Court Gown Update: It’s Wearable…

A year later (and several projects in between) I’ve been able to get my Elizabethan court gown in complete enough condition to wear it to the first Faire of the season.

I finally finished sewing the cartridge pleated skirt onto the waistband and added closures.

Cartridge Pleats

I put eyelets in the bodice using an awl, and had a bit of trouble since the fabric is polyester (gasp!) and the bodice is several layers.


I intended to add wings on the shoulders temporarily until I can get my shoulder rolls figured out, but I just started getting burned out, so I left the shoulder straps bare for the time being. I did have to add a privacy panel in the back, because somehow my bodice shrank as I sewed it. I swear it was just the right size when I first started this project (I’ve gained a little bit of weight, but no inches on my waist, so shrinkage is the only explanation).


I also desperately needed a hat, and felt that if I didn’t have one, there would be no point in wearing the gown, since without a hat the outfit would look even more incomplete than it already is without the sleeves and shoulder rolls. So two days before the Faire, I drafted up a pattern using the Elizabethan bonnet instructions in The Tudor Tailor.


I used the same fabric as the front panel of my skirt, and lined it in a heavy twill, as well as adding interfacing in the brim. I finished it off with a burgundy braid around the band, and an ostrich feather I’ve had hanging around waiting to go on an Elizabethan hat. Somehow I got the math wrong and the band came out shorter than the inside circumference of the brim. I didn’t have the time or energy to remake the brim, so I sort of forced it to fit, making the brim a little wavy in the back. Maybe I will redo it for the next Faire…

hat3Then it was wearing time!



We had nasty storms the night before the Faire, so when we showed up there were scary mud puddles everywhere. Luckily the sun was out and it quickly dried the puddles. I had just enough time to be grateful before the heat set in and I started to regret wearing a dress entirely made of polyester.

Trying to stay cool in the shade.

Trying to stay cool in the shade.

But we got to watch the always enchanting Vixens en Garde, take in the joust, watch a pirate brawl, and listen to Three Pints Shy before I tossed in the hat, surrendered to the heat, and sent my driver for the car so that we could limp home in the air conditioning.

Bonus photos!

I was the victim of severe derp face.

I was the victim of severe derp face.

When you get home from the Faire, and two minutes later you're like...

When you get home from the Faire, and two minutes later you’re like…

Hopefully I will have sleeves and shoulder rolls for the next Faire in August!

The Secret Project: Pink and Black Ren Faire Garb

I didn’t really mean to go so long between posts, but I was working on a project that was intended as a surprise to a friend, so I didn’t want to post anything about it.

Back in September a friend of mine mentioned as we were leaving the Faire that she thought it would be more fun to attend if she had an outfit to wear. Cue my brain thinking of all the pieces she had liked at the vendors and laughing maniacally over how much fun it would be to surprise her.

The finished outfit.

The finished outfit.

So I set out to make a three-piece outfit for her to wear to the next Faire (which at this point is still six months away, mind you, but one can never prepare too early for the Faire).

Back in November I accidentally found a pink and black damask fabric on sale at that matched my friend’s aesthetic perfectly (I actually sent capital letter-ridden messages to my bf after I found it because I could not contain my excitement). The fabric is just a thin polyester satin, but the print is so spot-on that I didn’t care. I lined the bodice with two layers of a heavy cotton twill as well as interfacing to give it enough strength, and then the front panels are boned with zip ties from the hardware store–a trick I’ve been hearing about online. They work really well! They’re stronger than the plastic boning you buy at JoAnn’s, but less expensive than the metal boning from corset suppliers, and since this bodice is only meant to be snug, not shaping like a corset, they were a nice alternative.

Bodice close up.

Bodice close up.

The blouse is made of black gauze and the skirt is made of a black jacquard that unfortunately has a bit of a stretch, but again, the jacquard was exactly what I was looking for, so I grabbed it up. I figure Faire garb is about a look with a bit of fantasy and a bit of history mixed, so I wasn’t too concerned with fiber contents or weaving techniques.

