The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200 -1500 PDF by Sarah Thursfield


The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200 -1500
By Sarah Thursfield

The medieval tailors assistant - making common garments

List of plates 7
Acknowledgements 8
Introduction 9
How to use the book 10
Part 1 The techniques
Preparation 13
Sources of information 13
Collecting information 13
Establishing the date for your outfit 13
Defining the wearer 15
Selecting your garments: visual inventory 15
Wearing your outfit 22
Care and storage 22
The personal pattern Block 23
Planning directly from personal measurements 23
Measurements 23
Modelling a bodice toile 23
Modelling a toile for a man 25
Modelling a toile for a woman 27
From toile to Block 29
Transferring the toile to paper; The intermediate
pattern; From intermediate pattern to Block 29
The sleeve Block 34
Trying out the sleeve with the bodice Block 37
Cutting the sleeve 38
Blocks for children 38
From Block to working pattern 39
Enlarging the Block for outer garments 40
Adapting the Block to add length,
width or fullness 40
Adapting the Block for long skirts 42
Making the working pattern for a garment 42
Methods 44
Hand or machine stitching? 44
Sewing stitches 44
Making up 46
Setting in simple sleeves 47
Finishing raw edges 48
Slits for fitchets, slashes for sleeves 49
Interlining (interfacing) 50
Interlining flat pieces 50
Lining 51
Lining close-fitting sleeves 51
Facings 51
Collars and cuffs 52
Stomachers 53
Working with fur 53
Fastenings 53
Lacing and eyelets 54
Garters 55
Buttons & buttonholes 55/58
Hooks and eyes 55
Decorations 59
Embroidery 59
Dagging 60
Small-wares & other techniques 61
Cords and laces 61
Tablet weaving 61
Netting 61
Knitting 61
Tassels 62
Mending 62
Materials 63
Wool 63
Choosing your material; Colours 63
Linen, canvas and cotton 64
Choosing your material; Colours 64
Silk 64
Choosing your silk 65
Buying fabrics 65
Materials to avoid; A note about selvedges 65
Fur 65
Choosing your fur 65
Threads 66
Choosing threads 66
Tools for demonstrating sewing 66
Part 2 The garments
Entries in bold type indicate patterns
Braies, shirts and smocks 61
Making and laundering 61
Materials 61
Cutting out 68
Sewing methods 68
Braies 69
The breech girdle 69
Long-legged braies 69
Short braies 70
Shirts and smocks 71
Planning and cutting 71
Shirt 71
Making up 72
Smock 72
Tapered sleeve 73
Neck finishes and collar 73
Cotes 75
Cotes and surcotes 16
Men’s cotes 76
Women’s cotes 76
Planning and cutting 77
Materials 77
Making up 77
Fastenings 78
Variations to the cote 78
Man’s basic cote 79
Woman’s finer cote 80
Neck styles 82
Shoulder and armholes fit 83
Transitional sleeve 83
Kirtles 84
The kirtle as ‘foundation’ garment 85
The kirtle as working dress 85
Planning and cutting 85
Materials 86
Making up 86
Fastenings 86
Basic kirtle 87
Flat-fronted kirtle 91
Doublets 93
The paltok; Doublet and hose; Points 94
Materials 95
Planning and cutting 95
Making up 95
Fastenings 96
Basic doublet 96
Fashionable doublet 100
Hose 104
Women’s hose 104
Men’s hose 104
Separate (stocking) hose; Joined hose 104
Footwear 105
Materials 105
Preparing your pattern 105
Separate hose with three foot styles 106
Joined hose 110
Making up separate and joined hose 111
Codpiece 113
Surcotes 115
Men’s surcotes 116
Women’s surcotes 116
Surcotes with sleeves; Sleeveless surcotes 116
Materials 117
Planning and cutting 118
Making up 119
Fastenings 119
Sleeved surcote 119
Woman’s fashionable surcote 120
Peaked sleeves 121
Sleeveless surcotes: three styles 122
Women’s open surcotes 125
Cotehardies 127
Men’s cotehardies 128
Women’s cotehardies 128
Materials 128
Planning, cutting and making up 129
Fastenings 129
Man’s cotehardie 130
Woman’s cotehardie 132
Gowns 135
Early gowns, Men’s gowns, Women’s gowns
Men’s gowns 136
Women’s gowns 137
Related garments; Head-wear 137
Materials and quantities 138
Planning 139
Cutting and making up 140
Fastenings 140
Early buttoned gown 141
Men’s early short gowns 144
Early fashionable gown 146
Men’s pleated gown 150
Woman’s flared gown 158
Woman’s fitted gown 162
Outer working garments 167
Overkirtles 168
Planning and making up 168
Materials 168
Men’s outer working garments 169
Surcote for working wear 169
Frock (or tunic) 169
Coat (or jerkin) 169
Overkirtle 170
Cloaks 173
Cloaks and mantles 174
Materials 174
Planning and cutting 174
Basic half-circle cloak 175
Necklines and fastenings 176
Maternity wear 178
Babies 178
Baby’s shirt 180
Infants 181
Boys 181
Girls 181
Accessories – tovs & games 181
Boy’s gown
Girls’ kirtle and gown
Men’s hats and caps
Cloth hats: three styles
Men’s hoods
Basic hood
Hood with front opening
Hoods as hats
Bag hat
Women’s linen head-dresses
Materials and making up
Tailed cap
Women’s cloth head-dresses
and hoods
Cloth veil
Open hoods: early and later styles
Round hoods: two styles
Black head-dress
‘Gable’ head-dress
Women’s fashionable head-dresses
Making up
Barbette and fillet
Frilled veil
Templers: early and fashionable
Cut-away caul for wide templers
Separate horns: broader and taller styles
Large horns: earlier and later styles
Henins and wired veil
Butterfly head-dress
Belts, purses and pouches
Materials and fittings
Gloves and mittens
Mitten and split mitten
Hand luggage
Suggested reading
Suppliers and information


