My Twelfth Night Dress

The author at Atlantia Twelfth Night 2015 photo by Baron Bardulf.

Inspiration:  This project was inspired by the theme of our Twelfth Night.  The event was Italian themed and I wanted  a way to blend my interest in German costume with the event theme.  In celebration of Advent, Mistress Sophia Kress posted photographs from the cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I of a statue of his second wife Bianca Maria Sforza.  Bianca was born in Lombard Italy and married Maximilian at the age of 20.  She lived the rest of her life in western Austria. The clothing of her statue together with the clothing of an earlier portrait looked to be an amazing blend of her heritage and new country.

Materials:  This gown and under dress are constructed from modern-day materials.  The side-lacing underdress is made of faux silk and lined with cotton then trimmed in brocade.  The skirt of the underdress is a synthetic brocade quilted onto a cotton backing with polar fleece batting.  The overdress is a beautiful polyester jacquard with cotton velveteen trim lined in taffeta.  The sleeves are the same materials trimmed with “gold” cording.  The lacings of the sleeves are cotton cord made by me.

In period, this gown would have been constructed of cut silk velvet or brocade with real gems and real gold cord. The fabric would have been heavily textured and very expensive.  I chose modern day synthetics to save both time and money.

Bianca Maria at the tomb of Maximilian I photo by Marion McNealy

Procedure:  This dress was created entirely by me.  I created the patterns, chose the fabrics, assembled the gowns by machine and finished it by hand.

This beautiful ensemble appeared to consist of many heavily embellished pieces:

  1. An undergarment fitted closely across the shoulders and chest but with voluminous sleeves.  This garment has a small decorative edge around the neckline.
  2. An underdress consisting of a side-lacing bodice with a beaded band across the chest and trim across the back attached to an underskirt of brocaded fabric with an embroidered band of decorative suns across the bottom.  The bodice is cut high across the back.
  3. A set of sleeves each of brocaded fabric in two pieces edged with twisted cord.  The decorative cuffs are beaded and jeweled.  The sleeves tie together with twisted cord.
  4. An overdress of brocaded fabric with a high waistline.  The overdress opens in the front forming a “u” which allows the underbodice to be seen.  The skirt is split in the front allowing the skirts of the underdress to show as well.  The trim of the overdress is heavily beaded and jeweled. It has a substantial train and hangs over the floor in front.
  5. A thin beaded belt tied in the front with twisted cord.
  6. An elaborate head piece and crown.

There are many similarities to the typical Italian Renaissance gown.  I theorized that the underdress would have looked very similar to the Italian gamurra pictured here in an earlier portrait of Empress Bianca.  Although most depictions of this popular Italian garment lace up the front, you can see that this one does not.  The sleeves also clearly lace to the gamurra.

It is easy then to look at the overdress as some kind of giornea knowing that Bianca was born in Italy; however, I see much more of a typical Saxony or Cranach style gown in the front “U” shaped opening (minus the lacing of course).  The typical Cranach gown does not meet above the waist as this one does. This theory is also supported in another portrait of Bianca (this time from Bernhard Strigel painted sometime between 1505 and 1510).  In this portrait you can now see the horizontal lacing typical of the the gowns of Saxony.

In 1501, Lucas Cranach the Elder created a wedding portrait of Dr. Johannes Cuspinian and Anna Cuspinian-Putsch.  In the portrait, Anna wore a gown of a very similar cut through the bodice, with the “U” shaped opening but not cut as deeply as Bianca in the Strigel portrait.


I do not intend to discuss the materials  to much  since the materials I chose are not period. I feel I succeeded in choosing materials that would provide an overall period look but were within my own resources and limited time.

The materials to create a gown like this in period were  costly to say the least. Most of the gown would probably be made of a cut silk velvet to get the kind of texture you see in the statute then lined in silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has in its collection a fragment of cut velvet from fifteenth century Milan in a pattern similar to the one seen in the statute.  The pattern is a variation on Sempervivum Tectorum .  This plant design was closely connected to the Sforza family just a few decades before Bianca was born.

