How to Make a Simple Medieval Dress

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The Medieval Ages, also known as the Middle Ages, spanned almost a thousand years. This gives quite a few styles for you to select from to make a medieval dress. It's a good idea to choose a simple one that you can accessorise and easily modify for different events if you are role-playing. For those who are participating in a theatrical presentation or for the serious and dedicated role player, you may wish to be more detailed with your Middle Ages costume. Choose a dress design from a specific century, country, royal court or status: peasant, landowner, merchant, noble, royal.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Image of preferred dress style
  • Dress patterns
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Fabric
  • Embroidered and/or beaded trim

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  1. 1

    Choose a generic style. Use a commercial pattern so that you get a good fit for the medieval dress and then customise it for the character you are role-playing. Or, you can copy a dress you have already; allow an additional 2 inches for the seams. To add long draping sleeves at the wrist and a long train for dramatic Middle Ages costumes, buy patterns that have these components. Cut off the parts of the pattern that you want and tape them to your base pattern with easy-to-remove tape.

  2. 2

    Select fabric that is appropriate to the style of medieval dress and character that you are role-playing. For a peasant costume, use a coarse cotton underskirt with a virgin wool overdress. For a lady's dress, use rich silks and velvets with superfine linen underdresses.

  3. 3

    Make the underdress just like a petticoat, with short sleeves or long, depending on whether the style of dress you have chosen shows the sleeves and skirt.

  4. 4

    Wash the natural fabrics first in cold water and salt to fix the colour and allow for possible shrinkage. Dry and press the fabric before sewing the medieval dress. Send Middle Ages costumes to the dry cleaners if your role-playing requires a lot of beading and adornments, or if you used synthetics. This prevents undue stress and repairs if the clothing is damaged in the wash.

  5. 5

    Make the base medieval dress using a sewing machine. When adding embroidered or beaded trim around the neck and sleeves, sew by hand. The sewing machine could pull or bunch the fabric and look machine made. This may not be so obvious from stage, but it will be evident in role-playing.

  6. 6

    Adorn the medieval dress with a kirtle or girdle. These were long sashes that draped around the hips and down the front of the dress. They were often embroidered, very colourful, and were used at first to hold the dress skirt up or fasten things to you but became a very elegant part of the Middle Ages costume.

Tips and warnings

  • Add capes that are hooded, fur lined or very supple and reach to the floor. These can give extra colour and dynamics to Middle Ages costumes.
  • During the era of Eleanor of Aquitaine, white linen head scarves that also concealed the woman's breasts were essential parts of the medieval woman's dress for the nobility and gentry.
  • Jewellery, cloak pins, shoes and boots are all important final touches for role-playing, Make sure that you match your accessories with the fashion of the style of dress and period that you chose.
  • Be very careful of the quality of fabric that you choose. Avoid anything cheap or thin to prevent the seams from fraying or the dress ripping. Cheap fabric will not withstand the weight of the trim, the long draping sleeves or dress train and will most likely rip if the long skirts are stepped on.

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