I thought a quick guide to the medieval styles of gown that can be made without any sewing skill or resources would be useful prior to giving more detailed posts on each style over the next week or so .
I have listed each with photos and difficulty level as some will need more fabric or trimmings than others .I have tried were possible to include as many images as possible ,though unfortunately as I can no longer sew I havent been able to create dress diaries for each style .
The easiest to make is a late medieval close sleeved style either the style below.Which is usually worn with a tall headdress
or a Borgia /Italian style with tie on sleeves.
The familiar typically medieval version also front laces so its easy to get on if you wont have anyone to help you dress,it needs no under wear other than your normal underwear and could be laced using either curtain cord or ribbon.
This a trained gown so uses more fabric and needs longer lengths to make this with actual fabric you will need around 5 to 6 metres ,you can easily also use curtains as that will save adding a hem but the curtains will need to be long enough to give you a long train at the back ,for me that needs around 50 inches as I am quite short .Alongside fabric you will a clubbing or evening wear boned bodice which is cut down to make it higher waisted ,something such as the one below by wit and wisdom top shop is ideal.
but it takes no special skills or equipment,I could usualy make a gown like this in a couple of days if its made using already hemmed curtains.
You will need curtains wide that when stitched together they make a skirt wide enough for you but also leave enough fabric to make close fitting sleeves and around half a metre at least to recover a bodice.
A fur collar can be added and this is easy to make either from a length of fake fur cut from a jacket or hat or a bought modern or vintage fur collar or scarf or a collar cut from a fake fur coat .A coat would also give you some cuffs as well by just cutting off the bottom of the coat sleeves
A non trained version like the one below takes less fabric or shorter curtains ,the curtain length only needs to be around the length from under your bust to the floor allowing for the height of shoes you will wear.The fur neckline here was made using a fur hat I cut the brim off and used it directly as it was already hemmed.the belt is a piece of jewelled trim but a plain leather belt could be used .This was made with vintage cotton velvet curtain sand the vintage fabric gave a lovely soft colour .It back laces and though you can get into it alone if you buy a very long piece of lacing cord or ribbon (three metres ) its a struggle to get your arms into the sleeves and the long length of cord will need pinning up inside the dress somewhere
The collar below was a modern fur scarf so needed no sewing,the”belt is some upholstery trim
The last style of high waisted late medieval gown is the fuller sleeved version ,this also just needs some curtains and an evening bodice or top with boning but it uses a lot more fabric so you will need very wide curtains or an extra two metres or more of fabric depending on how wide you want the sleeves to be
A slightly different version of the high waisted gown which takes a lot less time and uses much less fabric as you only need either very narrow pair of curtains or one wide curtain or three metres of fabric is the open fronted over gown,this is usually worn over another gown but can be worn over just a chemise which is a long nightdress type garment.The chemise is not hard to make and you can use a sheet but it is an extra layer to make.
The photo below shows a front lacing over gown worn with an under gown giving a fairy tale style dress which is similar to those seen in the Borgias ty series.An under gown is very easy to make as its just a long length of fabric with straps.
You could also made a fake under gown by sewing a long panel of fabric to the inner side of the dress and pulling it across them lacing up the over gown to keep it in place.This also uses much less fabric because you can use narrower curtains and if you find a second pair to use for the front it can look very impressive
The photo below shows a simple chemise ,its made by sewing one long piece of fabric together down its long edge using running stitch to gather it at one of the narrow eds so that its wide enough to go over your head but not too baggy at the front ,then you sew tow short tubes of fabric for sleeves which need to be at least 12 ins longer than your arms ,you sew these to the long tube and gather them at the top to make a neckline and at the bottom for cuffs ,if you use a sheet you wont need to sew the hem and by cutting the sleeves so the hem of the sheet is at cuff leave you wont need to sew cuffs either ,alternatively you can use a sheet and then use two pillow cases one for each arm so you dont even need to sew the sleeves edges together.
A variation of the under gown style is to make the same dress but so that it laces at the back then stitch up the back leaving just the bodice un sewn so you can lace up the dress that way,this avoids needing a chemise as you can just sew two pairs of sleeves from a bought blouse to the top of the dress but its harder to get into and though easy to make it needs tie on sleeves which can be hard to tie on if you dont have any help.
.Using different fabrics say from two sets of curtains or curtains and a cushion makes the gown more interesting and is not any harder.A wide set of curtains or around 4 metres of fabric is needed
The sleeves for the gown look like this when off and are easier than normal sleeves to make because they dont need to be stitched to the dress so dont need to be as carefully fitted.They are attached to the dress by adding three ties at the top of them and to the arms of the dress ,then just tied on
Other Medieval gowns
The style which takes the longest and if it has wide sleeves also takes the most time is the early medieval style,this doesn’t need a chemise or special underwear .The sleeveless version is fairly easy to get into but the long sleeved version will almost certainly need someone to lace you into it .
The inaccurate but easiest version is a bodice with skirt attached that has separate tight sleeves that are separate and can either be tacked on with a few stitches or with safety pins at the underarm part of the bodice or left loose as a kind of long fingerless style glove.
This takes the least time but is also the least accurate ,its very useful if you can only find a evening bodice which is strapless as you dont have to try to make any straps and work out the width of the arm holes.
