A and S Class : 1390’s French/Italian Fitted Gown and it’s evolution

Please note: If you wish to reproduce this in any way please credit me. We all work very hard and share our knowledge freely in the SCA. It would be a shame to find my work in someone elses name. Thank you. 

 

 

 blue1blue2red wool overdresssnowballs Climate-snow-and-ice-Tacuinum-Sanitatis-c.-1390-1400

The ‘Fitted Gown’ /’Gothic Gown’ / ‘Cotehardie’ is an interesting kettle of fish.

Generic names like the above seem to label a very big time span of one dress, and countries, and with any generic thing it is too easy for it to become generic, both in construction and look.

One of the other issues associated with generic names and styles within our re-enactment communities is that we are also used to seeing certain types of garments in person or on the internet all made in certain ways – some widely accepted as ‘accurate’, others not.  Unless we ask at the time of the person wearing it –  is that from the 1420’s or 1390’s or early 1300’s? or is it from France, England, Italy? we may never know beyond the surface that there are differences and different examples out there from just looking at pictures on the internet of recently constructed garments.

The other issue you face is that some people just make things because they are pretty or because they want to  – which is fair enough – not everyone cares to the same degree about accuracy or the historical side to things.  The pictures on the internet that people base their outfits on may not even have a particular period or place attached to the garment, so the new comer to the period or style that is interested in the ‘accuracy’ of something, needs to be wary and hunt around A LOT if they are wanting to be as historically accurate as they can be.

 

Below is the class that was given at Rowany festival in 2014. It explains what I have done and why and gives instructions for the gown. I had the pattern with me, and fitted a few people there – if you would like to contact me about the pattern, please do.

 

Notes for Fitted Gown Class

First presented : Rowany Festival A.S 49 (2014)

This class is a combination of what I have learnt to date about the fitted gowns that I have reproduced from paintings and pieces of extant garments, how I have used the pattern and the chance to take away a pattern of your own and instructions on how to make them.

Why:

While exploring late 15th Century Italian dresses, I patterned a bodice that had the desired ‘anti-gravity’ sleeves seen in the paintings. It was meant to replicate an Italian dress from the 1520’s, which I did a successful trial for in burgundy wool. It then got put to better use by being used to pattern my friend down in Southron Gaard for a dress in a painting by Lorenzo di Credi that she had wanted to make for a while, and has since then completed the underdress and sleeves for.

 

Italian-1520caterina Esforza1526648_10151922748054211_1702053785_n

1520’s Italian       Caterina Esforza,  Lorenzo di Credi,        Genevra in her dress.

1480-83

 

I entered the Realm of Venus competition in 2013 a few days before it began – as I found the perfect pink material to replicate the dress seen below and decided to use the bodice pattern to create it

 

pinkpink1pink3

‘Portrait of a Lady’, Pier Francesco di Jacopo Foschi (1502-1567), circa 1530-35.

By now:

The pattern had served Italy in the 1530’s, 1520’s and the 1480’s

It was fully supportive – no bra needed to be worn with it. Although there is written evidence that they were worn, and a recent extant ‘bra’ find that could have been worn with them also, it was designed to be supportive with the under-dress doing most of the work in the Pink version.

It didn’t fall off the shoulders (even though it looked like it could/should – no matter what movement was done, it stayed put and allowed full movement. My friend had borrowed the burgundy wool one and gave it back saying she had washed dishes, done her laundry, tidied up and also changed a light-bulb in it….apparently it passed her tests! (Although not all were completely medieval activities..)

I went down to Southron Gaard to help the ladies pattern cote-hardies in early 2013. We had all done research into what it meant to make a cote hardie, as I had never gone fully into the fitted gown as a garment, and I believe in people being responsible for themselves and not just handing them the answers if they are able.

They were all to contact me well in advance with what they were thinking about and any research they had already done, even if it was just pictures at that stage…some were more pro-active than others in this aspect.

