I’ve seen a lot of women online in open-front apron dresses with their Viking-age costumes. I understand that they’re getting the idea because some brooches were found with many different fabrics in them, and thus there’s speculation that more than just one apron (dress) may have hung from one set of brooches – but I don’t know… the whole idea seems very impractical to me – it’s basically like a coat that is open in the front and doesn’t cover your shoulders or sleeves. The open front also means it doesn’t protect the garments under it from smoke, dust, dirt, etc… Still, there’s argument to say that it may not have been an ‘every day’ garment, but rather something for special wear…
(additionally they often wear rectangle panel aprons over them, frequently heavily embroidered which also has very little documented support, but darn it looks pretty!)
Either way, I saw one woman wearing it and thought if nothing else, it looked very flattering on her, so since I had some rust-coloured wool that was just a bit too small to make a full apron dress out of, I’d give the open-front apron dress a try.
I’m wearing the apron above with my brown linen underdress (it has shorter and wider sleeves than the underdresses I’ve made since), and my oval and tri-lobed brooches from Raymond’s Quiet Press in silver-plate.
I use flat patterns for my costumes normally, so used the same back pieces from my other apron dresses to make the back for this new dress too. For the front, I used the normal front -side pattern, and adjusted it so it could meet at the centre front with a brooch.
The fabric is from the Grandmother’s fabric sale this year, and is a rust-coloured wool twill. The weight is a bit heavier than suit weight, but a little lighter than coat weight, so I figured that this would be a good fabric for the over-dress. Since it’s wool, it hangs a bit nicer than I think a similar cut in linen would hang.
I trimmed the dress with remnants left over from my brown linen underdress. I thought that since the colour of this wool was pretty earthy, that although a bright blue silk would pop on the rust colour, that a more mellow, earthy trim would make for a more simple dress. I made my straps of this same brown linen, as the straps from finds have always been linen, even when the dresses were wool – perhaps because linen doesn’t stretch as much as wool does, and thus the straps would support the dress better through long-term wear and cleaning. I’ve also seen other people wear apron dresses with straps that match the underdress, and the straps seem to ‘disappear’ which makes for a unique look as well.
Additionally… since this is such a speculative garment – I also didn’t reallllly want to devote my expensive silk to something that might get infrequent wear, where as leftover scraps of linen are a lot less precious to me. (Gosh I do love silk…)
The construction on this apron wasn’t much different from my other apron-dresses, apart for the need to bind both the top edge and the front edge. (I considered just turning and hemming it, but it seemed a bit bulky and I thought it might not hang correctly.) I used the brown linen to do reverse facings to handle the raw edges, and hemmed the hem as normal. I sewed the facings down using brown silk thread, though part way through the project I ran out, and switched to a lighter brown silk thread that isn’t a perfect match. I don’t normally use silk thread, and always forget how lovely it is – it just seems to disappear into the fabric. I really need to invest in an entire spool cabinet of silk threads.. right?
Since the fabric and colours are quite ‘rustic’ – and very different from my regular colour palate, I don’t really have any trims to coordinate. Since the colours are quite ‘natural’, it also didn’t feel quite right to do any seam embroideries yet… so I decided to leave the apron un-embellished so far. I don’t really see this changing honestly – again, not wanting to devote the resources to something that is so speculative.
well I also made the embroidered panel, and it’s complete too – so I’ll have it in my next post!