It was very difficult to tell what kind of bead is used in the gown on the statue or what the trim fabric may be.  I chose to interpret the beads as pearls and, inspired by the Strigel portrait, the trim as velvet. I used fake pearls purchased from a craft store. I also substituted clusters of pearls for what appear to be gems on the statue’s garment.  The cost of that many real jewels would be staggering but not impossible for a woman of Bianca’s status. The dress she wore to marry Maximilian reportedly sported 80 pieces of jewelry consisting of a ruby and 4 pearls each.

This portrait by Strigel also provided the inspiration for the colors I used in my gown.  I love the over gowns pattern of gold on red.  The fabric appears to have a slight sheen which mine does as well.  This gown was also trimmed in velvet, most likely of silk, although the portrait trim is of a red velvet while I chose to use black.


The first step in the creation of the gown was to think realistically about what I could do.  This dress was heavily beaded and embroidered.  As a busy modern mom with limited resources, it just was not feasible.  The beaded and embroidered bands across the chest of the under-bodice and the bottom of the underskirt became bands of a lovely brocaded fabric I had saved  for something special.  The beaded trim of the overdress and cuffs was still beaded but not nearly as heavily. I tried to keep some small decoration just about every 3 inches but I had to do without the lines of smaller beading that covered the trim.

The next step was to draft a bodice pattern with a higher waist than my typical 16th century German garb.  This bodice needed a flatter chest rather than the rounded one I usually wear.  It also had to be side-lacing instead of the front closures I am used to.  After some experimentation, I was very happy with the design I came up with.  It includes an interlining of canvas for stability and 5 pieces of metal boning to help flatten out my chest.  The underbodice was assembled by machine and then finished by hand including 32 hand bound eyelets.  There is a border of brocade across the chest with a line of beading on the bottom.  I applied a gold trim to the neckline which I beaded with the same fake pearls and glass seed beads.

The underskirt was attached to this bodice.  It has one panel of brocade that shows while wearing the gown.  This panel is quilted to give it extra bulk.  I felt that this gown seemed very structured and lightweight fabrics would not provide the shape I was looking for.  Quilting the panel gave it enough weight to hang much more like the gown on the statue.  I applied another strip of the same brocade on the bodice to the bottom of the skirt and another row of beading.  The panel was then attached to a full skirt of cotton then the skirt was attached to the underbodice to make one garment.

My next project was to tackle the overdress.  I drafted a pattern and fitted it to myself while wearing the underdress to get the best fit possible.  I assembled the over gowns bodice first and then applied the velvet trim as I went. I left the bodice open at the arms so I could use my machine as much as possible without the stitches really showing.  I used the same fabric to bind the arm openings.  There was no boning or other support in this part of the gown.  It was simply outer fabric and lining.  Once it was assembled I add the beading and decorations about every three inches alternating between clusters of 4 pearls, a large pearl surrounded by a strand of smaller ones and decorative jewels purchased from a local craft store.

The skirt of the overgrown consisted of three panels of 60 inch wide fabric. There is a small train in the back.  It was lined in taffeta. I have very few garments with a lined skirt because I rarely take the time to do this but I am very happy with the results on this gown. Lining the skirt changed the way the fabric draped and moved substantially. I feel like it added a lot to the overall look of the gown.  The skirt was trimmed in the same black velveteen as the bodice but I stitched the trim by machine this time.  The trim was also beaded along the entire length of the skirt.

The skirt was attached to the outer gowns bodice using cartridge pleats.  I began costuming by  sewing Elizabethan, so cartridge pleats have been my default method since the beginning. I love the way the skirt fell into the large rolls as it moves away from my waist like in the original.  I suspect that the garment on the statue was actually meant to show rolled pleats.  In the future, I may take the skirt off and attach it again using rolled pleats; although I am concerned about the bulk it will add to the waist line.

