Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lady Bridget Cave, An Elizabethan Knight's Wife, 1574.

In addition to my Katherine of Aragon costume, I am also making a upperclass noblewomen's costume for a client who is part of the Guilde of St George, The Court of Queen Elizabeth I, at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I'm also part of their group, but I don't have the time or money to attend as much as I would like, so I just go as a "guest" once or twice a year (therefore I'm not on the official cast list)

My client, who is playing Lady Bridget Cave, a knight's wife, has commissioned me to create a new dress for her this year with a June deadline. The year is 1574 at Bristol, a real port city in England that Elizabeth was said to visit while on progress that year. Cast members at Bristol are required to have their costumes approved by a Costuming Director before they can be created and wore because Bristol is fabulously careful of allowing costumes that are appropriate, fun, dramatic, and not too repetitive. (We don't want the whole Court in Red!) Therefore I did need to do some usual research before coming up with a final sketch that we were able to get approved.

Lady Bridget Cave Sketch
The main blue fabric is a cotton/poly blend that is mostly cotton (determined by a burn test) with a medium size pointed flower/snowflake like repeated pattern. The wearer did not want the gown to be too "feminine" so instead of curves and swirls, we chose patterns and fabrics that could be more geometric. More angles, less curves. The slightly darker blue fabric along the bottom of her forepart and sleeves that acts as a "guard" is a cotton/poly velvet. We try to stay away from poly's at Bristol because the days can be so hot, and having fabrics that breath are ideal. To try to counter these two fabrics that are heavier, I've chosen light dupioni silk for the yellow and rust brown on the forepart and sleeves. Though I didn't drawn the design quite right in my sketch, the criss-cross on the the sleeves will be a basket weave pattern, achieved by cutting strips of the silk, sewing up the sides and weaving them together in the shape of her sleeves.There is some yellow trim we found at Joann's to boarder the over skirts and bodice, and I will be creating some cord piping out of the rust brown to boarder the sleeves and the center of the forepart. The beading on her forepart, sleeves and french hood will all be glass and semiprecious stones that are only round, as her class prohibits any faceted beading or billiments. The hood is made from the same silks as in the dress, save for the off-white silk veil. She will also have a white cotton chemise.

Cotton of course is not a period fabric, but it is really hard to find fabrics made from linen, wool or silk in the right pattern, color, or weight (today's silks especially, are much lighter than they would have been in Elizabethan England, in some cases) and most importantly, for the right price, so it is okay to make exceptions with cotton. I have made this decision as a seamstress, but it has also been approved by the Guilde of St George for their cast member's dress.

If other seamstresses out there prefer to use more period accurate fabrics and techniques, more power to you!

I have started so far on her undergarments, which will include a farthingale, chemise, and two petticoats. She has already provided a bum roll and a corset which will work nicely with our design. I won't have much WIP to show until the undergarments are done, and with several other costumes on the docket, that probably won't be until Mid-May, but after that it will be full speed ahead on the forepart, sleeves, overskirt, bodice, and french hood. (I really do take the longest on my undergarments, and will whiz through all the other pieces without an issue.) Stay tune for more updates!


  1. YAY! Let the dress rehearsal countdown begin!

    1. I'm so excited to be working something for Bristol that is not my own! :D Do you have anymore full outfits, Kat, or just pieces, after Leicester?

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