How to Drape a Medieval Dress Pattern!

How to Drape a Medieval Dress Pattern!

Learn how to make this! Good morning, I’m Morgan Donner and I
recently made a video showing how to draft a sewing pattern for a late 14th
century style dress but what if you are not a fan of measuring and geometry math-
formula type nonsense but you still want to make a really cute fitted gown like
this? Well today I’m gonna show you how to drape the pattern instead with the
help of my friend here Stephanie! Start out with a potato sack like garment
consisting of four rectangles sewn together at the sides and the shoulders.
It’s possible to do this kind of fitting by yourself but it’s about 10 million
times easier to do it with another person, plus it’s a lot more fun that way
you know? I need these shoulder seams to be a little closer to the neck here but
that won’t leave enough room for her arm comfortably so I’ll need to let the side
seam out a bit and then pin those shoulder seams a little more. Starting at
the sides, I’ll slowly pinch in seams until everything fits really snugly! If I
get a lot of excess fabric, then we can trim that away as needed. We can also
trim away some of the neckline too, which should make this a little bit more
comfortable for your person to wear, (whether the person is you or a friend) We’ll pin the back seam too, particularly
focusing on the dip in the small of the back, that’s where the most curve is
going to be! These uh…. ‘sleeves’ need to go! We’ll drape the actual sleeves as a
separate piece later on. Neaten up those side seems a bit real
quick. Now, you can handle the center front in
one of two ways: you can either leave it flat (you know, untouched) and move all of
the shaping to the sides, back, shoulders, and so on, or you can distribute the
shaping to the front as well! Both of those methods have their pros and cons,
but I generally lean towards curved front shaping, it just kind of works
better for me. To read a little bit more about that and to see a super-awesome
photo comparison between the two methods, check out “Le Cotte Simple” (which I’m probably mangling the pronunciation of!) I’ll leave
a link down below in the description box. Right now, we have a really close fit but
the goal is to continue tightening, particularly around the ribcage and
under bust, until you’ve reached a really super supportive level, kind of like the
best sports bra ever! I want to cut away the neckline since that will alter the
support of the garment. It’ll lose some of the structure and anchor that the
shoulders provide. So after double-checking all my seams and
retightening as needed, I’ll start marking out the seam lines with a pen.
Honestly, I could have gone a little bit tighter, maybe had her lie down to help
facilitate some of the pinning without gravity sort of working against us, you
know? But I didn’t and you’ll see that I end up needing to take in the sides a
little bit more later. For right now though, this is good enough to start out.
Let’s unpin the fabric and start transferring the pattern to paper.
Before we lose track of which piece is which, do make sure to label the four
panels, then finish separating all of the pieces. I’ll cut on the seam marks that we made
a moment ago, so that we can trace around the fabric. If you have a tracing wheel
and some fabric carbon paper stuff, you could just simply trace through the seam
marks instead of cutting them off, if that’s more your style. I’ve put both of
the front pieces together one on top of the other, and you can see that there are
slight differences between the two pieces – they are not perfectly identical!
So we’ll try and average out the two lines to get the sort of best average
pattern. One way you can do that is by folding the longer edge over to meet the
shorter, which should make the the folded edge here the approximate halfway point.
Or if your fabric will permit, you can sort of just draw through the material,
making little marks on the paper pattern below it, then just connect the dots, easy
peasy! I have the seam line drawn, but I still
need seam allowance since we cut that away right? Looks like we decided to go
with half-inch today. Cut the paper out. Much thanks to Stephanie for lending an
extra hand here! Sewing goes so much faster when you have
help! Repeat that whole thing for the back left and right pieces. If you
have a noticeable difference between your left and right side of the body then
you might consider just leaving the four pieces as separate patterns, rather than
trying to average them out to just two. Definitely something to consider, on a
person by person basis. Do whatever you think will fit you the best!
Both the patterns are drawn and labeled. I’ll true up the seams a little bit and
make the side a little longer here to match the front side, then I can cut that
back piece out. Time to make the first mock-up! I have some tight weave, no-stretch fabric and we’ll cut out our four bodice pieces…. pin the back seam… pin the side seams…. and then pin the shoulders! Sew up all of the pinned seams
and give it a try on! Well…. it’s uh… it’s a little big, that simply will not do! So let’s go ahead and take out the side seams a smidge. There we go, much better!
To make the sleeves, I’m just gonna start draping fabric over her arm and pinning
it tight. Cut the excess fabric off after the pins, and I think I want this sleeve
to be a back seamed sleeve, so I’m gonna rotate it up from under the arm and pin
it in place to the shoulder of the tunic. Remove excess seam allowance as needed. I asked her to move around and see how the
sleeve felt, and we found there was a bit of tightness around the middle of the
forearm, so we moved the pins a little looser in that area. Remove the sleeve
and once it’s flat on the table I can really easily mark the pin that seam
line. Remove all the pins and now you can see how we ended up with a beautiful S
shaped sleeve head, which is exactly what we want!
Perfect! I’ve marked half an inch away from the seam, (which is our seam
allowance for this project) and trimmed away the excess. Sew up the sleeve seam and
then set the sleeve into the armscye. Don’t forget that the sleeve needs to go
to the middle of the back, not where the side seam is,
like a lot of modern garment sleeves. Try on that sewn sleeve, and check the fit of the garment,
especially around the armscye. It looks to me like the upper arm could be a
little slimmer, while the lower arm is maybe a bit too tight still. I’m trying to shove, honestly, way too much sleeve, into not enough bodice, so we’ll need to
fix that on the pattern too. Whenever I make the bicep narrower, that’ll help with this process. The sleeves can be cut to a attractive and pretty length and shape, We’re going for a sort of bell-shaped cuff like you see in various medieval illuminations. Remove the sleeve, and seam rip it back
open so that we can trace the shape on to pattern paper. We need to make the bicep a little smaller and the forearm a little bigger. I’m also evening out the sleeve head, so that it’s a little smoother and maybe a
tiny bit more shallow. I like to put little X’s on the lines that I don’t want to cut later on, it’s something to help me remember which are good lines and
which are bad lines. We’re all done with these alterations so let’s go ahead and cut out the sleeve pattern. We made a slight change to the waist size earlier,
so we’ll need to make sure we’ve remembered to transfer that change to the
paper pattern as well. I want to alter where the the sleeve seam starts, so I’ll
tape the front and back pieces together at the shoulder. (Although, if I had been
paying attention, I would have taped the actual shoulder seams together, instead
of including the seam allowance, but whatever.) Anyways I’m cutting away the
front of the armscye and transferring that piece to the corresponding spot on
the sleeve itself, because I don’t actually want to lose any length or size
in this area, I just want to sort of shift where that seam is! Now my sleeve pattern isn’t exactly pretty anymore but it works. All the changes are done, so
let’s make a second mock-up! The truth is, I’m really not a particularly
talented pattern Drafter or Draper, I just make like, a hundred mock-ups, until
I like how things fit. So that’s uh… the ‘secret to my success’! Just keep trying until things finally work! The second mock-up is looking pretty
good! I think I’m going to end the video here but in actual practice, I would suggest at this point to wear the mock up around the house for several hours
and don’t just sit around! Really move in it! Maybe do some laundry, some dancing, or toss on a coat and go do some errands. Kind of like new shoes, a mock up might
feel fine for a few minutes, but once you’ve worn it for a few hours
you might start noticing where it pinches or rubs uncomfortably. This
process will hopefully alert you to any changes you might want to make to the
pattern before you start cutting into your actual dress fabric! Are you going to
have a little sewing party of your own and try draping a medieval-style kirtle
pattern? If you do, show me your mock-ups!! I would super love to see them! Tag me on
instagram @MorganDonner! Oodles of thanks again to my awesome friend Stephanie, check out her podcast “Mohr Please”, which she hosts with her sister (who you might recognize as Baroness Aleanora, from ASK THE BARONESS!) Links to all that below! Have a great night everyone, and happy sewing!

