Black and silver 1490’s Swabian gown

(completed June 2014). Photo taken by Robyn Boyer.

shiny swabian         P1040747  P1050005


This gown was intended as something super fancy to wear with my flinderhaube, but had to be constructed in as little time as possible, out of just under 5m of 150cm wide brocade. I ended up throwing it together in just under three weeks.

Hans Part. Herzogin Theodora, Wife of Leopolds VI (Babenberger Stammbaum Detail).  c. 1489-1492    Hans Part. Identity Unknown - 3 (Babenberger Stammbaum Detail).  c. 1489-1492.

Above: Both images are detail shots from Hans Part, Babenberg Family Tree, 1489-92. In the image on the right, the blue dress was a fairly heavy influence on my black and silver gown, in terms of bodice shape and the decorations around the sleeve and bodice edges.

I did the back in one piece rather than two, in order to show off the gorgeous pattern in the fabric. This time around, I only lined the sleeves and bodice (due to time constraints), but went all out with the amount of fabric in the skirt, using trapezoidal panels, triangular gores (which only fit because I cut them with the pattern upside down – but it doesn’t really show in the final dress).

I used this gown as an excuse to start playing with pleat type and placement in this style of gown. I accidentally cut the bodice a little higher than my natural waist, but this turned out to be a fortuitous mistake, because it occurred to me that the gowns like this in paintings appear to be slightly higher than the natural waist too. The bodice itself closes with looks and eyes down the front, and is lined with silk and interlined with linen canvas. It and the sleeves were stitched together in the same way as the other gowns, outers and lining by machine, then whip stitched together. The skirt was all sewn by machine, but stitched to the bodice by hand. I had a play with the pleats, to see which worked best – at the front, I inserted a small panel of  box pleats at the centre front, at the back, several cartridge pleats (with the support thread removed so they wouldn’t puff out too much). While it is more likely that only one type of pleat would be used on the gown, I used this to get an idea of how the different pleats were affected by the stiff brocade, and have come to the conclusion that the small box pleats resemble those in the period images.

The bodice edge, sleeves and skirt hem are all edged/guarded with a rich purple velveteen (cut on the bias for a smoother finish). The guard on the skirt provides some weight to the skirt and makes it sit better, seeing it isn’t lined, while also protecting the brocade from catching on anything at the ground, and adding a nice contrast in colour and texture.

The little gold filigree segments around the neckline and sleeves are taken from some costume jewellery bracelets I picked up a while back.


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