The Purple Trossfrau Dress

01938ab5faf2eaf212bfafdc51dcf2ae4e52fc14feI made a trossfrau/kampfrau dress that is ridiculously bright colors!  I overdyed even louder colors to tone them down, then handsewed my dress following the directions provided by Cathrin Åhlén on her blog here First I dyed the body fabric for the dress with a burgundy dye to tone down the all too modern electric purple.  It came out a very rich plum purple, still not super historically accurate, but less glaring.  The guards on the bodice and skirt I wanted to be my favorite color, known in 16th century England as gooseturd! The wool I bought was described as butter yellow, but alas the vagaries of the internet.  I got school bus yellow.  It still worked well with the blue dye to make a pretty yellowy olivey green.  I chose red linen for the lining, partially because I already had it in the weight I wanted, and partially because I love the bright color combo.  For my sleeve shape, there are lots of options in paintings, I was especially inspired by this one…

Job and His Wife ca 1504 Albrect Durer 1471 _ 1528
Job and His Wife: ca 1504 Albrect Durer 1471 – 1528

I worked out the shape on paper sleeves in small scale to figure out how to get slashes in the elbow without inserted strips, because I like how the look in one continuous piece with the sleeve in the painting.  I wound up with a 2 piece sleeve like this

Sleeve Sketch with slashes at the dashed lines.  I lined the sleeves and bodice in red linen, and stitched a blue wool yarn into the bound edges of the sleeve slashes for contrast.  the yarn also protects the narrow seam allowances in the slashes.



The guards on the skirt have teardrop shaped slashes arranged in pinwheels with the edges bound in blue embroidery thread.  I took creative license here, as all of the slashes I have seen in period art are oblong football/eye shaped.  I repeated the shape on top of the hat, where it is easier to see.


I bound the edges of the bodice guards with the blue wool yarn again, because this fabric was so heavy it was difficult to turn the edge smoothly.  Making that transition with the blue wool really helped create a smooth line.   I left excess yarn at the center back and couched it down in a curling pattern, again using creative license.  I don’t see evidence for this detail, but it looked pretty to me.  For a more historically accurate dress I will leave this detail off.  See the gallery for a close up of this detail.

I like to attach my skirt guards to a straight edge and adjust the hem at the top.  This method is described in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 3, and it greatly simplifies the sewing of the guards.  they can be cut in strips and attached, rather than having to cut and connect arcs.  This method will not work well for a skirt with a train, but for a skirt that should be even all the way round it works very well.  I hem my skirt and attach the guards, then cut a slit in the top at the center front to allow me to get in and out of the front laced bodice.  I rolled those edges as small as possible and handsewed with matching thread.  Then I sewed the fabric into a tube and laid it out with the seam at the centerback and the center front slit at the opposite fold.  I measured (with some help from Sweizcka Kaim) the length from my waist to my desired hem length at the center front and the center back.  Because of my shape, these measurements were about 6 inches different!  I f I was to attach my skirt as a straight tube, it would be too long in the front and too short in the back.  Instead I cut the top edge on an angle from front to back before cartridge pleating the skirt and sewing it to the bottom of the bodice.

skirt layout I cartridge pleated the skirt by attaching a length of plaid under the top edge to serve as a guide for spacing the pleats.  I used a selvedge I had cut off during another project.  My skirt is very full because I like the look, but there is evidence that in the 16th century skirts were not always so full.  In the book Drei Schnittbucher:Three Austrian Master Tailor books of the 16th Century by  Katherine Barich and Marion McNealy, many of the skirts are more of an “a-line” shape.  For future more historically accurate efforts I will use slimmer skirts. 

I made my front lacing eyelets on a seperate piece of lining fabric that I sewed into the front edge of the bodice.  I attached this panel along its back edge and also at the bodice edge between the eyelets.  This keeps the edges together and eliminates gaps nicely.  It also means that if (when) I need to alter the dress, I can take off the eyelets and reposition them.

No outfit is complete without a hat!  Mine is machine sewn, using a pattern from Patterns of Fashion 3 by Janet Arnold. It is cut as a circle, then darts are sewn all around until it is a beret shape, then a 2 piece brim is added.  (Maybe another page will be devoted to this hat, because I love to make it!)