Simplicity, McCalls, and Burda costume patterns and are they period? Or at least Close? Part 1 – Simplicity

Sometimes, people are like me – I can’t make something decent looking without some kind of pattern. You should see my sideless surcotes… And I had help with those…

Now, if you’ve got Margo Anderson, Lynn McMasters, Period Patterns, Reconstructing History Patterns, AlterYears patterns, patterns sold at (there’s some good ones here I can’t find the actual manufacturer’s name) or Mantua Maker Patterns, You’re in pretty good shape. Most of their patterns are really good ones, and mostly historically accurate.

For those out there that are like me and mostly broke so you can’t afford the really good patterns, or just starting out making garb and eventually want to draft your own, here’s a bit of pattern critique for you, and ways of making the pattern at least moderately historically accurate if it’s not close already. These patterns are all from Burda, Simplicity, McCalls, or Butterick.

Pattern the First

Simplicity Pattern 2589 – The dress and Pattern 2621 – the Underpinnings.

I’ve got this one for starting. It’s pretty damned close to historically accurate – I’ve got some other plans for fabrics for the dress, and the chemise from 2621 is hard to fit correctly, but it’s beautiful. I made a different style of hood, more softly curved because it looks better on me, but even the hood is pretty accurate – most ladies would have had only 1 hood in either black, or possibly white, that they used with all of their outfits, rather than making a bunch of french hoods to match. I’d suggest, on the corset, rather than sewing on the tabs, making them part of the main pieces so if you want to bone them and make them work for their real purpose (helping to support the farthingale), you don’t have to fight with unnecessary seams. Also, to make the straps work with the dress, you’ll have to fuss and fidget with them.

Pattern the Second

Simplicity pattern 3782.

More of an Elizabethan than Tudor, but the sleeves have got to be altered – most Elizabethan dresses have much more fabric in the sleeves than this does. I’m pretty sure this’ll work over  pattern 2621, but I’ve never found this in a size that would be easy to scale up for me, being a 50-40-50 and most patterns stopping at 40-30-40 (really annoying, because i like the red dress in this pattern), so I don’t know for sure. Other than the sleeves, and the fact that it’s totally not ornate enough to be Elizabethan, it’s a good start.

Pattern the Third

Simplicity pattern 3809

the green skirt would work. The bodice, if you want that style, would work okay. You’d really be better off attaching the skirt to the bodice, but it would work. The chemise? Oh, Hell No. The sleeves might be okay, but the neckline? in the era that this was supposedly styled after, the neckline wouldn’t be gathered with string. It would have been gathered to a band. Unless you’re doing italian ren, then it might be okay. But make it so it’s not gathered to an elastic band, or with string, and make it gathered to a rectangular piece and it might be okay.


Pattern the Fourth

Simplicity pattern 5582

Again, the bodice would work for a commoner. So would the skirt, but the skirt’s not full enough to be for anyone with money – The more money you had, the more fabric you could afford in your skirts. The chemise is yet another Oh, Hell No. Using the right fabric, (mostly linen and wool) this would make a good start into a commoners wear, especially for camping in the SCA.


Pattern the Sixth

Simplicity Pattern 5359

The main view of this pattern – vest, skirt, cincher, pants – is reasonably accurate for a Roma type (from what I’ve been told) – The skirt could be made with tons of different fabrics (as many as there are gores) and still be accurate. And the cincher is cool – just one piece of fabric, with boning in it, and it’s all cute and stuff 🙂


Pattern the Seventh

Simplicity pattern 3623

So they call this a scottish dress. PFFT. Make the bodice and skirt out of the same material. Make the chemise floor length and kind of dressy. Then make the front so it ladder laces about an inch behind the front lines. And you have something VERY close to venetian Ren. Lose the hat, though. It’s pretty awful, and there’s tutorials out there for the Tudor Flat Caps that’ll make the construction of this hat pattern look horribly difficult.


And now for the Men’s wear – Much less of this than women’s wear. Something about it being only women who dress in funny clothes? At least, according to the major pattern companies. Ugh. Totally not true – I have a friend that does German Landskenecht. And he’s flamboyant about it. It drives his wife crazy, so she made him figure out how to make it all on his own.


Men’s Pattern the First

Simplicity Pattern 4059p

Get rid of the hat. No, it’s awful, get rid of it. Do NOT EVER USE IT! It’s terrible.  The coat and jerkin are okay, as are the breeches. Do resist the urge to run out and buy boots for it, though.  The undershirt – take off the collar. As it is, the collar is totally not acceptable. If you can make it into a stand-up collar do it, otherwise, make it so the collar doesn’t show out the top of the coat or jerkin.

The breeches would do better gathered into a very small cuff or bias tape, but it’s not necessary.


Men’s Pattern the Second

Simplicity Pattern 3519

Good – ish, for men’s wear. Don’t lace it up the front, though. Make ties straight across from each other and tie it closed if you want. Also resist the urge to put trim around the v of the neckline, unless it’s very narrow and you use it all the way around the neckline. Could be altered to have the correct stand-up collar very easily, I think. The yoke’s not exactly period, and you may have to trim down the size of the bottom of the shirt – it may be waaay too poufy to fit under a doublet.


Don’t just read this and make the patterns how I think they might work – Do research! RESEARCH is Key! This is a guide, not a definitive and comprehensive look. And really, if you like it, do it. Just be aware that you may get comments from some of the nastier people out there. I also don’t have all these patterns, nor have I made them all. I’ve seen the Roma pattern, and a friend thinks it’s close, but it’s not where my interests lie, so make sure you’ve done your own research and figured what you want out for yourself.

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