I had a rough knowledge of this style.  I had been to a class at Canterbury Faire in 2010 by Mistress Catherine D’Arc on fitted gowns, and I had researched in 2011 into the clothing from 1348 for a short film that required English garb as close to accurate as possible (within budget) for the arrival of the black death in Britain. I used such things as the Luttrell Psalter (close to the time period that needed replicating), the book ‘Woven in the Earth’ (for generic cut) and many other resources besides. As far as generic knowledge of gowns to look at from different time period I knew about the Upsala gown, I had knowledge of the Moy Bog gown

http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/moy3.html

and of the silk facings etc. that are in the Museum of London book, but I had never needed to go in depth into this subject before then, it just hadn’t been necessary.

I had never pursued the fitted gown as a personal style as I am a larger woman and I always equated the fitted gown as the medieval equivalent of a lycra suit. The good thing about this pattern is that it seems to work with the body it is on, and manages to not accentuate rolls and bumps and smooths them in places.

The Fitted Gown:

I realised that the bodice for my Italian dresses looked a lot like the bodices of the fitted gowns that were in Italy and France around 1390 that I had seen pictures of in ‘Medieval Dress and Fashion by Margaret Scott and in the ‘Tres Riches Heures’ du Duc de Berry.

As I was going back down to keep helping the ladies with their dresses, and I was halfway through my Pink dress, I decided to take a risk and make the Blue fitted gown in the picture below as an experiment. If it worked I would take it down and give the ladies the pattern and the instructions on how to make it.

Fitted French gownCapture

February in the ‘Tres Riches Heures’ du Duc de Berry.

 

Thought Progression….

I started by looking at all the possibilities, for all the countries and time periods that use this style. At the time I was looking it was for generic gothic/fitted gowns just so I could familiarise myself with the types of things that the ladies in Christchurch were wanting.

I have lots of books that knew had pictures relevant in them already, I have my own photos from my travels and I made use of Google Scholar. You still have to wade through some ‘interesting’ stuff on that site, but it has a lot more to offer than the usual Google search engine.

There are a few practiced techniques made popular a few years ago that include people laying down on the ground to shape the dress, zips being put in to get it tight on the body so lacing can then be put in where the zip has been and seams being curved on the back and front to ‘support’ the chest that I personally wasn’t too keen on as techniques to construct the garments with.

I decided to avoid zips – as there were none in period. I also wanted to avoid making a normal dress and just taking it in really tight, as many times when I had heard people talk about the fitted gowns that they had made in the past, they talked about them in an un-satisfied manner, saying they couldn’t lift their arms up or bend/move in them too well, as they had to be really tight to support their chest area, and the arms were restrictive also. I wanted to solve this – as the people wearing them should be able to work in a field as easily as they could cook around a camp fire in these dresses – for the simple reason that they were worn by everyone not just the rich who could just stand and sit uncomfortably in them…as shown in the Duc de Berry paintings.

NOTE:

It is very important with any reproductions/replicas to look at the regions, countries and details involved in the outfit.  France and Italy appear to have similar styles in regards to this early fitted dress, and stay that way for a number of years.

One of the interesting things to note however is that even with the distinctive styles of the early 16th century Italian and French dresses, when you take it down to basics,  both seem to retain the similar ‘falling off the shoulder’ look or ‘anti-gravity’ sleeves.

 

GirolamoDaCarpic1530673f40a41f024c304332f631385ba63c

‘Portrait of a Woman’ 1530        ‘La Luthiste’ 1530-1540  – French.

Peter de Kempeneer

Italian.

 

 

A few interesting things taken from the book

‘Iluminating Fashion:Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands, 1325-1515’ by Anne H. van Buren with the assistance of Roger S. Wieck

to discuss and highlight that just looking at a painting and taking it for granted that what we see is period, is not always correct. 

 Breast binding and Bra’s:

“If her breasts are too heavy, she should take a coverchief or cloth to bind them against her chest and wrap it right around her ribs, securing it with needle and thread or by a knot; this allows her to be active at her play”. P10 Illuminating fashion. (taken from the Romance of the Rose, begun by Guillaume de Lorris in the early 13th century and completed by Jean de Meun’s towards the end of 1200’s) p10 Illuminating Fashion.

