Silk Road garb (Part 3 – Dalmatica)


11th Century Byzantine costume (without the cloak)

11th Century Byzantine costume (without the cloak)

In my research (albeit limited) I was really surprised (and happy!) to see how much the Byzantine Dalmatica was similar to the Bliaut that I have been pondering and working on prior to starting this project (but am no where near done…). This definitely made the project draft up faster.


Other than those big huge sleeves, I made up the gown similar to most of my “rectangular-based construction” dresses (which is really rectangles and trapezoids). The sleeves took up a LOT of fabric, and are two-piece, with a rectangle for the biceps, and then big triangles for the drapes themselves.

Another variation I made from my regular pattern is that I didn’t define the waist that I normally would have done. My research suggested that the dresses weren’t in any way fitted, but instead were belted to fit.


The basic construction is pretty simple, but I did want to test two variations on the sleeve. I’ve noticed that in a lot of photos of the ‘angel’ sleeves, there’s a lot of turning and twisting at the upper arm. I speculated that matching the point of the sleeve with the underarm seam might have been the culprit, so I tested out the variation by basting the sleeves on in two styles.

Hand-basting on the sleeves to test the fit

Hand-basting on the sleeves to test the fit

Really though -the altered version (sliding the seam of the sleeve over by about 2 inches) made very little difference, so I think it’s just the rectangular construction and the lack of definition at the shoulders that causes the twist….

Since making those changes would be for a later time period, I’m good with a little twist 😉

The end result isn’t too bad actually, especially when the sleeves are well weighted with hems and bands I hope!

I really dislike hand-sewing, so I did most of the construction with my sewing machine.

Printing & fabric choices

printed fabric for the trim on the sleeves and arm bands

printed fabric for the trim on the sleeves and arm bands

In period, a high-class gown would have been made out of silk brocade.

My most critical decision when fabric shopping was to match in colour the trim I had purchased earlier. I wasn’t able to even find silk in the colour I wanted, let alone silk brocade.. so I ended up going with a polyester fabric that has a really lovely drape and a ‘silk-like’ hand. I also happened to have EXACTLY the right amount of fabric (6 meters) which was awesome. Normally I’d stay away from polyester for a historically-inspired/informed costume, but it will work!

Of course, this meant that I needed to add some extra “bling” and opted to use fabric printing (which I’ve been told and limited research supports – is totally period for this time and place).

11th Century Byzantine costume (without the cloak)

11th Century Byzantine costume (without the cloak)

On the sleeves I printed  along the hem (a bit more visible in the photo to the left than in the photo above) with a large block that had geometric shapes that seemed suitable, using a mix of copper, gold, and textile medium.  On the sleeves there isn’t extremely high contrast, which I think gives a good texture without being quite as blingy as I wanted… so to finish the sleeves (and deal with those wacky angles) I bound the sleeve edge instead of hemming it…

I had some silk-like polyester in a crisp red fabric which I used in other places in the costume, and used an Indian wooden block to print with gold. The bands are VERY small however, so the overall print of the block (which I didn’t think really said “Byzantine” isn’t obvious, instead it’s just bling-y golden texture (using gold paint and textile medium).

Most of my inspiration for even giving block printing a try is directly due to the influence of the Facebook page “Adventures in Block Printing” – the owner also taught a class on it this spring/summer. This is the first project I’ve done (after that little practice bag) that involved block printing – let alone printing to this extent!


I bound the neckline with self-cut bias… however I hated the way it fit when I sewed it by machine, so I picked it out and re-did it much narrower by hand. A friend helped me mark the hem which I hemmed by hand, and after I made the arm bands, I whip-stitched them on by hand with silk thread (so I can remove them later for laundering).

Stay tuned! In my next post I’ll show off the Propoloma – The fan-shaped hat.

One comment on “Silk Road garb (Part 3 – Dalmatica)

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