In July of 2014, I was asked to consider a commission to make new garb for my knight to wear at 12th Night. After a few weeks of discussions and reviewing images, he settled on a style he liked and in turn I would work on a bliaut for myself, rather than my usual 14th century gown and sideless combination.
I looked at several pages from other people who have made the gowns – based mostly off of the Chartres statues seen in the beginnings of the first page listed here.
I’ve made a bliaut before, using basic rectangular construction but with no side lacing, merely snug enough to pull over my head. This one has no train, is of a lightweight pink wool, with sleeve linings of blue raw silk and contrast bands of a blue and white trim.
For this endeavor, several yards of a dark navy wool was purchased for my bliaut, green raw silk and yellow linen for his outfit, and a dark purple/old gold/green geometric print was acquired to become trim, and a grey/black brocade from my fabric hoard was pulled out to become the undergown of my bliaut. Additionally, enough linen to make a new undershirt as well as black linen and another length of pewter grey embroidered taffeta for lining the bliaut sleeves was purchased or pulled out of the hoard.
The undergown was relatively simple. I used my customary rectangular construction, but made it just loose enough to pull over my head, since I did not want to try and deal with back-lacing at an event where I would be on my own. The fabric used would have been better if a different sized print, or even better linen or silk, but it was what I had, and had the bright side of taking out some of my rather large fabric stash. It also will work as an undergown for some of my other gowns – which makes it a win. I serged the inside seams and did the neckline, sleeves and hem by hand so that there were no visible seams.
Rather than making the bliaut from the customary rectangular construction like I do with my usual gowns, or used with the rayon brocade undergown; I attempted using the measurements suggested on the links, including the 15″ of extra fabric on the torso sides to try for the wrinkled looks as shown on the statues, with a deep V-neckline instead of keyhole or high like in the pink bliaut. The navy wool is a very lightweight one, so the black lining was to protect the train and help with the pulling I expected to happen from the weight of the gown and the lacing.
Before seaming the sleeves up entirely, I added the contrast trim bands cut from the geometric fabric, then added the pieced lining. Silver cord was couched along the seam for additional contrast to help brighten the gown before the eventual embellishment with pearls.
The same bands and cords were applied to the neckline and roughly 6″ up from the hem, using one of my ceremonial handbooks as a spacing guide while pinning the contrast band down. All of the inside seams were serged for speed and durability, but anything that was possibly visible was stitched by hand for the bands, facings, hems and sleeves. As time began to run short, rather than doing individual hand eyelets as I originally intended, I decided to try the lacing ladders on the openings for now, then go back later to finish with the eyelets.
As I tried to get the pleats to lay nicely instead of bunching into extremely bulky wads, I rapidly determined that the combination of lining with the amount of fabric I allowed for the pleats was too much for my modern tastes and comforts. To allow for wearing the gown in eight days, I did a deep tuck just below the base of the “V” for now and will go back to remove some of the excess fabric length and repleat that area with smaller pleats when I add the hand eyelets. The cincture of the same geometric fabric, pearled and with purple and yellow braided cords covered the seam line fairly well. Due to real life happening during the event, I do not currently have a photo of me wearing the dress – this will update later for both before and after the intended alterations and more pearling beyond the simple diamond pattern done by the time of the event.
His tunic, shirt and pants were much easier to assemble, since I utilized basic rectangular construction and the shirt of St. Louis for the tunic and shirt, and a simple rolled waistband with drawstring and hand eyelets on the pants. All visible seams or stitching are by hand using silk thread, and he is happy with the way it fits and looks.