Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | June 2, 2010

New Irish Bog Dress Finished

I finished the new Irish Bog Dress!  Yeay me!  Finally!  And just in time for Valhalla Ren Faire!

I learned a lot.  I had to.  The dress started as a challenge.  Could I make a Ren dress from stash?  Could I make something comfortable and sturdy and suitable for my Scottish character?  So I started with a pattern for a bodice that a Ren friend made for me.  I attached a pleated skirt.  I put on ornamental lacing rings.  It was almost done when a guild friend told me I should talk to Vicki McDonnell of the Guild of St. Patrick.  I innocently contacted Vicki to ask questions about sleeves.  And found out that I was creating a hybrid gown that didn’t have a foundation in Gaelic clothing history.


What to do?  Should I just forge ahead and finish the dress?  Should I retrofit it to be more correct?

I have a reputation for doing things the hard way.  I knew that if I finished a dress that wasn’t right, it would bug me every time that I wore it.  Worse, I wouldn’t wear it very often.  I went back to the three choices discussed in the accepted literature (Dress in Ireland, A History by Mairead Dunlevy and Old Irish and Highland Dress by H.F. McClintock).  The choices were restrictive.  There are only three.  I don’t do well with a lack of options.  I don’t like being restricted. Oh well.  I just went with the challenge and analyzed them.

#1 – Fitted bodice with v-neck, fitted or hanging sleeves, gored skirt, front opening skirt.

#2 – Fitted bodice with rounded neck, hanging sleeves, pleated skirt, closed front skirt.

#3 – Fitted bodice with high neck, fitted and buttoned sleeves, full closed front skirt.  (Nope, can’t find a copy of the photo to insert here.  But you can see it in the Dunlevy book, on page 50.)

Well, I went with Option #2.  I took Vicki’s suggestions and retrofitted the dress the best that I could given limited fabric remaining and about 2 weeks before Valhalla.  Here it is.


The front view



The back view, the pleats look good!



Hanging sleeves tied at wrist allows leine sleeve freedom.



Showing the petticoat


Having finished it, I’m relatively pleased.    I learned a lot.  It was a test of my willingness to learn new techniques:  Hand pleating, Irish hanging sleeves.  It was a test of my taking more steps toward an authentic look – at least for this project:   the pointed front was recut, the ornamental lacing rings came off, the front of the skirt was sewn up.  I had to leave the diagonal shaping seams because I didn’t have enough fabric left to recut the bodice.

Oh, I hated removing the pointed waist.  A straight waist is not as flattering to this short-waisted, short stature, curvy girl.  I understand that the straight waist is more conservative on fabric, but it just cuts me in half and makes me feel wider and shorter looking.  I think that if I had to choose a dress in an Irish style, I’d prefer the V-neck version with hanging sleeves.

Making this dress also made me think a lot about dress design that isn’t documented about Highland Gaelic dress.   If Magaidh’s community had lots of trading and exposure to styles worn by traders and sailors and travellers, would they adopt things that they found attractive or useful?  I’d think so.  I have to think that any woman of the 1500s would be just as interested in looking good as this 21st century woman.  If my character Magaidh had exposure to the styles of the English and French, I’m pretty sure she’d perk up and adopt the pieces that she would consider more flattering and more stylish if she could afford the fabric (like the pointed waist). She’d also keep the practical things that made sense (arisaid and half sleeves and mantles).  I also wonder about the elasticity of playing a Scot at faire.  We already use the theatrical kilt to make us look different from Irish.  What other things would make us different?

I’ll be thinking about this stuff as I sew a dress for one of my faire foster daughters and plan my next gown.  (Maybe  Option #1 with hanging sleeves or the Shinrone gown like the one made by Kass McGann.) But for now, it’s time to pack up the sewing machine and pull out my spinning.   And breaking in my new dress!





    You look beautiful! I love the pictures in your garden…totally fitting. You are amazing. Hugs.

  2. Hi Magaidh

    Can I just say you made a great job of this dress. I’m interested in Irish medieval clothing, have you attempted any more like this?


    • Noel, The next one I tried was the Frankenstein dress. it had a better bodice and cartridge pleating. The inauthentic/theatrical modification was -obviously- the changeable sleeves so I could do both English and Irish/Scottish faires. But I am thinking of how to do a wool dress next for my Scots persona.

    • Noel, I haven’t done medieval clothing. I only have lightly researched it to do costuming for the school’s production of Once Upon a Mattress. And then I was only using the lines to give everything the flavor of medieval, but not making anything historically accurate. Have you noticed that a some East Indian clothing shares some of the lovely tunic lines?

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