Wednesday 26 March 2014

Pre-Raphaelite Medieval-ish Dress

Many years ago, at the beginning of my living history days, I made a dress inspired by medieval ones. Well, it was quite a bit inspired by pre-Raphaelite and fantasy takes on the Middle Ages as well – it was made to be used at the premiere of The Return of the King after all.

It is an interesting mix of period construction (wool fabric; more or less straight panels for the front and back with all shaping in the side and back seams; width given by set in gores; hand stitching; hand made eyelets; felled seams) and not so period elements (a combination of cotton and linen thread; embroidery on a dress style that usually had none, with the embroidery design inspired from the margin of a manuscript – and made in linen, and, what irks me most; cross lacing at the back) that reflects the stage I was at then, having gained some knowledge, but still letting myself be way too influenced by make believe. Still, it’s a very pretty dress I think, worthy of a bit of recognition.

Even when the dress was new the sleeves were a bit too tight, making bending the arms uncomfortable. Several years ago I took them of intending to make them wider, but never got round to it. Now, finally, I made the changes by putting in a gusset in each sleeve seam – luckily I had some of the dress fabric left. Thus, this UFO/Make Do and Mend-dress was done in good time for the Fairytale challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly. 

The dress is still too small for me (my figure has changed quite a bit since becoming a mother) so I plan to sell the dress to someone who might give it a proper life – there are some very high quality LARPs and LARPers here in Sweden, and this dress might be perfect in a fantasy lady’s wardrobe. 

It is modelled by my cousin M, for whose help I’m very grateful, as I never had decent pictures of the dress before. 

We were both pleased with how her hair came out as well (especially the fact that her fringe did not show at all) – not very medieval to be sure, but good for the “1911-goes-medieval-Sleeping-Beauty”or pre-Raphaelite look I had in mind. 

The Challenge: #6 Fairytale
Fabric: Wool
Pattern: none, draped my own
Year: “1911 goes medieval” 
Notions: Cotton and linen thread
How historically accurate is it? As a medieval-ish dress – not very much as it’s a blend of period and fantasy. As a 1911 try at medieval – too period correct; it would probably have been constructed differently at that time.
Hours to complete: For the changes I made, maybe two or three?
First worn: Since changed - for the pictures
Total cost: none at this time as everything was in my stash


  1. You should give it to your cousin, she really wears it very well, and her hair color match the color of the dress.

    I like very much the colors, and the embroidery is magnificent.

    clap clap clap !

  2. Thank you!

    I'm afraid it doesn't fit her perfectly, as she's on a slightly larger scale than me (who is rather short with a narrower ribcage): the lacing gapes a bit and the skirt is too short.... I had to take the pictures from very carefully determined angles so it wouldn't show ;)

  3. Beautiful, Sarah. I love the embroidery. :)

  4. Ever since you first posted about the existence of this dress (for your wedding), I've been interested in it. Basically, sometime, I'd like to invent my own fantasy-mediaeval style, using some elements from true mediaeval clothing and other made-up or gathered-randomly ideas. I don't think that fantasy needs to be historically accurate, but then, if you're really used to the reasons behind it maybe it would matter more.

    Anyways, I think it's very beautiful. ^.^

    (Amorette B. from the Sewing Academy)

  5. I love the dress, but I'm totally wowed by the hairstyle! How on earth did you/she do it?

  6. Thank you all!

    Nora: I don't think fantasy have to be period either, but it should be plausible and believable, like *one* style seen on all the people from the same country and class of people, not seven completely different ones within the same court... :)

    Cassidy: I used a quite long, synthetic hair rat and wrapped her hair round that. A good shake of the head would destroy it completely, but it stayed put for the pictures. It's a style I've hoping to wear myself, but my hair does not co-operate as well as hers.

  7. Beautiful work! Please share how you get your hair to look so pretty. Thank you for all you share. Deborah

  8. I agree. I am peeved by that in movies and stories. One time a person describes something mediaeval with a combination of 18th century, and then some filmy Greek-inspired thing walks in, or some such situation. Hem, hem.

    Historical costuming gives good insight into how clothes work in different times and places.


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