simple working dress with Grande Assiette tailoring

March 14, 2010: I've been trying to fit Grande Assiette sleeves for my Dürer dress. After setting at least a dozen trial sleeves into the bodice, I finally came up with something that look alright and gave me quite free arm movement. I wanted to use the new pattern to make a simple dress first and see how well it looks and works in a 'real' dress.
Unrestricted arm movement is the trick of the Grande Assiette tailoring - read a lot about it here. In short, Grande Assiette sleeves are set much more deeply into the bodice (particularly at the back and below the arm) while still remaining a fitted appearance. They originate from men's (padded) arming doublets which were worn under plate armor and thus needed to fit close to the body while still granting free movement of the arm. (And we all know what restricted arm movement is once we have worn a modern blazer or suit...) By the end of the 15th century, Grande Assiette sleeves became popular in women's (working) clothing as well. You can see Grande Assiette examples for example in the Housebook end elsewhere (notice the deep armhole at the back and the close fit under the armpit):

card players Sol und seine Kinder birth of the virgin temptation of faith, Master ES

women's dresses with Grande Assiette sleeves

I wanted to use the Grande Assiette sleeve pattern first in a simple dress with short sleeves, an everyday or working dress. Short sleeved dresses or kirtles were often worn with pin-on sleeves, thus making a very versatile garment: Take off the sleeves and roll up your shift's sleeves for work (picture 1), pin on simple everyday sleeves (picture 2 and 3) or, if you can afford it, wear expensive damast or brocade sleeves (picture 4) on a Sunday. The length of the dress's sleeves varies from just below the shoulder to above the elbow, and so does the length of the pin-on sleeve:

der unterjochte Ehemann the spinner and the visitor birth of mary Braque family triptych

pin-on sleeves of varying lenght

Here are some examples of (working) dresses with short sleeves. The first is a simple, early example with front lacing. The women in the first and second image wear their short sleeved dress directly over the shift. In the third image, you can see blue sleeves fastened to something below the red dress (although you can't see an additional layer of clothing besides the shift at the front opening). The last image shows a short sleeved dress worn as third layer of clothing (the virgin wears an additional dress below that is not an undergarment).

tres riches heures du duc de Berry, juin Master ES, violent wife Hugo van der Goes, massacre of the innocents Martin Schongauer, 5th wise virgin

short-sleeved dresses

April 03, 2010: My dress
I've used medium weight, indigo coloured wool for my dress. I've cut 2 fitted panels each for front and back of the dress and inserted 4 gores below the waist (which gives a total hem width of around 4 m). Bodice and sleeves are lined with medium weight, white linen. As in most pictures shown above, the dress is laced in the front. As it is supposed to be a 'working' dress, I've made the skirt no longer than ground length. As well, I've sewn two shorter pin-on sleeves (as in the above image of the wise virgin) to match the lenght of the dress's sleeves. They're made from reddish, medium weight wool and lined with white linen.

dress pattern sleeve pattern
bodice right side bodice inside

making my dress

Grand Assiette sleeve Grand Assiette sleeve Grand Assiette sleeve

Grande Assiette sleeves

Grande Assiette dress, front Grande Assiette dress, side Grande Assiette dress, back
Grande Assiette dress, side Grande Assiette dress, front Grande Assiette dress, back

the finished dress worn with the new pin-on sleeves and a simple apron