V150: A “Tudor Tailor” Kirtle in Progress

So it became apparent that a glorious new Elizabethan noble ensemble just wasn’t going to happen this year, so it’s back to my good ole trusty red jacket I’ve worn for the past two years.  I do love this jacket, and I love changing the look up – the first year it was aspiring middle class with a tall hat; last year it was lower middle or upper lower, lol, with a wool “Elizabethan ski hat.”  Fun times.

This year I wanted a different skirt, specifically one made from the oodles of blue herringbone something-or-other wool-like fabric I’ve had since I started playing at faires many years ago.  The weight of this fabric, in the volume needed for the skirt, is considerable, so it needed some sort of bodice or suspension structure to hold it up.  Enter the kirtle.

Kirtles are great things.  They’re just so dang useful.  A kirtle, in the 16th century, was a sleeveless under-dress, very basic, worn by all levels of society (in varying forms, of course).  It’s a great thing to have for renaissance faire, because you can make different things to go over it – in my case, a waistcoat/jacket, but how about a loose gown? an open-front fitted gown? a doublet? or even just a pair of tie-on sleeves?  Versatile!

I made this one from The Tudor Tailor
book.  I chose the kind that laces closes at front, but has an overlapping flap that pins on the side to hide all that mess.  There were no directions in the book for how to close this particular kirtle, but later on in the book, the Tudor noblewomen’s kirtle closes this way, so I took the idea from there.  The skirt is drop-front – I have no historical evidence for this, but it seemed to make a lot of sense, practical-wise, to close it this way – plus you get pocket slits, which are always handy.

Clearly it’s not done, but will be in time for this weekend’s festivities at Valhalla, South Lake Tahoe.  I have yet to level the skirt, install the closures (and no, they’re not going to be hand-sewn eyelets, I’m not a purist on hidden lacings, but it *will* be spiral laced), and finish the straps.  I always leave the straps for last because I have a long waist and often need to drop them a bit, even if I’ve added to the waist on the pattern.

Lacing closed under the front flap, once the eyelets are installed.  There is plenty of gap there, for adjustability

So yes, it’s very plain, even with the red jacket, but the addition of a ruffed shirt and tall hat should make for a very nice, sober, middle class Elizabethan look.  Pics to come next week, after the faire. 🙂

The jacket over the kirtle – worn open, worn closed, either way.


  • Angela

    May 30, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Lauren, this is great! I have always wanted to do the kirtle, too. I found the directions a bit hard to discern whether a corset was necessary under it since it was boned. But seeing how you did it is great. I want to do the kirtle and the Jacket but embroider the jacket with a pea pod motif that is seen in blackwork books. yes, ambitious. But so fun. Now where do I wear it? I don't do Ren Faire anymore, so I think that is why this idea has never materialized. Anyway, your ensemble is not plain. Its lovley. ag

  • Jenny

    May 30, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    So trim and neat looking! You have inspired me to make a kirtle myself, and to get back into Elizabethan costuming. I <3 this jacket, and may steal the ribbon closure idea 🙂 See you this weekend at Tahoe!

    (The red jacket really does spice it up, and goes so well with everything!)

  • Cation Designs

    May 31, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    Looking good so far! I am fascinated by this side front closure, as I was wondering when making my own how to get the smooth look all around, but still get in and out of it.

  • Jenn

    March 12, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    Is the under panel basically an enlarged lacing strip (whipped down to the front piece), or does it go as far as the side seam? Really clever construction. I'd love to see more photos of how it fits together!

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