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15th c Burgundian gown - belt options

Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:31 pm
by Meg

Am hoping someone much more knowledgeable than me might be able to help. I'm planning to make a second Burgundian gown, but have found that my first, although gorgeous (tho' I say it myself) doesn't suit me as well as I'd hoped. I think part of the reason is the gown belt - correctly made, sized and positioned etc, but that sort of 'gathered under the bust' thing just doesn't really suit my shape! I have seen lots of illustrations where the gown belt seems to be placed lower, i.e. at natural waist level rather than just under the bust, but am not sure whether this is reflective of actual practice or simply artistic license/unfamiliarity with details of women's costume. I'm also sure that I've seen illustrations of Burgundian gowns with narrow belts worn even lower than that lower (on the hip, I think), but i can't for the life of me remember where. Can anyone help?

To put this in perspective, it's actually for my wedding dress... I want it to be RIGHT (hey, this is the girl who completely hand-stitched the last Burgundian gown!), but I want it to be as flattering as possible within the constraints of authenticity. If the general consensus is 'big gown belts or nothing' I'll go with it (unless I find any concrete evidence to the contrary - unlikely, as I've been looking for a while) - but I'd like to be aware of other options!

Would be grateful for any advice.

Thanks, Sian

Re: 15th c Burgundian gown - belt options

Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:56 pm
by Karen Larsdatter
When I've made this style of gown, I'd cut the dress kind of like a big triangle (getting narrow towards the shoulders) rather than the gathered-under-the-bust style. (Maybe some of these links will help you. Were you wearing a kirtle under the gown?)

As to the belts themselves -- there is a real 15th century belt of this style at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremburg; here are some photos:

There are a couple of places here in the U.S. which make this style of belt (or at least the belt-ends): Billy and Charlie, Raymond's Quiet Press, and Gaukler Medieval Wares.

Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 7:45 pm
by Meg
Hi Karen

I was wearing a thin woollen kirtle underneath the silk gown, linen-lined to the hips for extra support (I am not under-endowed in the bust department, which can be both a blessing and a curse!). The gown was mostly triangular, narrowing to a loose semi-fitted shape at the bust and shoulders, which was then gathered under the bust with a gown belt very similar to the one you highlighted (fantastic pic though - I didn't know there were any extant examples of gown belts!). It's about a handspan wide, made of thick fustian and covered with wool, with brass buckle and end. ... display=64 ... display=90 ... isplay=101

Apologies for the laboriousness of the above url's (I haven't figured out how to set them as links), but they're pics of me in the gown, if you can bear to cut and paste them. The 2nd pic is the worst (I'm on the right!) and clearly shows the 'bunching' effect that I hate! The 3rd pic is the nicest :-)

I guess I'm really looking for an alternative to the 'standard' gown belt, preferably something worn low on the hips so I can have a more fitted body, which would be more flattering to my shape. I look great in 14th c
cotehardies, but the wedding will definitely be 15th c (unfortunately), so I don't have a huge amount of choice! Very complicated...

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:27 am
by JC Milwr
It's your wedding, wear what you like! Would be my first comment.

Howevere, if you're determined to get it right (which I also understand) how about looking at later 15th century, or do you have a set year?
Royalty was starting to wear almost tudor shapes by 1480s... Also look at Italiante fashion.

the woman at the back, for instance, is wearing a fitted gown. There seem to be sources around for fitted gown with tippet sleeves.

Final thought is make the belt _really_ wide, so it goes from under bust to top of hips...

A few random thoughts, anyway!

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 11:07 am
by Shadowcat
The "Fitted" dress in the picture from "Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry" is actually from the late 1300's and is French, in case anyone doesn't know.


Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:49 pm
by JC Milwr
Ooops, sorry!

I had assumed Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry was 15th C.

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:51 pm
by Meg
Hi All

Thanks so much for the ideas, I'm really very humbly grateful for your help. While I think about it, does anyone have any thoughts on the annoying 'bunching' effect of my Burgundian? (2nd pic shows this best).