During the years I have been making historical garments I have been especially drawn to the dress of the later middle ages. We can see in the contemporary images of dress, now our main source of information, the features which give the period such appeal – bright colours, flowing fabrics, the contrasting styles of simple working dress and the elaborate, sumptuous clothes of the nobility. But the images tell us little about how the clothes were made: evidence is limited compared with later periods, from which more garments and documents have been preserved.

So the challenge for the dressmaker today is how to recreate the ‘look’ of the period. I have tried to achieve this firstly by using visual sources like effigies and brasses, wall hangings, paintings, and illuminated manuscripts as models. Then, by applying experience of traditional sewing techniques and modern tailoring – and of course much experiment – I have prepared working patterns for a range of garments. I have aimed to achieve the look and fit of the time, in a way that is practicable for the modern sewer. As for the method, it is my own interpretation of the evidence I have seen. Others may interpret their sources differently, and further research may in time increase our limited knowledge. But many people have asked me for patterns and I believe this practical guide to the cut and construction of common garments will fill a need and perhaps stimulate enquiry. The book is intended for anyone wishing to reproduce historical dress, for re-enactment, displays, drama or personal use. It is assumed that the reader has a basic knowledge of dressmaking. The instructions throughout aim at the high standard of hand finishing appropriate for ‘living history’, but the reader may equally use modern techniques. The garments are presented, with brief notes on their historical background, in three main layers: underwear, main garments, and outer garments, for men, women and children. Head-wear and accessories are covered separately. Examples of the basic forms are included for each garment, and most are followed by their later or more elaborate styles. Initial guidance is given in How to use the book, and detailed instructions on techniques, planning and materials are provided and referred to throughout. Garments are drawn mainly from English and West European sources, though the selection could include only some of the many variations in style that existed.

Several types of illustration are used for each garment. They include drawings from historical sources, with modern style drawings to model the period look. Patterns, cutting layouts, and enlarged details then allow personal working patterns to be planned, cut and made up. Photographs show several finished garments and details of techniques. Readers new to historical dressmaking and re-enactment will find that the conditions and practice of tailoring were very different then from today. Clothes, like other possessions, were fewer and valuable. They would be painstakingly made, often by craftsmen, well maintained, and expected to last and be passed on. They were also important in reflecting the wearer’s status. The different idea of ‘fit’ and the different tailoring and sewing techniques, which were all part of the period look, are covered in the introductory chapters.

Take time if you can to explore the period and its dress. This will add to your enjoyment as you make the garments and will help you to qualify as a medieval tailor’s assistant!

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