Making a Gored Kirtle Pattern

The gored kirtle I wear beneath my flemish gown is based roughly on the loose kirtle, dated to c. 1570-1580, described in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1560-1620. The placement of the seams around the body is the same, aside from an added side-back seam to eliminate wrinkling at the back waist and add fullness to the back skirt. Rather than hanging loose from the shoulders, however, it is fitted to the waist and flares out from there.

This gored kirtle has seven pieces: a center front, two side fronts, two side backs and two back pieces. It laces up the back, has a square neckline, and is sleeveless.

This kirtle should be cut with no curve at all to the front side seams. I fitted the pattern for mine while wearing a corset. When worn by itself with no corset, this does a marvellous job of flattening and supporting the bust, helping to achieve the look you want.

To make this kind of kirtle, you need to take the bodice pattern created in the Making an Elizabethan Bodice page, and make some alterations to it:

The grey areas represent the original bodice pattern pieces. The front piece of the kirtle will be cut with the center front on a fold; you will need two of each of the other three pattern pieces. The kirtle will lace up the center back.

I recommend cutting out the above pieces out of a sturdy canvas or poplin, sewing them together, and trying on this muslin kirtle before making the real thing. Note any measurements that need changing on the muslin (such as adding an inch to the waist, shortening the straps, shortening the skirt, etc.) and make those measurements on the paper pattern. Then cut the kirtle out of your good fabric. The instructions above will give you a kirtle which fits closely, but for an exact fit you should do this muslin fitting.

To add more support, you can add a full lining to the kirtle or a partial lining (the bodice pieces down to the hip. Match the lining and outer kirtle together and sew around the neckline, armholes, and down the center back, leaving the tops of the shoulder straps unsewn. Clip the corners and curved seams, turn the kirtle right side out and sew the shoulder straps together by hand, and you have a finished kirtle.

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