Red Velveteen Surcoat

I wanted to make a surcoat to extend my not inconsiderable Elizabethan wardrobe by doing a different style gown than the more common bodice/doublet and skirt combo. I had a set of lower sleeves and forepart that you might have seen before with the black velveteen outfit. I wanted to do something new with them and decided to bring out the iridescent weave (blue/red) by putting them with a cool, cherry red velveteen. Since I already and the lower sleeves that go with mahoitered sleeves, it meant that my new surcoat had to also have mahoitered sleeves.

At CostumeCon in 2004, I had met a very ncie lady named Deb Salisbury who does a line of patterns called 'Mantua-maker'. She has done both an Elizabethan corset pattern that I have used previously with excellent results and an Elizabethan surcoat pattern that I thought I might like to try. She even had a version with short mahoitered sleeves! Yay!

I started out by making a set of underpinnings to go with this gown. On several occasions I have been asked to perform at a venue in Elizabethan dress but without anyone knowledgeable of Elizabethan clothing to help me dress. If you haven't tried getting someone into a full Elizabethan gown, believe me there's some skill and tricks involved! I wanted this outfit to be my 'get dressed by myself' outfit. I made a version of Mantua-maker's Elizabethan corset in a cotton fabric woven blue and red just like the silk of the forepart that laces up the front, and then put the forepart into a matching skirt.

I had some rather fancy black braid trim and I purchased a huge bag of black frogs from that I decided would look great as decoration on the somewhat plain velveteen fabric.

Of course, I can never let perfectly decent trim just be. I wanted to bring a bit of the blue from the silk onto the surcoat so I got some deep sapphire blue facet Czech beads and some deep blue bugle beads and started stitching. I accented every other section of the trim all down the center front and on the sleeves and cuff.

People frequently ask me how long it takes me to do the bead embellishment on my gowns. The answer is that I'm never completely sure because I don't time myself and I work on it whenever the spirit moves me. Let's just say that sewing the beads on the trim took awhile....quite awhile. The frogs down the front were all sewn on by hand as well for the simple reason that I haven't yet figured out how to fit the darn things into my sewing machine.

The only other tricky thing about this dress was getting the sleeves to stand out/be poofy without packing them soild with stuffing. I decided that doing some bones along the length would give it enough fullness. I wasn't lining the surcoat because I anticipated wearing it in the baking heat out at Bristol RenFaire and the velveteen would be hot enough, thank you! So in order to add the bones, I put lines of tightly woven ribbon ribbon into a very light cotton lining for just the sleeves. The bones themselves are my old buddies plastic zip-ties trimmed to the needed length and with the ends rounded off.

I also added some small bones to the back of the collar because I wanted it to stand up well without being too stiff or bulky.

Here's what the sleeve looked like when it was all done and put together..

The rest was very easy and straight forward, just a few long sleams and then finishing off the front opening and the hem. Since I wasn't lining it, I wanted to be sure that the edges were well covered so I put facings of about 3 inches along the front and on the hem in a matching cotton.

The first time out in September 2005, I wore it with a black brocade French hood. This is correct to period, but I thought it gave me a rather matronly look. I also wanted a more fitted silhouette than the one I ended up with. Once again, there's nothing wrong with the overall look, I just wanted one that was less full.

For the 2006 season I made a few changes. I made myself a matching red velveteen flat cap with a dark blue chiffon caul and I took the sides and back seams to give it the more fitted look that I wanted. I also made myself a 'pearl' collar to wear based on one that my friend Sheila let me borrow last year. I definitely like the look. If you are wondering where I keep my stuff when I'm wearing this gown, I hid a pocket in the right hand seam.

This is an amazingly comfortable outfit. I've often said that every woman who does Elizabethan reenactment should have a surcoat for one of her outfits. And I can testify that with the front lacing corset, the only help you need is the sort you'd need with a heavy winter coat just to get the surcoat on your shoulders properly.


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This page was last updated on 09/22/06.

Got A Problem, Gripe, or Compliment About My Site ... Send It To My Webmaster!

This page was last updated on 09/22/06.