Making a simple medieval peasant costume

Making a simple Medieval peasant costume:

In order to make these outfits you will need a large cotton twill dust sheet, 9×12 foot is ample big enough. I bought mine from Ridgeons (, but any shop like this will have them.

Wash and iron your sheet before you start to make your garments.

In addition to the dust sheet you’ll need:

– Either some elastic, enough to go around the young mans waist and stitch it together, or some thick string which will act as a drawstring through the top of the shorts.
– A long thin piece of material, preferably cotton, this will be the apron/tabard which will go over the lady’s tunic dress. I have found that charity shops often have off-cuts of material that are perfect for this, the one in the picture cost 50p from a charity shop, all I had to do was hem it and cut in a hole for the head!!
– A sewing machine with a light-coloured thread for sewing it all together, although, if you’re up for it and you’ve got the patience and time, sewing this outfit by hand is easily do-able!
– Dress making scissors

For the dress/tunic 

The boys tunic and the dress are both made in the same way.
Fold the dust sheet in half so that it is 6ft x 9ft and lie it on the floor. Next get your lady to lie down on the dust sheet in a T shape so that her shoulders and arms lie along the fold in the material. You then just cut around her! This is the kind of shape you’re looking to cut out (just the basic T without the extra triangles, although you may want to make it slightly wider at the bottom!):

Make sure that you leave plenty of room for the arms, you want slightly baggy sleeves, not tight ones! Equally, you are better off cutting it too big than too small, as you can adjust it to fit and make it smaller if you need to later.

Next is to cut out a hole for the head. The material does stretch so be careful how you do this. Work out where the middle is and then cut a hole along the fold to start with, then cut a semi-circle on the side which is going to be the front. Don’t cut it too big to start with, you can always make it bigger if you need to. Once you’ve cut the hole, try it out to make sure it goes over the head and adjust it to fit as necessary.

Then you need to do some sewing! I would overlock (or zigzag stitch) the edges first along all the sides you’ve cut to prevent fraying. Now, sew both side seams from the bottom of the dress (tunic) and down the sleeves. Try the dress/tunic on for size, remember that you will have a belt on to draw it in at the waist later!

Hem the neckline. This is best done by just turning it in once so long as you have zigzagged along the edge.

If the dress is too long, it’s time to cut off the excess and hem the bottom, either by folding it up twice by about a centimetre or overlock the edge and then just turn up once. Do the same with the sleeves.
Now your dress or tunic is done!
To make the apron, simply cut a long thin piece of material, width should be the width from shoulder to shoulder and long enough to fit over the head and be the same length either side as the dress.
Hem all around the edges of the apron and then fold it in half lengthways. Create a hole for the head the same as you did on the dress. I then used a thin piece of the dust sheet folded over the neck edge and sewed this around the edge, but you could equally use some bias binding for this just to give the neck a nice finish.

For the shorts 

Here is the basic pattern you need (x2):

Make sure you measure the person who is going to be wearing them as you don’t want them to be too tight – my son’s almost were as I had only just allowed enough width for them to go round his hips!! It doesn’t matter if they’re a bit too big as the elastic/drawstring waist will keep them up, baggier is better!
Once you have worked out how wide they need to be, remembering to oversize slightly (this is the measurement at the top part of the pattern), add a couple of centimetres each side to allow for the seams.
Fold your material, preferably with an already seamed edge along the bottom, that way you don’t have to do the hem round the bottom at the end. I then used a felt tip pen to draw the pattern onto the material, using a measuring tape and ruler, ensuring a couple of cm’s for the seams and an extra 5cms at the top to allow for the waist band. Once you have drawn out your pattern, I suggest you pin the material together before cutting it out.
Sewing up:
As you did on the tunic, zigzag along all the cut edges to prevent fraying.
Next you need to sew the top part of the shorts together, front edge to front edge and back edge to back edge, to the end of the curved bit. Pin it first!
Once you have done this, press the seams apart. Now you need to put the inside leg seam together. With right sides together, the front and back seams should meet in the middle, pin the inside leg seam and then sew this together all the way from one end to the other. Press the seam apart. That’s the legs done!
The last thing to do is the waistband. Fold over the top of the shorts to the inside all the way around making a waistband wide enough for your elastic or string to go through.
Pin and then stitch this leaving a hole big enough at the end to thread in your elastic/string.
Thread the elastic/string through the waistband using a safety pin and then (if using elastic) stitch the ends together and sew up the hole. If using string leave the ends out to be tied once the shorts are on.

If you have any questions about any of the above please email Cate Hall by clicking HERE

Sunday 7th July 2019