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RH313 - Medieval Irish Moy Gown

CODE: RH313


List price: $32.95  

Price: $26.36

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Get this pattern by renown Irish clothing researcher Kass McGann and make yourself a Moy Gown!

You've been searching online for creative resources wanting to make a great reconstruction of accurate traditional celtic lady garb. You've been poring over lists of links, viewing photos, books for sale on amazon, every blog comment, costume community, webpage series, or flickr page you can find, including videos on YouTube, downloading apps...  Have you been making your SCA friends completely blue in the face?

Isn't it time you got started on the real thing in comfort?

Whether your wedding is in June or November (or December, March, October, August or September), start your bridal reproduction now and make it to perfect with the only accurate Moy gown pattern that exists.

Buy our full-size paper pattern with complete instructions and historical notes based on the surviving Irish medieval woman's dress known as The Moy Gown dated from the 14th or 15th centuries. Fits busts 30½"-48" and waists 23"-41". All Sizes in one envelope. We offer plentiful historical notes and embellishment suggestions included in each pattern.

This garment can be made by machine, but the best results are handsewn.

If you were an RH Member, this pattern would cost you only $21.09.  Become a Member now!

Suggested Fabrics:
light weight to coat weight wool
(for authenticity don't use brocade, leather, silk, linen or quilting cotton)

Yardage Requirements:
Gown: 6 yards 45" or 4½ yards 60" wide

 

Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.

 

Check out past articles and our latest projects in our blog.

 

Below explore highlights from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:

The Moy Gown

Not many costumes come down to us through the centuries.  One in the National Museum of Ireland, though over 500 years old, is in remarkable condition.

Called the Moy Gown, a dress found in 1931 in a peat bog in County Clare, Ireland, is an unlined wool garment of medieval construction. Garments of a similar type appear in manuscript illuminations and portraiture on the Continent from the early 14th century. Irish illustrations, however, show similar gowns worn well into the 17th century. The exact date of the gown is unknown. No chemical analysis has been done and the excavation site has long been destroyed by peat farming.

On the paper in which the garment is wrapped is written: "This woolen garment was found on the body of a woman (?) at Moy, Co. Clare. 1931:305 B24:13 Indexed". This is the only documentation or report on the gown to date. The files in the Museum contain nothing on either the gown or the female body. In fact, the only thing noticed in the file is the correspondence between the farmer who found the gown in his garden and the Museum, and his replies arguing over price (in terms of Irish law, a discoverer has rights to the market value of his discovery). In the correspondence, the farmer argued for the antiquity of the gown and the Museum rather forcefully stated that it was relatively modern so the farmer never collected. Why the Museum's contention was that the gown was only about 100 years old is unknown to us.

One can only suppose that the date of the find had something to do with this dearth of documentation on this important archeological discovery. The Irish Free State was established in 1922 and as a result of protectionist policies, an "economic war" raged between Ireland and the English during the years of the 1930s. Hardly a time one can imagine people paying attention to archaeological discoveries!

Much about the nice state of Irish tailoring in this time period can be learned from this specimen. Along with the Shinrone Gown, and men's outfits from Kilcommon and Dungiven, the Moy Gown shows the importance of the economy of cloth; all these examples are all constructed primarily from basic rectangular and triangular pieces, making the maximum use of narrow-width native wool. Additionally repairs to the Moy Gown show how the natural lifespan of the garment of a common woman could be extended.

The body of the Moy gown is constructed from rectangles of cloth, widened under the arm areas by small triangles under the arms and much larger triangles of cloth set into the sides seams at the waist. Two gores of this type are set into a slit at center back. The front opening of the garment is quite straight and very few curved seams exist.  The garment is not waisted, which means another economy of fabric.

The only departure from this rectangular construction is the most curious and unique feature of the Moy Gown - trapezoidal inserts over the shoulder blades on the back of the gown. These inserts are bordered on two sides by the back seam of the rectangular sleeves, creating the popular "grande assiette" of the late medieval period without wasting a good amount of material by cutting a curved sleeve piece.