For the blouse I altered the Simplicity 3809 pattern so that the sleeves are short and come to a point. For the bodice I used the Simplicity 9966 pattern, which, WARNING!, leaves four inches of ease, meaning your “fitted” bodice comes out four inches bigger than your actual measurements. I’m guessing that might be part of the reason that pattern is out of print now… The skirt is my own pattern that’s basically made of six sort of kite-shaped pieces to give it an uneven hem.

Outfit back.

Outfit back.

The finished outfit doesn’t look like much on my dress form, since my friend is a different size than I am, but it looks great on her! She was totally surprised, and she actually cried (which I couldn’t decide whether to feel guilty or happy about).

I also got to use my new eyelet pliers for the first time, which I’m going to do a more detailed post about later. The instructions that came on the card back with the pliers were not terribly explicit and included only vague illustrations, and the how-to posts I found online after a quick search were not much more illuminating. I thought it might be helpful to have a step-by-step illustrated post about using them.

(Hopefully) Last Court Gown Update For a While

Despite the fact that I knew I needed to start my Victorian gown soon, and the fact that I knew there was no way I’d be able to finish my court gown before the end of Ren Faire season, I still couldn’t put the thing away.

So I sewed the ribbon trim onto the front pieces of the overskirt and attached facing to the top of the skirt panels so that I could begin cartridge pleating.


This is me just testing the waist measurement and how the pleats make the skirt fall.


Then I basted the underskirt to the front of the overskirt.


And then I started whip stitching the hell out of the skirt and waistband (that white part is the back of the underskirt).


I still haven’t finished attaching the overskirt to the waistband. I ran into a little problem because apparently I should have made my stitches for the cartridge pleats 3/4 of an inch long instead of 1/2 an inch long, so now my little stack of pleats is longer than the waistband… but I’m trying to work it out.

I also figured out what I want to do with the sleeves and where to put the ties to tie them to the bodice. But the bodice still needs eyelets in the back, shoulder rolls, and probably a modesty panel in the back (bodices always seem to shrink as I sew them). The skirt(s) need to be hemmed, the front edges of the open overskirt basted back, and closures on the waist band. And on top of that I need a partlet and a new hat, and I’d like to sew fake pearls on the underskirt and sleeves eventually.

For now I really do have to set this project aside so that I can have a Victorian gown for the two Victorian events coming up in December. I traced out the pattern pieces this morning and I have to make the mockup asap. Hopefully my next few posts will be about how well my Victorian day dress is going.

For now I will leave you with a picture of my Court Gown pinned together on my dress form, no where near completed.


Diving In To a Court Gown

Although I just received my Truly Victorian Alexandra Bodice and Imperial Skirt patterns in the mail, I decided to spend my sewing weekend starting a gown that I’ve had the fabric for for a few years now, but didn’t feel prepared to start until recently.

I’ve always been inspired by gowns like this one by The Couture Courtesan. Since there isn’t a pattern for this exact silhouette and bodice shape in The Tudor Tailor, after doing some research I bought the Simplicity 8881 pattern pictured below.

005v2The pattern is based on a gown that Gwyneth Paltrow wore in Shakespeare in Love, and I saw it recommended on a couple Renaissance costuming pages for it being pretty accurate as far as commercial patterns go. It’s discontinued now, but I was able to grab a copy off eBay for around $10. I plan on doing something different with the sleeves, though.

Last night I cut out the pattern and made a mock up of the bodice to check the fit. It allows for 2 inches of ease, and I’m not happy with it being that loose, so I’m making one size down from what it recommends for my measurements and I’ve had to tighten the seam allowances up a bit, too. I also had to drop the neckline and make the bust less curvy to give the bodice the right shape and fit. I wasn’t happy with how high the neckline came on my chest.

After at least eight hours of work today, I got the bodice lining together, the boning channels in, and the boning inserted.

