Medieval Wedding Costumes

This post is written with a heavy heart as I recall a fond memory. Seven years ago I made the costumes below for my parents to wear to a medieval-theme wedding. I’m remembering them again now because my mother passed away a few days ago and I finally had a chance to meet the bride from that wedding during the visiting hours at the funeral home. Mom had been sick for a number of years now but I love how happy and healthy she looks here. And I’ll always be cheerful remembering working on these costumes for her and my dad…

Now for the flashback to December 7, 2006
So… let me tell you a story. Imagine that a couple get invited to a wedding. It’s for a friend and former coworker of the woman and as it turns out, the bride and groom have planned a medieval wedding. And the guests have been asked to come in medieval attire… Wondering where this story is going? Well… your author is the daughter of the aforementioned wedding guests. Yep… Mom & Dad want to dress up for the medieval wedding in January! Did you see that coming because I sure didn’t!

Wondering what’s in store for me? Here’s the plan so far….

After Mom spent hours searching the internet and deciding she liked 14th century kirtles for her costume, we spent an afternoon together recently and went through all the costumes books I could find in the house. I won’t share all the debates we had but ultimately the decision was made to stick to mid-late 12th century costumes for both mom & dad. A bliaut & girdle for her and a tunic-like thing (sorry… can’t recall the correct name!) for him.

Fast forward through several shopping trips to today… Final fabric choices were a faux-dupioni-slubbed-silk synthetic type of fabric in a forest green for the bliaut & matching girdle, a sheer cream fabric for her veil, and a burgundy velvet for Dad’s tunic. Yes… I know these aren’t authentic choices but they are only costumes in this case and the fun will be in the wearing… not in the details!

And I should mention (emphasis on costumes again here) I’m using some patterns from Katherine Strand Holkeboer’s Patterns for Theatrical Costuming to make both ensembles. Not perfect – but they will result in recognizably medieval costumes and that’s all we’re really hoping to achieve in this instance. But… just to make sure I don’t stray too far from the correct designs, a little internet research is in order. Guess I know how my evening will be spent!

This is the sort of plan that we are working from!

This is the sort of plan that we are working from!

December 8, 2006
Huh. Okay… found a few interesting things. Basically how to do it right! This won’t be what I do but it’s interesting reading nonetheless…

The Beautiful Bliaut:Haute Couture of the Twelfth Century
by Lady Arianne de Chateaumichel
http://www.chateau-michel.org/belle_bliaut.htm (no longer working)

A 12th Century Bliaut
http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/bliaut.html

A Bliaut by Louise de La Mare
http://www.geocities.com/louise_de_la_mare/12th_Century_Bliaut.htm (no longer working)

The Bliaut, A Twelfth Century Court Gown
http://www.gelfling.dds.nl/bliaut.html (no longer working)

That last one had some great pictures of contemporary artwork and I found it somewhat redeeming that my tunic shaped bliaut might not be all bad. Did I mention that we already cut out Mom’s bliaut pieces. One mistake already… there will be a shoulder seam because I forgot to place the top shoulder edge on a fold. However… the gown really needs some trim to liven it up and that will be a good place to add some! So nice to work on ‘costumes’ where there’s a bit of creative allowance!

Bliaut on dress form  Bliaut with arm extended Bliaut showing belt draping

January 1, 2007
First of all… happy new year! It’s hard to type 2007… it will take a while before that becomes second nature. I have been working on the green bliaut a bit before now but never quite got the time to get pictures up & add my comments. So here’s where I’m at now… Mom came by and we checked the fit of the bliaut – most things were pretty good. I’m a little concerned about the length but some of that will depend on her shoes. Also we had to take the sleeves up a bit and pull them more towards the shoulder. Just too long and rather odd the way they were! We gathered up one of the sleeves – you can see that in the pictures below.

Bliaut being modeled Modeling the girdle detail Detail of belt trim

So all of that was done probably two weeks ago and I haven’t touched any of it until today! Wendy, my senior apprentice, was here today and she worked on some of the hemming. Those sleeves are huge and she made a huge dent in one of them. I finished the neckline hemming (finally!!!) and I made up the girdle & belt, too.The girdle is made up of 4 layers – 2 of the green silky stuff and 2 layers of blue linen. Everything was cut on the bias according to the diagram and eyelets were put in along the left and right edges for lacing closed. The curve is deeper along the bottom edge to cover more of the abdomen in front. The top curve will fall just below the bust.

Girdle nearly completed girdle showing eyelets detail
Finished bliaut, girdle, belt

Now tell me that doesn’t look cool!!! Still need to gather other sleeve but I love the way it’s coming along…

The belt turned out to be pretty easy. I had some black velvet so I cut two strips the width of the velvet by about 4″ across. Sewed those together to make one really long strip. Folded the velvet, wrong sides together so that the raw edges overlapped. I placed the metallic trim across the center, covering the raw edges, stitched it down (yes, by machine) and that was that. Knotted up some cording to imitate the drawing and voila! Belt is done… well – for now anyway. Final length will be adjusted at the last fitting. Since I’m tired of writing about this… here’s one more picture and then I’ll move on to Dad’s costume which also got started today!

Sorry… I changed my mind… it’s late and I’m tired of typing! Here’s a quick preview of things to come…

February 16, 2007
Here’s a quick recap… yes, the costumes were completed in time to wear to the wedding. There were apparently a lot of compliments and mom & dad even agreed to let me include some photos…

HPIM0256 HPIM0260

There’s really not much else to add… I think they turned out quite well! Dad’s costume was basically one piece – just sewn up the sides and along the underarms. Due to the manner of cutting, there wasn’t quite enough to make the sleeves long enough. So I added a band of black velvet, cut some wine velvet from scraps to cover the lower arms and used gold ribbon to cover the seams. That gave me an excuse to bring more gold & black into the rest of the costume. The neckline was faced with black velvet and laced closed with gold cord. A black velvet belt was wrapped in a repeating pattern with more of the same gold cording.

Don’t they look great?

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