Elizabeth Woodville portrait dress (part 2)

Me wearing the finished dress. I'm a bit bustier than the person it's intended for, and I'm not wearing a shift under the dress

Me wearing the finished dress. I’m a bit bustier than the person it’s intended for, and I’m not wearing a shift under the dress

In an earlier post I showed off the initial ‘muslin’ or mock-up dress I made for a friend-of-a-friend. (Kadie/Sicillia) I made the mock up in a synthetic fabric which looks and feels a lot like smooth wool suiting, but once the muslin fit well, it was time to make the dress up in the final fabric – a black wool suiting with red brocade.

Direct link from Pinterest. Click for original, or the original source here.

As a reminder, above is the portrait we’re referencing for this costume… a portrait of Elizabeth Woodville.


The black wool is slightly narrower than the grey synthetic fabric that I used for the mock-up, so it required a slightly larger pieced section at the centre back. Other than that, I cut the garment the same way, and used the “scraps” to cut the binding for the neckline, the facing for the collar and cuffs, and the pieced centre-back section.


Stabilizing the shoulder seams with twill tape

Stabilizing the shoulder seams with twill tape

The basic construction of the dress was pretty simple (though that doesn’t mean as quick as I’d like, especially with distractions like puppies, texts from friends, and Pokemon Go…)

I sewed the back piecing first (and serged the raw edges), then the centre back seam, the front centre seam up to the hip line, and then the side seams and shoulder seams.

In the shoulder seams I inserted twill tape into the serging, to stabilize the shoulders so they don’t stretch out.  I also serged all of the other seams and pressed everything.

At that point I also stay-stitched the neckline and centre-front where the dress will lace closed. This gave me the chance to sew the sleeves on without risking stretching the neckline at all.

I sewed up the sleeve seams (serged and pressed) and then set the sleeves which went in pretty much perfectly with not a  lot of fuss (thank goodness.. I hate setting fussy sleeves!) and then serged that seam too. The shoulder seams I’ll press when the dress is done, using lots of steam for a smooth line.

Next, I pressed fusible interfacing to strips of black wool cut from the leftovers, and pressed a small hem on the long side.  In afterthought, I should have also pressed a short hem on one of the short ends too, but…oops.  I sewed the strips to the centre front opening, and then serged both sides of the seam allowance, so the seam could be pressed open. Then I pressed the facings down, and hand-stitched them in place. I was super-careful about keeping the stitches hidden in the weave of the fabric, but with pressing the facing was somewhat visible. We’ll see how it looks once it’s been fully pressed and hung out!

Hand-sewing the binding on the neckline

Hand-sewing the binding on the neckline

Next I sewed self-fabric bias together and to the neckline, folding and stitching it in place by hand.

The hem and sleeve hems were serged to finish the raw edge, then pressed and hand-stitched in place.


At the point where the dress was pretty much done except for the front closure (and then the collar and cuffs, which are removeable, and thus I considered the dress to be “done” without them) I pretty much hit pause. I HATE doing hand-sewn eyelets. They just take forever, are so fussy… etc. I originally planned to use lacing rings on this garment, but two friends (Caterina/Shannon and Alyce/Allie) BOTH recommended using thread eyelets instead so that the lacing wouldn’t shift around much when Sicillia/Kadie wears it. I ended up pausing the project until a time when I could really sit down and do all of those eyelets…

Marking the eyelets

Marking the eyelets

I referenced Festive Attyre’s Zen of Spiral Lacing and totally intended to use her suggested method for lacing holes that are for edges that are close together – BUT ended up not remembering it correctly, and did the method where the edges are further apart. The eyelets are 1″ apart, with the top and bottom eyelets 1/2″ apart for stability.

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I did try on the dress though, and it laces up well with this method all the same. However, I’m a bit fuller in the chest than Sicillia/Kadie, so there’s a bit of a gap in the front at the bust. This shouldn’t be a problem for her I hope!

Once the eyelets were complete, I used my bone lucet to make a strand of lucet cord, much like I did on the earlier test garment.

Like with the grey “muslin” dress, I used this YouTube video to remind me how to do lucet cord.

Collar & Cuffs

The dress is totally wearable as-is… but to make it resemble the portrait, I still need cuffs and collar! Stay tuned, I’ll show these and the completed dress in an upcoming post.

Read more!

For more posts about this costume, click the “Woodville” tag, and for more posts about clothing and projects I’m working on for Caterina’s Elevation, click the “Caterina’s Elevation” tag!

If you’d like to see what I’m up to next… either click the “subscribe” button, or follow me on Facebook where I post my projects on Dawn’s Dress Diary. If you want to see my works-in-progress (along with goofy selfies and food photos…) follow me on Instagram too!

Historical Sew Monthly

Finished outfit in the style of the Woodville portrait

Finished outfit in the style of the Woodville portrait

The Challenge: October – Heroes – Make a garment inspired by your historical hero, or your historical costuming hero.

It isn’t quite what I was thinking of when the challenge was announced, but this costume is for the elevation of a friend to the Order of the Laurel – pretty much the highest honour for work in the Arts & Sciences in the SCA. It’s an achievement that a lot of us aspire to, and the Laurels set the standard for achievement – so… she’s kind of an A&S hero… 🙂

Material: The dress is made of 100% wool suiting. It was donated from Caterina’s stash for the project (awesome!). I’ve also used non-period interfacing in lue of canvas (because I didn’t have any canvas). The hat, cuff & collar is made of a synthetic brocade also donated by Caterina, lined with either the wool, or (non period) silk dupioni (also donated). The hat also has buckram.

Pattern: Altered based on the Tudor Tailor’s Kirtle pattern.

Year: Mid 15th century

Notions: Interfacing (non-period), thread, millinery wire, pearl cotton (for the hand-sewn eyelets), lucet fork

How historically accurate is it? It’s totally machine sewn. The material in the original would likely have been much more luxurious, but we were aiming for a common woman’s interpretation of wearing the styles of the Queen. The brocade and silk aren’t period, but fitted their need. The pattern is pretty good I think, with the Tudor Tailor pattern and additional resources from the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant.

Hours to complete: No idea. The lucet cord alone took a few hours. The eyelets alone took a few evenings.

First worn: Not yet – I’m hoping that Kadie will be able to attend Samhain in early November, and will be able to wear the outfit then.

Total cost: The fabrics were donated, the interfacing from stash. A few dollars for the buckram. The pearl cotton was stash. The wool would have originally been about $36-42/meter, but might have been on sale. The Dupioni is usually about $12-40/meter (depending on where you get it) but I don’t know what she paid. The brocade was actually originally Caterina’s grandmothers… so NO idea what the current value of it would be.

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