Last night I did some more digging and managed to find some references that are much more what I had in mind. There's an engraving of the 'Widow and family of Sir Thomas Urswyck', where the women are clearly wearing thin belts at hip level (although worn with the 'dangly bit' to one side, bizarrely) - late 1470's, and I saw this again at the Fitzherbert tomb (c 1483). Also in 'Unknown man, his wife and his mother', by the 'Master of the Legend of St Ursula'. I'm now looking for decent reproductions of these, as the pictures I saw were small black and white prints.

The 'Thomas Urswyck' brass is here: ... D%26sa%3DG

And some more: ... ntmour.htm ... ayters.htm

Seems to be a definitively English style - I've not seen any Continental examples. Even better! :D

Sorry for not posting the links AS links, btw - can't work out how to do it.

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 2:42 pm
by Lena
JC Milwr wrote:Ooops, sorry!

I had assumed Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry was 15th C.
It is. 1412-1416.

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 4:23 pm
by Sophia
You could try setting the folds with an internal band at belt level (as per the posh gents gowns in Medieval Tailor's Assistant). This would at least mean they sat consistently. The alternatively is to fit the bodice more closely which will mean redoing your toile.

How closely fitted in your kirtle - the better the fit the better your gown will sit.

Jalea is also right about the width of your belt, the wider the better, particularly if high status.

If you are not tied to a particularly year then do try something later - the flat fronted kirtle (petticoat) and fitted gown combination from Medieval Tailor's Assistant is a good one. If you have a friend to help you get the fit right you can get a very good look though it is definitely a post 1450 look.

Note on this when fitting make sure the straps are straight to the grain on the neckline side and that the grain runs down centre of front panel. It should make up very tight - worth having a set of bands with lacing eyelets to temporarily sew onto your toile to help get the fit.

Believe me it is worth working on - I am 5'1" and a bit, wear a 38ff/g bra and am currently plump and can get a very good fit from this. Just don't loose weight unexpectedly.

Good Luck,

Sophia :D
Hope this helps,

Posted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 3:43 pm
by GinaB
I have to agree - the bunching effect that you mention (in pic 2) has more to do with the cut of your gown - you can cut it so that the top section is quite narrow as well, to reduce some of the pleats. Setting the pleats (as Sophia suggested) would make it very easy for you as well, as they won't need to be arranged everytime you wear the gown.

With reference to the German girdle, I thought some of you might like some information about this. It is referred to in MoL textile and clothing as being tablet woven. It is black silk, and is 8.4cm wide. What those images do not show is that it has a very subtle design (sylised lily/fleur-de-lys and leaves) which can only be seen in certain lights. Even in the photographs I ordered from the museum, the design is hard to see. Although published, (in German) the majority of the information about this particular item is actually about the fittings, not the textile (as is so usual...) but you can see my recent (simplified - only 136 tablets and 4.5cm wide!) experiment here ... me=g3.html.

I didn't know there were any extant examples of gown belts!).
There are quite a few in the same book which the above is printed in -
"Gurtel des hohen und spaten Mittelalters" by Ilse Fingerlin, 1971, Deutscher Kunstverlag. This is a survery of buckles and fitting from the medieval period in Europe, and so those fittings which are still attached to something, be it textile or leather, are mentioned. But, as I said earlier, the information is primarily about the fittings, so if, like me, you are facsinated in the textiles, there's alot more work to be done! :wink:

Posted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:21 pm
by JC Milwr
Can I just say, that Fleur de Lis girdle is absolutely exquisite.
Wow. :shock:

15C belts

Posted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:46 pm
by gaukler
I make a number of styles of belts- the first type at seems to be closest to what you are looking for. they are based on surviving belt fragments at the Museum of London,. and can be painted in your choice of colours (medieval pigments tempered with size, or modern acrylics). Buckle plates can be customized as well.

Posted: Mon Sep 25, 2006 1:44 pm
by Meg

Wow - thanks again, all of you.

