Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Sleeveless Kirtle

Birth of St. John Baptist
Turin-Milano prayer book
Summer gets hot, and it's no secret that I can't take the heat. My solution is a little walk to the 15th century where sleeveless kirtles appear in a few works of art.

The Idea:
A sleeveless kirtle and short sleeve chemise that will be cooler to wear in the warmer temperatures.

The Materials:
Linen lots and lots of linen, red linen for the kirtle white hanky weight linen for the chemise.

For those of you that do not know the sad woes of Turin-Milan Hours the rough date for The Birth of St. John Baptist is somewhere in the second quarter of the 15th century, however this is just a portion of an illuminated manuscript first commissioned around 1405. There is no solid evidence to tell us who actually did this page, nor what year it was done as pages were added after this portion of the book had been sold.

Other Sources:
  • birth of Mary, 1480-1490, Austria (Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck) 
  • birth of Mary, 1493, Germany (Dom Mariae Heimsuchung, Augsburg) 
  • birth of Rochus, 1475-1485, Germany (St. Lorenz, N├╝rnberg) 
  • 'Berner Chronik' or 'Schillingchronik', Diebold Schilling the elder, 1474-83, Switzerland 
  • 'Merkur und seine Kinder', after 1489, Housebook Master of castle Wolfegg, South Germany
Birth of Rochus even shows coloured sleeves with a sleeveless kirtle, shows the possibility of either coloured chemises or that wearing different coloured sleeves was fashionable.

I used the same 4 panel construction that I always use, including the slight tuck in the bust that makes it all fit like a glove. I also tried something different with this one in my lacing.  Keeping an even tension all the way down the front lacing is what keeps it from gapping. Personally this is a challenge for me, my weight varies like the weather and spending each spring letting out and taking in that 1/2 inch here and there isn't my idea of a good time. The other consideration I would like to note is that our cup size has increased a fair bit since the middle ages, if you want to know more ask me, or read up on sexual selection and sexual dimorphism then blame the all men.  At any rate enough ramblings ... I added two sets of white, poly coated hook and eyes just under the breast where I found the most gapping to have happened. So my suggestion is that if the ladies are heading south and you want to skip the bra, just slip in a little hook and eye and no more worries. (I found this worked so well I will be going back to add this to all my laced gowns)

  • As per usual all panel pieces were serged prior to assembly
  • each seam was pressed after it was stitched
  • the bottom hem was stitched by machine, but no other visible machine stitching
  • neck and lacing faces are all in a lovely contrasting blue linen
  • The eyelets were double faced in red poly coated to get the dress wearable faster and then all were covered with thread by hand later. 
  • lazy wins again as the lacing cord is simply embroidery floss twisted on itself to become a twine easy as pie. 

The Finished Product:

Finished Dress

Closeup of lacing

facings and covered eyelets

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