1490s sleeve frustration

Well, I’m stumped on sleeves, so I’m trying to feel better by doing research.  (About sleeves.)

But first– the good news!  I found a dress that is fashionable in brocade with fur trim or lining, front-opening, has big sleeves that will fit over my brass aglets, is not closely fitted in the waist, there’s a pattern for it (or something very close) in The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, and also I like how it looks.  How’s that for a win?

Here it is:

Portrait d'une princesse tenant un faucon sur la main droite

Source: Louvre.  The museum only gives the date as “Early sixteenth century” and the place as “Netherlands,” but… I’ll take it.

What makes this dress different from every other big-V-neck “Burgundian gown” with fur trim and big fur-lined sleeves?  Many of those open from the neck past the belt, but until I found this one, all my examples seemed to have openings that stopped well before knee level, with the fur edges getting thinner and disappearing where the opening stops.  In this portrait, the fur edges get wider as they descend from the belt, making it believable that the dress is open all the way down the front.


Here’s a modern reproduction of this style by a very talented Czech seamstress, captioned “Late Gothic clothing as Marie d’Anjou, 15th century, France.”ho-marie-danjou-1d

So… what’s the problem, you may be wondering?  It will not surprise you that the answer is (as ever) sleeves.

The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant has a fully-front-opening gown, loose in the waist and pulled in with a belt, with a wide V neck and turned-up cuffs.  However, the sleeves are not the big draping style that appears in French artwork (and somewhat more modestly in other countries).  You can see some dresses based on that pattern in Damsel In This Dress’s article about kirtles and gowns.

In working on the 1320s dress, however, I successfully used the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant instructions for drafting a (close-fitting, straight) sleeve from measurements.  (I wish I’d taken pictures to show you, but really the only advice I can give you is to work in centimeters to match the instructions, and follow all the instructions in order or it won’t make any sense.)  It wasn’t easy– it’s basically a simple geometric proof followed by some fudging and adding curves, but as big as my arm and needing sub-centimeter precision.

So… possibly I was high on victory, but mostly I was curious if I could manage to turn the close-fitting sleeve into the big drapey one with drafting and geometry followed by adding an extra piece and draping until it looked right (and then cutting the final version as a single piece with the seam in the right place).  I stared at portraits. I stared at my drafted pattern.  I decided what I wanted the finished version to look like and did a little scribble picture to show my mom.

I figured out where the seam would need to go, since I could find no portrait that helped. My theory is the seam begins in the usual place (at the back of the arm, sort of along the triceps muscle) and continues to the elbow, but ends at the bottom of the big cuff, not near the pinky finger like on normal medieval sleeves.  I pinned things.  I un-pinned them, corrected the grain to be straight, and pinned them again.  I made a single-piece test version hoping the one last funny wrinkle would go away if it wasn’t a franken-pieced thing full of pins.  It didn’t.

So now here I am!  Good news: I have an awesome plan.  Bad news: I don’t have a sleeve pattern.

I hope my next post is telling you about how I once again conquered the sleeve challenge.

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