I had occasion to attend a Dark Ages event for which I needed earlier clothing. As usual the clothing looks wonky on Cecil because she is straight and I am not. In the photos the Smokkr (orange apron dress) is not hemmed, I hemmed it before the event.


Viking outfit from Kathelyne’s Wardrobe


Below is the layout I used for my Smokkr, it has four panels and four gores.


Smokkr or Apron Dress Layout from Kathelyne’s wardrobe


Viking outfit from Kathelyne’s Wardrobe



Viking serk from Kathelyne’s Wardrobe

The serk has tapered sleeves and side gores that reach into the sleeve. There is a seam at the armhole as I had to piece the gore there- it was coincidence that it happened at the armhole exactly! It has front and back gores and a keyhole neckline. All these things were new to me.



Viking serk from Kathelyne’s Wardrobe


The Jaffa Dress

I made this dress in 2009, and I’ve written this write-up with the assistance of my old livejournal.  One thing I learned in posting this on livejournal is not all countries have the lolly known as the Jaffa.

A Jaffa is a lolly that is round with dark orange chocolate in the middle and a thin coating of candy stuff on the outside that is a dark orange/red colour.  Like an m’n’m but bigger and rounder.  This is how the dress got it’s nickname!

I chose the colours by the following method. I had orange linen/cotton that was brighter and a little lighter in weight than I hoped. A friend was raising money by selling fabric so I ‘helped’ her by buying 13 metres of brown linen which I’m still using to this day—it is the same linen I used in the interlining of the red gamurra. I found putting the brown under the orange dulled the colour slightly.

This is my first and only fully lined Gamurra, usually I only line the bodice.

My first step is I altered my existing bodice pattern, I had the version of the pattern I had used for my yellow gamurra before I rose the waist so I just had to raise the neckline. I did this by tracing the pattern onto my fabric but drawing the neckline a little higher. I didn’t mock it up.

To construct the bodice I used my usual method of finishing the pieces and whipping them together.

I used my normal method for cutting the skirt. I had four rectangles and my Z measurement was 30cms and the rectangles were 135 wide in total.

I cut the rectangles by pulling a thread in the orange linen/cotton


The brown linen didn’t want to pull a thread easily, so I cut one straight line and then used the orange as a pattern for the other. I pinned the selvages together at the top, the sides down the side where I had pulled the thread on both and the other two sides I smoothed till they looked right.


It was at this point my mother looked down and said it looked like a jaffa, hence the name the jaffa dress.

Before cutting I pinned the layers together around all edges, especially along where I was going to cut. The last thing I needed is cutting along the bias and then the fabric not matching up again.

For the sewing of my skirt I decided to use a seam I don’t normally use. I’m not a fan of running stitch, and if I leave the finishing to the end then it will never get done. Which is why I usually finish and whip. This time I decided to run and finish with a difference.

I sewed the wrong sides together then finished the seam on the right side of the fabric by folding it out to one side


and folding it under.


and tacking it down with a whip stitch. Off the top of my head I can only remember this (as in the finishing on the outside)  done on linen (ie, undergarments), but I chose this method so I would have to finish the seams before I wore it, not wear it unfinished and have the seams fray to pieces. For the record—this worked.

I sewed the skirt in cotton quilting thread that looked like linen thread. I chose white to be similar to bleached linen thread which I was reading at the time would have been used rather than expensive dyed silk thread for lower class garments. I like the finished look.

Here is a closeup of my stitches. I couldn’t make them smaller due to the thickness of the fabric- would have had to do stab stitch to get them smaller.


The skirt once sewn together. Yes, the panels are all the same size, it’s just the middle ones are closer and all.  Still to do was to cut and finish the seams, hem the top, cut and hem the bottom and whip stitch it to the bodice.

Well, first thing I did was cut the hem of the dress even. To do this I laid it out on the floor, eyeballed what the curve would be and cut it panel by panel, using the first one I cut as a template but adjusting it where needed.  I made sure I pinned above the cutmark before cutting so the lining didn’t shift.  Then I hemmed the thing and it didn’t take as long as you might think but by the end of the nine metres (or whatever the hem is) I was jolly sick of the whole thing!

It took me a couple of days to figure out the pleating. I had wanted to hem the top then do tiny box pleats, but as at the seams there would have been about 21 (if my maths is right) layers of fabric it really meant that none of the folds of the pleats could fall on the seams. I considered pleating it then binding the top with something, but decided not to. In the end I hemmed it, and pleated it with larger pleats fudging it where needed to make sure they didn’t fall on the seams where needed.


