Several months ago a came across a LARP website while searching through Pinterest. This was not the first time I had come across or heard of LARP but it sparked an interest. I remembered a friend posting something on Facebook about doing it and promptly proceeded to pester her for more details. After lots of facebook messages flying about (including convincing another friend to join us) I decided to join her on a LARP weekend. It was themed around Arthurian legend so I was very excited that I had an excuse to add more stuff to my medieval pinterest board. Something that kept coming up was the “Cotehardie” a 14th-16th century dress which is fitted around the torso and arms.
I fell in love with some of the pictures of reproductions other costumers had done (the buttons on the sleeves!!!) and decided to scrap my original plan (which included a pattern bought from butterick and £60 worth of taffeta) and make a cotehardie instead.
Blogs that inspired me include:
They are definitely worth checking out because I imagine their documenting of the process and overall quality of the sewing is much higher than mine.
Anyway, I made a hasty fabric run to ikea to buy new cotton-like fabric and put the taffeta away for a future project. I have a pattern drafting program with which I managed to draft and print off a basic sheath dress pattern. I hand drafted and added gores to make the skirt fuller.
I didn’t take that many pictures as I made the main part of the dress because I was so excited about the project and it went together really quickly. The main part of the dress including lining was finished by the end of day 1. If i were to do it again I might just line the sleeves and not the whole thing and have a separate petticoat – I think it would have given me more option for gathering the skirts up if I had wished but as I was, I enjoyed having full skirts that swished around beautifully as I ran around a forest in Wales.
The next bit was to sort out those fantastic sleeves. I had to try them on several time to make sure I had them the right way round and if I’m honest i’m still not 100% sure I didn’t put them on backwards. I contemplated for a while just adding buttons onto fully sewn sleeves just for decoration but I decided in the end that I wanted to put in a placket and have functional buttons. I measured how far up my arm I wanted the buttons to go and then added an extra couple of inches onto both sides of the arm pattern to make the placket.
I decided, for my shame, to hand make the buttons using circles of fabric from the cutoffs from the main parts of the dress. I decided to do this rather than using self-cover buttons partly because of the authenticity (although in LARP this is not an issue at all) but mainly because I wanted to see if I could do it.
I followed this tutorial off the medieval tailor and found that handmade buttons were actually surprising easy, although very time consuming as I wanted to have 14 buttons on each side so made 28 in total.
Once I had finished all the buttons sewing them on was incredibly satisfying (if, again, time consuming as I again did it by hand) because the sleeves very soon began to look awesome!
Once the sleeves were attached the dress was really start to look the part. At this point it was easier to see that the dress had come up a tiny bit big. However, I decided to leave it, as with the two layers I figured it would take a while to make it really form fitting and also a bit of extra movement would not go amiss- especially if I was going to swinging a sword.
Clearly wanting to punish myself, I decided to hand sew eyelets along the front edges for the lacing. I read an article about how metal eyelets were completely inappropriate for medieval dress as they weren’t invented until the 19th century. I also wanted to give them a go as it was something I had never tried before. I bought an awl especially for the job and used this tutorial: http://sidneyeileen.com/sewing-2/tuts-costume/hand-sewing-tutorials/how-to-hand-sew-eyelets/#.W56nvehKgdU
I practised on some scraps of fabric and was pretty happy with the result. Ironically my practice eyelet was the neatest one I did. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that doing it through 4 layers of fabric would be harder than through 2 layers. (What a muppet!)
I decided to lace the dress in a “spiral lacing” style as again it was more authentic to the period. I used this article (http://www.festiveattyre.com/p/the-zen-of-spiral-lacing.html) to help me space out the eyelets. Despite finding it much harder than I had been expecting, I more or less succeeded in hand sewing the eyelets. This part of the process took longer than the rest of it put together and although they were not as neat as they potentially could have been I was really happy with the result. I bought some satin(?) cord from the market in a silvery blue which matched the blue of the dress nicely and laced it up.
So now the cotehardie was finished and I just needed to sort accessories.
I decided to make a short hood/cowl to wear over my dress. I used this article to help me make it http://moirandalls.com/cowl.htm and trimmed it with some fur I had lying around from my teddy-bear making days. It didn’t take very long and I think it was a great addition to the outfit. It was not exactly waterproof but it did manage to keep a bit of rain off me.
As you can see from the picture I bought a long belt to finish the outfit and put a brooch (which I stole off my mum years ago) at the neck of the hood.
My outfit was now ready for LARP-y goodness.
Fairly last minute, I got a request from my friend to make her a cape for the event which I knocked up using this tutorial as a guide:
I got some reduced curtains at Dunelm mill (no time to go to ikea) and found the cloak clasp at my local market haberdashery stall.
Not great pictures admittedly but it was just late one Wednesday night having more of less finished the cape.
Righto, so we were more or less ready. So I will just leave you with some pictures we took of our outfits when we snuck off to the campsite in search of some “magic beans”. I had a great weekend swanning around this forest in Wales pretending to be a lady in waiting. bring on next year!