16th century peasant dress p.3 – Bodice & Skirt Construction

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Thanks for joining me again while I work on my 16th century peasant dress! Today we’re sewing the bodice and the skirt, and I already wore a bare-bones version of the costume to Castlefest 2018!

Bodice Construction

For construction I would recommend viewing Morgan Donner’s video on how to sew a mock-up bodice as this is the exact technique I used except for the lining.


Pinned and cut the bodice pieces out of the red linen fabric. I used a 2cm seam allowance all around.


Then I also cut the lining, plus a sneak preview of the sleeves! I decided to use the white batist that was wrongfully send to me (see the first post on this costume). It was slightly annoying to have two different colours of fabric clashing like that but I had no choice!


Then I cut two layers of sturdy canvas for the boning tunnels. I prefer using two layers of canvas because it is less fiddly than seam tape, adds even more stability and the boning channels will not show on the outside or inside – or on your skin!


I layered the two canvas pieces together and basted them in place.


Now onto the boning! Like many costume makers I use large zip ties as boning in lieu of whale bones. Now I don’t know how easy it was for a common woman to get ahold of whale bones (reeds were also used, I imagine for the lower classes), but zip ties are so easy to use and very cheap as well, so I decided to go for it nonetheless.


I drew 1cm boning channels. The placement was inspired by one of the few surviving bodies, the so-called Pfalzgräfin bodice, from 1598. Fairly late for my use, but a good starting point.


I stitched all the channels from top to bottom, from right to left. Directional sewing is now more important than ever since the canvas is loosely woven and can distort easily.


Inserting the bones was very zen. Then I realized I had not closed the lower seam yet so they alll had to be removed again…


Sewn with a 2mm stitch to prevent the boning from forcing themselves through the stitches. This was a problem with another corset I made a couple of years ago. I always change my stitch length from 3.5mm to 2mm when working with boning.


The 2nd channel was left empty for the eyelets. I did not apply any extra reinforcement as I would have 2 layers of canvas, 1 layer of linen and 1 layer of lining. If you use silk or tafetta you could apply an extra strip of canvas if you want.


Two side bonings and I was done.


Here I made a pretty big mistake. I was following Morgan Donner’s method of lining the bodice, where she turns the outer fabric over the interlining and hand-stitches it in place, before adding the lining and also hand-stitching that in place. I guess I should have paid more attention to her fabric as she used wool, which is much more pliable than linen!



I tried snipping the round edges, and even cutting away the seam allowance of the interlining, but it was a terrible mess.



At this point I seriously worried about the bodice. So there was nothing left for me but to sew the lining on RST and turn it inside out. Not the way I wanted to do it, as it was an enormous hassle to turn a bodice with a loose interlining.



After I admitted defeat and sewed things the “modern way”, it did look a lot better. My bodice was saved!


Time to make the holes for the lacing. I did offset holes as you can see here: the first two were 1.5 cm apart and the rest is 3cm apart.


Then on the other side, all holes were 3cm apart except for the last two, which were – as you may guess – 1.5cm apart again.


At this point it was the morning of the event, Castlefest 2018. I had no time to stitch the eyelets. Of course it won’t fall apart if you just lace the bodice up, so that’s what I did for its first test wear!


I forgot to take my large awl so I used the small awl and a chopstick to make the holes big enough for the shoelace. Later I might switch to a waxed cord of some sort, but I like the rustic look of the beige lace.

Skirt Construction

I took my leftover fabric and cut it into two panels of 150cm wide and 100cm long. I figured a common woman would not want any fabric to go to waste, and actually use everything for the skirt. I also cut a waistband from the side of the fabric, and made it 5cm longer than my natural waist for some wiggle room.


I decided to construct the skirt as if it were a hakama, a pair of Japanese pants. A slit in both sides combined with waistband ties will give me a skirt that will fit anyone who wears is. This was important to me as I wanted to make a basic skirt that I could make separate bodices for.

In the picture I sew the side seam from the slit mark down to the hem. The slit mark measures 15cm from the top edge.


I turned the seam allowance in on itself and sewed all around the slits.


Close-up. The rest of the seam allowance could be turned inward by hand, but I’ll save that for a rainy day.


I also cut some 25cm ties, four of them for the four slit edges. Used my handy ribbon turner and pressed them.


To calculate the depth of the pleats and the room between then I actually used a curtain calculator online. It’s in Dutch so I won’t link it, but I bet you can find one yourself through Google!


I sewed the pleast down with the waistband, and attached the ties.


A final topstitch and the skirt is done.


The skirt was REALLY long because I wanted a big, sturdy hem. The hem ended up being 12cm wide. I just stitched it down, later I will cover the visible stitch with a band.

Test wear to Castlefest 2018

The costume is not actually done yet! I wanted to add trim to the hem and the bodice much as in the picture above, but I ran out of time for the event this was for. So this will count as a test wear!

Next post I will save for when the trim is added to the bodice and I made some better headware. But beware that might take a couple of months since the costume feels very “done” to me and I want to move on to other dresses.


