Tag Archives: sleeveless dress

Dress Diary: Building a German Working Class Dress 1580-1600

Nurmeburg 1586 Large  Adelheit German Working Class 1580

Adelheit German Working Class 1580 2   Adelheit German Working Class 1580 3

The Bodice:

The bodice was drafted using the shapes of my current pair of bodies because it fits well and is from the correct time frame.  I made a few changes to make it more appropriate: removed the tabs, raised the neckline and changed the angles of the straps.

Once that was done, I cut out one layer of linen canvas for the interlining, one layer of linen canvas for the lining, one layer of the orange medium weight linen for the fashion fabric, green linen for the guards and yellow linen for the guard piping.

I have been wanting to try out padstitching the layers of the bodice to see what effect they have in regards to stiffening the bodice.

Bodice Back: Padstitching on half only, see how it changes the drape of the fabric.



Bodice Front Half: The padstitching is smaller and tighter as it rounds closer to the front area in order to give more stiffness.


The bodice pieces are basted together and sewn on to see how the padstitching is working out.  In the following pictures, the left side is padded and the right side is not.  It seems that it is helping to smooth out the wrinkles at least a bit.  The waist is still a bit long in these pictures as well, so shortening it to my natural waist will help remove more wrinkles.

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Once the bodice was finished being padstiched, I sewed the lacing rings to the interlining layer and finished the edge by catch stitching the edge back to the layer.


I added a small strip of the canvas to the inside of the outer fabric to add additional stiffening and to alleviate some of the pulling that happens with the tension of the lacing rings.  The strip was first basted to the  edge of the fabric, then folded back and sewn into place.

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The interlining/lining layer was then placed within the lines of the fashion fabric and the edges of the outer layer were double folded over the inner layer and stitched down with a fell stitch.  I attached the side and shoulder seams by placing the right sides together and using a flat fell seam finish.  Finally I attached the guards.

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The Skirt:

The skirt was drafted using a gored method based on the Alcega Tailoring book drafts.  I used a two to one ratio for the waist as I have found that it allows enough to do knife pleats without adding too much fullness. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures…but I do plan on doing a post all about patterning skirts in the near future.  I did not line it because I wanted to keep this lightweight and cool.  It was stitched together by placing the right sides together, and sewn using a smallish running stitch.  The seam allowances were finished by folding over and secured with a whip stitch.  The hem was then done using my padded hem method detailed Here.

The guards were cut out as bias strips.  The green was cut as a four inch strip and the yellow was a 1.5 inch strip.  The yellow was folded in half, pressed and then sewn to each edge of the green.  Then I pressed it into a curve before applying it to the skirt.  I stitched it down in the seam line using a small fell stitch. Finally, the skirt top edge was finished by double folding and then attached to the bodice with a whip stitch.

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Sleeveless Dress

Thus far, my main interest in historic costume has been middle and upper class 16th century German. For the most part, I have always chosen to use set in sleeves because that is what is depicted for those classes. I also prefer to use wool or silk for my outer garments because it creates a gown that looks right. But…I do live in Southern California and there are times when it is just too miserably hot to be comfortable in even light weight wool. Also, my mentor recently gifted me with some very nice mid weight linen. So, I have decided to make a sleeveless linen gown as my next project. Luckily, the sleeveless style is not without historical precedence. I started a board of paintings and woodcuts and so far, from what I can tell, it looks to be an option for the working class and peasant women throughout the sixteenth cenntury. http:// – www.pinterest.com/lalenahutton/sleeveless-dress/?s=4&m=messenger. Many of the pictures show midwives and women working outside in these sleeveless gowns with their hemd sleeves rolled up out of the way. This first set of pictures represents 1510 to mid 1540’s image For the majority of pictures I have found, the bodice is the same color as the skirt and the wide neckline can be square or rounded. The dress straps are narrow, and in the artwork where the closure is visible, it does close in the front. The skirts tend to be ankle length or else they are girded up to keep them out of the way. Bodice and skirt guarding is a possibility, but not necessary,  as both are depicted. As I looked further into the century, more depictions of working class women show up in the seventies. These are representative of 1570’s to 1590’s image The silhouette is relatively similar, but the accessories and a few details have changed. The posture of the upper body seems to have changed to a more upright look. This could be due to a change in the way the bodice is cut and stiffened or it could just be artistic license. The artwork shows them wearing a partlet and the look is very reminiscent of the Flemish working class gown popularized by Drea Leed. All of these women wear an apron of some sort. The bodice is laced closed up the front, but unlike the Flemish dress, the skirt is not open in the front. Note: The woman on the far left is Westphalian, so her clothing is influenced by Dutch fashion, which is quite evident on her headwear.  But, it is a Germanic region, and aside from the accessories, the dress is so similar that I have chosen to include it. That wraps it up for my first post. I feel like I will most likely be making an ensemble from the last quarter of the century, since I really like the look. I have more research to do first, so keep posted for updates!