Gina/Sophia - you're right re the bunching effect, the gown was a bit of an experiment (I wasn't sure whether it should be very full throughout then gathered by the belt, or more closely fitted at the top, and ended up with a dress that's neither one thing nor t'other! When I have time I plan to re-cut the upper parts of the panels to make it more tightly fitted.

Re-doing the toile won't be a problem, as I'll be sneaky and just modify my 14th century fitted cotehardie pattern.

Gaukler - your belts are so beautiful! Sadly I'm trying to move away from the wide belt though, now I've found enough reference for the low-slung hip belts shown in the pictures. I don't suppose you fancy making one of those?!

Thanks so much :D

Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 4:07 am
by Karen Larsdatter
Meg wrote:I'm trying to move away from the wide belt though, now I've found enough reference for the low-slung hip belts shown in the pictures.
If you're going with the late 15th century ("early Tudor") style of gown, maybe a belt with something like Billy & Charlie's "Strap End for Belt with Links and Chain"? Or are you looking for something like the plaque-belts worn with 14th century cotehardies (like Raymond's hip belts)? I'm confused, since this seems to be for a different design of gown than what you'd originally described.

(Gaukler makes lots of pretties, too ... now that it's chilly outside, I really should sew the lovely shiny buttons we bought from you onto my husband' wool cote!)

Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 10:03 am
by Baldrick
Hi Gaukler,
Nice items on your site by the way. Do you do strap/belt ends to go woth your C13th buckles ???



Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 5:31 pm
by gaukler
Most of the strapends I do are 14-15th century. If you can show me a picture of a 13C strapend, I can probably make it.

Re: 15C belts

Posted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:17 pm
by Colin Middleton
gaukler wrote:they are based on surviving belt fragments at the Museum of London,. and can be painted in your choice of colours (medieval pigments tempered with size, or modern acrylics).
Are wide leather belts authentic for women's costume in the late 15th C? My wife was all geared up for me to make here one and then decided that she couldn't find any referance to a leather belt for a wealthy woman.


Posted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:49 pm
by Meg
Hi Karen

Yup, that final reference on the 'Billy and Charlie' page is almost exactly what I meant. It's not quite the same, but definitely along the right lines (see the 'Urswyck' brass for details of what I plan to make - not exactly the same as my first, experimental Burgundian, but definitely a relative!)

Great find, thank you.

Re: 15C belts

Posted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:31 pm
by Karen Larsdatter
Colin Middleton wrote:Are wide leather belts authentic for women's costume in the late 15th C? My wife was all geared up for me to make here one and then decided that she couldn't find any referance to a leather belt for a wealthy woman.
I haven't found any references to a leather belt for a wealthy woman in the late 15th century. (Admittedly, I haven't been looking as closely.) The belt at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum is silk.

The references to ladies' belts (referred to as "girdles") that I've found in the Paston letters, when they're described well enough to give some idea of how they looked, seem consistent with silk (rather than leather) as well:
  • 1471: a gyrdyl of plunkket ryban, price vj d.
  • 1482: a purpill girdill herneisid with siluer and gilt (...) my best corse girdill, blewe herneised with siluer and gilt (...) a girdell of blak herneised with siluer gilt and enamelled
  • 1487: iij brode girdilles, oone of tawny silke with bokill and (deleted in MS) pendaunt, a-nother of purpill with bokyll and pendaunt, and the iijde of purpill damaske with bokell and pendaunt and vj barres of siluer and gilt; and iij brode harnysed girdilles, oone white tisshew, a-nother red tysshewe gold, and the iijde a playne grene coorse; (...) and a harnysed girdill enameled with rowsclare weying halfe an vnce (...) an harnysed girdill of golde of Damaske, with a long pendaunt and a bokill of golde chekkyd, weying j vnce
  • 1504: my beste girdill whereof the herneys is siluer and gilt and the corse is of damaske goolde

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 6:49 pm
by GinaB
Sorry for my lack of keeping up with this post - my computer finally died...