A slightly less inaccurate version uses a piece of trim to attached the sleeves to ,this is tacked across the top of the bodice all the way around ,,or you could also use a length of fur .
An alternative version of this gown if you prefer not to make pull on sleeves and accuracy is not an issue uses two pieces of fabric attached to the neckline trim ,,in this case the fur this just dangles loose,if you use curtains you can cut this so that you use some of the curtain hem and edges cutting down your sewing time.It does need some kind of fake chemise sleeve underneath but you can cut two blouse sleeves out to sew on.The version below has a separate under skirt but it can just as easily be made like the others above with a close skirt.
If you find a bodice with straps and dont want to make sleeves were accuracy doesnt matter you can make this gown,which is just a covered bodice and tube of fabric for a skirt ,with again blouse sleeves sewn onto the bodice ,the cloak here is a curtain which was cut and shaped I will give cloak instructions in a further post.
This gown is just a Tudor gown minus its sleeves so you can use the cheats guide to making a Tudor gown to make this .
A more accurate tight sleeved low waisted gown.
If you can find a evening bodice with straps then you can make a slightly more accurate dress
An open skirted version looks even better ,but needs some extra fabric to make the under skirt ,either another set of curtains or some fabric ,you dont need to make a complete skirt just stitch a panel around the front and side of the dress ,though a skirt is better
The dress is being worn with a vintage fur cape ,but modern versions can be bought cheaply.The dress doesnt need trim around the side and bottom but to make it look authentic it does need a belt and neckline trim ,you can use pearls or necklace or upholstery trim or fur from a collar .
The full sleeves medieval gown.
This is not much more complicated than a basic gown but uses much more fabric each sleeve needs around an extra metre and theres more sewing time involved.
You make the basic, medieval sleeveless gown which uses the cheats Tudor gown bodice but some short sleeves then to these add long flowing sleeves.
The most complicated gown is the open fronted fuller sleeved dress,this needs shaped sleeves so is a little harder to make and needs an underskirt ,but the underskirt is simply a rectangle of fabric sewn long its long edge then gathered and stitched to the dress .
If you cant find a boned bodice to use for a dress it is possible to make a dress without one though it involves much more sewing and more fabric.
To make this gown ,you use a very long piece of fabric ,,long enough to go over your head and touch the floor front and back and touch your wrists either wide ,plus enough spare to make a length of fabric from shoulder level to the floor with spare for a train.I will write a short post on how to do this over the next month or so but basicaly you make the gown essentially by holding the fabric at above head height ,making an hole for your head ,the cutting the sleeves by holding it against you and cutting up the fabric .A very much easier way if you have help is to fold the fabric in half then lie on the floor with your arms slightly away from your body while a friend cuts the sleeves to shape and cuts it so the sleeve fabric makes the bodice shape more fitted. To make it more medieval looking you then sew a upside down v shaped piece to the back.Then add a fur collar and a belt ,you need a sturdy leather belt buckled tightly at under bust level.
Unfortunately I dont have a clearer photo of this style of gown but I will post better view on the how to make it post as I will of course have the made gown for those.
Other gowns and outfits LOTR ,fairytale ,fantasy and LARP
The Lord of the Rings outfit below can be made easily and very quickly but to look good will need some trim bought either from ebay or fabric /curtain shops,they are useful if you dont have a bodice or curtains and your budget isquite low as you can use just a metre of fabric ,,or less for a strapless version and an old sheet (unfortunately the outfit below didnt fit the mannequin very well but it is a good clear view of the design.
Both outfits need a chemise ,the white under gown but that can be made cheaply and quickly using an old sheet cut into three pieces one long two narrower and shorter for sleeves
a more complicated version will take longer but is not much more difficult
The Lord of the Rings gown
Based on a hybrid Galadriel and Arywn outfit ,this is essentially a much loosely version of the sleeveless under gown made with floaty fabric .It can be made wither sleeveless
or with long floaty sleeves added ,it needs a cloak to look its best ,I will give cloak instructions in a later post and add a link but a simple cloak can be made using the Victorian cheats guide instructions.
Early medieval layered outfits
These are handy if you cant buy a bodice or want something that looks very early medieval ,Viking ,Saxon etc or for nativity plays.the same layers also work for men .
These need a lot more sewing time as theres several layers at least two a chemise and tabard but a third mantle makes the outfit look much better ,none are hard to make and are just rectangles of fabric sewn assorted ways ,the chemise needs a little more skill if you want it fitted or with narrow sleeves or if your likely to show it alone but otherwise it can be made in three easy pieces like the others .The version below is made like the medieval fitted gown but had panels added at the waist instead of the shoulder level .
The tabard layer ,this version has sleeves but the simple version is a rectange of fabric you fold double hold next to you cut a hole for your head and leave open at the sides
This is a rectangle of fabric folded so theres a wide piece for your back and two narrow pieces at the front they are then stitched along the top one narrow curtain or throw works fine .If you add a wide panel of fur and belt it in at the waist it is a very effective way to keep out the bad weather
The finished layers when worn
A cloak makes a nice extra layer .
I am unfortuantly not able to add more detailed guides now as I can sew but if you need more images to make a medieval gown in a hurry and accuracy isnt important you can always use the Tudor gown cheats guide
but make the bodice a bit lower ,make wider longer sleeves and add a medieval style “girdle or belt made from a long modern belt or piece of jewelled trim.