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
The shift is your basic old-fashioned undergarment that also serves as a nightdress. I made one following TTCP instructions with gathered sleeves to wear under the practice bodice I made. I used 2 ½ yards of white cotton since I wasn’t willing to spend the money on real linen. If you are full bodied, you might need more fabric to give the width you need. I was amazed at how simple it was.
I originally intended to use that bodice under my gentry gown as well, but the neck opening of the gown was so wide that the shift couldn’t help but show, and when I added full undersleeves to the gown, the full sleeves of the shift were too much.
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.
I tried to skip the farthingale, but the gown really did hang limp. Rather than make a new garment that wouldn’t show anyway, I grabbed an old petticoat that had been in the dress up bag since the 1980s and added casings into which I slid the boning for hoops. (Actually, since I was days away from the book launch, I tried the short cut of sliding the boning through a row of safety pins that I use for pinning quilts. It worked for that night, but poked out in odd places and twisted funny. It was hard to make it lie smoothly.)
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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