Tiny Human and the Sleeves of Doom

Ok. Where were we. March-ish?

Right, well in the intervening time I have: finished all my classwork for my master’s, done all of the research AND written up my dissertation, gotten a job (ok, internship, but paid), moved countries (again), and packed most of my reenactment kit into a box that I will see again around the end of November, at the earliest. And, while that gear is the newest (and therefore best constructed/most accurate) clothing I have made, it is
a) in a box and
b) really not accustomed to the reenactment climate in California, where all of our events are outside and approximately 1098998º

So, in preparation for the First Event Back In Years, I needed to finish something else.

Ages and ages ago I made a post about Projects I will probably never make, and included in that was a Florentine 1520s dress in a blue-black linen crepe with big sleeves and pretty flowered buttons and I went on and on about how it wasn’t going to happen andddddddddddddd

well shortly after that I realized that my planned internship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art would allow me to possibly go to Pennsic, and even if I didn’t make it there I would definitely be back in hot places over the summer to go to events, and honestly making a warm weather dress was probably not that bad of an idea. Plus there was only 4m of the fabric left, and I really liked that fabric.

{18-month-long hiatus brought to you by COVID and the fact that I left this in a box in CA when I went back to the UK in September of 2020}

I then encountered a problem that existed really a lot while I was in the UK– where to find the equivalent of materials I wanted from the US. Just buying them and paying shipping is, uh, quite costly, and not really an option in a lot of circumstances. I had really liked the coarse, stiff linen I used for support layers in the original Avoiding heat stroke dress, but that was from fabrics-store and therefore not really available in the UK. The fact that it was heavy but loosely woven meant it wasn’t too hot, and while it was sturdy it wasn’t as stiff as the linen collar canvas I’ve started using for more tailored bodices. But I had no idea where to find an alternative.

After a lot of digging I found something labeled “heavy weight white linen” on a discount fabrics place in the UK, figured how bad could white linen be, and bought some. As it turns out it was actually quite nice….. but more the weight I’d make a shirt from, not support a fairly structured bodice.

Now in the last couple of years I have bonded with Master Brann of Matsukaze Workshops, and besides being a very good historical tailor, he is a Bad Influence and I entirely blame him for the solution that I would use two layers of this linen, padstitched together, and assume that would be the right amount of support.

Do not befriend tailors, readers, or bad things will happen and you’ll start getting an obsession with Edwardian proportional drafting guides and looking at buying gravity-feed irons. Just don’t.

So I cut the bodice pieces out double and sewed them flat on a tabletop, like we do in conservation, and at the end I was quite surprised and glad that I had because….. this happened.


That’s almost 1cm of creep from the bottom layer, just from fabric generally being an Agent of Chaos and stretching and bubbling and moving around. Ok, fine, tailor friends, you are right.

I ended up only using the crepe by itself for the skirt, and backed it with more lightweight linen (this time only one layer) for the sleeves and cuffs, to keep the floofy sleeves of this style from getting too deflated. My method to do so was…..unconventional, but, you know, use what you have available!

A big part of this project ended up being controlling this crepe, because it is very drapey and soft and lovely but it also crumples like you would not believe. I did a lot of basting-style padstitching and made sure to finish all the inside seams very well so that it didn’t fray absolutely everywhere.

Rookie mistake– remember to measure things like cuffs OVER YOUR UNDERGARMENTS, particularly if said undergarments are, well, voluminous, or you may come to some issues.

I had to expand the button loops a couple of times and I still couldn’t close all of them as intended. It made the cuffs sit a little wonky, but the cuffs in the portraits sit a little wonky, too, and so I think it’s probably fine. Also I hate doing button-hole stitched loops, next time I’m just braiding the silk thread first and making loops from that. Faster, neater, and everyone is happy.

The great thing about this dress is it matched with undergarments that I already had, so I just needed to hairtape my braids with some matching ribbons and I was good to go! I got a lot of complements at Mists Coronet and had a really lovely time seeing all the people I’d missed since January 2020. And I didn’t overheat, so job well done in the end!

(lovely featured image courtesy of Compass Star Photography, aka Mistress Ghislaine. I got…..er…..volunteered into retaining for Their Majesties, so if you are wondering if I am standing behind the thrones of the West in that picture, yes. Yes I am. Not pictured: me holding the Royal Behbeh, both in matching navy-blue linen)

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