In the “Poem by Eustache Deschamps (1340-1406) with the refrain “Lady let the teats have mercy” he complains that women are no longer binding their breasts under a single cloth (as was recommended by the Old Woman in the Romance of the Rose), but placing them separately in pockets in their smocks held up by knotted cords. “P12 Illuminating Fashion.

Set in Sleeve:

Fashionable men are first seen in the loose-skirted cote hardy in the early 1330’s (implying that the set-in sleeve was invented around 1330)” P30 Illuminating Fashion.

Nuances of Paintings:

“It is true that painted garments do not look much like real clothes. Hems and drapery folds are delineated first by Gothic curves and in the later fifteenth century by straight lines and angles. The areas within evolve from flat areas of colour to forms gently rounded by highlights and modelling. The result is that the garments appear fresher and smoother than could have been possible under the conditions of medieval life (filth in the streets, dirt indoors little hot water) and laundering (sand as practically the only cleaning agent, clumsy irons with uncontrollable heat.) “page 17 Illuminating Fashion.

 

Colours:

“The only symbolic colours are blue, the colour of purity, for the Virgin Mary; green, the colour of hope, for young people in love; red for royalty. This last is not exclusive: red could be used quite arbitrarily, even for the jack of an executioner, for whom cloth dyed such a colour was far too expensive.”P17 Illuminating Fashion.

“Held that the combination of a blue kirtle and a green gown alluded to fidelity and the burgeoning of young love. Although van Eyck may have chosen these colours, it is equally possible that the lady did wear this type of ensemble for the ceremony of her betrothal”. P28 Illuminating Fashion.\

“He indicated the virtue of the true mother by dressing her in gray, while the false mother wears pink.” P66 Illuminating Fashion.

Dagging:

“The most common formula, however is dagging, which designates sexual activity, both in courtship and behaviour less condoned. Never worn by actual French Women and not often by men except in May by the young (such as the Saint-Simon boys in the 1430’s) dagging continued to be used by artists for lovers and more dubious figures.”P17 Illuminating Fashion

 

 

Formulas for Painting :

The principals were also followed by iconographers, those who told the artists what to put in the miniatures. Among the few written programs that survive the most detailed is the fifteenth-century guide that the early French humanist Jean Lebegue composed…The guide tells the artist not only what the figures should be doing but how they should be dressed and occasionally their place in the composition”. P18 Illuminating Fashion.

A picture is worth a thousand words….:

“This is just one example of the ways in which the didactic and linking purposes of history writing shaped its illustration. People were quite aware of the power of images, and several commentators insisted on their equivalence to written words.”P23 Illuminating Fashion

“The images can also provide an approximate date for an otherwise undated work; and they can also open up a picture’s iconographic and social content.” P27 Illuminating Fashion.

Using fashion to show other things:

“Sallust is depicted writing at his desk…to show that he has abandoned the military life for that of a scholar, and “a white coif, such as men used to wear”. Indeed, his coif is just like the one Charles V wears in the Vaudetar Bible of 1371, which Christine de Pisan said was already old-fashioned at the time. For viewers of the manuscript the outdated coif clearly put the Roman historian in an ear long past.”p23 Illuminating Fashion.

“People usually wore their best clothes to sit for a portrait and special garments were required for certain occasions, such as the betrothal of Giovanni Arnolfini. “ P27 Illuminating fashion.

 

Class :

“In the late 1470’s it was a fad among upper-class girls in Flanders, such as the young Margareta Portinari on Hugo van der Goes’s triptych or one of the attendants of Duchess Margaret of York, to wear an elegant version of a peasants kirtle , one open and laced in front.”p28 Illuminating fashion

“The images can document the evolution of fashion from the early fourteenth to the early sixteenth century. The plates reproduced here also confirm that most new fashions originated at the French court, in Paris or Tour, and were then imitated in other regions and countries by the upper classes whose dress exhibits few, if any, local characteristics. “P28 Illuminating Fashion.

