RenWear Designs


Lady Faire


From Start to Finish

Blue silk, noblewoman's gown

Lady Faire now shows a complete gown, in stages of construction

I decided that I needed a new gown.  I had intended to wear it for Halloween, as most years, my darling Lord Husband and I walk the downtown mall in garb.  It garners lots of attention, which we try to turn to the RenFaires, history and costuming.

M'Lord Husband was ill this year, so I took my time on the new gown.  And I've taken photos at various stages during construction.  I hope you will enjoy seeing the ensemble take shape.


I started with 2 patterns - one for the hat, and the other for the gown.  The hat pattern was "The Elizabethan Wardrobe Accessories Pattern, found at Patterns of Time.   I have hi-lighted (circled) the styles I chose to make.

Now, I think I am constitutionally unable to follow a pattern exactly as shown.  For some reason, I just HAVE to change this, or that, or the other. 


We are going to start with the hat.  The style is called a "French Hood", named for Anne Boleyn, a style of which she become fond during a stay in France.  The style became quite popular in England as well as France during the early and mid 1500s.  I  actually used some features found in other French Hood patterns, such as the veil attached in the back to modestly cover the hair, and I dearly LOVE the wrap around styling which assures the hat is going to stay put without resorting to pins, etc.  Very comfortable, actually.  The 1st picture, on the left, shows the backside of the hat before the veil was attached. If you look carefully, you will see that there is 'silver' piping all around both the top and the base.  I made the piping out of the silver/grey peau de soie that was used as trim on the gown.  The binding and lining are made of the navy blue duppioni silk that was used on the gown, as well as the blue and silver/grey brocade silk that is the main fabric of the outfit.  The back overlaps and once fitted to my head, I stitched it in place. 

 Unbelievable just how secure and comfortable the style is!  The next (on right) picture shows the back again, but with the veil attached.



And now the front view on your left side of the screen.

The entire hat is hand stitched.  There was really nothing that COULD be done on the sewing machine other than to hold the layers of buckram and foundation together.  The hat took 4 days of working on nothing other than the hat - 4 days of hand stitching (eeekk!)  Did I mention that I hate hand stitching?

I am playing with adding 'spikes' on the topline of the hat, with pearls of different sizes, to match the bead/pearl fringe trim on the bodice of the gown.  Haven't made up my mind yet, on that.


Now, the gown.  Also found at Patterns of Time pattern name Tudor Lady's Gown & Kirtle pattern, #RC601

Using the orange Tudor style gown from the pattern shown above, I made a few changes to the gown.  I am NOT using undersleeves, the sleeves are tie-on, not attached, I'm using split sleeve caps, I've used pearl bead fringe and pearls added to the gimp trim, and I AM using a partlet.  Too old to show THAT much skin [grin].

Picture on right shows the first draft of the gown.  The bottom is not what I wanted, I didn't like my initial trim theme, the sleeve caps are not there, nor are the pearls or pearl fringe. 

So I worked on it some more.


This picture (left) shows the bodice with the split sleeve caps, the pearl fringe trim and the pearls added to the gimp trim.  The gimp trim on this outfit is always placed over a silver/grey background.  Yes, it is an added layer, yes it is more sewing (by hand!), but the  silver/grey background makes the navy blue gimp trim show up (see the picture with the purse - below - to understand what I mean with that), instead of merging into the brocade fabric.  All of the pearls and pearl trim are hand sewn.

The photo on the right shows the skirt(s) with the bottom trim and the pearls added to the gimp trim.  The bodice has a navy peau de soie lining, an interlining of cotton duck and is moderately boned with 'synthetic whale-bone' in the front, sides and back beside the lacing. As this gown is meant for myself, and I know that I will be wearing a good corset underneath, it isn't as thoroughly boned as some bodices I've made for other people.  The boning on this bodice is for shaping and structure, as the corset will be supplying the shape and base needed for the proper look of the era.  The skirts have not yet been hemmed up in this photo, but the trims are all finished as well as a matching purse/pouch (below).  The purse was actually made before the gown - right after I finished the hat.  Based on the appearance of the gimp trim, I decided that the silver/grey base was an absolute necessity on the gown.



This picture shows the trims completed, the sleeves completed as well as the ribbons for tying on at the shoulders.  I've shown the bodice with an old white partlet, as I haven't even STARTED the pale grey silk partlet that will be worn with the gown.  I'm still not sure about the sleeves, and will most likely wind up decorating them before I'm happy.  I've also considered making additional sleeves in another style.


And this last photo shows the gown as it currently exists but probably NOT the final look.  Sleeves tied on, hems completed, so forth and so on.  I'm always tinkering with things.


The entire outfit has taken me over a month.  This is working on the outfit ONLY, no other sewing, no other projects.  This has been my full time job for the past month.  When looking at an outfit like this from a costumer, keep in mind the length of time it takes to properly make it.  You are looking at many years of experience and training to make any kind of quality garment.  If it were easy, no one would need costumers such as myself to make them.  As well as the material costs.  I used all silk (other than the peau de soie, and bodice interliner), and I found the brocade at 'fire-sale' pricing.  I can't count on that happening, and in truth it rarely does.  I also don't have the storage space to buy my fabric 'wholesale'.  The best I can do is to buy an entire roll of a fabric that catches my eye.  If I don't have the fabric on hand, I have to expect to pay retail for what I need.  This drives the price up.  So, the material cost and the labor time are what determines the end price of any outfit.  Please, keep that in mind.

The pictures on this page are mostly all 'Click to Enlarge'

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