The last part of this project was the sleeves.  I had created a sleeve pattern before for a middle class German woman’s  gown with belled sleeves.  I chose to use the pattern again and divide it into two pieces.  The pieces fit snugly but not uncomfortably and stayed nicely in place over the 10 hours that I wore the  gown.  The pieces lace to each other using the handmade cord I created from cotton string. The lacing holes on the sleeves were hand stitched too and the velveteen cuffs were beaded by hand.

In my original plan the sleeves would lace to the overdress.  Once I created the sleeves I did not believe it would work.  I pinned the sleeves to the overdress and they pulled the straps off of my shoulders.  I’m not sure if this was a problem in the pattern or the cut of the dress.  My solution was to lace the sleeves to the underdress.  This worked out wonderfully.  It pulled the straps of the underdress out towards my shoulders which kept the back of the underbodice pulled snugly against my back.  I was very pleased with this arrangement.

I am very happy with the dress and the overall look.    For accessories, I plan on creating a small beaded belt, a version of the fabulous hat from the Strigel portrait, and an underdress of fine linen in the future.


Baroness Briana Etain MacKorkhill. “Women’s 1490’s Italian Renaissance Ensemble Parts 2 and 3” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 17 July 2015. <>.


Bernhard Strigel. Portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza. 1505-1510. Wood. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria.

“Bianca Maria Sforza” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2015. Web. 18 July 2015. <;.

Bianca Maria Sforza, Innsbruck, Austria. Personal photographs by Marion McNealy. 2014.

Fragment with Sempervivum tectorum motif

Kingdom A&S 2018

Wow.  This event was a lot of fun.  I learned so much and left greatly inspired by the many talented artisans of Atlantia.  I did end up putting together a display of my own showing two previous projects together that I had not shown at a KA&S before.  I was happy with the feedback I received.

My display consisted of my Seamstress dress and my Twelfth Night dress.  I have posted about my Seamstress dress previously. My Twelfth Night dress has been an ongoing project for the last three years.  This year I took the time to add accessories like a beaded belt and a fabulous hat. Nothing completes your outfit like a fabulous hat!

27654393_2099751493581858_9172595085025716155_n (1)
The author and Her Excellency Stierbach at Atlantia Twelfth Night 2018

The absolute best part of the event was the hat competition I sponsored.  I have never sponsored a competition but I see many more in my future. It was relatively easy to do – I wrote the rules, found a judge, and provided prizes.  Easy peasy!  The hardest part was getting up in front of a crowd which always makes me nervous right up until I actually do it.

This competition was open to any period hat.  Documentation was encouraged but not required.  Five artisans entered to strut their stuff on stage.  The goal was to have fun and I think we achieved it.  The highlight of the whole thing was when 20 plus people all took the stage wearing hats by our winner Lady Artemesia de Corleone.  The Bycocket Brigade was a wonder to behold.  Special thanks to Her Excellency Stierbach for being our celebrity judge and photographer.

Hosting this competition was extremely rewarding.  It was really fun to give these talented people a chance to show of their work in front of a crowd and the recognition they deserve for their talent and efforts.  Thank you so much to everyone who entered!




Pennsic Recap 2017

We are back from Pennsic and finally have a moment to think about what we actually did!  Wulff (my darling husband) and the kids had a ton of fun – mostly seeing and playing with our great friends from Aethelmearc.  The kids really enjoyed the Children’s Fete – thanks for the dragons!  Wulff took two classes on using Facebook to promote an event (a HUUUUGGE stretch for someone so anti-Facebook) and another class on carving wood stamps.  We are looking forward to designing and creating our own fabrics for some early period garb or wall hangings – we have a ton of plans.

My Pennsic was fast and furious!  I was lucky enough to perform with the Commedia All-Stars for the third time.  The show was a blast but the rehearsals took up a bit of time each day.  This was still totally worth it. I also caught the I Sebastiani show on Wednesday at 630.  I loved the simplicity of the story and the great story-telling and I still have that song stuck in my head!