The fabric from which the Moy gown is made is wool woven in a 2/1 twill. The thread count varies from 18 to 21 per inch along the horizontal and 20 per inch along the vertical. The cloth is woven from Z-spun singles and the individual threads vary from 1mm to 1.5mm wide.  The original colours are not known.

The neckline of the Moy gown is a rather low scoop, finished meticulously by turning a ¼" of the fabric inside and fixing it in place with a blind stitch. The front of the gown is fastened closed with cloth buttons, but we do not know how far down the buttons ended because of the fragmentary nature of the remaining fabric. The buttonhole side (the left) that remains is 8 ½" long and the button side is 4 ½". The buttonholes are about 1.1" apart and the buttons are 1 ½" from shank to shank. The buttons are 6/10" in diameter and the buttonholes are 7/10" as a guide.  There is no signs of tension in the bust of the gown and no other evidence that it may have been supportive.

The left and right frontpieces of the gown are quite square, stopping not far above the scoop neckline. The bodice is shaped at the sides by the insertion of two small gores. The right side gore measures 2" at the top (where it joins the sleeve), 3 ½" where it joins the front of the gown, and 4 7/8" where it joins the back. A similar gore sits in the same position on the other side measuring 1.7" on top, and 5" on either side. The interior angles on the top corners are both 92 degrees, indicating that the sides of the gore must be slightly rounded.

The squarish bodice is attached to two straps which are 2" wide where they meet the bodice and decrease gradually to ¾" wide at the shoulder ridge. These straps were cut curved, as evidenced by the grainlines which are straight on the side where the straps attach to the sleeves but curved around the neckline. The straps are about 8" long from the seam attaching them to the bodice to the shoulder ridge. At the ridge, they widen again and become a "Y" shape ending just under the shoulder blades.

The upper back of the gown is a curious construction differing from other gowns of this kind. It appears that the gown was cut out of square pieces of fabric, and that other pieces were inserted to make it fit the body. On the back, two trapezoidal gussets cover the shoulder blades. They are 8 ¼" to 8 3/8" along the top, 8" along the inner edge, 6 ½" along the outside (where they meet the lower part of the sleeve) and 8 ¼" - 8 3/8" along the bottom. They span the area from the perpendicular edge of top of the sleeve to the middle of the back.

The sleeves of the gown are very interesting. Their construction is extremely simple, but almost demands that they be fitted on the body of the wearer. The sleeves are simple rectangles, each about 16" wide. The 16" edge is sewn to the straps described above, with the edge of the sleeve being sewn to the top of the shoulder gussets. The rectangular sleeve then wraps around the arm and attaches to the outside edge of the same shoulder gusset (the 6 ½" side) being turned 90 degrees in its journey. A 3 ½" by 4" by 4 ½" triangle is inserted in a slit in the front of the arm, around the area of the armpit. This gore helps the sleeve fit better. The result is a sleeve that hugs the shoulder but doesn't have the stress of a shoulder seam.  It also allows the sleeves to be very tight without restricting movement.

Although it is impossible to tell if the sleeves were originally wrist length or elbow length, my guess is that they came to the wrist. All the buttoned-sleeved garments in contemporary illustrations and sculptures are long sleeved. Although short-sleeved cotehardies are in evidence, there are no buttons on these sleeves. Additionally, there is no logic in placing buttons on a short sleeve. The sleeve can be quite close-fitting and still slip over the wrist easily without the use of a closure like buttons. Buttons seem to indicate that the sleeves were long. Therefore, it is safe to assume the Moy gown originally have wrist length sleeves.

Unlike contemporary sources, however, the buttons on the sleeves of the Moy gown do not stop above the elbow but rather continue up to where the sleeve meets the shoulder gusset. It has been assumed that this was to accommodate the full sleeves of the leine worn underneath. However, there is no evidence to suggest that these sleeves were worn unbuttoned or partially buttoned.

