This gown didn't get so many wearings as I would have liked, but I soon got too fat for it. I did wear it a lot during Visby medieval week 2009 though.
It's really the perfect camping dress: thin wool that makes it cool and it's soft enough to lie down in the grass while still being a very pretty dress.
It is based on several drawings and paintings from 15th century Central Europe, such as these.
All of these images, except by the first, are made by an artist refered to as "The Master of the House Book" and this type of dress has therefore become known was a ”House book dress” in costuming circles.Myra's Costume Page has the best collection of images from this time and region - go there for more late 15th century German. goodness
The material in the dress is, as said, thin wool tabby. To keep the v-opening straight there is a very narrow strip of red inserted between the front seam and the lacing holes.
These photos were taken before I had finished the smocked shift I'm wearing in the top photos and I am obviously not properly dressed on other ways either, with glasses and a pony tail. But you can see the dress from the back and sides.
As you can see, the images show sleeves open in the back to show off the shift. This was an Italian fashion, which spread rapidly all over the German lands - not surprising, since parts of modern Italy were a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Other images on open sleeves in Central European dress from the end of the 15th century can be seen below:
Under the gown I wore this smock, which is a type that can be seen in many German portraits from the late 15th-early 16th century.
It is made from linen of course, and hand sewn - I make all my period underwear by hand, since I want strong seams that can take many washings.
The pattern used was taken from an early 17th century italian smock which can be found in Dorothy Burham's Cut my Cote. I've used modified versions of that pattern before, but this time I decided to use the same measurements and seam placement as the original (except body- and sleeve length, I wanted it to fit me.
I still think it's a bit strange to not have a seam where the underarm gussets are sewn to the body of the garment, but it worked out nice.
I also decided that I wanted some kind of decoration around the top. Smock was the obvious answer to that, since you can see quite few smocked shirts and smocks in German art from the period.
Since I haven't done that much smocking previously, just a few gores, I decided to go for the easiest type of smocking, which creates a pattern of lozenges.
It looked really nice when finished, but somehow it wasn't enough - I mean, every modern bumlerin/landsknecht woman (the term "kampfrau" is not period, the words used seem mostly to have been "bumlerin" or "slachterin") has that kind of smocking around the neck.
So something more was needed.
Ideally, I would have made the embroidery over the gathers from the beginning, but as I said I was a little insecure about my smocking technique. So what I did was to embroider little heart shapes on top of the smocking, limited in shape by the original smocking of course, so they're not really hearts, just heart-shaped. I used silk dyed with onion peels to get that golden yellow colour which is so popular in embroidery and other decorations on German smocks from the period.
The cap is just one of many options when it comes to late 15th century German, but I fell for it when I saw it in drawings like these.
I used scraps of my favourite red wool. They were roughly trapeziod so I ended up with this layout for the cap:
It is sewn together with silk buttonhole twist.
I have a suspicion that this really isn't the headdress of a truly respectable woman – it is a man's cap from the beginning and wearing the dress of the other gender was frowned upon and heavily chritized by the moralists. A married matron of my age would probably never have worn it, but I like it a lot.