Costume Gallery

The Kirtle

a.k.a. Snowwhite

Based upon 15th century peasantwear, this outfit consists of three different layers, in three different styles and periods of history.
The base layer is the white linen Italian chemise, camicia. As a huge fan of Jen Thompson's A Festive Attyre I have found much inspiration, help and also some of patterns on her website quite uesful. This Italian chemise was made according to her pattern, though I probably did something different when pleating the neckline.
The base is two huge squares of fabric, with two slightly smaller squares for sleeves. These are attached only by a small triangle in the underarm and the neck band. The squares will form a neck gap that is big enough to lie curled up in, but then the wonderful pleating starts to get the whole thing back under control. Truth be told, I've never had fun pleating something - and this chemise was definitely no exception.

The camicia-style is from the 16th century, and the neckline is hand-finished.

The second layer was supposed to be my "Ever After" dress. Seeing how many costumers on the web have made 15th century peasantwear, I was craving something different. I've been a fan of the Ever After movie for quite some time, and the common wear of Danielle was my favourite. I wanted something peasanty, and something peasanty I made. A red kirtle was common wear in the 15th century, and the linen I bought was quite neon-red. I figured I could combine the kirtle with later to be constructed overgowns. A good base kirtle is never a waste after all.
To add a slight historical element to all this, I decided to do the dress re-enactment style: every seam that would be visible on the outside would be done by hand. This has greatly improved my handsewing skills, but was a pain to do. All the pattern pieces are stitched together with my sewing machine, but the hems and binding were done by hand. The bodice itself is lined with two layers of sturdy canvas. In the pre-corset era the people used hemp-rope to stiffen their bodices for support. I tried to recreate this with a natural rope fiber. The skirt has hand-sewn cartridge pleats in the back, which are lined with a strip of wool to make them poof a bit more. This simulates the nice big butt people fancied in those days. The waistline is intentionally a bit higher to ensure a good lifting effect on the bodice.
The laces in the back are spiral-lacing, with brass-coloured grommets (possibly one of the more obvious flaws when it comes to historical correctness).

The trim is a different story alltogether. I found some webpages on tablet weaving and decided to give this craft a try, immediately got hooked on it, and made a checkered trim for the skirt. Untangling the cords was the worst. I cheated on attaching the trim and did it by machine. The stitches sink into the trim, and are invisible.

The third and last layer of this outfit is, I admit it, a McCalls pattern. I dropped all trims and the silly butterfly headdress, and made it in a shiny cotton satin. The princess seams ensure that the thing isn't correct for any period of history except on Halloween's, but it nicely accentuates the waist.
I used bias tape to sew a 'ladder' on the inside of the front 'v', so I could lace the dress up. The lacings are again spiral, instead of a nice tennis-shoe lacing the pattern suggested, trying to reconcile with the underlying layers.
Because of the colour combination, this dress has been nicknamed "Snowwhite", seeing that it's very Disney. "Red! White! Blue!" it shouts. All in all, it's a very nice combination. Above all, the dress is very warm. The camicia reaches until just below my knees, and the other two layers are just above ground level. I pin up the blue dress as an apron (taking care to just show the outside, since it's not even lined in a contrasting colour like it should be!) when I get too warm.

I probably should redo the outer layer in a different colour - something nicely eye-bleedingly bad like orange or purple with a yellow lining for historical correctness and something to wear on my head to go with it - but when I lost 15 kilo in 2006 the red kirtle layer is definitely outgrown me. I should redo the entire ensemble someday. Only the chemise still fits - I don't think anything that baggy can ever not fit.

The red kirtle has been donated to Puerto Diablo. The blue overdress has been recycled for Marianne's costume.

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Sept 2005; © Jane Starz.