The back body piece of the gown, like the front, is rather square, being shaped by the gore and gussets sewn into it. Under the shoulder gussets, from underarm gore to underarm gore, the back measures 18". At the level of the skirt gores described below, it measures 15" wide. From the bottom of the scoop neck to the top of the center back gore measures 16" and it is 9 ½" from the bottom of the "Y" piece to the top of the same gore.

Like many extant tunics from the Middle Ages, the Moy gown is widened in the skirt by the insertion of gores into the side seams of the garment. A double width gore is also set into a slit in the center back of the dress, there being no seam in that area. The skirt is fragmentary, but what is left of the gores is 24" along each side. Curiously, this seams to be the original length of the gown. The center gores are set 16" down from the back neckline, which is 21" from the shoulder ridge. The side gores are set at the same level as the center back. Considering the level of the gores of this gown, the torso of the wearer was long, making her approximately 5’6” tall. With the skirts only 24”, this would have barely covered her knees. However, contemporary evidence shows us that working women often wore clothing much shorter (and more functional) than the women depicted in portraiture. Indeed when Queen Margaret, wife of Henry VI, fled England for France during the Wars of the Roses, she is described wearing a common woman’s dress that barely covered her knees.

There is an approximately 2" x 2" patch at the top of the center back gores. The patch covers a hole in the garment where the center back gores have made a point of stress pulling on the gown body. It has not been determined if this patch is original or recent. There are also holes above the right and left side gores, demonstrating that these were common stress points.

Be alert to the fact that this is not an Elizabethan or Tudor chemise. No hooks and eyes are needed for your supplies. No stays. Just eyelets. Openings are fairly easy to fill with insets sometimes trimmed with gold. Hats are replaced by a type of hood. Or an adult commonwoman of beauty can wear her hair showing in the 1300s; it's not the symbol of a girl.

A curious square is missing from the bottom of the gown in back. After reading the correspondence between the farmer who found the garment and the Museum, it has been determined that the farmer removed this piece of the gown away for some purpose, possibly to prove his possession of the garment to the Museum. The extant letters scold him for this behaviour.

The Moy Gown is the most complete surviving example of a dress style very popular in Western Europe from the 1340s onward.  t is very similar, in fact, to the construction of the 14th century finds at Herjolfsnes in Norse Greenland.  It is likely that it was worn as a single layer.  Although from the hinterland, much can be learned about the state of tailoring techniques in the late Middle Ages. It is a wonderful example of the construction and repair techniques of people of the time and the power of its study will not leave one wanting. It demonstrates how the fashionable ideal can be imitated with a minimum of material and yet still remain functional enough for a working woman's use.

This is a popular European style and hardly local to County Mayo. The Germans, the French and even an Italian contacted us for ordering this pattern for their school arts club. Parents don't want their kids basing their knowledge of history on the movies. We love to connect with people all over the world and sharing our developing interest.  Please share your thoughts or problems with us through our contact email.

Bibliography and Related Resources

Crowfoot, Elizabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4 - Textiles and Clothing circa 1150-1450. 1992: HMSO, London.

McGann, Kathleen, library. Unpublished notes made at the National Museum of Ireland, July 1998, and July 1999.

Newton, Stella. Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340-1365. 1999: Boydell Press, London.

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. 2004: Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, Denmark.

Piponnier, Françoise and Perrine Mane. Dress in the Middle Ages. 1997: Yale University Pres, New Haven, CT.

Personal communications with Maggie Forrest from 1998 through 2009

Please visit the NationalMuseum of Ireland in Dublin.  Their Viking headdress and ancient Saxon weapons exhibits provide wonderful data previous to 1500 ad as well.

There are not many paintings of Irish medieval peasants, but the constructions of this gown mirrors that of Charles de Blois' pourpoint.

For more, purchase this pattern.

This information copyright © 1999, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History.  Do not reprint without express permission.