Blue linen underdress

Focus on neckline and cuff of new blue linen underdress

Focus on neckline and cuff of new blue linen underdress


In November I attended a Tavern night with the SCA group in Calgary, and found that my skirts (well, dresses) were just a bit too short for the cold weather. I made a mental note to explore the wearing of pants by women (there are stories in the Icelandic sagas that mention this..) and also to make a longer underdress that I could wear for indoor events like this.

I used some of the navy lightweight linen from that I got for less than $5.00/yard (before tax and shipping) – it was such a good price that I bought 25 yards of it, and have used it for a bunch of other things too… it washes up really nicely!

The pattern

I used the same kind of pattern I’ve used a few times before for general early-period underdresses.  I’ve used this same general pattern (with some variations) for my most recent brown linen underdress, a blue underdress (with an embellished hem), a white linen underdress (with embellished hem) and a pink & purple underdress, and the black linen underdress I blogged about last year.

My underdress pattern (not to scale)

My underdress pattern (not to scale) The center front and back are also on a fold – I missed marking that on the illustration above.

The dress doesn’t have shoulder seams, and the main body is a rectangle with a neck hole and slit cut in. The long bottom gores flow out from the waist for additional volume and hip-room, while the upper gore gives additional room for the bust and sleeve movement. Both gores start as rectangles, that are split at an angle – very fabric conservative. The sleeves started out as rectangles, but on Viking gowns sleeves have been shown as tapered, so that was an adjustment I made during construction.

The construction

Simply enough I tore my linen into the rectangles, and then cut the rectangles into the wedges as needed, plus cut the neckline and the front neck slit. I cut the main body fabric without shoulder seams, as this was the style from the 10th Century that I’m most interested in replicating. (For individuals who are very small, or who are using very wide fabric, this may not be the most efficient use of fabric.) I originally cut the sleeves as plain rectangles, knowing that I’d taper them later (although this isn’t an efficient use of  fabric.)

close up on trim and stitching of blue linen underdress

close up on trim and stitching of blue linen underdress

The neck slit was bound with a small scrap of linen, and the neckline was bound with a similar near-bias (but not true-bias) scrap leftover from other cuts.  The overall fabric waste was minimal.

I sewed the lower side gores to the upper side gores, and then the gores to the sleeves, and finally the gore-gore-sleeve-gore-gore combination to the sides of the main body piece. From there I tried on the dress, and tapered the sleeves so they’re quite slim fitted. (I can’t even roll them up on my forearms in fact!)

For the dress hem, I hung the dress up overnight to let any bias ‘hang out’ before doing the same; folding, pressing, and basting the hem. I had a much deeper hem on this dress than some of the others, so that the length of the dress will hang nicely, mostly for warmth and insulation. I ended up doing two rows of herringbone stitch, using linen yarn which is very close in the shade of the dress.

I wanted to make this dress a bit “richer” than the others I’ve made, so I used some scraps of grey-blue herringbone-weave silk for the cuffs, topped off with some bright blue tabby-weave silk, and then some inkle weaving. I pulled threads from the bright blue silk to do a simple line of stitching at the neck opening. The neck is trimmed with the same weaving, and also outlined in the blue silk.

Historical Sew Fortnightly (Monthly) 2015

The Challenge:February – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.

Fabric:100% linen for the garment. 100% silk for the trim, and 100% wool for the trim. The linen is navy blue, while the silks are in two different shades of blue and the trim is two shades of grey, off white, and red. Embroidery thread is in two blue shades, either 100% silk or 100% linen depending on where it is.

Pattern: self-drafted based off rectangular construction

Year: 10th Century Norse, Viking Age

Notions: Thread

How historically accurate is it? The overall shape is pretty good based on existing evidence. I’m guessing on the pattern – with adaptations from the current widely-held notion of what the shapes look like for my own figure and comfort. The apron dress could be wool instead of linen, but I LIKE the linen and think it will be more versatile while still being warm enough in the winter. Machine stitching on unseen seams, hand-stitching for visible stitching and embellishment.

Hours to complete:4-5 hours before embellishment or hemming I think.

First worn: I finished off the hem in time to wear to Montengarde 12th Night and Avacal Investiture January 17, 2015. I just wore it in the daytime though, while I was doing gate and student-judging at A&S, along with my black linen apron dress and my new red/black/white woven (from Inkling on Etsy) belt.

Total cost: I think I used about 4 or 5 yards at $4.98/yard + shipping & tax for the linen, I forget the cost of the linen thread, the silk was totally scraps – tiny pieces from my bin of leftover fabrics. The inkle weaving (from Inkling on Etsy) was $30.00, and I still have some left for another project.

3 comments on “Blue linen underdress

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