Fitted Cotehardie - First Fitted Dress
After a few years in the SCA, I decided I wanted to upgrade my garb wardrobe and begin to make some garb I enjoyed wearing. Previously I had completed only simple sewing projects, including the popular T-tunic as well as a very simple tube Roman tunica. I had made pillowcases and was familiar with the sewing machine, but had no hand sewing skills and definitely no idea how to create a pattern than fit me well. I reached out to Lady Anne D'Evreux of the Barony of Lochmere, as I had long admired her cotehardies and fourteenth century garb. She graciously offered to help me pattern a fitted cotehardie (alternatively known as a gothic fitted dress or GFD)and teach me the process of sewing. Her mentorship and patience were invaluable.
I started by using Lady Anne's cotehardie pattern, with small adjustments. I cut the pattern out of a cotton bedsheet, and used pins to pin in place and get a sense of fit and chalk to mark any changes. After a period of adjusting and finessing, I created a pattern for future use out of a plastic shower curtain, labelling the pieces with a sharpie. I then traced the pattern onto my teal linen material and cut out the pieces. The pattern consists of four panels making up the front and back of the dress, seven gores (although more or less could be inserted, depending on desired fullness of the skirt), sleeves, and a bodice lining of four panels. I planned to have the dress close in the front via lacing, although the same pattern could be used with a button enclosure.
Front panel with pressed and sewn bodice lining seam.
Next I pinned the bodice lining to the front and back panels of the dress. I carefully pressed and pinned the lining to the front two panels, and sewed them together. To make the seam lie even more flat, important for a fitted style dress like this, I snipped small triangles of fabric out of the seam, and then pressed it flat again. This made a smooth seam for the front two panels of the dress, where later lacing holes will be created.
After, I used a wide basting stitch to secure the lining in place as I worked on the rest of the dress. I hand sewed the bottom hem of the bodice lining using a simple whip stitch.
The basic construction of the dress then began. I pinned together and sewed the back panels, and attached them to the front panels with basted lining at the shoulder. I connected the two sides of the dress, the front and the back. At this point, I placed the garment such as it was on a mannequin and I tried to set and pin the gores in place. This part of the process also involved trying on the front and back panels in order to set the gores in place; where the gores are set can impact the ultimate fit of the garment. Once I was satisfied with the positioning of my gores, I pinned all into place and began sewing the dress itself together. Hems of the sleeves were completed via hand sewing.
Once aspect of this project that was a very new skill was learning the buttonhole stitch, and then using an awl to create approximately 75 lacing holes on each side of the cotehardie. I used a buttonhole stitch to separate and reinforce the lacing holes; this method requires hand sewing and does require some time investment, however, the completed lacing hoels are extremely strong/sturdy and can withstand force and repeated washings that metal eyelets may crumple to. The individual sewing of the lacing holes probably took the largest amount of time in total for this dress. However, when complete, I had a fitted cotehardie and a working pattern for more!