A green silk bliaut

Made in 2005
This bliaut is a very fashionable french style of this particular 12th century fashion. Thus it is made from very thin silk taffeta, called cendal in period (at least we know that cendal is a silk taffeta and that very thin silks were favoured). It is completely hand sewn and made with an attached skirt that is pleated to a "bodice". The construction is based solely on rectangles and triangles. The torso is made from two rectangular pieces with a width that is half of a tightly taken waist measurement (+ seam allowances of course). Width over the bust and hips are then added with triangular gores. The "pleated on skirt"-version of the bliaut has been hotly debated for many years. I have reached the conclusion, especially after reading Janet Snyder's article in Encountering medieval textiles and dress: objects, texts, images, edited by Koslin and Snyder (New York 2002), that it is at least the most plausible construction method for some of the bliauts seen in french art. This is however not the only way of making a bliaut, especially from Germany, England and Scandinavia, but also from France we have lots of pictures of bliauts without waist seam, where the width is achieved by inserting many gores. But, as said, this is a very fashionable french bliaut, so it has a pleated on skirt. It is laced at the sides, which can be seen in quite a lot of period art and also, if you remember to knot the laces, which I didn't, produces the characteristic "smile" under the belly, where the lacing makes the sides sit higher on the hips than the front.

    Under the bliaut I'm wearing a linen chainse in pale pink linen. Coloured linen was probably fairly uncommon in the Middle Ages because linen is hard to dye and it's even harder to get it to keep the colour. In most pictures you see only white linen and the preserved examples of dyed linen that I know of are later than the 12th century. Since I wanted a coloured chainse, which in period sources is made from linen, I choose a pale colour which I feel is more likely to have been produced. This type of pink is fairly easily produced with orchil, but I don't know if you can dye linen with orchil. The image to the right (which is clickable) is from the Missal of Henry of Chichester, from c. 1250, which is at least 60 years later than my dress. I still use it as justification for a pink chainse, knowing that the Madonna might wear different clothes than other women (this is more pronounced in hte later Middle Ages however). If you compare the underdress of the virgin with the kneeling monk's (probably Henry) white clothing you see that her dress is definitely pink.
    The chainse is made from a straight piece, 62 cm wide and 3 metres long and two gores, sleeves and gussets for the sleeves. In the long piece a vertical slit is made for the neck, just like on the the Kragelund tunic. The gores which reach the hip are not totally triangular, but are cut off so the top is 20 centimetres wide. They are then gathered and smocked to fit in the opening in the side seam. Gathered gores in front and back can be seen on both the abovementioned Kragelund and the Moselund tunic, which is from the 11th or 12th century and in the sides of an 12th century alb. The gores in the alb are not only gathered, but also has decorative smocking, which can be seen on the black and white picture below. In the other pictures you can see how the gore is set in in my chainse and also a detail of the smocking, which is no way near the beauty and difficulty of the smocking on the alb, but it's my very first smocking.
In the very recommended article "Estroit vestu et menu cosu: evidence for the construction of twelfth century dress" in Medieval art. Recent perspectives edited by Gale R. Owen-Crocker and Timothy Graham (Manchester and New York 1998), Jennifer Harris draws attention to pleating and smocking in general in the construction of 12th century dress and to pleated gores. The longest fragment of pleated wool from Lödöse (in Sweden, c. 40 kilometres north of Göteborg) is not longer than 90 centimetres and rather narrow, which suggest either a skirt made from very narrow pieces or a pleated gore.

    I'm wearing a pink silk georgette veil and the same textile circlet as I do on the pictures of my checked bliaut. And more information about it can be found on that page. Though the type of weaving may be questionable for the 12th century (I couldn't find chiffon in the right colour), coloured veils are not uncommon in 12th century illuminations, good examples can for example be found in the St. Alban's Psalter.
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