In preparation for Avacal’s first Coronation, a small group of ladies decided that since so many of them had green dresses, that it would be nice to all wear them for part of the event. Of course, although I have green fabric for some Viking Age garb, I haven’t actually made it up – and other than a gown that I made in grade 11 (don’t even ask how many years ago that was!) I don’t recall having a single green period dress… (I have a few modern mundane dresses and other costume-kind of dresses in green.. just nothing for period.)
So… once I finished another project I wanted to have done for Coronation, I decided that it would be nice to have a green dress to add to the costume closet as well. I wasn’t super keen on making up the Viking Age garb though, and I wanted something less fitted, constrictive, and frankly time-consuming than re-making the Italian costume I recently did in green.
I recently pulled my sideless surcote (a grey knit with the appearance of wool, with real fur trim – recycled from tattered fur coats) and wore it to a tavern (on another day when I wasn’t feeling like going a’Viking) and decided to knock it off and make it up in a green. I didn’t have the fabric I wanted handy, so went shopping, and found some perfectly lovely fabric.
The fabric is from Reena’s Sari & Fabric store, and while it LOOKS like silk taffeta, it’s actually polyester. It was also only $6.oo/meter, which made it a much cheaper project than the silk I had been originally planning (at $45.00/meter regular price from Fabricland) I figured for something I’d have less than a week to pull together (while also needing to pack up for Coronation!) it might be better to spend less in case things didn’t work out.
The fabric is a bright emerald green shot with black, giving a really rich dark green – lovely! It’s very lightweight, but also has a nice crisp hand.
I also picked up some gold shot with blue fabric (the same polyester that looks like silk taffeta) for the reverse facings. The blue shot with gold gives a light turquoise colour (I also picked up a meter of pale green of the same fabric, thinking I’d use it for piping or something, but ended up not using it.)
The construction was pretty simple, a single front, two backs, and a large gore cut from the remainder of cutting the back out for the center back hem. The neck is bound with self bias, and the arm holes are reverse faced with the lighter turquoise fabric, 2″ wide. The hem is faced with self-fabric, cut on the bias 6″ wide to account for the curve of the hem. The skirt is nearly floor length at the front, and has a gentle, very short train at the back. At the neck I pleated the fabric once the binding was on, with a tiny running stitch. I believe that the two paintings below gives some support for the center front pleating originating from the neckline. (And it helps me accommodate my bustline in a period (ie: no darts) way.)
Although the fabric is very lightweight, the deep hem facing gives a bit of weight to have the hem stand open nicely, and should protect the train a wee bit from the inevitable dragging (and perhaps stepping upon…). (The grey surcote shows a wee bit of wear from the same…) It’s also easier to replace the facing than to cut a new hem!
Dating this style
I did a little bit of research before making my surcote, though not an extensive amount. The images I referenced through Pinterest supported it in paintings and extant garments from the 13th-15th Century, in multiple parts of Europe from Spain to England.
In Jehanne de Wodeford’s The Sideless Surcote, she writes of an early Spanish example, called a pellote: “surviving pellote from the tomb of Leonor de Castille (died 1244)” She also references three French 14th Century paintings, a Flemish painting circa 1400, an English painting circa 1380, two Spanish paintings circa 13th Century, and a German 13th century painting.
With that in mind, I’m tagging this post with both 14th Century English and 15th Century Europe – since this dress style would work for either.
Make your own!
Although I didn’t reference these sites this time around, I suspect when I originally made my first sideless surcote I looked at websites similar to the following:
There are also commercial patterns available, however I didn’t use any to make my dress.
Historical Sew Monthly
I’m wearing this surcoat with the linen underdress from my Viking kit (since I didn’t have time to also cut a new undercoat, and this one worked best colour-wise of my closet) and the horned headdress/hennin I wrote about earlier for the July 2015 Historical Sew Monthly challenge.
August – Heirlooms & Heritage: Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.
The Challenge: While the sideless surcote has a wide range of dates from the 13th-15th Century, and was worn widely with regional variations across Europe, the headdress I made for this outfit is from the 15th Century, so that’s what I decided to focus on for the overall costume. Specifically, I was looking to tap into my German heritage, however the other side of my family is from the United Kingdom. I figure this style might have been worn by either side of my ancestry!
Fabric: super lightweight polyester taffeta, green and black shot. Trimmed in green-gold shot lightweight polyester taffeta.
Year: 15th century
How historically accurate is it? While the style has plenty of support, I did completely fudge on the fabric. In period the fabrics would have been natural fibers for starters, and I’ve used a polyester which LOOKS and feels a lot like silk. This was largely done to account for time (I had to pull this together from scratch in less than a week, and no time to order in fabric) as well as cost, while still getting the colour I wanted to coordinate with a group of ladies who all wanted to dress in green for an event.
Hours to complete: approx 5 hours for the surcote itself, with plenty of interruptions for meals, laundry, dogs...
First worn: I wore the surcote to Avacal Coronation
Total cost: About $20!