20130706_160256(Dress completed for Lochac Midwinter Coronation, July 2013)


The bodice and skirt are cut from a pattern taken from Hunnisett’s Costuming for Stage and Screen: medieval-1500. This pattern has the shoulder strap coming over from the centre back and joining at the armpit point. It also has the sleeve built as one piece with two small side panels, based on images from the period with a variety of bodice seam lines. I needed to adjust this pattern piece as I chose to have a more luxurious fabric for my sleeve and hence needed to cut the sleeve and the side bodice pieces separately. The decision to use a different and more luxurious fabric for this style of sleeve is based on detail of a woman from a Flemish tapestry of the era (which I’ll upload once I have it scanned).

The splitting of Hunnisett’s pattern into a sleeve with separate side pieces was less than succesful, and while I am happy with how this dress turned out, I won’t use this pattern for separated sleeves like this again. It is also not suitable for tight sleeves. It is amazing for loose draped bell sleeves of the late 1400s and early 1500s where the sleeve fabric is the same as the bodice fabric – which is true for 99% of examples I’ve seen. So I’ll give it a proper try for the next bell-sleeve dress I make.


Side view of the bodice before setting the sleeve. Note the two trapezoidal panels.

The body and skirt are made from a heavy-weight linen that give a very good drape to the skirt and solidity to the bodice. The bodice is interlined with canvas. It is lightly boned, and has a layer of bamboo batting to soften the boning lines.

The sleeve, and the bodice edging are a satin acetate, as it gave a good weight and drape. I don’t have access to silk satin, nor do I have the budget for it. This was a good compromise. The upper sleeve is patterned with a wide triangular gusset under the arm, in order to keep Hunnisett’s paneling in the bodice, maintain a smooth line through the shoulders and keep movement in the shoulder.


The dress is closed with a series of hooks and eyes, increasingly my favourite way to close a gown of this era. I find that they keep the gown together in a smooth line, without puckering or gaping. They also make the dress easy to get into and out of, without all that pesky lacing!


For the final “black”, the cuffs are edged with 3 inches of velvet, for extra textural effect.

Blinging up the Neckline

One of the my aims with this project was to explore the decorated neckline that you see on images of royal women of this era, specifically Juana’s dress from this image.

The Sydney Craft and Quilt show was on a few weeks before this was due to be completed, so I set off with the intention of finding gold pieces to use on the dress, as well as items for the grand ensemble to be completed after this one. I sepnt 2 hours in there, whirlwinding through the stalls, and eventually came across the perfect bezants at a bead shop and snapped up all that she had left.

Bodice with bezants held in place by a gold bead.

After a bit of fiddling around I spaced them 2 inches apart, and secured them with a single gold seed bead though the centre that blends perfectly into the gold of the bezant. This ensures a bit of flexibility on a surface that needs to contour with over my shoulders, and minimises visible stitching on the black satin.

New Techniques

Apart from the use of the Hunnisett pattern, the other thing new-to-me thing that I did with this dress was using a dress dummy I inherited from my mother to set my hem. Once the waist height was set correctly it went very well. Much easier than waiting to find a friend to set my hem for me, nicer for them as well, I suspect.


2 thoughts on “Black on Black on Black, a Transition Gown

  1. Pingback: 2013 Project Wrap Up | Clothing the Low Countries

  2. Pingback: Transition era wrap gown – HSF#3 Pink | Clothing the Low Countries

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