Update on the Eleventh Century Overdress

Hi-ho, Kermit the frog here…. Wait, no, that’s a different show.  I’ve been working on the overdress for the Eleventh Century German costume, and it’s finally on the darned doll. Yay! It’s not finished, by any means, but it’s progressing…

Unhemmed dress, from front

Isn't it funny that *anything* on a doll immediately becomes cuter?

The bottom and sleeves aren’t hemmed yet (though I turned them up a bit to get an idea of the lengths), and I haven’t finished off the neckline. I’m thinking of going shorter on the overdress.

overdress, if shorter

This is closer to the proportions shown in Kohler's sketch. It shortens the body, but it makes the trailing underdress stand out more.

closeup of torso

The fit through the torso and hip is shockingly better than I thought it would be...

back lacing

The back, all laced shut - I've managed to invent some sort of crazy lacing pattern here....

This whole thing has gone together more slowly than I’d like, partly because I hand-felled all the seams (me = crazy + obsessive), and partly because there are 16 handworked eyelets back there.  I was experimenting a little with the sizing and the stitch density, trying to get a balance of approaching the right proportion and still being obviously a hand-worked eyelet. It’s not as easy as it sounds, you know? The largest of the is a hair over 1/8″ across – the stitching, not the hole!

full back fiew

The bottom of the U shaped opening disappears into a little pleat when laced down.

closeup of armscye seam

Here's the problem part... The sleeves aren't pulling all the way up to the shoulder!

Remember how I said I hand-felled all the little seam allowances? Yeah, well, that put too much bulk into the top of the sleeve. Bother. So, I’ll be un-felling the armscyes, and doing something else to finish them. I was worried this would happen, but I was more worried about fraying. Live and learn, right?

Now, the reason everything is obsessively finished is that I plan to hem everything to the outside of the dress, and cover the ugly with decorative bands. I was originally planning to use velveteen, because I have a green that would be lovely. But then I realized that I don’t know when people started using velvet in europe, and I thought I’d better check. It looks to be several hundred years after the eleventh century, so that’s out.

But then I thought, gee, you know, it would be really nice to get some weight onto the sleeves and the hem so they hang less like, well, doll clothes. Hey, internet, do you know anything about beading in early medieval Germany, perchance? And that’s when I stumbled across one of the most fabulous bits of total fashion-history geekiness I’ve seen in a long time: medievalbeads.com. For the record, this was the sort of google search that I figured would turn up weirdly scattered results. Instead, I got a direct hit to BEADWORK IN MEDIEVAL GERMANY. Well, neat! Finding out that there’s archeological evidence of glass manufacture in Germany going back to 900 AD is, for me, another Christmas. No joke. Finding out that Germans used a crazy-specific, not-seen-anywhere-else system of couching glass beads onto animal parchment was a-MAY-ZIIIIIING! That’s the sort of thing that leaves me bouncing around the house trying to come up with any material that will mimic a parchment ground at doll sizes. There was never any question in my little head as to wether or not I was going to try this!

So, I need a thin (ideally semi-aligned) fibrous base that’s thin enough to not stiffen the hems, yet tough enough to support the beads. So far, light-weight pellon and used dry-sheets are the front-runners in my brain….

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