I am an author of historical fiction. My latest book, Honddu Vale, is set in sixteenth-century Wales. I thought it would be fun to wear an historical costume for the launch and other promotional events. I pride myself in historical authenticity in my writing, but I did take advantage of the sewing machine for seams that don’t show in the finished dress. This blog shares what worked and what didn’t work for me. I hope it will be helpful to you creating your own sixteenth century gown
My characters are low-level gentry, not courtiers. The Simplicity 2589 pattern is way fancier than I wanted, but in the end, I decided that the step-by-step instructions would take some of the guesswork out of the project.
I started with undergarments. These really are necessary to give the desired look, as it says on the pattern package. I did not use the printed pattern for these. The Tudor Costume Page(TTCP) is designed for Tudor re-creations at Kentwell Hall in England, but the time period was perfect for my book set in 1540. She gives excellent, easy-to-follow instructions.
Back to the store for another length of cotton. Whipped up in an evening, this one had straight sleeves. I used the neckline of Simplicity 2589 to cut the shift neckline. It was huge and fell off my shoulders in a way that made me think of indecent romance novels, but under the finished gown, it worked perfectly. It doesn’t show, but it preserves my gown from perspiration if I get nervous making a speech or experience one of those warm moments that women my age experience. I used the machine for side seams, but hand stitched the neck, cuffs, and hem for authenticity even though my dresser and I will be the only ones to see.
My first attempt at a bum role was too fat. I looked more eighteenth century (Mozart and Marie Antoinette) than sixteenth. Three inches in circumference worked nicely. Made from a leftover length of cotton from my shift with ties made of strips of the same.
I am small-chested, and have skipped the under bodice for now. The lacing of the gown is enough to, ahem, hold me in place. See part two for my experience with the gown itself.