Historical Sewing Patterns
There are two major variations: View 1 – the long-bodied kirtle, is based on the notes of Janet Arnold of the kirtle in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg; and View 2 – the “two piece” kirtle, with a waist seam, which is based on the pattern layouts published by Juan de Alcega in 1589. View 3 – a voluminous variation on the first kirtle, is loose enough to be used during pregnancy. All three may be made with a front or back opening, and with a high, low round, or very low square neckline. Sleeves may be set in, or made detachable.
This pattern includes 14 pages of instructions with historical tips, and 4 pattern sheets. It is printed on bond paper, and enclosed in a reclosable plastic bag.
All sizes Petite – X-large are included. Fabric amounts depend more on height than on size – it is set up for someone who is 5’2” to 5’11” (marked as Petite, Medium, Tall and Very Tall). If you are shorter or taller than the marked increments, you will need to shorten or lengthen this pattern.
Fastens up the front or the back.
With or without a waist seam.
With, without, or detached sleeves.
Fitted or loose in the torso. May be lined or unlined.
Variations and decoration ideas.
Comfortable clothes in the fashionable set of the Renaissance may sound unlikely, but the kirtle fits this description. The kirtle of the 1500s might be cut loose and long, from the shoulder to the floor, or cut with a waist seam for a closer fit at the torso. It was worn under a Loose Gown, and might be considered en dishabille – or something that was normally (though not always) worn as comfortable indoor clothing. This was a middle and upper class garment, and would only have been worn by lower class women as a third- or forth-hand castoff – clothing was often passed down as payment or rewards.
The Round Kirtle refers to a skirt that is round, or level, at the hemline. This garment is different from the French Kirtle, which, in the French fashion, sported a train. A French kirtle might be altered into a round kirtle when the fabric of the train became too shabby, or when taste or fashion changed.
The kirtle was worn over a shift, a pair of bodies (otherwise known today as a corset), a farthingale (optional, depending on social status or pretensions), a bumroll, and an underskirt or two (or more, if no farthingale was worn).
This kirtle is designed to fit over a 2 ½’ to 4’ diameter farthingale. Because the design is intended for a custom fit, the final hemline measurement will depend on the garment size and length.
The photo shows a loose kirtle without a waist seam.