Clothes · Projects

Going Overboard with an Overdress

If you read my “Designing my first medieval garment post”, you know that I decided I wanted to recreate the blue gown pictured below, with long hanging sleeves.

I knew that this project would be “extra”, but I didn’t know how extra, until I finished it. Or at least was cutting it out. Who knew that six yards of linen would not be enough? Not me.

My plan was to roughly follow this pattern using six yards of Royal Blue heavy weight linen 7.1oz per yard and to line it with six yards of bleached cotton linen blend that was 4.2 oz per yard.

Thankfully, I had already created a good bodice pattern from my supportive kirtle that I modified slightly. The Kirtle Pattern included laces that laced up the front, while the overdress would lace up the sides under the arms. So I adjusted my seam allowances to 1.5 inches on the sides, and a half inch up the front.

For some reason, I decided that my overdress should be fully lined, so I cut out the bodice front and back panels the same as I did for my Kirtle. Then I basted the cut blue pieces to the white lining linen and cut out copies of those as well. I sewed the two front panels together and the two back panels together, and did up the shoulder seam. And suddenly came the hard part.

When I first saw the pattern above I thought, WOW a half circle would be so easy…. but it wasn’t. After cutting out the bodice panels, I had roughly four yards left, but I needed a circle with a 45 inch radius. My fabric was about 50 inches wide after shrinking. A half circle with a 90 inch diameter required about 2.5 yards. but I only had 4! SO I had to work some magic.

Instead of cutting out two half circles, I ended up piecing the fabric together. I folded the fabric in half and cut out the largest pieces first 1+2. And then cutting the smaller pieces. I ended up piecing a corner of the curve (5) because I just did not have enough fabric to do it!

Cutting out the half circles diagram

The moral of this story is to buy more fabric than you think you need. OR ELSE.

After I cut the blue layer, I laid the blue pieces on top of the white and cut out the white as well. I had to do additional piecing to make it work, but because the white wouldn’t show, I figured it would be fine. I then sewed up the seams on the piecing pieces so that I had my half circles before I pad stitched the blue and lining circles together.

Then I very carefully pinned the half circles to my bodice pieces. This had to be done very exactly, so that both sides of the bodice would line up and the flair of the circle would hit me at the very best spot! I sewed these seams, and what had been a large wad of fabric on my bedroom floor was beginning to look alarmingly like a dress.

Before finishing the sides of the dress I needed to tackle the sleeve pattern. I have never made sleeves like these before, so luckily I found a great blog post about making long hanging sleeves on the web. Alas, I cannot find this blog post for the life of me. If I do find it I will update this blog.

And so, I drafted the above sleeve pattern. The seam runs up the under arm like a modern sleeve, but it laces closed, so that I can have freedom to get in and out of this monstrocity. Obviously, the pattern above does not look very long, as I drafted the long bits to be straight down. I cut out the blue and white pieces as I did for the others and sewed them together along the long seams, so that I could turn them out and finish up the side laces, and the end.

A Close up of the underarm lacing on the sleeve.

I attached the sleeve to the dress, finished all my edges and then began the incredibly long and arduous process of felling all the seams. A project that alas, several months later, is still unfinished! But, you could never tell from the outside!

Excuse my silly post camping hair, and the wrinkles from three days of frolicking around a medieval war camp, but I am very happy with my dress!


In 2021, with the completion of my owl hood that can be read all about here, I had a a little extra time to have photos taken of this gown. I also completed some alterations of this gown, as I found it to be rather loose. I took it in at the center seam about an inch.


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