A Cranach Gown for Twelfth Night- Part 2

FYI, this is going to be a long, wordy post. But, if you’d like to know how I went about making my Cranach gown, please read on!

To read Part 1, visit here.


The first part of the dress I constructed was the bodice. I laid out my pattern and cut it out in the liner, canvas, and fashion fabric. Then, I cut the trim out of the accent fabric enough to go over the front of the dress two inches AND two inches on the inside of the bodice, plus seam allowance. I then sewed the interfacing (canvas) to the liner so it would be easier to put all three layers together. Then, I pinned together the lining/interfacing and fashion fabric, right sides together, and sewed them together. You want to leave the bottom open for turning, and you do NOT sew together the shoulder seams yet. If you do, then you won’t be able to turn the bodice right side out.

Next, I turned the whole thing right side out and ironed down the seams. I then sewed together the shoulder seams by sewing the right sides of the top layer of fabric together and then whip stitching the bottom layer closed so no additional stitches would be seen from the outside. This was a bit difficult because I had to sew through some thick fabric by hand. A thimble comes in really handy for that sort of thing! Then, I sewed the two pieces (inside and outside) of the trim right sides together and turned it right side out. Next, I ironed down the seam allowances on both sides and then sandwiched the edge of the bodice together and pinned the trim in place. Then, I hand stitched down the trim so my stitches would be invisible the outside and whipstitched the inside since it would not be visible.


Then, I added my lacing rings to the front of the bodice and tried it on to see how it fit!


The next step was sewing up the center panel. I did this very unscientifically and just sort of guessed how big the middle part should be and cut out my fabric accordingly. I made sure the top part, called the brustfleck, would cover my chest and the bottom part would cover the rest of my torso down to my skirt. I cut the brustfleck out of the same fabric as my trim and tried to make sure that a symmetrical part of the brocade would be visible. In many of the paintings you look at, you can see that the brustfleck is often elaborately decorated. I didn’t have time to do anything fancy but plan to in the future. I made the brustfleck with two pieces of fabric since it is used to hold the two sides of the bodice together. If I were making it again, I might even add a layer of canvas interfacing to make it stiffer. For the bottom of the center panel, I used two layers of medium weight white linen.

There is some debate as to how the center of this type of dress is constructed. Sometimes in paintings, it looks like the brustfleck and the white part beneath are not connected. However, you never see wrinkles on the white middle part, which to me suggests that it isn’t just part of the wearer’s chemise/hemd that is shown. Plus, the skirt appears to be sewn onto the white middle panel, which also suggests to me that it is a separate piece from the hemd. And if you look at paintings where the wearer is partially disrobed, like in The Suicide of Lucrezia by Lucas Cranach, the front panel appears to come away as a whole separate piece.




For my dress, I sewed the two parts of the middle panel together to make one unified piece. I attached it to the bodice by sewing it down with a whipstitch on one side and then using hooks and eyes to attach it to the other side. This allows me to get in and out of the dress easily. For me, getting the center panel to line up correctly once attached to the bodice was very difficult. I must have re-done it at least 4 times. I would attach it with the whipstitch, put it on, mark where I needed my hooks and eyes, take it off, sew on the hooks and eyes, try it on, and find that the whole thing was crooked. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was very frustrating. Even when I wore it, I still wasn’t happy with the fit. I have since removed the brustfleck to add pearls and will get to fix it all over again when I reattach it. Yay! </sarcasm>


There is some debate about what kind of pleats would have been used historically. The methods that most people use are cartridge pleats, rolled pleats, box pleats, or knife pleats. If you look at the paintings of these gowns, the pleats are very round and full. This look cannot be achieved with knife pleats. I think those are better suited for skirts where you don’t want much bulk. Box pleats are slightly better, but they still don’t have the fullness of the round pleats you see in illustrations. Cartridge pleats are used frequently. They give more of a roundness to the pleats as they get longer, and they use less fabric than rolled pleats. But I didn’t like the way they looked where they joined the bodice. To me, it didn’t look quite right. So, I opted for rolled pleats. The drawbacks are that they use quite a bit of fabric and it can be a challenge to sew through so many layers of fabric with a sewing machine. But I think they look the most like the gowns in the paintings, and since I had enough fabric, I decided to go for it.

I cut my fabric to the length determined by the pleat calculator. Then, I began to roll my pleats as shown in the tutorial that can be found in the same link as the pleat calculator. I pinned as I rolled, and once I was all the way through, I stay stitched the pleats down. Then. I pinned the skirt to the bodice, right sides together. I left a small gap (3-4 inches) in the front where the center panel joins the bodice with hooks and eyes so that the skirt can be opened and closed by hook and eye when putting on and taking off. I sewed the skirt to the bodice with upholstery strength thread and flipped it right side out.


