Drafting the Eleventh Century Overdress

marking up the hem

Measure the distance from the bottom of your sideline to your chemise hem. Keeping your ruler square to the curve of the chemise hem, mark a few ticks as a guide for the overdress hem.

squaring a ruler to a curve

I say "square to the curve" a lot. It means that, when I look at the center of my ruler, the two sides of the curve are identical.

I am fairly certain that there’s a good mathy sort of word for this situation. I am equally sure that my own terminology makes my sister the math major cringe a lotta bit. On the other hand, whatever intensely mathematical process we’re actually accomplishing with a clear ruler here, she’ll be able to use it as a real-world example for her students some day. Hopefully, that will help her forgive my abuse of basic geometric definitions….

drawing in the neckline

Draw in the front neckline. Really, it is that simple. ;)

Kohler’s diagram indicates that the neckline on the overdress is rounded, slightly less than 1″ wider than the neckline of the coat diagram I used for the chemise, and just under 1″ higher than it at the center front. Now, that’s all fine, but I put festive embroidery around the neckline of that silly little chemise, and I would like for it to show somewhat. I have no information on how accurate this choice may or may not be, as I have precisely one diagram that claims to be represent a dress of this era, and all the pictures I’ve seen have necklines rather swathed in veils and cloaks. This is a moment of vanity and artistic license. I have those. :)

beginning the back neckline

The back neckline (purple) is higher than the front neckline, and it has to hit the same point on the shoulder.

Since the front and back of the pattern are mostly the same, I’m drawing them together. This saves a lot of time. Also, it’s one of those crazy conventions that you see in very old patterns, so it’s worth getting familiar with!

drawing the back closure

The back laces to allow the dress to fit the figure more closely. Draw a vertical line down to waist level.

Kohler’s diagram indicates that the width of the closure is half the width of the neckline, and that the neckline is half the width of the top of the dress. My neckline is wider, so the I don’t think that proportion will work for me.

finishing the back

Finish the back with a curved line. It should meet the centerline of the pattern at about the same height as where the hip meets the skirt.

The dots, incidentally, are meaningless – I just put little dots or circles along any lacing edge to remind myself that, indeed, that’s where I mean to put the lacing. These aren’t spaced right or anything. It’s just a visual note.

Next… The Sleeve

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