Back in 2019 I threw out my back right before an SCA event. I wanted to still attend, but found myself wondering what to wear – since I also wanted to wear a short corset to support my back. I decided to use a regular underdress, then my corset, and then a sideless surcote which still gives me easy access to adjust the laces/etc. Having them in my wardrobe was fantastic, since most of my other garments really wouldn’t give me that ability.
Since I totally love all the wacky wild 15th century hats, I thought it might also be a good idea to pull together a few more sideless surcotes to add to my Medieval Capsule wardrobe since they’re pretty easy to wear, and I certainly have enough headwear to accompany them!
I started on the first one with a beige/tan/gold and red damask home decorating fabric that I bought at the Grandmother’s Fabric Sale.
However, when I made the pattern I forgot to note that from whatever leftover fabric I had, I wanted to make a back gore – so when I constructed this…. it was a lot more narrow than I had hoped for and I didn’t love it.
I had also trimmed the gown’s edges (minus the hem) with red bias tape in order to trim them later with fur – but then didn’t find the fur I really wanted to use.
Which means the dress, partially constructed, along with the leftover fabric, all went into my UFO (UnFinished prOjects) pile.
I meant to work on this for one of the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly projects… and didn’t. Then hoped work on it for the April 2021 Historical Sew Monthly challenge – but kind of missed that date, but during the June heat wave (which lasted like.. a week?) I needed to retreat to my basement and out came my UFOs!
Back at it
So back at it I went, cutting up the center back seam, and trying to find enough of the leftover fabric (with a one-direction design!) to make a gore up the back.
I would have liked a longer gore, and honestly I should have done a center back seam because I don’t love the point insertion, but I decided just to live with it rather than trying to futz too much which would mean a shorter gore.
Then it was hemmed, and time to trim the edges.
I considered fur trim, since the damask is quite heavy and would work well as a winter piece, but none of the faux furs I have in my stash worked well with the colours, and I didn’t want to make the fur-investment if I wasn’t totally thrilled with it.
Instead I bound the edges of the arms and neck with double-fold bias tape (commercially bought. I could have made some too, but didn’t have the perfect match in any of my scrap fabrics either). Then I have some amazing gorgeous metallic gold, red, green, and dark red/purple braid which I hand-sewed to all of the outside edges.
The trim is from a store that long went out of business – Ant Hill fabrics which was in Kensington. When they went out of business I went and bought a bunch of trim and a small amount of fabric since that was the best I could afford! It was a pricy store!
Since the arm holes are so large, the bias trim will be visible, but I’m not too concerned, since this gold braid really pops and looks great with the damask.
Since headwear is a big part of why I wanted to make another sideless surcote, I thought I’d reflect back on my research on dating and placing the horned hennin to see which of the hat styles I have will work in a documentable way with the sideless surcoat.
My previous research tells me that I could wear:
- A horned/padded heart-shaped headdress
- Steeple hennin
- Padded roll
- Triangle-shaped headdress
However, my research to-date doesn’t support wearing:
- A truncated hennin
- A horned hennin
- Forked hennin
Historical Sew Monthly
The Challenge: April: The Costumer’s New Look: Give an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.
What the item is: Gold and red medieval sideless surcote
How it fits the challenge: The existing costume was missing the back gore, but adding it in definitely improves the overall line. Unfortunately I don’t have any “before” photos since I was really unhappy with the first draft. The added trim also really improves the costume for sure!
Material: Cotton damask, bought second-hand at the Grandmother’s Fabric Sale. Gowns like this would more likely have been made of wool (or perhaps silk) but cotton is still technically possible – although not likely in a damask like this. The colours are achievable with period dyes.
Year: 15th Century
Notions: Bias tape (commercially bought) and metallic trim
How historically accurate is it? I think the shape is good, though more fullness would have been preferable if I had the yardage. The material is unlikely. The pattern is plausible.
Hours to complete: Not sure. I likely spent an hour or two in the first round, and then a few hours with the gore insertion and hand-sewing of hem and trim.
First worn: Only for photos… with covid there are no in-person events to dress up for.
Total cost: Not sure – the trim was likely somewhere in the realm of $5/m, and there are probably 3 meters in this. The material was second-hand, and I am not totally sure, but I think it was around $8-10.
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