The re-enactment camp gave us a very nice background and some props to take some pictures with.


What cracks me up here are the plastic avocado’s, surely they were not available n Europe yet in the 16th century? I guess the funniest thing is that I bet they could only find these fashionable foods in plastic, and not many turnips, onions and potatoes.


I wore the peasant costume with my belt so I could carry my own phone and money. My boyfriend was sweet enough to carry my spare shoes and water bottle for me.


The simple head wrap was a necessity as I had just dyed my hair bright purple. Oh well! I do want to make a cute cap one day so I look a little more period.

This was all for now, thank you again for reading and maybe see you next time with the finishing touches on this 16th century peasant dress!

~ Mardie


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Sew Simple: The Grace Dress & Skirts (pattern review)

Hi everyone! Thanks for joining me again and today I have a pattern review / sew with me post about the Sew Simple Grace Dress & Skirt!

The Great Big Pattern Swap

Over on Instagram I participated in the Great Big Pattern Swap organized by the.polka.dot.palace & thezipperfoot . The idea was to swap some old or unused patterns with each other, sew a garment with one and win amazing prizes! It was a little hard for me to find patterns in my size (22-24), but the lovely lili_in_the_island had this Grace Dress by the UK pattern company Sew Simple for me. In the end I did have to do a little pattern adjustment but it was the best pattern I could find!

At the end of the post I am actually giving the pattern away again so be sure to scroll all the way down if I can make you happy with this dress pattern! Don’t worry I have copied the pattern and instructions for myself so I don’t need the original any more. I always think about saving patterns to make the same dress for family & friends but this has never happened before so I’d rather pay it forward and make someone else happy with it.

I also have a new post format where I group similar pictures together because I had ~ 50 pictures of the construction progress. Let me know if you prefer large images instead.

Pattern adjustments & toile

The first step was doing my normal adjustments to the pattern (FBA of 6,5 cm, lowered dart by 4cm, take in the back by 2cm). Then I sewed a toile, and immediately noticed the neckline was gaping on me. The back of the bodice fit pretty perfectly, did not need to lengthen the darts.

I did a narrow chest adjustment, and moved the dart to the armscye. Actually at this point I might have just done a princess seam, but I didn’t feel like it! I also added a little more fabric to the armpit area. The waistbands also needed to be adjusted to accommodate the bodice adjustments.


This is the fabric I chose! A striped seersucker with little cactuses. Actually they didn’t have as much fabric as the table suggested, but I just thought it was the cutest and knew I could make it work.


But I could’t make it work! There was just not enough fabric for the pockets. Oh well, the dress is very light and a pocket would just distort the skirt.

Step 1 was to sew all the darts in the bodice and lining.

I joined the shoulder seams together and pressed them open. I staystitched the armholes and neckline with a 2mm stitch to avoid distortion through wear. Then I stitched the neckline, trimmed and clipped the seam, and understitched the neckline. None of these steps were mentioned in the pattern but it is a beginner pattern anyway.

I repeated the steps with the armhole. It is possible to understitch the armholes if you go side seam – shoulder seam on both sides. It gets a little tricky at the end – you could to the final stitches by hand if your machine cannot reach it.

Then I joined the side seams, and attached the waistband. After a good press the bodice was finished!

I stitched the side seams of the skirt together with a French seam. Then I gathered the top and stitched it to the front waistband.

And now I saw the skirt was too short for my liking! I totally did not measure the skirt before, I just used what was left of my fabric. Luckily I still had a strip from the side of the fabric, and it looks kind of cute to have a strip of stripes going the other way, right?

Here’s the dress inside out, with the invisible zipper in place. All that needed to be done was the hem, and hand-stitched the inner waistband down. And I was done!



The dress is really cute, and despite the skirt being straight and not curved it did give me a bit of volume. The extra strip made the skirt the perfect length for my taste (it is somewhere between vieuw A and B in length). dav

Again the skirt is voluminous enough for a simple summer dress. The skirt is not lined to make it as airy as can be – I can always wear a slip or underskirt with it.


The bodice was 90% perfect – still a little bit of gaping near the neckline but maybe this is because I should have added seam tape and not just staystitch. Also, the front bodice could do with another 1 cm added to the bottom next time. The back was pretty much perfect!

Also you can see the blue stripe of my fabric marker right on the upper dart, oops!


Oh, I thought I was ready! Then I noticed the waistband had a nasty pucker, so I had to torn and re-sew a small 10cm section. Oh well!

Pattern review

Buy it here

Overall this is a great pattern and I am very happy with it. It is a basic pattern, but it is always nice to have some basics in your wardrobe. I think I can make a couple more variations on this dress without getting bored. I was very happy with the instructions. Overall I would definitely recommend this pattern to beginners.


