Constructing a Giornea

A giornea is one of the simplest items in my 15th century wardrobe to construct and can be made with as little as 3 metres of fashion fabric (less if you are short!). After completing a basic wardrobe of under layers a couple of giorneas were on the top of my ‘to make’ list before my first living history show for just these reasons.

If you haven’t already, you can see the ones I’ve made here.

They’re a great way to use that expensive fabric you might not be able to afford otherwise. They’re also like a blank canvas and I intend on decorating mine one day with embroidery and/or trim. Gold work, brocade trim, velvet cut into trim, dagging, beadwork… there’s just so many options!

I have drafted two giornea patterns but have only made the first, which requires the least amount of fabric. I hope to make up the second pattern this year and have my eye on some scrummy (and expensive!) fabric for it. Lets just say gold silk brocade and leave it at that.

The first pattern can be used for any fabric even if it has a right and wrong side or a pattern. The downside is if you use it for a one-sided fabric with a pattern that has a direction to it then the pattern will be upside down on your back (or front if you so choose).

The pattern allows for a very slight train but if you want a significant train you’ll either need to waste a bit of fabric (in which case you’d be better off using my second pattern) or use a fabric which doesn’t have a noticeable right and wrong side. I’ll include instructions for a train at the end.

Please understand there are many ways to make a giornea and this represents only a way, not the way or even the best way. I’ve used this pattern on fabric around 112 cm wide.

To work out how much fabric you need measure from your shoulder to the ground, add a couple of inches and multiply by two.

You will also need to find a measurement we’ll call x. Find the point at the top back of your shoulder where you wish for the outer edge of your giornea to sit and measure from there to your centre back. You might need a friend to help you. This measurement will be x.

The pattern is below:


Your selvages are down the left and right sides and the arrows point in the direction of any pattern/nap to the fabric.

The black lines show your cutting lines. The horizontal line is halfway down the fabric.  essentially you cut the fabric into two rectangles. With the first rectangle measure in from the top left a distance of x and from the bottom right a distance of x. Draw a straight line between the two and cut. With the second rectangle you do the opposite, measure in from the top right the distance from x and from the bottom left. This is very important not to cut them both the same way, if you don’t cut them as mirror images then you will get two right sides or left sides only of your garment!

If you are flatlining/interlining your fabric (which is a good idea if it’s a light weight fabric) then you’ll need to cut your lining the same size, tack or pin the lining to the fabric and treat them as one. Now you’ll arrange your pieces as follows below:


you’ll be sewing the short seams together to form shoulders and the straight back seam(between the yellow and blue pieces) together. You can sew the straight front seam for a closed front giornea or leave it open. You’ll also need to mark a neckline which should be a ‘V’ shape front and back. I like to pin my pieces together, mark the neckline and then sew them. I like to mark my hemlines flat on the ground by drawing a smooth curve but if you have a helper you can have them pin your hem if you like.


As the inside of this garment is usually visible, especially in the back, I recommend lining it using your prefered method which will hide the seams.

When you wear this you can sit the shoulder seems just to the back of your shoulder and belt the front. This will create a very slight train (more of a bit of a trail) at the back.

If you want a more substantial train then you have three choices.

Option one, for a fabric with a right and wrong side: work out how long you want the train to be, multiply that by two and add that to your starting length of fabric. This will add a train to the front AND back so you’ll need to cut it shorter in the front. Hopefully you can use the waste to make pouches or sleeves or something.

Option two, for a fabric without a right and wrong side: work out the length you want the train and add this WITHOUT multiplying it by two and add this to the initial length of fabric. When you cut your two rectangles one (lets say the blue/green rectangle in the first diagram) will be the shoulder to floor measurement and the other (red/yellow rectangle) will be the shoulder to floor plus train measurement. You will use the red/yellow pieces to form the back pieces and the blue/green to form the front. This means half of your dress will have the other side of the fabric showing so make SURE there isn’t a right or wrong side.

Option three is to come back when I’ve uploaded my other pattern. 🙂

As I said, this is a very basic pattern. A great alteration is to get a bit of extra fabric and put a gore in the centre back to add fullness. You can also put two half (or even full gores!) in the centre front.

If you have a very wide and/or stiff fabric that doesn’t drape well you may find this pattern is too wide across the back, especially if you are slender. If this is the case then cut down the top of the giornea at the sides a bit.


2 thoughts on “Constructing a Giornea

  1. Pingback: Giornea | Cathelina di Alessandri

  2. Pingback: Giorneas, and v-necks, and cats, oh my. – Untudored Garb

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