35 Replies to “How to Drape a Medieval Dress Pattern!”

  1. About how much room between the pinned seams and the body would you recommend to leave? Or should the fabric be snug against the body as if it were the finished garment?

  2. can you please show us how to add bell sleeves, or long sleeves seen in victorian era paintings of medieval times? I plan on creating a dress based off of the Edmund Blair Leighton paintings. But I find the sleeves difficult to create or to find resources.

  3. Love your videos, as always. You inspired me to sew for the first time! I made a 1520's style French hood, last week. I'm so pleased with it <3

  4. Your videos are terrific (it doesn't hurt that you have a lovely voice)!

    I've sometimes wondered, which came first, drafting or draping. By doing no research at all, I think that the medieval dresses were probably a combo of drafted and draped. Part of the reason I think this is that I learned to sew from my Korean aunties (in the 1960s and 1970s). They didn't use patterns, they just designed something or looked for images that were similar to copy. Then they drafted, using string for measurements and a piece of chalk to draw directly on the fabric. I don't remember the sequence now but each measurement was marked by a knot in the string and the measurements always followed a specific sequence. Once they'd drafted the pattern onto the fabric, they cut it out, basted it together by hand and tried on.

    Do you happen to have any ideas as to what the medieval method(s) actually were? Come to think of it, I bet there wasn't a universal method, each seamstress or each area probably had their own techniques that they learned from each other…

  5. I am looking to start a dress for my girlfriend based off of the Moy Gown, a 14th century dress. Would this be anything like the Kirtle you did a video for? here is a link

  6. Really great! I'm wondering what sort of fabric the second mock-up was made of? It looks like wool, but isn't that too good a fabric to be just a mock up?

  7. Very interesting! And well done to Stephanie, she was a fantastic Living Mannequin! As long as you get to where you want to be, it's all good. Practice makes Perfect.

  8. I seriously need to invest in some mock-up fabric! all the fabric i have i want to use is for the final product (and they're quite expensive). i'm so apprehensive that i end up just hoarding the nice fabric so that they're never used. do you usually end up in the sales/clearance racks for your mock-up fabric?

  9. When did fitted sleeves arrive in mediaeval dresses? I like the Norman style overdress which is sort of calf length worn over an underdress which is ankle length but can't see in the images whether the sleeves are part of the body or fitted separately. I find this style is practical enough to wear as mundane as well as SCA.

  10. No midieval mock ups, however we are all getting together in January to make some regency inspired outfits for a local Cotillian!

  11. Would love to see something on underarm gussets and fitting gores! Thank you. When I did get fitted for the bodice on my GFD that was fun and nerve wracking experience.

  12. It’s so interesting to see how patterns draped like this end up looking (as opposed to standard size patterns).
    I wish, I had someone to do this with me! I would love a pattern that’s actually draped on my body.

  13. Did you also make the little blue dress you were wearing?! We have similar body shapes and I think it looks lovely and flattering. Would love a tutorial if you did!

  14. The first version which you said was to big seemed fine to me and the second to tight is there a reason why it has to be this tight?

  15. as a person with a very asymmetrical body, this is the only way I've found to try and draft a pattern successfully.

  16. Let me just say that aside from this video being super helpful, your friend is really the star of the video because she has the best facial expressions I have ever seen 😂😂

  17. Brilliant! I remember doing something like this when I started reenactment. Great video! Easy to understand.

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