Monday, 16 June 2008

Bishop nightdress or Mediaeval chemise?

My elder daughter has been studying the Middle Ages in Europe for the past semester (she is in year 8). This study unit culminates in a Mediaeval Day at school (today). The children are preparing a Mediaeval Feast, and are asked to dress in character, DD the elder is the queen. One of her assignments was on clothing of the period, and she found it very interesting. She has made most of her costume herself with a bit of pattern drafting help from me. She has made a surcot with fake fur trim (5m of horrid tracksuit fleece gone from the stash yay!), a headpiece, shoes and a cotharidie? overdress with a square neckline. She does not have time this morning to allow me to take photos of the full costume, as she is required to travel to school dressed in her regular uniform, but I will put some up tomorrow. The photo here is of my contribution - a smocked chemise.
Apparently there is some controversy regarding the raglan sleeves I have used - possibly only square sleevelines were used in Mediaeval times, but as the Romans could set in sleeves, I don't see why the Middle Ages should completely regress to a T style. Smocking was widely used by English peasantry by the 1300's , so we decided that a noble's dress could use this useful technique for the gathering. Really, we do not have to be too authentic for this costume day, and decided that a bishop nightie would make a pretty chemise for her costume! To my astonishment, despite my large collection of Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazines, I did not have a pattern for a bishop neckline in my daughter's size. The closest were a girl's size 10 in "The flower seller" and a women's size 10 in issue 33. I have made the women's size 10 previously, in a nightie for my Mum, so I know that this pattern is very large, more like a women's size 14. What I ended up doing was scaling up the girls size 10 to a girl's size 16 from the "flower seller" pattern, which runs true to the measurements printed in the magazine, although these are larger than general RTW girls sizes in Australia IMO. This pattern calls for doubling over the top hem, and pleating through the 2 layers in order to later use this layer as a casing for a drawstring neck. This seemed like a terrific idea until I tried to pleat through 2 layers of this fine, but very tightly woven cotton fabric. I broke 8 needles on 3 attempts, a new record I think, then decided to pleat in a single layer only and had no trouble at all. I have previously made "the flower seller" in batiste, girls size 7 and had no difficulty at all in pleating the two layers.
I made up the smocking and embroidery as I went along. I have smocked this with cable, then a cable wave combination followed by a 5 step trellis diamond pattern at the neck. I have graduated from deep pink, DMC 222, through DMC 223 to DMC 224, using 3 strands and substituting one strand of the lighter colour in each row. The increasing elasticity of these stitches allows the pleats to fan out at the neck and sit nicely. At the sleeves, I have repeated the cable wave combination over 2 rows, graduating through DMC 222 and DMC 223 in the same manner.
The front placket is faced with another layer of the same fabric. I have fastened the neck with a pewter rose button and thread loop, and embroidered the placket with a fanciful climbing pattern of bullion rosebuds and roses, in the same 3 shades of pink DMC thread,(and dull green for the vine and leaves) , using 2 strands. The vine is in stem stitch, with calyx in flystitch, leaves in detatched chain. I tried to pick colours that would have been available in natural dyes, but have undoubtedly cheated!
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Alexandra said...

Wow, how gorgeous! I think I'd wear it to bed and then stay up all night admiring the neckline.

Vicki said...

Beautiful smocking and embroidery as usual! My DD also had a medieval day at school. She went as a peasant and made a sack out of calico. She even rolled it around in the dirt to make it authentic. No beautiful costume like yours!

MaryPat R said...

Beautiful smocking and embroidery. Great idea to do double duty as both chemise and nightie.