I displayed in the A&S display and had some great conversations with people from all-over the known world.  I also got some wonderful feedback on my display thanks to a dedicated group of artisans who put themselves out there to provide feedback to whoever asked for it.  Information on my display is here.

I took an awesome hands-on class on the creation of Iron Age Finnish spiral decoration.  The teacher, Duchess Siobhan, was amazing and I cannot wait to create more of these objects.  You can check out her website and research here.  There is also a Facebook group (search Finnish Iron Age)!

I also took a private class (I knooow!) with the amazing Katrusha and Tristan.  They sat with me for over an hour discussing Commedia characters and the physical movements associated with each one.  It was a fascinating discussion and I was so lucky to land some time with two people so knowledgeable and dedicated to their art.

We ate delicious food, stayed up late talking with friends, shopped like you only can at Pennsic, played games, saw shows and generally had a wonderful time.  Thank you to all the people who made this event possible!




Pennsic 46 A&S Display

Die Näherin:  The Seamstress   (Dress and Accessories)

-Herrin Genefe Wӧlfelin
Kingdom of Atlantia (Barony of Stierbach)

Inspiration: The inspiration for this project was a woodcut I found of a Tailor and Seamstress credited to Erhard Schӧn from 1525-1530. I found this woodcut in a book of Landsknecht Woodcuts edited by Marion McNealy (Mistress Sophia Kress).

This image especially appeals to me because of the detail in her pieces.  I love the smocking of the sleeves and apron. I love the triangular details along the bottom of her dress.  I also see this project as a way to flush out my own period persona.

The four parts of this ensemble that I have produced over the last year are the dress (Kleid), the smocked shirt (Hemd), the apron (Schürze) and the sock (Unter Schuh).  Over the next year I hope to add the pouch, canteen, and period Steuchlein.


Materials: All garments and accessories are made of linen.  The Kleid is a heavy weight linen dyed to a light blue using RIT dye.  It is lined in dark blue cotton and assembled with cotton thread.  The skirt of the my Kleid is lined in linen.  This garment was assembled by machine and finished by hand.

In period this garment would most likely be constructed from wool and lined in linen. My choice of linen was partly due to what I had available at the time.  I also wanted to make something comfortable to wear to the events that I attend mostly during the spring, summer, and fall when it is quite warm here in Virginia.

My Schürze is constructed from a lightweight linen which is period appropriate. My Unter Schuh is constructed of a heavier weight linen.  Both accessories were sewn completely by hand.  My Hemd is a medium weight linen.  This garment was assembled by machine and finished by hand.



The first step in creating this dress was to draft a pattern. The main characteristics of this bodice were the rounded front to accommodate a rounded bust, the square neckline, and wider set shoulder straps.  After a few trials and errors, my bodice pattern looked like this:

I cut three layers for this bodice. The outer layer is hand dyed linen.  The middle layer is a heavier cotton canvas.  The bodice is lined in a light cotton.  I choose lighter weight linen and cotton over the period appropriate linen and wool to create a lighter weight garment and take advantage of what I had at hand.

The bodice pieces
The bodice pieces right side out.

I chose to spend some extra time on construction with this garment partly because there were so many layers of fabric.  Once I had attached the trim, I decided to experiment with pad stitching.  If you look closely, you will see two thin lines of pad stitching binding the outer linen to the heavy canvas.  I really enjoy the extra structure this provides to the garment.   The bodice was now ready to be assembled.

The bodice was assembled by machine and finished by hand.  Most of the lining was attached by hand.  I chose to assemble my garment by machine because my hand sewing is not the best.  I find that machine stitching produces a garment that stays together well and wears well.  I absolutely value hand-work in the garments I produce.  I try very hard to make sure that any visible stitching is hand stitching.  The bodice was now assembled and I was ready to start the skirt.

The finished bodice.
The finished bodice back.