Differences in Art Mediums:

The disparity between the garments incised onto the plaque and those woven in the tapestry, both of which were executed almost simultaneously in the same city, is vivid testimony to the different function of the two artworks…Although memorial plaques show that the bourgeoisie was not so fashionable, the tapestry indicates that some people in Tournai kept up with the current fashions.”P98 Illuminating Fashions.

 

 

NOTE:

Generic names like kirtle, cote hardie and fitted gown seem to label a very big time span of one outfit, in many countries, that sometimes covers both sexes. With any generic object it is too easy for it to become generic, both in construction and look –  especially when we don’t always know how it was made the first time around.

One of the other issues associated with generic names and styles within our re-enactment communities is that we are also used to seeing certain types of garments in person or on the internet all made in certain ways – some widely accepted as ‘accurate’, others not.  Unless we ask at the time of the person wearing it – is that from the 1420’s or 1390’s or early 1300’s? or is it from France, England, Italy? We may never know beyond the surface that there are differences and different examples out there from just looking at pictures on the internet of recently constructed garments.

The other issue you face is that some people just make things because they are pretty or because they want to – which is fair enough – not everyone cares to the same degree about accuracy. The pictures on the internet that people base their outfits on may not even have a particular period or place attached to the garment, so the new comer to the period or style that is interested in the ‘accuracy’ of something, needs to be wary and hunt around A LOT if they are wanting to be as historically accurate as they can be.

 

Since making the blue dress I have experimented with other dresses within the genre. The below was made over new years in 2012 at my friends house.

IMG_1473 IMG_1474

 

 

Bibliography
Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion, book 1. Quite specific media Group, Ltd, 1985.
Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion, book 4. Macmilan Ltd, 2008.
Aston, M. The Renaissance Complete. Thames and Hudso Ltd, London, 1996. ISBN 9780500284599
Bernson, B. The Project Gutenberg e book of the Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909.
Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Pritchard, Frances & Staniland, Kay. Textiles and Clothing c. 1150-1450. The Boydell Press. Museum of London, Woodbridge, 2001. ISBN:0851158404
Martireau, J. and Hope, C. The Genius of Venice. 1500-1600. Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1983.
North, S. and Tiramani, J. Seventeenth Century Womens Dress Patterns, Book 2. V and A, London, 2012. ISBN 9781851776856
Scott, Margaret. Medieval Dress and Fashion. British Library, London, 2007. ISBN 9780712350679
Van Buren, Anne H. Illuminating Fashion, Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands. 1325-1515. GILES, UK. The Morgan Library and Museum of New York. 2011.  ISBN 978-1-904832-90-4

Notes from a class given by Catherine D’Arc on Gothic fitted gowns, Canterbury Faire, 2011.

 

 

gefluegel-41

Gänsehaltung im Spätmittelalter: Die dem Wildtyp noch sehr ähnelnden Tiere werden in einem ummauerten Hof gehalten, der Nistflächen zur Eiablage bietet. Im Hintergrund ist evtl. ein Stall mit Einschlupf-Luken abgebildet.
Aus einem Gesundheitsbuch (Tacuinum sanitatis) des 14. Jahrhunderts.
 
Wien Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Vindob. S. n. 2644, Oberitalien um 1390, folio 66r.

Goose keeping the Late Middle Ages: The wild-type nor very resembling animals are kept in a walled courtyard, provides the Nistflächen for oviposition. In the background is possibly shown a stable with Closure hatches. From a health book (tacuinum sanitatis) of the 14th century. Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod Vindob. S. AD 2644, northern Italy around 1390, folio 66r.

 

gefluegel-38

 

Kleinbäuerliche Hühnerhaltung mit einem einfachen Hühnerverschlag in Flechtwandkonstruktion.

Die Hühner werden von der Frau des Hauses gefüttert. Tacuinum sanitatis, 14. Jh; Wien Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Vindob. S. n. 2644, , Oberitalien um 1390, folio 65r.

Smallholder poultry keeping with a simple chicken shack in Flechtwandkonstruktion. The chickens are fed by the woman of the house. Tacuinum sanitatis, 14th century; Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod Vindob. S. AD 2644, northern Italy around 1390, folio 65r.

