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!
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 Cheeptrims.com
that I decided would look great as decoration on the somewhat plain
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
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.