Thirteen Century dress, with arm holes

Many secondary sources for thirteenth century dress show a sleeveless over tunic, from my research into primary sources I cannot find any illustration of this, what is pretty common though is a sleeved gown, with what appears to be front slits, through which you can put your arms, leaving the sleeves hanging or tied behind you. The only secondary source I have known to pick this style up is Iris Brookes.

The gown was a bit of a mystery in that, the slits rarely show when the arms are in the sleeves. This suggested that the slit was cut in such a way that the folds hid it in sleeves on mode !

This is the model I have used to achieve the desired effect. I the fold effect is even better with fuller wool.

Pattern is cut on 150cm (60inch) fabric, or a length twice your neck to hemline measurement. I fold this in half across the width, then in half again across the length. This gives a very minimal cut fabric profile and means only two seams, which has to be good, particularly if you intend to hand sew !

The circular curve of the underarm cut is important to achieve the fold fullness. Do not cut the arm slit until you have sewn the side seams. You need to mark the slit site which will be inside the natural fold of the dress as worn. I suggest tailors chalk and a helper are used !


Finds indicate running or back stitch for seams, stitch length 2-3mm. Many garments have no seam finishing as the wool fabric is fulled, making the weave felt like & lessening unravelling tendencies. Unfortunately not many modern wools are fulled, and linen always needs seam finishing. French seams are a good way and evidence supports their use. Alternatively you can full your wool prior to use, but it can be risky, basically you need to wash in hot water until it felts a bit, this depends on the wool previous finish etc, do so at your own risk !

Hemming is again by running stitch on a single fold or by a double fold help by a catch stitch.


Here is an illustration of a similar garment for men.


Textiles and Clothing Museum of London

Old Testament in Miniatures (aka Maciejowski bible) circa 1250 Paris

Bible Moralise circa 1250

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