Making a 16th Century Kirtle, Part Three

The kirtle making continues! This post is about making the skirt, I have two posts about making the bodice which can be read here and here.

I ended up using a lot of guess work to make the pattern. I decided to have a single gored panel at each side and the rest would be made from rectangles. This is loosely based off of the pattern used to make my farthingale.

When I had the pattern figured out I took all the proper measurements to make sure the length would be correct. Then I lopped thirteen inches off each measurement, since the lower thirteen inches will be cut from silk.

DSC_2562The reason i’m cutting it partially from silk is to save fabric (and money!) the majority of the skirt will be from polyester taffeta, with a front panel and hem made up of silk dupioni. Once the dress is worn over the kirtle the only part that will be visible is the front bit, and maybe the hem if the dress skirt ever gets lifted.

The rest can be made from whatever you want, and then you don’t have to spend $50 on four yards of silk that will never be seen. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this technique, but it’s covered in “The Tudor Tailor” which is where I got the idea!

(seen on far left)


Here are (most of) the taffeta panels, the triangular ones will be on the sides and the rectangle will be placed at the back.


There are also  smaller rectangles that were sewn onto the front side of the gored panels. When sewing them together I left a eight inch slash at the side seams,  these will let me get in and out of the garment.

After they were stitched together I did a poor job of pleating and pinning them onto my dress form. I didn’t love the shape, but it had a really good amount of volume, so that was a major plus!


Then I cut out the front panel from the silk.


And pinned that on the dress form too. It looked a bit silly at this point, like a reverse “mullet dress”!


These are the bottom pieces, cut from silk.


They got sewn together and then pinned onto the bottom of the skirt. I had only left a half inch seam allowance but both fabrics frayed so badly that I ended up french seaming it.

Unfortunately this made my one and a half inch hem allowance get much smaller, so I ended up having to use bias tape to finish off the hem.


Here is the skirt partially assembled – the front panel still isn’t sewn to everything else, but it shows progress! At this point the side “slits” had the edges turned over and interfacing surrounding them, so they wouldn’t fray. I had also gotten a decent idea of how I wanted to pleat everything.


The front panel (finally) got sewn on!


And the pleating began! I changed things a little bit but the end result is quite similar to this, lots of 3/4″ knife pleats with a box pleat at the back.


This is the back with the final pleats sewn down!


And the front.


When the pleats were sorted out it was time for the hem! A few things ended up causing my hem allowance to be smaller than I had planned. So I opted for a hem finished with bias tape.

Step one was making the bias tape – I cut three and a half inch wide strips of silk and turned/ironed the edges inward.


Then I pinned it on. And I actually sewed it on by machine! That is a rarity for me, I always hand stitch hems, but this part won’t be visible from the outside so I figured it would be okay.


NOT SO MUCH. I changed my needle shortly before starting this and was expecting it to go fine – the forums I read online swore silk dupioni was easy to sew. LIES.

Actually, I guess it is pretty easy to sew, it just looks like absolute shit once you are done sewing it.

Those puckers! I could cry.


After an hour, yes one hour of ironing I got the hem looking pretty smooth – most of the pulls in the fabric came out. But I hand stitched the other side.


Once the hem was done it looked really nice! I was quite pleased with everything.




The last thing to do was sewing it onto the kirtle bodice. This went really smoothly!


And it was done! Well, pretty much done. I ended up weighting the front of my farthingale, which makes it dip closer to the ground in the front and higher at the sides. So now the kirtle is an inch longer than it should be in the front, and an inch too short at each side.

But when i’m standing perfectly straight it’s hard to tell! Here it is from the front – unfortunately the only pictures I took this way include my hair being up in a stupid bun that I forgot to take out.

I might end up hemming it shorter at the front, but for now i’m calling it done!



DSC_2716Side-ish back?


And the back!


Thanks for reading! I’ve had some setbacks with making the dress for this project, so I’m not sure when my next post about this costume will be. Hopefully I can work things out soon, but it might be a while.

12 thoughts on “Making a 16th Century Kirtle, Part Three

  1. delicaterose says:

    Wow you really look beautiful with your natural look and hair, I prefer this look over the more makeup and wig look. Also you are so talented, every dress you have made so far is so gorgeous!

  2. Charity says:

    I love the way this looks! I’m impressed with all of the underpinnings you made too. You’ve managed to achieve a shape that’s just right for the period!

    • Angela Clayton says:

      I did not. I drafted the pattern off of the pattern I used for the bodies worn underneath it. The Tudor Tailor has been a good resource for figuring out how things go together, but I haven’t actually used any of the patterns from it. They were lacking the exaggerated features I want my dress to have!

  3. kaylaccraft says:

    How would you go about making this just a skirt? I’m making a Tudor gown for Ren Fair and I do not need another laced bodice in my costume (adding a full, legit kirtle would make it 3 bodices and I just don’t have time for that). There was a petticoat pattern that I liked from here and was wondering what the logistics would be for making a skirt to somewhat follow this, even though it’s a few centuries off.

    On a side note- your work is beautiful and I’ve been following along for a few months, getting more and more inspired to actually finish my costume. 🙂

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