We have created this original pattern for you inspired by a variety of historical sources, including paintings and existing examples of clothing from the 16th century. The pattern is intended to interpret a look whilst being simple to make.
The kirtle, a basic item of 16th century female clothing, has a close fitting body with a full-length pleated skirt. This pattern has been developed to fit a ten year-old child, however the sleeveless style and front opening of the kirtle means that it could fit a child aged 9-11 without any major alterations.
Time to make: two full days
Download the pattern
Click here to download the pattern (PDF, 343KB) >
Download the instructions
Click here to download the instructions (PDF, 343KB) >
Choosing your fabric
What sort of impression would you like your kirtle to make?
For a drop-dead gorgeous, expensive kirtle, you might choose a silky fabric in rich colours such as red, gold or black. The heavier the fabric, the more expensive the kirtle will look. Patterned fabric was very fashionable in Tudor England and big simplified floral and geometric patterns were preferred.
You could also add trimming to the kirtle to display even more wealth. Bands of trimming called ‘guards’ were often added to the edge of garments to decorate them; the more bands that were added, the more expensive the garment. You could use strips of velvet ribbon to achieve this effect or you could add lengths of gold braid to create a more sumptuous garment.
The most expensive kirtles would have jewelled necklines which would be seen beneath the square neckline of the French gown. You might like to trim your kirtle with beads and pearls - fake, of course!.
Or a bit more High Street?
If you would like the kirtle to look practical, you might choose a more hard-wearing fabric such as wool. Fine wool was often as expensive as silk but would last longer and was therefore considered more practical and economical. You might like to add a touch a luxury to the kirtle by applying velvet ribbon ‘guards’.
Use your imagination to think about who might have worn this kirtle in the past, what they might like and what they would have been able to afford. You can use some of these ideas and combine them in different ways according to your personality.
You might like to think about the fabrics, colours and trimmings which are fashionable now, think about the ways we express ourselves through clothing, our status symbols and our favourite pastimes.
Henry VIII was a fashionable King who used clothing to send messages to his courtiers and subjects. What message might you like to send to Henry VIII when you visit him at Hampton Court Palace?