Tudor Waistcoat and Kirtle

After the Jamestown Conference last year I really wanted to make a Tudor-era waistcoat and kirtle. The ones I saw people (and mannequin displays) wearing at the conference were just so sleek and tailored looking, I loved the style.

I started by drafting the waistcoat pattern from The Tudor Tailor last July; I also decided that I was going to completely sew the entire garment by hand–a first for me. The instructions were easy to follow, though I had a bit of a mishap where I kept ending up with two left sleeves and had to unpick all of my handwork (twice). I didn’t take many progress photos because the fabric, dark navy wool left over from my bliaut, does not want to photograph at all.

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The shell, before inserting gussets and lining.

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One of my gussets, done with the tiniest stitches I could muster.

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All finished except for closures.

I finished the jacket back in January, but the finished jacket still didn’t look like much. By then I was already planning to go to Costume College 2017, so I realized the next logical step was to go ahead and make the kirtle and bring the set to Costume College to wear.

Again I decided to stitch the entire garment by hand which, now that I had finished the jacket, was not quite as intimidating, but still a bit daunting. I again used a pattern from The Tudor Tailor. I found the kirtle instructions a little less clear, because their pattern offers several possible closure options/locations, and only one set of instructions for all of them.

After their “No Bones About It” session at the Jamestown Conference, where they discussed the fact that their research has shown scant, if any, evidence of boned bodices in kirtles prior to 1600, I decided not to put any boning at all in my kirtle bodice. I wasn’t quite ready to start experimenting with paste buckram, though, so I used scraps of twill and upholstery fabric to interline and stiffen the front of the bodice.

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The white fabric was pad stitched to the interlining before the interlining was basted to the shell.

I then found myself constantly second-guessing my next step and whether or not the fit was going to be okay, so it took me months to get very far on the bodice.

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It sat in this state forever before I decided what step to take next.

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I finally folded over the seam allowance and whipstitched it down before putting in the lining

I lined the bodice with leftover linen, finishing the hem of the bodice before pleating the skirt and stitching it to the bodice hem.

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I’m still not sure I attached the skirt properly, but I did the best I could with the bulk of the wool.

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Before hemming and trim.

Once the skirt was on, it sat for a while longer because I was nervous about putting the eyelets in and getting the fit wrong. Once I finally decided where the eyelets were going, though, they went in very quickly and I was able to finish the rest of the work in just about a week. I trimmed the bottom of the skirt with a bit of velvet ribbon that I bought from the Simplicity booth at Rufflecon.

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Closeup of my eyelets.

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With the jacket (which still doesn’t have closures).

No matter what I do, the set seems to look awkward on my dress form, so here are some slightly blurry mirror photos of it worn until I can wear it out for better pictures.

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To my relief, the set fits my actual body much better than it fits my dress form, and it’s also surprisingly comfortable to wear (I may or may not have been sitting around in it while writing this blog post).

Next I obviously need to put hook and eye closures in the jacket; I tend to put them off because they’re so tedious. Then I also need to make a coif to finish off the look. I have a pattern for an embroidered coif that came with my Jamestown Conference registration packet, but as I won’t be able to complete the embroidery before Costume College next month, I’m going to make a plain coif for now, and leave the ambition for later.

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