The most challenging part of this skirt by far was the border at the bottom. I decided to create the border separately, line it, then attach to the skirts.  I chose the colors for my border partly based on a portrait from Lucas Cranach from about 1513. This portrait shows a woman wearing sleeves trimmed with a similar triangular border.  This border appears to be pieced rather than appliqued.  I chose to follow the same approach with two colors instead of 3.  My experience with quilting was very helpful in piecing the many many triangles that form the bottom of this garment.  I pieced together just over 3 yards of linen triangles and lined the back with the same cotton as the bodice lining.

Check out the triangle trim on those sleeves.


I generally cut my skirts in large rectangles (one width of fabric by about 38 in,)  and then pleat them to the bodice.  I have experimented with different ways to cut and assemble skirts which are period and produce a nice result with less fabric but not the kind of volume I was looking for in this garment.  Both the skirt and lining were assembled by machine, finished by hand, and then pleated by hand.  I chose to use rolled pleats to produce nice big pleats that reached far down the length of the skirt.  I use this method of construction in most of my Tross Frau gowns.

The skirt I created is about 5 or 6 inches longer than the image I used for inspiration. I have seen many images that depict women of the Tross in shorter skirts so I am convinced that her skirt is not tied up in a belt but actually ends above her ankles.  I chose to make my skirt floor length for selfish ascetic reasons.  I am short and shorter skirts make me look even shorter. I prefer a longer silhouette.

The last step was to attach the hooks and eyes that I use to close the bodice. Hooks and eyes are quick and functional.  I have seen very little evidence for laced front gowns.


Close up of the smocking on my hemd.

This was actually the project I completed first.  I have constructed many basic 16th century shirts in the past and was familiar with a very plausible layout pictured below which is also referenced in The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant  and The Pleatwork Book.  This was the first time I had attempted pleat work on anything other than an apron.  

The first step was to assemble the shirt attaching the front and back pieces while leaving an opening large enough to be gathered around my neck.  I ended up sewing in about 7” from each shoulder leaving me a fairly large opening.  The next step was create the front slit using a narrow facing.  Next I attached the sleeves at the shoulder and then sewed up the sides of the garment leaving an opening at the cuff.  The last step was to add a narrow hem at the neck and cuff.

It was now time to pleat. I decided to take the time to mark out the pleats and was very happy with the results. I marked ¼” dots in 5 rows twice on each sleeve, at the neckline, and at each cuff.  I made my marks using a water soluble marker.  In period, these marks might have been made using chalk and a paper marking guide.  The next step was to sew in the gathers and do the actual pleat work.  I chose the honeycomb pattern that I also used on a previous  apron.  Pleating the sleeves was tricky since they were already closed up the side but it got easier with practice.  At one point, I used an empty soda bottle stuck into the sleeve to help hold things in place while I worked.

Because the collar and cuffs were going to get the most wear and tear, I chose to back these with another strip of linen to add some stability. I am very happy with this decision.  I also added a line of decorative blue stem stitch for a little decoration.  The last step was to attach 4 sets of hooks and eyes – 2 to the collar and 2 to the cuffs.


Smocking on my apron – I have plans to try this again.

Last year at Pennsic I had the opportunity to learn basic drawn thread work from Mistress Genoveva von Lübeck.  I saw this project as the perfect opportunity to showcase that.  My plan for this project was to border the apron with drawn thread work then do another line across the bottom front.  The top few inches would be simple pleat work.  Mistress Genoveva’s websites are a wealth of information on period pleat work techniques.  

To construct this garment, I decided to start with the drawn thread work edging since this technique also creates a beautiful hem as you work.  It took about two weeks of work to complete this step of the project.  The next step was the pleat work at the top.  I measure and marked out 8 rows of pleats about ⅛’ apart.  This was the second time that I have used marks to gather – I usually do it freehand.  I was very happy with the uniform pleats I got from taking the time to mark out the pleats.

The next step was to complete the honeycomb pattern pleat work.  At this point I had already completed my Hemd and although I am happy with that project, I did not like that my stitches showed so plainly on my sleeve pleat work so I tried to adjust my method to keep a lot of the stitching on the back side.  Mistress Genoveva’s website was also very helpful with this too! The last step was to attach the waistband.  All work on this piece was done by hand.

