A 16th century outfit for a four year old girl

Made in 2008

 I made this outfit, which consists of a kirtle that is possible to wear as a dress by itself and an gown to be worn over it for my daughter Maja who was then four years old.

The innermost layer is a linen shift which was made by my sister and modified by me - such as adding a drawstring at the neckline since it was so big that it fell of her shoulders. In this image she has her braids pinned on top of her head, something I didn't manage to do for court in Visby, where the photos of the finished gown are taken - putting a family of five into court clothing in less than an hour is an interesting task. Especially when four of them are wearing 16th century outfits. 

 The kirtle is made from a cotton/silk satin. The bottom weave is cotton and the floating top threads which gives the satin surface are from silk. Though cotton was fairly rare in period the method: to use a cheaper fibre, then probably linen, for the bottom weave and silk for the visible threads was common in period - it was a way for other than the very rich to have access to silk fabrics.

The main inspiration for the look are Italian 16th century paintings of children, but bodices without points can be seen on portraits of small children from other countries too. I made the bodice pattern after a well-fitting modern denim dress. It is lined with linen and (obviously) laced in the back with a silk lucet cord I made from yarn (I) dyed with madder and cochineal. I was contemplating side-back lacing, like on some Italian paintings ), but decided to make a simpler solution.
The square neck is decorated with gold lace and "pearls".

The skirt pieces are angled so that they are wider at the hem and pleated to the bodice. There is a tuck which can be let down to make the dress longer, though I'm not sure if the bodice would fit then. The skirt is unlined.
 The sleeves are made free-hand, that's how I make most of my sleeve patterns: I measure the size of the armscye and the length of the arm and then I just draw it - I consider this my only superpower. The sleeves are more decorated than the bodice, since they are visible also when a gown is worn over the kirtle. To decorate sleeves with horizontal rows of trim was very common in period and can be found both on portraits and in the form of preserved garments - on this dress I've used two different type of gold trim: the same lace as at the neck and a gold cord; I didn't have that much of the gold lace, which I bought in 1993.
The sleeves are tied to the bodice with wide taffeta ribbons, making the ties a decorative element. The inspiration for this was partly the pink 17th century stays in the V&A, at least the way they were "finished" in the edges were inspired by it, but I know I've seen ties like this somewhere else too, from the right time period.
I did use metallic yarn wrapped around the ribbons and not metal tubes as on the V&A stays, but I think it looks a little alike. In any case it's away to trim the shoulders that doesn't interfere with the dress being worn under another gown, which is important in this case. The sleeves are lined with a cream coloured thin slubby silk which I happen to have a lot of.

The green gown is based on the one worn by the six year old Countess Katarina zur Lippe, which can be found on pages 105-106 in Janet Arnold's Patterns of fashion, ca 1560-1620, though there are obvious differences in choice of materials and trim.
It is hand sewn from a rather thin, lightly fulled, green wool tabby. The bodice is lined with hand woven linen for stability, while the skirt is lined with a thin dark grey worsted tabby and the hanging sleeves with berry red silk habotai. The trim is common rayon velvet ribbon; I used almost ten metres on this project.

The gown closes with hooks and eyes, not buttons, though it may look so - the buttons and bows are sewn to one side of the front opening, just as on the little countess' gown. There are also buttons sewn between the shoulder tabs, though no bows, because I used up every centimetre I had of the green satin ribbon I bought seven years ago and didn't want to go out and see if I could find more of it. It may still be done though.

The hat was made using materials I had at home. The brim is stiffened with remnants of a plastic covered table cloth while the crown gets it's body from a layer of thicker wool fabric. It's lined with the same silk habotai as the hanging sleeves and trimmed with a little this and that, which I happened to have at home. I'm not totally happy with it, the brim is a little uneven, but she will have grown out of it long before next summer and then I'll use the decorations for some other project and throw away the rest. I just don't make hats often enough to remember in what order to do things.

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