Here is my (almost) finished bodice

I usually prefer to use lacing rings to close my bodices because I am lazy and hate (making) hand bound eyelets  and lacing rings are period. But at the time I couldn’t find any lacing rings as it was re-enactment season and the fishing shop had none of the solid rings we used to buy for $4.20 a pack of 12 (this is why my shop now stocks lacing rings, because I want them when I want them and for much cheaper than fishing shop prices! It does mean I miss out on getting flustered old men at the counter in the fishing shop saying “why are all you ladies coming in and buying them! You’re the third!”)

I didn’t have a shop back then so I had the choice of waiting until my father finished work to ask if I could raid his stash or making eyelets, so I chose the latter.


I finished the dress by whip stitching the skirt to the bodice edge. At the time I worried about the weight of the skirt damaging the fabric at this seam but eight years on it is fine and I still wear this dress.

Click here to go back to the finished gamurre page.




This item, known better by it’s English name partlet among many costumers, is what a modern person might refer to as a ‘dickie’. Among the lower classes it would likely have been linen (or possibly wool) and worn for practical purposes.

The story goes that the upper classes often wore them in response to sumptuary laws that determined their necklines must not be below a certain level. With a fazzoletto they could have their gamurra neckline as low as they liked and used a sheer silk fazzoletto to bring their neckline in line with the rules while flaunting them at the same time.

You can see the fazzoletto worn either under the gamurra or over it in period art but you might need to look close– sometimes they are hard to spot.

1475-1477 Domenico Ghirlandaio Annunciation of the Death of St. Fina (detail) .jpg

This detail from Domenico Ghirlandaio’s 1475-1477 Annunciation of the Death of St. Fina shows lower class women wearing a simple cut of opaque fabric.


Leonardo Da Vinci’s Portrait of Ginevra Benci dated 1474 shows the fazzoletto worn tucked into the bodice.

1400s bghirlandaio.jpg

This portrait by Ghirlandaio suggests that if the fazzoletto was worn over the gamurra bodice it was worn under the outer garment.

1485 dghirlandaio woman.gif

Domenico Ghirlandaio’s  Portraitdated 1485 shows the fazzoletto was sometimes held closed with a pin or button.


Agnolo e Donnino del Mazziere’s Portrait of a Young Woman shows a very sheer fazzoletto over the bodice of the gamura.


Domenico Ghirlandaio’s  Portrait of a Lady dated to 1490 also shows a sheer fazzoletto over the bodice.


1490 Sebastiano Mainardi Portrait of a Woman.jpg

Sebastiano Mainardi’s  Portrait of a Woman also dated 1490 shows a thicker, but still sheer fazzoletto edged with a decorative stitch.

My pattern is below:

Picture 16.jpg

It’s not a pattern you can print and use, but hopefully it will help with the general shape.


I have only made one fazzoletto which I made in silk, and hemmed it with silk thread using a decorative stitch.




How I Construct my Gamurre Skirts

Over the years I have tweaked something each time I’ve made a gamurra, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my basic skirt construction.

We don’t have archaeological examples to go by so I follow what looks right, archaeological evidence from other times/eras and thinking about what would have worked for their fabric widths and ‘wast not want not’.

I tend to use this with wide fabric, as I don’t bother cutting my fabric narrower, but it works for narrower, you just need more panels.

Firstly I think about if I want single or double pleats. Then I look at how many ‘drops’ I have for my skirt. Then I work out ‘Z’. Z is the measurement of my bodice waist, multiplied by 3 (or 5 for double pleats) divided by twice as many ‘drops’ as I have for the skirt. I then cut each skirt drop as per the below diagram.

skirt pattern

It is important that ‘Z’ is smaller than the side market ‘hem’. If it is not then the skirt won’t flow. I had this problem only once and my solution was to switch from double pleats to single pleats.

You may notice I don’t add any seam allowance. I include hemming allowance in working how long to cut each drop (120cm for me) but when I hem the top of the skirt (the side at the bodice edge) it makes the length of this edge longer and it all just works out.

I cut my panels into the trapezoid shape, I usually use string and a ruller as a guide.

I then sew them straight edge to slanted


I mark the hem with string and pins (I pin straight into the carpet to anchor my pins).

Picture 22.jpg

I then cut the hem straight. Sometimes I cut by eye without marking first. The skirt is now ready to hem.


You will notice I don’t allow my skirts to hang. Using the selvage edge on every seam, even though it’s just one edge per seam, I think helps. It means I can hem my own dresses and have a look at the below image—my hem is very even.


Click here to go back to the finished gamurre page.


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.