A cheats guide to Medieval dresses ,how to make a medieval gown with no sewing experience

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 would like to be clear these are not entirely accurate, they are designed either for  obe off wvents ,a cheap firat rime re enactment outfit ,larp etc .The most accurage are the high waisted medieval gowns and the Borgia style gowns and thesevwith suitable fabrics ,velvets ,wools etc will look very  historically correct for all but strict re enactments .However  many other medieval gowns are surprisingly hard to make ,they have gores  or use a lot of fabric ,thetecis not as much choice in medieval fabrics as in later era’s so its harder to find xheap fabrics or suitable curtains .making accessories will give a more accurate feel to an outfit ,I have guides to veryc easy  and cheap Henins,(the tall pointy hats) Circlets etc ,they use cardboard and left over bits of fabric mcushion covers etc.

I have  listed each outfit 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.

borgia med gown

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.

medieval gown 3

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.

wit and wisdom bodice

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

leah blue gown

The collar below was a modern fur scarf so needed no sewing,the”belt is some upholstery trim

white queen gown

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

bluebells woods

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.

blue overdress

red overdress

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.

gold dress

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


leah and peter

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.

restoration chemises

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.

ivory borgia gown

.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


brown borgia gown

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.

medieval gown 2

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 .


back art

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.

cloak and green eowyn gown

back ren go



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

med black gown


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

Picture 7061

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.

back arwyn


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 .

boles 2


Other gowns.

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.

blue dress

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

drawstring chemsie

a more complicated version will take longer but is not much more difficult

eowyn chemis

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.


use galadriel

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

larp tunic

The mantle


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 .

cloak and green eowyn gown

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.





About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
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6 Responses to A cheats guide to Medieval dresses ,how to make a medieval gown with no sewing experience

  1. Helen says:

    Hi, have you any other photos /tips on how to make a quick, simple open fronted over dress worn over a chemise? Could I be made in 3 long pieces (1 back, 2 front) with lacing at both back and front to give it shape? Thanks, Helen.

    • Hi ,sorry I dont I didnt make many medieval outfits before I had to stop sewing ,I would use the over gown front lacing style and method but sew up the front almost to where the bodice laces or with it back to front so it back laces

  2. Katherine says:

    This was a fantastic article! I’ve just made a complete tudor gown with 2 types of sleeves and aprons (for the under skirt) and am working on my second and third dresses. Bed spreads of damask or other thick cloth have been fantastic to work with (from op shops) and covering a corset (again from op shops) is such an easy and smart way of doing it. THANK YOU

    • Hi
      Really glad you found them useful and thanks for letting me know ,its really encouraging to know they have helped and also that people enjoy making their outfits ,costumes are so wonderful to make and wear .I am sorry for the late reply I lost internet for a few weeks

  3. anneb0leyn says:

    Thank you for this article it really helps! 🙂

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