Early Italian Gamurra

I have a unicorn, your argument is invalid. 

For the weekend, I made my first gamurra.  Without a pattern.  Or a body double.  Or a dress form in my size.

Surprisingly, everything turned out better than expected.  I don’t even know how this happened.

Let’s start with my dressform.  In the past year, since I measured myself for my dressform, I’ve lost over 10lbs. The only reason this isn’t less is that I’ve converted it into muscle.  However, this makes my dressform way too big for now tinier me.

I started with it anyway, because I got 8 yards of linen and wanted to wear a nice new gown at some summer events.

Alas, I don’t have photographs of construction.  I hope to make a similar, but slightly later style that ends closer to my waist in the future, because I worked hard to get this skinny and want to show off, gosh darnit.

Basically, fitted my muslin to the dressform.  Cut appropriately.  Used Muslin to make a pattern.   Bothered local person for information about the interlining on the bodice (She used cotton twill and linen interlining. I used some left over denim and another layer of linen).  Sewed bodices forever.  Swore about tension settings A LOT.

For the skirt, I was a bit more haphazard in my methods.  I measured how long across my bodice was and then pleated the appropriate amount.   I used 3 turns of fabric for each pleat, with each pleat being about a inch long with a quarter inch in between the pleats. This worked really well, until I tried on my dress.

Medieval dresses from around this period are big on making women look slightly pregnant.  With the full pleating in the front, I looked like I was about 8-9 months pregnant.  It was pretty late at this point, so I thought, I’ll sleep on it, and the next morning, I woke up with an idea.  I’d pleat only once or twice in the front and cut out the excess.  This would narrow the skirt and get rid of much of the bulk that was bothering me in the front. So, I picked the center 6 pleats and ripped out the stitches for that section, before re-pleating with the smaller pleats.

Then, I ripped the middle out of the front of my dress. IMAG0855

That worked pretty well.  The seam isn’t very noticeable because of the pleating.

BUT THE ALMOST FINISHED PRODUCT!  (It was in the 90s when I wore this, so I passed on the sleeves).

But, you may ask, isn’t the back much bigger and more voluminous than the front?  It is.

Most modern reconstructions or interpretations of the gamurra seem a bit flat in the back.  The Italians for a bit seemed to like either big butts and they could not lie or hiding said butts behind massive amounts of fabric.

I like big trains and I cannot lie….

I think that having the larger gathers in the back looks a bit more period, and gives a better silhouette. This is an underdress and it needs to have enough structure for the Giornea to sit properly.

You can’t get that level of fabric flow with a dress that doesn’t have volume, unless you want to add more layers to your giornea.  Many layered pleats seem to give the right shape.

Sometimes you just need to embrace your large fabric covered butt and a small train.  This worked great!  Sorta.

1st event went well. Everything worked, I didn’t have too many problems, I looked rather lovely from the back and from the side seated.

But my bodice was way too big. Not enough support in general.  You can see it in the photograph above.  Border Skirmish 2016 went well, despite bodice issues.

Border Skirmish Before Court, Photograph by Elashava Bas Riva 2016.

I took in the bodice, and thought, hurrah, much better.

And then I went camping with it.

The Border Skirmish site is mostly paved roads and grass.  Warriors and Warlords is not.  Having a train on dirt roads is not the most appealing.  Neither is going to a crowded space like a party or say court with a train.  On top of that, my bodice fit better around the ribs so no more drooping, but was too tight in the top and middle, thus giving the lovely quadboob look which is neither period nor particularly comfortable.   I had fun but the dress was due for bodice fit the third.

The third fitting went better.  I needed to make a curved seam (duh) which I had neglected to do the 2nd time I fit it but some how managed to remember when I first made the bodice, go figure.  However, it did end up a bit boobalicious.

I mean, dang. That’s a bit much.

So I added some fabric to the neckline so it’s not quite so much in your face.  Additionally, while it seems like most folks are fans of having the end of your laces be on the bottom so you can pull down and quickly finish getting dressed,

much sprezzatura, v. dignified.

because of my fluctuating weight, I needed more give in the upper part of the lacing, so I can keep the sides slightly tighter down near my rib cage to allow more ease in the upper part of my chest.

I also hemmed it up an inch or 3 to make it easier for me to not be a complete mess.  The neckline could be better and I’ll probably work on it at some point, but it allows for most a slightly less revealing neckline.

I also made sleeves, which is a different post entirely.

And for those who fear for my lack of cleavage, it remains, it’s less obvious now, but still enough to give my dad the vapors.

Oh well.








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