I was motivated by the need for some seventh century garb that would allow me to nurse a baby. Front-opening jackets were worn in Kent at the time, but my coat is based off a Continental find, the so-called Queen Arnegunde burial.
My three main sources were Gale Owen-Crocker, Penelope Walton Rogers, and ianuzzel's pictures of the artifacts. I also read Mistress Isabel Maria del Aguila's page on her Arnegunde dress.
I only made the over-dress. I can't recall off-hand if it was red silk or wool, but I used "wool" from Denver Fabrics which is... not all wool. It may not be wool at all. But I paid good cash money for the stuff and was determined to use it up.
The original dress was bound with red silk, at least at the cuffs and down the front. I used red polyester satin (cheaper, more readily available, and I wasn't willing to shell out for real silk on a fake wool dress) and trimmed the cuffs, front and hem.
The original cuffs had couched goldwork embroidery which I did not attempt to replicate.
I used a pretty standard rectangular construction technique, as is common for early period garb. A few notes:
- Right sides together when pinning. Seriously. When fabric does not have a right side, see where the existing seams are.
- Tapered sleeves really do require symmetric trapezoids, not asymmetrical ones. I learned this the hard way. I think I resolved it by cutting new, non-tapered sleeves out of some scrap.
- Necks are smaller than you think. But use interfacing larger than you think you need. (My neckline is lower than I intended, although not really bad or anything, and the interfacing was almost not big enough.)
- Be generous with seam allowance if you're going to finish the seams.
- Underarm gores are triangular, not square. (But at least that's easy to correct!)
I didn't do enough research to know how the silk binding was attached. For the cuffs and hem, I sewed a strip of satin to the raw edge, about 3/8" in from the edge, with the right side of the satin facing the wrong side of the dress. Then I folded the satin up over the seam, so the right side was out and the satin was laying on the right side of the dress. I ironed the fold and measured 2" from the edge (using the narrow side of a business card!). At 2", I folded the satin under, pinned and stitched. This got me a 2" band of red satin.
I wasn't sure if the front of the garment should overlap or if the edges should abut. Using the rectangular construction, the front was all one piece. I slit it collar to hem (after having finished the neck and hem) but... should I make the binding extend beyond the fabric?
I decided to not extend the binding. But I also didn't want to use the same technique as the cuffs and hem, as that would "eat" 3/8" of the fabric on either side of the gown, resulting in a gap. So I first stitched up two 3ish" long satin bands (edges were folded under once). Using the business card, I pinned it to the right side of the dress so that one of the finished edges of the band was 2" from the edge of the front of the gown. I sewed that down, then flipped the thing over and folded the satin band over the edge of the fabric, pinned it and stitched it. Any irregularities in the band (and there were many) were thus mostly hidden on the wrong side of the dress, and I got fairly even 2" bands of satin down the front.
The original was found with an ornate belt and two round pins at collar and mid-chest. A long straight pin was also found across the body - it may have closed the coat or secured the long silk veil.
I tried the coat on with two round pins and a belt. The many layers of folded satin made piercing it with a pin at the very edge of the collar very difficult, and increasing the overlap to almost the entire band made securing it easier. (Happily, it still fits if I do this.) At first glance, two pins and a belt seems to hold the top closed with no gaping quite well. I'm a bit worried that over time, the fabric under the belt may slip even/unless the belt is uncomfortably tight. The coat V's open a bit past the belt so you can see the underdress. I'm not sure if this is totally natural or it just means that my skirt gores are not generous enough to entirely enclose my bum and thighs. Anyway, with a nice not-too-sheer underdress, this isn't a major problem for me.
It seems like it wouldn't be too hard to undo the two pins, once one was used to it, and peel back a side of the coat to get access to an underdress with nursing slits. The coat would certainly modestly cover the slits when pinned shut. However, my baby has stopped nursing, so I haven't cut slits into an underdress to try it. (I was thinking really long buttonholes for the slits.)
Some day, I might complete the outfit and/or redo it in natural fibers. A violet undertunic would be nice, as would a long silk veil. I have one of Raymond the Quiet's brooches that are based on the Arnegunde burial; I could buy another to have a set. (But the pins are very big - will they badly puncture the fabric, I wonder?) The reproduction belt is "Whoa" impressive but also "Whoa" expensive. A less ornate Frankish buckle might work for me, or I'll keep wearing my Sutton Hoo belt. Curiously, he has veil pins based on the long pin (and the long pin itself) but not veil pins based on Arnegunde's veil pins.