Unter Schuh

This was the last piece I finished before Pennsic.  This project was completed using many of the resources from the web site “Whilja’s Corner.”  The author has assembled museum photos and talked about her own attempts to create this garment. I chose to go with her basic shapes and adapted them to my size.

This required creating a pattern of my foot and experimenting with the best shapes.  I also decided to line my sock for extra durability. I do not think I will be lining any in the future as I feel like it is unnecessary after a few wearings.  The pattern pieces I developed are below.

The last step was to create the garment itself. I sewed the back heel together then attached the bottom to the top making sure to reinforce all the seams for extra durability. The last step was to attach the outer shoe to the lining.  The results are picture below.  This garment was constructed totally by hand and I could not be happier with the results.


  I am very happy overall with the set of garments I have constructed so far.  This Kleid is by far the nicest and best constructed of all my Tross Frau dresses. I love the fit and the silhouette that I have created.  I love the fact that the garment has real substance from the interlining. I love that I was able to draft these patterns myself and that I created these garments from beginning to end.

I have been very happy with the wear on my Hemd.  It has held up well despite multiple wears and washes with minimal mending.

I am also very happy with my Unter Shuh.  I have worn them for a short time at demos and around the house.  I can’t wait to see how they work at Pennsic.  I do plan on doing another pair from wool and one more of single layer linen.

I do plan on doing another Schürze.  I am not happy with the smocking at the top. I think it will be much more tidy and the pleats will be more crisp if  I used a heavier weight linen.  I also want it to be longer to better match the image I am recreating.


Breunner, G. A. (2013). Landsknecht Woodcuts: Kriegsvolker im Zeitalter der Landsknechte. Nadel und Faden Press.


Lucas Cranach the Elder.  Portrait of A Lady. Art Gallery of Ontario. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2016, from


Mikhaila, N., & Malcolm-Davies, J. (2006). The Tudor tailor: Reconstructing 16th-century dress. Hollywood, CA: Costume and Fashion Press.


Thursfield, S. (2001). The medieval tailor’s assistant: Making common garments, 1200-1500. New York: Costume & Fashion Press.


The Pleatwork Book Mastering 15th and 16th Pleatwork Techniques – Mistress Genoveva Von Lübeck


The Tross Frau Sock

This is a wonderful website.  Look for great examples and tutorials along with information about accessories.

Amie’s site includes many examples of German costume.  She has created several dress diaries that take you through the process from beginning to end.

More great resources if you are interested in the life, times, and dress of the Landsknecht.

Atlantian Twelfth Night 2017

This year my husband and I were excited to attend Atlantian Twelfth Night in the Barony of Sacred Stone.  The site was beautiful, the people were kind, and the event was fantastic.

One of the highlights for me was delivering the first commission that I have completed in just about 10 years.  A friend of my laurel asked if I could design and create a German gown based on the My Little Pony character Pinkie Pie.  I agreed and we were off to the races.

This project was made a little difficult by the fact that she is not local – she lives in North Carolina- so I would have exactly two opportunities to fit this gown and by the fact that my time is so limited.  I started this project in August and delivered it in January.

The gown actually turned out to be two gowns and a gollar! This project turned out to be a lot of fun.

Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, AN II 3: Matriculation Register of the Rectorate of the University of Basel, Volume 1 (1460-1567)

This is the image we started with.  I saw two gowns looking at this image – an under gown and an overgown.  For this commission the under gown would be teal blue trimmed with yellow satin and the over gown would be two shades of pink.  I constructed the under gown from teal blue line and the over gown from two colors of silk.  I found the perfect fabrics from Mood (

I drafted the patterns and got to work.  Both gowns are side-lacing.  The under gown is laced through hand bound eyelets.  The over gown is laced with lacing rings.  The sleeves use the same lacing rings.

The best part of this project by far was the happy client at the end!