my sleeves.  They trailed the floor and extended beyond my wrist.  The simplest things weren't simple and things became especially challenging when it came time to eat.  I can't help but think that perhaps I scaled them down too much.

Also, purses as we know them today were not used.  Instead, a simple pouch looped through a belt was the way that people carried their valuables.  Originally, I constructed it with a belt and loop design.  After testing it with my wallet, cell phone, keys and camera, I discovered that the belt and loop weren't strong enough to keep it secure.

So, I removed the loop and added a clasp.  I instantly preferred this method not only because it was more secure but because it gave it that Medieval touch to finish it off.

Because the Brocade fabric I chose was so detailed, it was very difficult to find trim that wouldn't clash with it.  So, I improvised and purchased plain ribbon, some simple trim - sewed the trim onto the ribbon and used this to create the belt (girdle) and to trim the collar and sleeves.

Here I am in my front garden just before I left for the Renaissance Faire.

I'm at the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, New York.  The sleeve of my chemise is peeking from under the bell sleeves.

Although I wore a circlet, I wasn't historically accurate in that area. During the Medieval period people were ruled my modesty and religious piety - especially women.  

A woman's beautiful and classically long hair (reaching and sometimes extending beyond the hips) would've been an allure and temptation to the men and therefore a sin.  

You might see young girls and the occasional maiden on her wedding day sporting uncovered hair.  Married women always kept their hair covered.

To ensure historical accuracy, today I should have worn a wimple, a veil, and the appropriate head dress on top of that like a Torque (a type of pill box hat).  I did a quick search on Google and found the image below of a woman wearing a Torque with the attached veil and wimple.  This is what I should have looked like today.


  1. I am so impressed! You did an amazing job! I love the dress and I love the way you looked! A+++

    1. Thank you very much. I'm glad you loved it. And I finally made the "A" list! Yay!

  2. I'm giving all the As Stacy gave you and then some. My gods, I wish I could do a little stitching. I'm not even asking the work to come out as glorious as yours, jut not to fall apart.

    I hope you had a blast!

  3. Thanks! More A's, I'm so excited! I did have a good time. But I gotta tell you, for a while there when I was getting laced into the dress I wished I had sewn a zipper instead. Now I understand why Ladies of Nobility had servants to dress them because I couldn't do it myself without help.