I made my first attempt at a 14th century dress four years ago. I wanted a lightweight dress to wear to summer events, and none of my 16th century dresses were light enough. So I thought I would made a fitted white kirtle, unlined, to beat the heat. Little did I know what I would do three years after this picture was taken- dive head first into full 14th century costuming.
Here are some pictures of the first 14th century kirtle, on the first wearing, September 2012. I am posting them with text of the problems with it so that if they get repinned, the Pinterest world doesn't see them as a good look to emulate.
-The worst offense is my hair. I was trying to pull the ol' "I'm young and unmarried so I can wear my hair down, it's period!" Jane now would never ever try this, married or no. Notice the side part as well, and the layers. Absolutely lazy.
-The kirtle is too small in the bust. I patterned the kirtle to shut over my chest, but on that day, my friend said I should wear my modern bra with the kirtle, thinking that no bra wasn't a good look for me. Wearing a bra with this kirtle causes a huge gap at the bust, plus major wrinkling at the laced edge.
-The belt was borrowed from a friend; it's her husband's ring belt. Belts back then had buckles which is a common SCA misconception- move away from the D-ring or O-ring belts without the chape and holes in the belt, as they just don't work as well as a proper buckle.
-The skirt is too narrow: There is less than a 75 inch hem circumference on this kirtle, with only a rectangle in front, a rectangle in back, and two thin gores on the sides.
-The kirtle is straight laced, not spiral laced, with 32 eyelets down the front. I prefer straight lacing on 16th century clothing, but for 14th century kirtles, spiral lacing is the best choice because it prevents the edges wrinkling and gapping. Do spiral lacing, you'll love it.
-The white linen of the kirtle looks like underwear. The dress always looks like it's missing something to be a complete outfit. I would do a white silk or wool kirtle, but not linen again- the linen makes it look like underwear.
Here is where my improvements started. This is the same kirtle, dyed lavender with a dye for linen from Dharma Trading, in a big stock pot on my kitchen stove. It worked okay, but after wearing it a few more times (and sweating in it), the dye is starting to wear out.
This picture was taken only a year ago, early October 2015. This was when I started to get serious about 14th century when my husband changed his persona. I bought a narrow leather belt with pewter fittings, bought the little brocade pouch, and bought the wool hood (lined in silk) from the Hooded Hare, all at Pennsic two months prior to this picture. There is little documentation for women wearing dagged hoods in period (appears to be mostly a thing for men), but I loved the look of this one so I bought it anyway, and wear it now and again. This hood conveniently covers the gap in the front lacing over my bust.
For this event, I only put my hair in a simple braid down my back, but it's a vast improvement to just wearing my hair down. I had not yet learned any period hairstyles, as I had not yet realized I was about to get hardcore about 14th century.
This picture was taken at Pennsic 2015, and clearly shows the wrinkles on my back caused from not having a center back seam to take in the extra fabric that bunches up above my waist. You can also see how narrow the skirt is. Once again, had not yet learned to do a period 14th century hairstyle, so I'm just wearing a braid.
Here is the same kirtle worn at Estrella War in February 2016. I used the little black leather belt and my St. Birgitta's cap to make it look a bit more period. Notice that I learned how to do a typical 14th century hairstyle, and what an improvement it makes on the overall look.
This kirtle has served me well at camping events over the last few years, but I will likely be retiring it now. As I said, the dye is wearing out, and I have made so many other (more accurate) linen kirtles in the last year, that this one isn't really needed anymore.
Here's a picture from August 2016 in a kirtle I finished a few months earlier. Notice how it actually closes over the bust and has proper spiral lacing. The fabric is a teal linen, much softer than the heavy-weight linen of the lavender kirtle shown above. I'm wearing my trusty St. Birgitta's cap with my easy temple braids hairstyle, plus a wide straw hat for sun protection.
Here is where my 14th century attire is at now. Notice the hairstyle, the velvet fillet, veil pinned to the fillet, new belt that I assembled from purchased mounts, buckle, and a strip of leather, new 14th century jewels, and I sewed on most of my award tokens onto my pouch as a way to display them. The fit is significantly improved, especially in the bust, and there is a larger hem circumference due to two more gores.
You might be thinking, what is the point of this blog post? It's nearly all stuff we've seen before on this blog! Well, sometimes I come across the old pictures of me in garb that I don't love, and I appreciate them for showing me how far a person can come with their costuming: if they love what they do, and put in the time to research, and make their stuff better.
We don't even have to start from scratch- you might have an outfit that works, but you are learning that it could be more accurate, so there's nothing wrong with making improvements on the garb you already have before you jump into starting something else entirely. It might be as simple as adding proper accessories or hairstyles, or involve changing the color or adding trim or embroidery, or altering the sleeves or the skirt. I have quite a few pieces of garb that I have evolved to make more accurate over the years, so I can still wear them now and not feel that they are too far below my current skill level.