The next part was adding the stripes around the bottom of the skirt. The strip of fabric needs to be the same length as your skirt. The width can vary. I have seen some depictions of fairly narrow stripes, but most are fairly wide. My bottom strip 8 inches wide and the top two 4 inches, plus seam allowances on all. I sewed the bottom stripe on by sewing the bottom of the stripe to the underside of the skirt, wrong sides together, then folding the stripe over the raw edge of the skirt and ironing it down. Then, I ironed down the seam allowance of the top of the stripe and used a machine blanket stitch to tack it into place. Ideally the bottom would have been tacked down by hand like the trim on the bodice, but since the stripe is just so darn long, I chose to do it by machine. It’s hardly noticeable and doesn’t bother me one bit. I used a blanket stitch rather than a straight stitch because it’s less noticeable to see a stitch every quarter inch rather than a whole line of stitches.

Bottom hem of the skirt
Bottom hem of the skirt
Detail of machine blanket stitching

For the top two stripes, I used a similar method— sewing down the top with the wrong side facing outward, then folding it over and ironing it. Then, I folded under the bottom part of the stripe’s seam allowance and ironed it down and pinned it in place. I then used a blanket stitch on my machine to sew it into place. Here’s a picture of the dress in the middle of having stripes added.


I then sewed the front seam of the skirt up, leaving another 3-4 inch gap at the very top. You want to make sure you have some overlap where the skirt joins at the top to avoid a gap showing your chemise underneath. Also, take care to make sure that your stripes line up correctly. 😃 Then, BOOM, the main part of the dress is DONE! It could be worn as is if it’s really hot out or if you get hot while dancing (me). Or you can add some lace on sleeves.


As I said in my last post, my Reconstructing History pattern came in handy for one thing— patterning my sleeves. As I have learned the hard way, you should always make a muslin of whatever garment you’re making to see how it’s going to fit before you cut into your good fabric. So, I used my paper pattern to make muslin of sleeves that would have a gap at the elbow. I made some tweaks so it would fit my arm, and went ahead and cut out my fabric.

I used the same fabric to line my sleeves that I used to line my bodice. I added the trim by cutting some stripes in the accent fabric and sewing it on similarly to the way I did the stripes on the skirt. I left the lengthwise seam open for turning and then sewed it up and finished the edges with a serger on the bottom sleeve but finished the upper one with a blind ladder stitch. For the cuffs, I cut them out of two pieces of the accent color, sewed them together at the outer edge, turned them, and then sewed them, right sides together, to the end of the forearm piece of the sleeves. Then, I sewed lacing rings around the inside edges where the sleeves should be joined. I used 5 rings for each edge.

Blind ladder stitch on upper sleeve.
Finished upper sleeve
Finished lower sleeve
Lower sleeve inside out

To wear them, I laced them onto the dress using some black cord that I purchased. It was a bit thinner than I would have liked but I didn’t have time to make lucet cord. I laced them in a zig zag pattern, the same way as spiral lacing for a cotehardie. The cool thing about having the sleeves in two parts means I can just wear the top part of the sleeve if I want. Or I could mismatch the sleeve parts as seen here:

Lucas Cranach the Elder Saint Genevieve
Don’t you love those red laces, too?

So, that’s pretty much it! I also made a goldhaube using the tutorial created by Genoveva von Lubeck. I used a silk that already had diamond designs sewn into it because I didn’t have time to do the proper decorations. But, I think it works. I lined the goldhaube with the same fabric that I used on my accents since it was the same color, and that gave the silk some more weight. And here are some shots of the dress at Twelfth Night!

Apollonia and Karius processing in at 12th Night.
Processing in with the retinue of the Prince and Princess of the Mists with my husband, Karius, also in Germans. Photo credit Joel Schonbrunn.
Standing court at 12th Night
Me standing behind Kean and Kate, the Prince and Princess of the Mists, making a really awkward face. Photo credit Joel Schonbrunn.
Cranach gown front view
Photo credit Joel Schonbrunn
Cranach gown three quarters view
Photo credit Joel Schonbrunn
Birthday party at 12th Night
At my birthday party later that evening
12th Night group shot
Our group of German ladies. The lady to the right of me is the one who helped me with construction from Arizona. Photo credit Joel Schonbrunn.
Cranach gown three quarters view
Photo credit Joel Schonbrunn


About Apollonia

Apollonia lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and plays in the SCA in the Kingdom of the West. She loves learning about and making stuff.

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