The Fingerlin book I mentioned above does have a wide leather girdle, which is compared with one worn on a statue of a woman who wears a high necked houppland. This girdle is (was? the book was published in 1971) in Copenhagen, and is 5.5 cm wide, fitted with brass.

Most references however to wider girdles are of silk, or, as Karen states seem to be of silk by the description. Certainly those which have survived are primarily silk - but of course the very fact of them being made of such an expensive materials means that they are kept more carefully, and are mentioned in wills as they are more likely to have been left to others.

One mention, has a silk girdle LINED with leather - quite an interesting example from my point of veiw, as so many of those which survive are very fine.
Also I eue to þe forsayd Ion Forster a gurdill of blake sylke y-linyde with rede lether, wit a gode bokyll & a pendaunt, & in þe same pendaunt an ymage of seynt Christofre: in þe gurdill bey xlvj stodys of seluer.
This is from
Title: Fifty earliest English wills in the Court of Probate, London : A. D. 1387-1439 : with a priest's of 1454.
Author: Church of England. Province of Canterbury. Prerogative Court.
Editor: Frederick J. Furnivall

The will of

I would say that if you are going for a wide leather girdle, the fittings should probably be simpler, in keeping with the simpler material. I suspect that like so many points with regards to clothing, it will very much depend on the status you are trying to portray.


And thank you JC! :D

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 7:40 pm
by Eric the well read
It also helps if you don't need to breathe, if you're wearing a
wearing a wide leather belt round your rib-cage. :)


Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 9:54 pm
by dragonskie2000
With reference to the German girdle refered to. On the website it's tabletwoven in silk. Having experimented with wide girdles I would say that having a woven fabric with a bit of give is a very sensible idea. If it needs to be firm then a gold brocade (using real spun gold, not the fake stuff) will give it enough body.

Posted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 4:00 pm
by katiepoppycat
Just wanted to revive this one a bit - A gown was one of the first things I made and try as I might, I just couldn't find a picture of how the belt worked! So I improvised - I made a silk sleeve for a piece of leather and sewed loops into either end. The belt then fastens closed with a braided silk point. Have I totally made this up or is there any justification for it? And, as beautiful as the tablet woven belts are, I just can't afford one - nor could the middle class archer's wife I puport to be I suspect. Any suggestions or assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Posted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 4:10 pm
by Sophia
Some one of your status would might have a tablet woven woollen girdle or a stiffened fabric one (contrasting fabric band interlined with multiple layers of heavy canvas) if her husband was doing particularly well. This would then be furnished with a buckle, etc. as for the leather belts. These would be riveted on as for quality points (which is why points were often not specific to the garment but almost as accessory like a belt).

IMHO If you are concerned about not being right for status then I would suggest you stick to a good solid leather belt as this would have been much more affordable and durable. Lower class is easier to dress up than upper class is to dress down.

Sophia :D

Posted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 7:37 am
by katiepoppycat
Thanks Sophia! Rereading overthis post, I'm thinking use some thinnish leather, cover in a contrasting wool(different to the gown or the trim) and get a big buckle and strap end. What do you think? Just as well there are markets this weekend . . .

Posted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 8:32 am
by Sophia
Might work but to be honest if you are going to use fabric you will probably be better off with multiple layers of linen canvas as this can be herringbone tacked* to the outer fabric so it maintains its structural integrity. If you use leather the outer fabric is likely to start twisting around.#

Will be at the Markets on Saturday - Look for a short plump lady in silk brocade and early Gable hood. Being followed by an equally well-dressed chap whose debit/credit cards can be heard going eeek from the other side of the country :D

Sophia :D

* This is the tacking stick used to hold down old fashioned interlinings, there is a diagram of it in the techniques section of the Medieval Tailor's Assistant.

Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:55 pm
by katiepoppycat
thanks again sophia - missed you at hte market but will have a go at the belt as you say.