Making a medieval wedding dress

A medieval wedding dress has got to be one of the most romantic styles of wedding gown there is. Medieval dresses are full of elegance, with long, sweeping skirts and sleeves, but also have a wonderful simplicity.

That simplicity also means that they're much much comfier to wear than the modern meringue style of wedding dress - and much easier to make, too. In fact, they're so simple in terms of construction that if you know your way around a sewing machine, you can probably make one yourself. Here are my top tips for making your own medieval wedding dress.

Fabric and colour

For fabric, silks, velvets and brocades work well. Try to go for natural fibres rather than synthetic - synthetics don't breathe, and so are horribly sticky.

You have complete choice when it comes to colour, as white didn't become associated with wedding dresses till Victorian times. Medieval people preferred strong, rich colours - it was a sign of wealth, as dye was expensive.

Accessories

Wedding veils weren't worn in medieval times - the bride wore her hair loose, with a circlet of flowers. But of course you can wear a veil if you want. For a simple medieval veil, cut an oval (perhaps 2 feet x 3 feet is about right for a medieval veil, though you can go much larger if you want something full length and dramatic) from fine linen or silk - or something more sheer, if you prefer - and wear it with a simple silver or gold circlet. The circlet will also look beautiful without the veil.

For shoes, simple slippers are best - heels weren't invented then, and look odd with a a medieval dress.

Dress pattern

If you're used to the modern bodice block pattern, then you can adjust this very easily to create a medieval style wedding dress. A lot of people use a princess line, and then simple add a lot of fullness to each skirt piece.

However, the original medieval way of cutting dresses is so simple that you might as well use it. Not only is it very easy, it's very economical with fabric, and you'll get a more authentic line (princess seams don't look quite right around the bust).

Here's the basic pattern:

The body is a single long rectangle, shoulder width, with the neck cut out of the middle. When the neck hole is small, cut a slit is down the centre front so you can get the kirtle over your head - it's common to edge the neck and this clit with decorative braid.

The sleeves are also rectangles, and have no shaping in sleeve head or arm hole. Cut them just wide enough for the arm to move. The seam goes under the arm.

Because it's all rectangles and triangles you can cut it very economically - here's one way to do that.

You can adjust this basic pattern in lots of ways: you can add more gores for extra fullness, you can add a train at the back; you can change the neckline; you can add looser, longer sleeves.

For more details, pictures, and patterns for other styles of medieval dress, visit my medieval wedding dress site.

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