Apron dress – a reasonable attempt

Brown linen under tunic, blue cotton apron dress with festoons & 'turtle' broaches

Brown linen under tunic, blue cotton apron dress with festoons & ‘turtle’ broaches

The other day I shared a quick, simple ‘pillowcase dress’ I had made – but I had an ulterior motive in making it (other than it’s just super quick, simple, cute, and really low-waste). I wanted to see how it would work as an attempt at an early-period Viking ‘Apron Dress’.

I had the ‘pillowcase dress’ in the back of my mind, but then when I was looking at early-period (tube-style) Viking Apron Dresses, combined with the “reasonable attempt” bog dress from A Wandering Elf, (An option she suggests would be reasonable for Celtic or Norse, although not documented, but still easy to make, and light and cool to wear for summer or hot-weather SCA/ Faire events) and the super-pleated, full apron dresses inspired by the documented find from K√∂strupkjolen. (Links are in Norwegian.) I thought this might be another “reasonable attempt” and fit a “view from a distance” standard. (And something I would wear for the mundane world, but definitely not documentable.)

The finished "Pillowcase dress"

The finished “Pillowcase dress” without adornment

Now, my version deviates in a number of ways… none of the inspirations involve gathering – they all involve pleating. Their pleats are held in place with banding or stitching, and then straps (or pins/broaches) are attached for the shoulder straps. My version uses a drawstring which I don’t think is at all period whatsoever. Still – from a distance, and once all of the other costume elements are added… I think it LOOKS good. Ren Faire or dress-up party good that is ūüôā
Once I got the pattern dimensions correct though (figuring out how long to make the shoulder straps in relation to the arm holes, for instance, and how wide I wanted the band at the top Рthis could easily be re-done  with pleating and pinned straps instead of a drawstring, with nearly the same (from a distance) effect. (Although up-close it would look significantly different pleated vs. gathered.)

Since it’s a very, very low-waste pattern as well, I think it fits that goal, and although I made my first version in cotton, it would also go together well in linen (especially if pleated… hmmm pleated linen… ) (I also know my keys and broaches aren’t right.. but it’s a start!)

Brown linen under tunic, blue cotton apron dress with festoons, 'turtle' broaches, & 'tablet woven' belt

Brown linen under tunic, blue cotton apron dress with festoons, ‘turtle’ broaches, & ‘tablet woven’ belt

In the photo above I’ve re-used a buckled belt as a tied belt just to get the photo… for costuming I’d replace it with a similar tied belt.¬† The braid used for the belt is commercial bought, but I thought it was a reasonable approximation of tablet weaving, since I haven’t learned that, nor had the chance to buy any “real” tablet weaving… yet.¬† The festoon is from a previously written post.

What do you think?

If you’re involved with Viking recreation – what do you think of my attempt? Do you think it meets the “reasonable attempt” criteria?

I posted one of the photos on the Viking Clothing (SCA-style) group on Facebook (which I found thanks to the Wandering Elf’s blog) and most of the comments were about the accessories instead of the apron-dress. Some of the areas for improvement (other than what I already identified) included:

  • Not using the belt with a buckle – yep, that was more just to have a belt, more so than to use that one – I have plans to make another tied belt out of a similar braid.
  • The longer key chain could be shorter to be less in the way when worn – a reasonable suggestion; I’ll wear it and see if it’s ever in the way and adjust from there.
  • The white belt is for chivalry – the belt is actually a cream and brown braid – but if it looks white in a photo, then it might look white in person from a distance too – on the agenda- make sure the braid I use for the next belt is dyed! ūüôā
  • The short-sleeved underdress should be fine – and for cooler weather I can wear a long-sleeved dress under it – which I have!
  • The gathering is what appeared the least authentic part of the outfit to one poster, who had recommendations for a form-fitting tube dress, a “double C” wrap dress, a wrap front dress, a split open front, and the pleated version that I was considering in my ‘inspiration’. The same poster went on to elaborate that there was only one example of a pleated apron dress, with pleating only between the broaches, and done perpendicular to the body (like cartridge pleats) rather than knife pleats.
  • Read all the comments here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/624164817603195/permalink/813216098698065/

So.. I’ve got lots of options for changes – but also a few thumbs-up so far for the “reasonable attempt” for an upcoming event I am hoping to attend!

Pillowcase dress (adult version)

The finished "Pillowcase dress"

The finished “Pillowcase dress” (I probably should iron it before photographing it…)

I saw a few examples of the “pillowcase dress” (or top, nightie, etc) on Pinterest, and actually really thought it was cute for a super-casual summer dress, top, or tunic, so the other day when I was on a sewing spree, I figured I would make it up.

I wanted to see how it would work first off, so I picked some leftover fabric from another project. I’m pretty sure I picked up this blue cotton from one of the East Indian stores (Reena’s probably) for super-cheap, for some costume I made for a friend-of-a-friend when we attended an SCA event years ago. I picked it for him because it was a good colour, super light, and yep… cheap.¬† It’s similar to a cotton batiste (actually it probably is a cotton batiste…)

Pattern.. we don’t need no stinking pattern….

First I cut off three strips of fabric from the raw edge – these would become the straps for the dress. They were sewn end-to-end, and then into a tube, and then turned. I didn’t even finish the edges since I used the selvage on the tube ends.

Pattern drawn on folded fabric with chalk (and and then drawn on in Photoshop so you can see it better)

Pattern drawn on folded fabric with chalk (and and then drawn on in Photoshop so you can see it better)

Really I just guessed and estimated on where the lines should go. I folded the fabric in half, then half again the same direction, so I could cut the front and back in one go. I drew the lines on with chalk, but for this photo (above) I’ve drawn the lines on with Photoshop so you could see them better. From the leftover ‘scraps’ I cut not-quite-bias strips which would become the arm binding, and a straight strip on grain to bind the back neck. This resulted in very, very, very little waste at all.

Cutting a slit for the back neckline

Cutting a slit for the back neckline

Next I cut a slit in the back panel, about 6 inches down, in the center top where the neckline will be. I just did this freehand as well. This will make the ties go in the back instead of the shoulders – like in this example from the Sew Tessuti Blog (originally found on Pinterest).

Binding the back neckline

Binding the back neckline

I bound the neck slit the same way you’d bind the placket on a cuff for the most part – really super-simple and not tailored at all. This fabric sewed up so nicely – I really didn’t need pins at all for the most part. Binding was super-easy too, because this fabric presses so nicely. I basted the binding by hand, and then finished it by machine – the sheerness of the fabric meant the hand-binding went really quickly.

The finished "Pillowcase dress"

The finished “Pillowcase dress”

Next I sewed the side-seams, using an enclosed seam technique usually used for sheers (mostly because I was lazy and didn’t want to change my serger thread, but also because this fabric is semi-sheer and it does look good, plus nicely secure) followed by binding the arm holes with the nearly-bias strips I had cut from the ‘waste’ fabric. Then it was just a matter of sewing down the top edges to create the casing for the drawstring. I didn’t even have to finish this edge because it was on the selvage!¬† The hem is also on the selvage, and for the time being I’m leaving it unhemmed as well – we’ll see how it wears this way; I may need to add a hem just to give it some weight in the future.

The result

I’m really happy with the result; as a simple summer dress or tunic it works perfectly. It’s light and airy, and with all the gathering I didn’t find it too sheer – though let’s see how that turns out in the bright summer sun. It would also work well for a nightgown, and shorter for a simple top.

The day after finishing it, I actually started cutting out another version.. though this time in a gorgeous super-light-weight satin.

But… I also have another thought for this blue cotton version… which I’ll share in a few days…