A 16th century loose kirtle

Made in 2004

This kirtle is based on a preserved german kirtle from the 1570s, published in Janet Arnold: Patterns of fashion. The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London and New York 1985.The construction process can be followed in detail in my dress diary, where there also are many pictures of details, for example of the trim, which is silk satin mounted on net and outlined with soutach braid and gold thread.
  To the right I'm wearing the kirtle together with my loose gown in green wool, which also has it's own page with more details. Here you can also see the result of the pregnancy that's visible in the pictures to the left, which prompted me to make this kirtle; my baby Maja. Unfortunately I never got to wear it while pregnant, but as you can see it looks fine without the baby-belly too. Clicking on the pictures will show them in a larger form.

    I believe, and so did Janet Arnold, who discusses this kirtle briefly in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd" that this type of kirtle might have been for maternity wear as well as for plump women. When I got pregnant it therefore seemed like a perfect project (especially since I always will be what Janet Arnold calls "plump"). The pictures in the top of the page are taken in the beginning of week 34 and Maja was born in week 42, nine more weeks to go, but I didn't know that then of course.

Since getting pregnant is something that most women that make historical costumes will experience I thought it would be in the general interest to show what I'm wearing under the kirtle too. When I decided to make this kirtle I also decided that I would try to avoid "cheating" by using modern underwear. Women in the 16th century were frequently pregnant and managed without a bra, so why shouldn't I?
There were several options. One was to make a special maternity corset, those are documented from the 18th century and basically look like a normal front-laced corset but has additional lacing in the sides. This was too much work, since I might only wear this outfit once before the baby came. I considered breastbinding, which you can see and also get instructions of at Marie Chantal's site, but when the time came for the photos to be taken, I was too tired to do any experiments. I will try it later, especially for using with my earlier period clothes, however. So I did what I had planned all the time: I used my corset with hemp cord. It is fairly soft and doesn't have a point, since I planned to use it with italian late 15thc-early 16thc clothes that I haven't made yet. I didn't lace it all the way down and a front-laced version would probably have fit better, but it worked with back-lacing also.
Under the corset I'm wearing a smock with blackwork around the square neckline and knitted wool stockings. On top of it I'm wearing a linen partlet with a ruff with lace pinned to it. Since I used an existing partlet with a plain linen ruffle it became a little too tight so I plan to make a partlet without ruffle that I can pin different ruffs to. The wrist ruffs are identical to the neck ruff and they are made from linen and machine made bobbin lace.
    Well after this it was just to put on the kirtle and pin the wrist ruffs to the sleeves and then finally the gown and some headwear. Since this is agerman kirtle I choose to wear a golden "hairnet" and a brown bonnet, which is a very common style in Germany in the 1570s.
  This gown is not made with cut-away front, as the original loose gown, it's actually mainly made for wearing outdoors when it's cold. It was also a little too short in it's original version sio I added a brown velvet guard at the bottom of the gown. I will add a similar band further up on the gown later to create a more german look and make the guard look like it's planned from the beginning and not just an afterthought.
    Now that Maja is born I have opened the side seams on the kirtle a little, to make it possible to nurse while still dressed. A picture can be seen here. Looks comfy doesn't it? Now that I have to be able to reach my breasts easily I wear a modern nursing bra, but since it doesn't lift the bust much but mostly flattens it, much like a sports bra, the silhoutte isn't too wrong.

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