  • Large size range (8-20)
  • Very clear instructions with drawings
  • Clear directions on the tissue paper, with notches to match i.e. pockets and pleats
  • Easy sewing, the sleeveless version could definitely be made by a beginner
    • An experienced seamstress will find some better ways to do certain steps, like sewing the lining to the zipper by machine vs. by hand.
  • The skirt design maximizes the use of your fabric
  • Back darts shape the back of the bodice very nicely
  • The armscye was very sensible (this is a pet peeve of mine, some pattern makers make a very big but flat armscye to fit the most arms possible, however this armscye loked really good before I butchered the front panel)
  • Actual cap sleeves!


  • The shoulder fit me perfectly, and I have small shoulders. If you have wider shoulders this would be something to remember, but I’d recommend making a toile of the bodice anyway.
  • Needed a FBA for me but this is normal, all patterns are made for B-cup anyway
  • I would probably line the skirt too, depending on the fabric. The inverted box pleats give the skirt a lot of structure but the gathered version could benefit from a slip, lining or underskirt. Again this depends on the fabric.


  • No sleeve markings!!! Yet I did not attempt the sleeve at all so maybe this was just a matter of folding the sleeve in half and match it up with the shoulder seam?
  • There is no size table, only finished garment size. But there is an online size chart, so this doesn’t really matter.
  • A straight skirt gathered will always look less full. If this was an intermediate pattern I would have preferred a skirt with a rounded hem.


I’m giving this pattern away!

I have copied my size and the instructions so now I want to move the pattern along in the sewing community. Contact me here or through DM over at herhandmadehistory‘s Instagram!

Thank you again for reading. Have you made something from Sew Simple? What are your experiences?

~ Mardie

16th century peasant dress p.2 – Bodice Pattern

← Previous: 16th century peasant dress p.1 – Camica / Chemise

Thanks for joining me again this week! I am posting my bodice pattern drafting & sewing here. Originally I was also going to cover the skirt in this post but it’s already quite long so I will save that and the end result for next time 🙂

The design

The first step to creating a bodice pattern is to think about the woman who wears it. I had already decided I wanted to make a costume for a working class lady, possibly lower class. This determines both the shape and the closure of the bodice.


Vincenzo Campi, Kitchen, 1580’s, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan (source)

Almost all bodices were laced with spiral lacing, completely different from modern corsets. On pictures I could find working women with front lacing and side-back lacing, when I had in fact expected to find only front-lacing bodices because it would not require a servant to put them on. But maybe in a busy household like in Campi’s painting above the ladies would lace each other up?


Bronzino, A Young Woman and Her Little Boy, ca. 1540, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (source)

The upper classes almost always wore side-back or back-lacing corsets as they had plenty of servants helping them lace in and out of their bodice. Almost all upper class women’s portraits I could find do not show the lacing, indicating it is in the back or side.


Paolo Veronese, Portrait of a Venetian Woman, second half of 16th century, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Maxvorstadt (source)

An important exception was the Venetian style, where a straight lace was the norm combined with an open front closure showing the camica or possibly a stomacher (chest panel).


Jeremias van Winghe, Kitchen Scene, 1613, Historisches Museum, Frankfurt am Main. (source)

The lower edge of the bodice, where it meets the skirt, could be either pointed or straight depending location, class and fashion. I imagine a straight bodice would be more comfortable to bend in. In the end I decided on a straight bodice with front lacing, and a separate skirt so I could machine-wash it and reuse it for other costumes. This is not period as at the time most garments would be have the bodice and skirt sewn together (kirtle).

Onto pattern drafting!

The pattern

This is a very quick overview of how I drafted my bodice pattern. This is not going to teach you how to draft your own, but I will share some things I came across.

I drafted a very quick “corset” shape based on my bust and waist measurements with negative ease of a total of 10 cm. To calculate the negative ease I just pulled the measuring tape tightly over my bust and waist. I knew it needed some tweaking but -10 was a good place to start.

This is just a number that worked for me – as long as you are wearing a comfortable corset the amount of negative ease is up to you entirely.

Note that the silhouette of this time period was not to create an hourglass shape or S-curve, but to support the bust from below and to create a conical shape.


The first mock-up based on this quick pattern draft was way too big. As you can see here I played around with a pointed lower edge and a higher back.


I took in another 3cm on all sides and drafter a 2nd version.


Success! This bodice fit much better and although the bust was still round I was confident I could flatten it once I got to the boning stage.


I decided to drape the shoulder straps by using the dummy. I pinned a wide strip of canvas on the shoulder and free-handed the straps front and back.


With some pinning and shaping, the shoulder straps were finished.


After the shoulder straps were in place, I changed my mind and went for a straight lower edge instead.


Finally, I moved the seam to the center back and snipped off another 0.5cm so both edges would be straight. Here, I could also have moved the strap seams further towards the back, but I didn’t for some reason!


The final fit on the dummy. There is slight gaping near the bust but I don’t have that when I try it on myself.


Apparently I either have a hump back or this dummy’s back is really flat because this gaping also does not appear when I wear the mock-up! However, after finishing and wearing the bodice (spoiler alert: the straps were too far apart) I wonder if these gapes were a sign to put the straps further together…

Next time, the bodice construction & skirt! Thanks again for reading,

~ Mardie


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