Apron Research

Melancholia I – Albercht Durer – 1514
Melancholia I (Apron Detail) – Albrecht Durer – 1514

Aprons, ubiquitous to all stations throughout history, serve both functional and frivolous purposes.  Made of wool or linen, ranging in colours from black to white to green to blue, they were used to protect clothing and as a status symbol.

This is the beginning of my research into aprons in the German Cities in the 16th century.  I’ll be looking at the range of colours displayed in art and trying to extrapolate a difference in social class in relation to apron colour.  I will also try to identify different styles of aprons; pleated, smocked, flat, partial coverage or complete.

I like aprons, I find them useful every day.  I cook, clean, work, and relax in garb over the course of an event.  Having useful functional clothing and accessories assists in maintaining my kit as well as lending authenticity to it.  The devil is in the details. I’ve had a simple pleated apron made of midweight linen for 5 years and it’s finally time to cut it up into wash cloths.  I need some basic functional aprons, but I’m also working on some fancier ones similar to the apron depicted in Durer’s “Melancholia I” shown above.

Welcome to my Rabbit Hole!


Welcome back…. and WAY back!

I haven’t posted a blog in a VERY VERY long time.  I shall begin to remedy this promptly.

Since my past post in 2009 I’ve grown enormously in my research and knowledge of both clothing and life in the 16th century.  I’ll try to get a few diaries and patterns up as well as complete photos and progress shots.

But, let me start with the start.  This is me in 2009 in the first thing I ever made (beyond that one bag in sewing classes when I was 12).  It was at Montengarde 12th Night (photo courtesy Falashad on Flickr) and inspired by Hans Holbien’s painting.

Me. 2009. First Garb!
Portrait of Dorthea Meyer – Hans Holbein the Younger (1525)

Iain Gutherie patterned the bodice for me, and I did it NO justice in the end.  Lemme tell you, this was an optimistic first try.  I have yet to re-attempt the gown.  Its a great attempt though, I am pretty proud of this all things considered!

Smock Constrution

100% Cotton

How I did it
A bunch of triangles and little tiny cartridge pleats around the neck…. maybe?

Hat Construction

 ?? Your guess is as good as mine.  It doesn’t look too bad though eh!

Gown Construction


Lining – 100% cotton
Interlining – Jean denim
Red Fashion – Questionably 100% cotton drill
Black guards – Questionable content plain weave “wool”

How I did it
This was a VERY long time ago.  So I don’t have many details on my process other then a LOT of tea, frustration, and seam ripping.

I started with zigzagging all the edges of all the pieces… so I had some good direction!

The lining and interlining on the bodice is sewing good side to good side then flipped right side in and pressed.  Since I used inappropriate materials, and didn’t know about clipping allowance, I ended up running a stitch along the neck and front to minimize bubbling along that edge.

The bodice was WAY too big around the waist and fit funny so I ended up  putting a little pleat in the back where it attaches to the skirt to make it look better.

The sleeves are probably unlined and sewn in right side to right side then flipped over.  I didn’t know much about seam finishing, so they are all bulky and raw inside.

The skirt is a vague approximation of a knife pleat. The neck guard runs down the length of the front of the skirt and then into the  hem guards.  I liked the look at the time, but totally undocumented.

It is closed with hooks and eyes.

Take Away
Ok, this is pretty redundant since it’s my first ever sewing project.  But I really DID learn a lot from both those helping me, and my own mistakes.  I guess it wasn’t too bad, since I haven’t stopped making stuff yet!

Sort of Done

So here is my somewhat completed Cranach Gown. It was pinned…. a lot. The Brustfleck is held on with Saftey Pins, and looking at the picture, I need to make the brustfleck smaller still. All in all, it worked. I know what changes I need to make for the next one to work better (except the attachement of the Brustfleck… grr)
Its a wee little long, and I really really need an underskirt.

Excuse the purse and sunglasses! This is the only full length picture I can find of the dress.
Photo from Her Ladyship Althea’s flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/f_jean/

Worn in

Oh what a dream! I managed to get all pinned into my new gown for the main court day at 12th Night this weekend. I had to pin my brustfleck onto my corset then pin the dress to it (Thank you Pier Francesco, Althea and Francis). I have yet to decide on proper/permanent attachments for the dress/brustfleck.

Everything fit together nicely and hung perfectly! The guards on the sleeve cuffs split but I wasn’t surprised. They were poorly crafted and too small/tight. I will have to re-make them pretty soon and to double them over this time. Some other grey lining will be a much better choice to give them substance.

As soon as my friends post pictures I will show it off on here with some descriptions of some of the work.

Cranach Gown

There have been numerous diaries, posts, patterns, etc. on the making of style of gown popularized by Lucas Cranach the Elder in a variety the paintings, notably “Saxon Princesses Sibylla, Emilia and Sidonia c. 1535“. The distinct dress layout with a brustfleck across the chest, lacing below and thick rolls of pleating in the skirts.

I choose to make this dress in a weable practice gown before the red cotton velveteen. This is the trials and tribulations of that practice gown.

Overgown: Purple brocade of a questionable fiber.
Trim (guards and brustfleck): Silver polycrap, patterned with some sort of flower-esk in the weave. Pretty fabric, but a pain to work with.
Trim: Metallic Silver stuff.
Lining: Black cotton/linen blend. (This fabric had an embroided pattern with big ugly flowers along one edge. I cut off the flowers but the embroidery is still there)
Puff and under slashing: 100% midweight white linen, left over from a chemise.

Although roll pleats are not documentable, others have found (and I fully agree) that it is the only way to to get the look those dresses have. So there I started. With about 9 meters of fabric with a wide band of silver along the bottom rolled in a 6-1 ratio (5 inches rolled down into a 1 inch space). I found that although I had worked all my math out, my 6 to 1 ratio wasn’t exact. The rolls looked better when they were less then 1 inch in length. I let the fabric choose how best it wanted to roll and what size 5 inches of fabric wanted to be in a roll. I ended up having to add about 60 inches to the skirt then roll that in to get it to go fully around my waist.

The bodice is cut from a modified pattern of a spanish gown I made for a masquerade. I moved the seams to the side and removed the front centre leaving room for the brustfleck and lacing. Lined in mid-weight canvas, it holds its shape well. I did make a corded corset (which is a dream to wear! So comfortable!) to wear under it.

I am not a petite woman, and I have heard and read opinions that only small chested, perky young women should wear this style of gown. I disagree. As recreationists, I feel we should be able to wear what we want. We are re-creating not re-enacting these times. I am not actually a Landsknecht woman travelling in a tross and slitting the throats of the enemy wounded. I feel I can wear what I want, as long as it looks good, works for the setting and well, looks good!

The sleeves….. oh the bane of my existance (or at least my costuming existance). I decided on a traditional puff and slash. After cutting out 2 “tombstone” sleeves of pattern fabric, then slashing the crap out of one, I cut into my real fabric. Keeping the little bits of slashes with the correct arm pieces was my own personal demon. Once the sleeves were cut, both in the dress material and the lining, the pain begins. I can’t even describe how I put the sleves together. I will post a demo with pictures at some other time. Lets just leave it at “They had better look great! They took 8 hours each”

And now I must begin sewing again or I will miss my deadline and be wearing gold key at our Kingdom 12th Night this weekend.

Further information on the dress will be posted at a later date.

Sadly I didn’t take any photo’s during the creation of this dress. I will be sure to do so for the red and gold of the same pattern.