Dress Diary – Wool Bliaut

My laurel (to whom I am apprenticed for costuming) and I have a medieval-style contract, part of which is that she agrees to “pay” me for my service in fabric.  The fabric she gave me the second year as her apprentice is a lovely dark burgundy wool.  I immediately knew I wanted to make a bliaut from it — as I’ve previously mentioned, it’s more likely that bliauts were made of silk or wool than linen.  I purchased trim to that end, but then the project languished.  I’m picking it up again.

Uma Thurman Maid Marian wedding dress

My original vision for this dress was inspired by a movie, the 1991 Robin Hood with Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman (NOT Prince of Thieves).  In it, Maid Marian wears a brown dress with cream embroidery, and there’s even a scene of her being fitted in this dresUma Thurman Maid Marian dress fittings.

There are some things I see as wrong with this dress as a bliaut; most predominately the complete lack of ruching across the abdomen.  While it’s true there are images of what are evidently bliauts without that kind of decorative gathering of the fabric, they are generally styles that don’t show side lacing.  While the sides of this interpretation are not laced in the usual way, they are fastened and in a way that leaves rather pronounced gaps. It reminded me immediately of the side of the dress of “the lovers” from the Hortus Delicairum.

Hortus Deliciarum Lovers - lacing detail

Now it could be argued that the scallops in that drawing are merely the original artist’s attempt to show the ruching created by “standard” bliaut lacing, or that they are an artifact created by Christian Maurice Engelhardt when he copied the miniatures in 1818.  However, the scallops are interesting and they are something I have wanted to experiment with, so this bliaut will have clasps on the sides instead of lacing.  I’m also drawn to the rounded, decorated neckline, a detail more common in Germanic illustrations of the period than French ones.

So … where does the project stand?

Well, I have all the pieces cut out (… except the underarm gussets, which I can’t seem to find.  That’s OK; I have extra fabric.)

Six full gores and four half gores

Six full gores and four half gores

The neck facing is (mostly) sewn in and the upper arm pieces are attached.

The neck facing is (mostly) sewn in and the upper arm pieces are attached.

These are lower sleeve pieces.  All the maunches in the Hortus Delicairum are volumous.  These have been bag lined with steel-grey linen that matches the trim I'm going to use.  They are, unfortunately pretty wrinkly from storage.

Lower sleeve pieces. 

All the maunches in the Hortus Delicairum are voluminous. These have been bag lined with steel-grey linen that matches the trim I’m going to use. They are, unfortunately pretty wrinkly from storage.

My first steps are going to be to iron the sleeves and finish attaching the neck facing.

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