001v2I had to skip putting boning into a couple of the channels because the pattern recommended buying eight yards (which I did) but I ended up running short. I think it’s because the pattern specifies 3/8 inch wide boning, but all I could find at the store was 1/4 inch wide boning. So if you use this pattern, get at least one more yard of boning if you have to use 1/4 wide stuff. I’m not worried about it affecting the structural integrity of my bodice because I am planning on wearing my corset under this. With all that boning, and these two layers of cotton twill lining the gown, it’ll be like wearing armor.

At the end of the day I started sewing together the shell pieces before my eyes started crossing and I had to call it quits.

003v2The next step will be carefully basting the shell to the lining, making sure that everything stays flat and straight. I’ve got the boned lining under a stack of books for the night to try to un-curve the boning a bit.

I still need to figure out if I want the bodice to be tabbed at the bottom, and what shape the tabs should be if I do, and if I want the piping around the bottom front to be contrast or the same fabric as the shell. I’m sort of just winging it on the details because I’m not sure how any of my ideas will look until I start working on them.

Here’s a photo of the fabric for the underskirt, and the trim that I’m thinking of putting on the opening of the overskirt, though:

007v2I will keep updating on the progress of this one! I should probably also do a post about how I made my Elizabethan corset, too.

Fitted English Gown outfit WIP

Fitted English Gown outfit WIP

I wore this to a brand-new local Renaissance Festival. This outfit still needs a proper kirtle and sleeves, and possibly a different hat, but I wanted to test it out and see how I liked it. It’s really very comfortable and I got a ton of compliments! Again, the fabric on this isn’t accurate for the period of the gown, but I take my historical costuming with a touch of whimsy, and I just love the overall effect. I’m thinking though, that I want to make the kirtle a dark green. I’m still unsure what to do about the sleeves, though.

Fitted English Gown and Smock

I happened to be at A.C. Moore one day and I stumbled across a bin of home decor fabrics labeled “$6 per piece.” I dug through and found two pieces of a gorgeous brown patterned upholstery fabric. Each piece was only 2 yards, and I was hoping I could find a third piece to have at least enough fabric to make an Elizabethan gown, but all I could find were the two pieces, for a total of four yards. I bought them anyway, hoping I could find something to make out of the fabric. When I got home and checked The Tudor Tailor, I discovered that Fitted English Gowns only need four yards (you’ll notice my header is a photo of the fabric with my copy of The Tudor Tailor). The print of the fabric would have been used in a much later time period than Fitted English Gowns were commonly worn, but I felt that the fabric needed to be a gown, and whether accurate or not, I thought a Fitted English Gown in that fabric would look marvelous.

I only have a couple of in-progress photos:

Image  Image

The progress was easy, until I got to the sleeves. The sleeves took twice as long as the entire rest of the gown. Although the instructions in The Tudor Tailor say to gather the sleeve panes in order to attach them to the shoulders by cartridge pleating, the fabric is so thick that after finishing the edges of the panes, they didn’t gather well, and gathering would have meant that they didn’t circle the entire sleeve anyway, so I only gathered enough to fit them nicely around the armscye. The result is acceptable, I think.

Image  Image

And here is the full view of the finished gown:

Image  Image

In order to begin making the ensemble complete, I bought three yards of a cotton-linen blend in white. Again I used a pattern from The Tudor Tailor. While making the sleeves, collar, and ruffles, I made the mistake of cutting out all of the strips at once and only once I had the collar attached did I realize that I accidentally used the two wrist ruffles for the collar part instead of using the strips that I had cut for the collar. As a result the collar is a bit too long for the neck, but hopefully not noticeably.


It’s hard to get the smock to photograph nicely, but here is (most of) the rest of the piece:


To complete the outfit, I still need to make a kirtle and sleeves, but for now I’m wearing these two pieces with a skirt from another outfit to a new Renaissance Faire in my area. Hopefully I can get some good pictures to post!