I know that this blog gets lots of hits from people looking for medieval info so thought I would post some info about making costume.
I am not a very good seamstress (just a bit of needlework at school) and have a very experimental approach to making garments but thought I would share some of the process with you. I don’t usually use patterns anymore apart from when making women’s clothing as I need that to fit (not that they really do!) Usually I am making bigger versions (for Jake) or replacing worn out things – with sword cuts in them- so tend to cut round the existing garments. You can find some good basic patterns in general sewing shops in the costume section of the pattern books or websites such as these here . These will need adapting but are good as a starting point. There are also lots of more authentic books available. One of the best for info on patterns is the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant by Sarah Thursfield – a very good source. Another useful book with not as much detail of how to make clothes but lots of ideas is Medieval Costume by Mary Houston.
If you want something a bit more specific to certain garments then Petty Chapman publish a very good series of pattern books. The website does not have prices on it but are they pretty cheap so get in touch for details.
The surcoat is a loose garment worn over armour – there are various different versions but most follow a fairly standard pattern. There is little shaping to this garment it is basically two rectangles of material curved in from the shoulder with slits cut into the front and back to allow for movement.
This surcoat has a V shaped neck as shown in the pic below (the white is paper put behind the neck for contrast.)
The shoulder and side seams are then sewn up leaving a generous arm hole for getting the surcoat on over padded jacket and maille! As well as the front and back slits the side seams are left open as well up to just below the knee.
The garment then needs hemming round neck armholes and the splits in the sides and front. If I am making one for show purposes then this all has to be handstitched – this one is just for training in so was machine stitched.
Normally the surcoat will display the heraldry of that role so that is where the applique or painting comes in. Below are two pics of some of the knights in our group showing their surcoats.
The surcoats look really colourful and you can see from the show pic how well they move when the knights are fighting.