If you’ve looked around my website or seen me at SCA events, you might have noticed I’m really fond of 16th-century clothing. And I don’t go much earlier than this era. In fact, I often joke that 1530 is “early period” for me (when, in SCA circles, “early period” means Norse, Viking, even Roman garb). I prefer structured garments & find them far more flattering to my figure, plus I love everything about the 16th century, from the politics to the arts to, increasingly, the food.
Yet, in the past year, I’ve been part of two SCA courts that requested early period attire. It wasn’t absolutely required, & I did have my gothic gothic fitted dress for a little 14th-century-ish action, but that was still far from the Viking garb everyone else wore. Viking & Norse are really big things in the West Kingdom, no idea why. So I finally succumbed, but I wasn’t going to waste my precious sewing time & energy making it myself (even tho’ it’s all really basic rectangular construction). When I got the idea, I was still going through cancer treatments, & I wanted to focus what time I had on the much more interesting 1590s wheel farthingale gown project.
After much deliberation of online options, I settled on ArmStreet’s New Knyazhna Helga Overcoat, Dress and Chemise set. This one is the same as their Knyazhna Helga Medieval Flax Linen Dress, Coat and Chemise, but the “new” version comes in slightly different colors (ones I wanted). Each set includes a long-sleeved linen chemise, a short-sleeved linen dress, & a wool coat, each one edged in knotwork ribbon trim, plus a matching knotwork ribbon belt. The garments are all custom-made to your measurements. It’s not strictly historically accurate, but the outfit has the basic design of 11th to 12th-century Northern European woman’s clothing. Since this isn’t my period, I’m not going to stress about the accuracy that much — if I were, I’d research & make an outfit myself!
This set costs less than $400, which is a pretty good deal (the site has frequent sales too). You get most everything you need for the period, all in one. The only drawback to buying from ArmStreet is that manufacturing + shipping time totals nearly two months, so plan ahead. My package came when I expected, however it was missing the chemise. I emailed ArmStreet immediately, & they apologized & got that to me within the month. So I give them good marks for customer service.
All of the items are very well made — machine sewn, but tidily finished with nothing glaringly modern showing. I washed the linen pieces immediately because I hate the way linen feels against my skin, & these garments softened up quite nicely. Bonus: They survived a normal washing & drying machine cycle with zero problems, which bodes well for durability.
The fit of each item is good — the shapes aren’t very complicated, but ArmStreet got everything right in terms of length, bust, wrist, etc. I’m petite & plus-sized, so off-the-rack sizes usually require alterations. I’m thrilled to have something that I can wear as-is out of the package.
Through a series of events, I didn’t get around to wearing the outfit until March Crown 2014 (three months after purchase). And I primarily wore the outfit during the evening as convenient working wear. For which it served perfectly — very comfortable, easy to move in, & I cooked a feast in the outfit, minus the coat. Unlike a lot of my garb, I could just toss the dress & chemise in the laundry at home too. The coat was toasty warm as the sun went down; being unlined heavy wool, it would be itchy, but worn with the long-sleeved chemise, that’s not a problem.
All in all, I give this a solid “A” rating for value & quality. Yes, you could make something similar for less money, but if you don’t have the time or simply don’t sew, buying this outfit is worth it, IMO.