Mittelalterliche Hühnerhaltung mit Verschlag und Hühnerleiter. Die Hausfrau sammelt die Eier ein.
Aus einem Gesundheitsbuch (Tacuinum sanitatis) des 14. Jahrhunderts.
 
Wien Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Vindob. S. n. 2644, Oberitalien um 1390, folio 65v

 

gefluegel-42

Medieval chickens with shed and chicken ladder. The hostess collects the eggs. From a health book (tacuinum sanitatis) of the 14th century. Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod Vindob. S. AD 2644, northern Italy around 1390, folio 65v

Eine Geflügelhändlerin verkauft junge Tauben und Hühner. Daneben werden Eier angeboten. 
Gesundheitsbuch des 14. Jahrhunderts (Tacuinum sanitatis); Wien Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Vindob. S. n. 2644, Oberitalien um 1390, folio 67r
.

 

gefluegel-35

A poultry dealer sells young pigeons and chickens. In addition, eggs are offered. Health book of the 14th century (tacuinum sanitatis); Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod Vindob. S. AD 2644, northern Italy around 1390, folio 67r.

Illustration zum Ausnehmen des Geflügels in einer spätmittelalterlichen Küche. 
Tacuinum sanitatis, 14. Jh. Wien Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Vindob. S. n. 2644, Oberitalien um 1390, folio 79v.

 

gefluegel-40

Illustration for the evisceration of poultry in a late medieval cuisine.

Tacuinum sanitatis, 14th century Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod Vindob. S. AD 2644, northern Italy around 1390, folio 79v.

 

Please note – more pictures to illustrate each step are coming.

Fitted Gown Instructions:

Lay down your pattern on your fabric (People in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland now have a copy of it – if you wish to take a copy, you have my permission)

Cut your fabric out and use the left over triangles for gores

Cut your lining out the same way

Sew your dress together at the shoulder seams

Sew your dress together down the front and back seam

Sew 1.5 inches down under the arm hole/armsky

Sew the silk tabby woven ribbon (size 7 is best) onto your neck of your dress with three lines of stitching – outside edges and middle

1

 

Repeat for the lining

Put the dress on and mark where your gores are to go to

Sew in the gores on all sides

At this point your will want to do all the felling of your seams of the dress and lining

2

 

Turn the neck so the ribbon is no longer visible

Stab stitch/invisible stitch the neck in place

3

Repeat for the lining

Repeat this process for the side seams with the ribbon on both the lining and the dress

Pin the neck of the dress and the lining together at the seams

4

Pin the rest

Invisible stitch them together

5

Push the arms through

Match up the shoulder seams and pin

Stab stitch the shoulder seams – ‘stitch in the ditch’ so it can’t be seen but secures the lining and outer at the shoulders.

Make sure the arms match up and turn back the same amount of material at the wrist

Invisible stitch the wrist outer and lining together on each side.

Match up the hems and invisible stitch lining and outer together.

Note if you are putting buttons up the elbow you may want to stitch the ribbon to the edge where the buttons holes and buttons will go to stabalise it.

 

Please note: If you wish to reproduce this in any way please credit me. We all work very hard and share our knowledge freely in the SCA. It would be a shame to find my work in someone elses name. Thank you. 

8 Responses “A and S Class : 1390’s French/Italian Fitted Gown and it’s evolution” →
  1. Would it be possible for you to let me know who (if any) has your patter in QLD?

    Reply

  2. vilma62thompson

    January 27, 2015

    Thanks I’ll check with Bea! 🙂

    Reply
  3. I would love to know more about your fitting techniques and pattern shape. I teach a class called “supporting the masses: creating a bust supportive garment. ” I’m always looking to deepen my understanding.

    -Colette

    Reply
  4. when you say we have permission to take a copy of your pattern…what or where is the pattern? Love the blue dress

    Reply
    • Thanks for the compliment, it is very kind. There are quite a few copies done for specific people in the SCA now that are floating around…other than that, it is something that needs to be fitted. It was more a comment to those that knew other people that knew someone who had a copy,

      Reply
      • I’m very interested in how you’ve worked out this pattern. I’d love to see the lines if nothing else. But I’d really love to make one.

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *