The Underskirt

Elizabethan women would have at least one petticoat, or worn multiple petticoats for warmth if necessary. Since keeping warm was the last thing on my mind and I just wanted one for swish and color I only bothered making a single one. It’s made of plain rust-red quilting cotton from Joan’s – 3 yards for the skirt plus a bit for the interfaced waistband.

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  • I used a definitely non-period Simplicity skirt pattern 2226 for a wide waistband, so as to drop the gathered part of the petticoat safely below the level where the kirtle will be gathered. I wanted to avoid having all that fabric right at my waist, if possible. I hand-stitched down the inner panel of the yoke on a four-hour drive to a job site while the intern took the wheel. (Thanks, Lydia!)
top row = nice neat machine stitches. bottom row = lazy long hand- sewn stitches.
top row = nice neat machine stitches. bottom row = lazy long hand- sewn stitches.
  • hem cheat – used the closed side of the selvage at the bottom, so I didn’t have to double-fold the hem.
  • I initially just did one eyelet on each side to lace the skirt closed, but I might add one more on each side if I have time. Or just do skirt hooks, because the lacing is a pain.
  • I hand-sewed a tuck in the hem to take 1.5 inches off of the length, which did wonders for mobility and not dragging it through the dirt. Authentic petticoats can be as short as mid-calf, which would probably help even more with walking.
  • Cotton stretches with wear and sweat even when interfaced, as I’m finding out – you might add in some extra hooks to make adjusting your skirt mid-day easier.
Detail view of the hand-stitched tuck I added to shorten the shirt
Detail view of the hand-stitched tuck I added to shorten the shirt after I had already hemmed it.
Detail view of eyelet that close the skirt
Detail view of hand-sewn eyelets that close the skirt
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Petticoat under kirtle

So you want to be a Renaissance Faire Peasant…

Ever since about 9th grade, I had this silly idea kicking around in the back of my head that it would fun to dress up and be part of a Renaissance Fair. It was a fun thing to research when procrastinating homework. I never thought about it seriously until years later when my town got its first Faire! I got super pysched, signed up for volunteer positions, and was all set.

Now I just needed a costume.

I had done a small bit of sewing as a kid, and for the summer had access to a sewing machine. With a lot of enthusiasm and no clue what I was doing, I started to wander around the Internet. I decided to be a peasant, because it would be cheapest and also because Elizabethan clothing was definitely not designed to be worn in August in the American South.

The following posts will detail exactly how I put together my costume using mostly materials from Joanns and Hobby Lobby, with a few premade things like my fan, hat, and shoes bought online.

Here’s what it took to make the costume:

11949547_1654322888144631_7313132938453703449_nBudget (of materials that I actually used):

  • 4.5 yards of green linen-look polyester rayon fabric at $6.99 apiece
  • 1 yard blue cotton for lining at $4.99 apiece
  • 1.5 yards bottomweight cotton for interlining at $8.99 apiece
  • 4 yards rust-colored cotton at $4.99 apiece
  • 3 yards 36”muslin at $2.99 apiece
  • cable ties $5.00
  • hat $12.00
  • shoes $12.00
  • belt $7.00
  • jewelry-making supplies $8.00
  • bias tape $1.99
  • cream-colored cotton ½ yard at $3.99 a yard
  • appropriate thread – 4 spools at $2.79 each
  • awl to make holes – $8.99
  • fan – $2.50

All in all, if you knew exactly what you were doing and followed the same methods I did, it would cost about $150 to recreate this costume. I paid a bit less than $100 more in supplies that I wasted on mistakes (such as my original kirtle fabric getting accidentally dyed pink instead of brown)or didn’t end up using because of changes in plans (rust-colored petticoat instead of a blue color that looked too much like medical-scrub-green, not trimming the kirtle with green bias tape, not making the partlet or cap).

compared to cost of costume components on Pearson’s Renaissance and FantasyLand Costumes:

So a comparable costume with all components purchased online would have cost over $210 ($265 if you wanted my double-skirt look) plus extra accessories, but of course taken much less time to make! it probably took me ~30 hours of work to fit, draft, and sew this costume.

The Chemise

Every Elizabethan women, whether a peasant like yours truly or a queen, would have started off her outfit with a chemise. It would have been the easily washable barrier between skin oils and sweat and the more valuable (and harder to wash) outer layers. Any woman would have had at least two of these, in order to cycle them out to wash them, and would have slept in a chemise as well. They were always white or off-white and would have been linen back in the day. I made mine out of cotton muslin for budget reasons, and because as this was the first item I had sewed I didn’t want to invest in fancy fabric in case I made a mess of things. Which I nearly did! But I fixed it. See below.

I made a thing!
I made a thing!
  • I used Drea Leed’s pattern generator on www.elizabethancostume.net
  • This made a straight-sleeved English/Tudor/Early Elizabethan shift. If you want a poofy Italian style chemise, check out this camicia pattern on Festive Attyre.
  • note to self: check fabric width. My muslin was cheap because I got the 36” wide stuff and not the 45” inch fabric, so I had to get more creative with my cutting. I couldn’t make the gores as wide as suggested because of the amount of fabric I had, so I left slits up the sides. Not sure if this is period, but it works!
    • update: I wouldn’t do the slits as an intentional modification to the pattern. It makes the shift ride up in a really inconvenient fashion.
  • I modified the pattern wherever possible to include french seams, in order to reduce thread monsters when machine-washed. In order to do that, I added a half inch to every seam allowance. I ended up being able to do this on every seam except for the underarm gussets, but that’s a short edge so I’m not too worried.
  • I made the neck hole 8 inches deep instead of 9, and 7 inches wide, and secured the raw edges with a facing that extended 1 inch down in the front and back and all the way to the side seam on the sides.
  • I should have made the sleeves wider so I could push them up. I just ended up leaving in a slit to allow them to be rolled. They still tend to unfold, so I might have to come up with a cuff treatment