Wednesday, September 4, 2013

kid's garb blitz: Elizabethan Kirtle

As we head into the cooler months, it's the ideal time to update my kid's winter garb. They don't get to attend too many events that require warm clothing, since most winter events we take them to are indoors, but some fall events can be fairly chilly. October, in fact, is the perfect month to attend events in the Midrealm, since the sun is usually out, but the air is crisp and perfect for medieval layering.

My daughter was the most in need of cool-weather garb, so I decided to start with her. I've never been particular about the period I put her in, but I have tended to lean toward the later periods. I've always admired 16th century clothing, even if it's not something I'd create for myself, so I decided that her winter garb this year would be vaguely Elizabethan. Nothing overly fancy, mind you, but something that will layer nicely and suit her pre-schooler frame.

The first thing on the list was a kirtle. Unlike the 15th century kirtles I create for myself, hers is a sleeveless, waisted kirtle. I had plenty of my green-toned charcoal gray wool, which I also used to make a little boy's waffenrock some time ago (which my baby now wears), and enough brown linen left over from a pair of my husband's pants to do a lining on the bodice.

In order to get the pattern, I combined her measurements with a t-shirt that fits her well enough to get a toile together.

She's so cute when she knows I've got something for her to try on. She'd just finished dinner, so she's got pizza face.

I made some marks for adjustments to lower the front neckline a bit and make the straps a little narrower, then transferred the adjusted pattern to a couple sheets of paper to clean it up. The bodice is composed of three pieces, but the back pieces are mirrored.

I decided to combine machine sewing with hand sewing by first affixing the lining to each bodice panel (by machine), top stitching the inverted panels (also by machine), then sewing them together by hand like I would for an Elizabethan seam. I'm very pleased with the outcome, and I'm considering using this technique on my next dress. It just finishes everything so much better. It can easily all be done by hand as well.

After assembling the four panels of the skirt, and pleating it into place, I machine sewed the waist. Then I used an additional piece of linen to create a binding on the raw seam. first I top stitched the bottom of the binding onto the seam allowance, then I folded it under and hand stitched to the bodice lining, tacking it in place and out of the way.

Finally, I machine hemmed the bottom of the skirt using a wide hem allowance. Every dress she's outgrown thus far has been through height first, so I figured that leaving a wide hem that I could let out if needed wouldn't be a bad idea.

To help her get into it, I decided to leave the back seam open and utilize a lacing. This feature will also help it lasting her more than an event or two, since the lacing can be loosened up as needed if she grows in the chest. I created the eyelets with my eyelet awl and whip-stitching.

I had a short finger-loop braid lace made with black cotton embroidery floss that came from some other piece of outgrown kid's garb.

The skirt should have been a little fuller at the bottom, but she's not terribly inhibited by it. Since it's meant to be an underdress, though, not having a lot of fullness really isn't a disadvantage.

I already had an appropriate shirt from when my oldest was K's age, so that's already taken care of. A pair of knit tights will help keep her legs warm when she wears it to an event if needed, but I may also make a slip for her if it seems she needs it.

You can see more photos of the kirtle on Flickr!


  1. Fantastic kirtle! I love the style and your little girl looks too cute for words in it. I love the last and the third-to-last pictures especially. She is quite a beauty! The construction photos and photos of your pattern pieces are so helpful.

    1. She has truly blossomed in the past few months, and when she realized what I'd made for her, she was beyond excited. The photos really captured that- normally she doesn't "pose" for me like she did here!