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L&P 3001: Medieval Lady's Wardrobe Pattern for 18 inch dolls such as American Girl — historical doll kirtle (dress), mantle (cloak), shift



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  • Digital file type(s): 1 PDF

Wearing her SHIFT and laced snugly into her fully-lined KIRTLE, with her gore-enhanced skirts swirling romantically about her and her MANTLE hanging elegantly from her shoulders, your doll will be the perfect picture of a Late Medieval maiden.


One of the most important clothing innovations in history appeared in Europe sometime around 1330: the set-in sleeve. This development, which allowed garments to fit the torso like never before, launched an era of glorious, body-conscious fashion. The resulting woman's dress, known as a KIRTLE (and also as a gown or cotehardie — and in today's re-enactment circles as a Gothic Fitted Dress) was graceful and flattering, with a wide neckline, a tight bodice typically laced or buttoned in front, tight sleeves often buttoned from the wrist to above the elbow, and a very wide skirt flaring from the hips with side, front and back gores.

From the kirtle's many appearances in the beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the period — and its continued popularity with 19th century Pre-Raphaelites, early 20th century fairy tale illustrators and 20th and 21st century medieval and fantasy costume designers — this is the garment we recognize today as being THE medieval dress. And it was: the kirtle remained the basic female garment for almost one hundred and fifty years.

The gown we have re-created here for 18" dolls follows our best current knowledge of how the medieval kirtle was made. Our pattern was draped on the doll itself (a Mattel-era American Girl®) and not cut from a sloper, for the closest-possible fit. We worked especially hard to fit the armscye perfectly to the doll's arm joint, and the sleeve perfectly into the armscye for a truly historical look.

This pattern also includes a half-circle, lined MANTLE — a ceremonial cloak seen in many period illustrations and sculptures. The mantle has a wide neck curve that mirrors the neckline curve of the kirtle as it wraps around the shoulders. The square edges of the cloak land in the hollows on either side of the chest, ideally placed to set off dramatic, metal brooch-like bosses that hold the cords: re-created perfectly at doll-scale using easily-available decorative shank buttons.

Finally, this pattern includes a sleeveless medieval SHIFT (undergarment), based on the simple shifts seen in a 14th century Bohemian Bible, as well as suggestions for making medieval GIRDLES (belts) — and also ideas for creating your own fantasy kirtles.

Along with the patterns and detailed, photo-illustrated directions, the pattern document features an eleven page historical introduction, with sections on the era, the garments, the construction techniques, the fabrics, the colors, the patterns, the embellishments and the people, all illustrated with beautiful, period images and backed by a complete bibliography, with links to online inspirational sources — and our very own Late Medieval Inspirations Pinterest board at www.pinterest.com/leeandpearl.


Want to create a version of our kirtle with a deep trimmed band around the hem, like a certain Scottish (Disney) princess? We designed a FREE Tweak the Pattern alteration with all the pattern pieces and directions you need to add such a band to this pattern. You can find the FREE tweak document on the FREE STUFF page of the Lee & Pearl website at http://www.leeandpearl.com/free.html


We have rated this pattern as EASY/INTERMEDIATE. The pattern pieces for all three garments are simple shapes that fit together with straight or mildly curved seams. Though the pattern includes detailed, photo-illustrated directions for historical handwork and couture-style techniques like hand-bound eyelets, hand understitching, spiral lacing and French tacks, the garments can also be made using simpler modern or machine techniques. We have even included a suggestion page of further short-cuts (such as making the garment with knit fabric and eliminating the gores) to make construction as easy as possible.



1/2 yd (60" w/o nap) or 2/3 yd (45" w/o nap) light to medium-weight woven fabric for the dress*

1/2 yd (60" w/o nap) or 2/3 yd (45" w/o nap) lightweight woven fabric for the lining**

Scrap medium-weight fusible interfacing

3/4" wide hook-and-loop fastener (such as Velcro™) for the sleeve openings

Beads to use as faux buttons for the sleeve openings (we used 3–4 mm beads on our dresses)

2 yds lightweight cord for lacing

Matching thread, including sturdy thread or embroidery floss if hand-sewing eyelets

OPTIONAL if using metal eyelets instead of hand-sewn eyelets: 1/8" eyelets or grommets and eyelet/grommet setting tool (these can be found with scrapbooking supplies in craft stores)

*Historically, these gowns would have been made of wool, silk or silk velvet. The very full and heavy skirts would have helped even sturdy versions of these fabrics drape beautifully. To mimic that drape in doll-scale, choose soft and easy-to-drape fabrics, like lightweight wool crepe or garment-weight silk noil (raw silk). We have also had success with blends of wool, rayon and polyester, or linen, rayon and cotton. We do not recommend using stiff fabrics like taffeta or quilting cotton. For fairy tale and fantasy kirtles, your fabric choices can be (almost) as unlimited as your imagination, though we still recommend using softly-draping fabrics. For an especially easy version of the kirtle, shown in the last image, you can even use relatively stable knits and jerseys.

**For warmth in drafty castles, lining materials as thick as fur pelts were used. For doll-scale linings, we recommend lighter weight fabrics like cotton gauze or voile, or China silk.


1/2 yd light to medium weight woven fabric for the mantle*

1/2 yd lightweight woven fabric for the lining**

Scrap medium-weight fusible interfacing

Matching thread, including sturdy thread or embroidery floss if hand-sewing eyelets

2 metal or tooled leather shank buttons (these can be quite large: the buttons on our cover are 1 1/8" wide)

30" cord (we used 2mm rattail on our cover)

1 wooden or metal bead slider with a hole wide enough to fit snugly around a doubled width of the cord

OPTIONAL: Though we recommend hand-stitched eyelets on the mantle for a more flexible fit, you can also use metal eyelets. Make sure they are large enough to fit around your button's shank.

OPTIONAL if you want to fasten the mantle with a simple ribbon bow instead of the bosses and cord: 1 yard 5/8" to 3/4" ribbon or tape

* If your fabric has a vertical nap or pattern, you might prefer to cut it on a crosswise fold instead of the more usual lengthwise fold. In that case, you will need 1 yd of material instead of 1/2 yd.

** When choosing a lining fabric for the mantle, remember this rule: ROUGH to SMOOTH. If your kirtle is made out of a napped or nubbly fabric like wool, velvet or raw silk, choose a smooth or silky fabric for your mantle lining.


1/2 yd lightweight woven fabric

From the limited information we have on medieval shifts, it seems likely that they were made of white or natural-colored lightweight linen. If you can't find linen soft enough for a doll-scale shift, we recommend using a lightweight cotton instead.

Matching thread

14" of thin cord or 1/8" tape or ribbon


1 yd 1/2" to 5/8" jacquard ribbon (or see the pattern for further belt suggestions)


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To see our other patterns, visit the PATTERNS section of our Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/leeandpearl?section_id=15862176&ref=shopsection_leftnav_1

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This pattern will be delivered as an instant download. After purchasing, you will receive a link to a PDF copy of the file, which includes the pattern pieces on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets.

No paper copy will be mailed.

This pattern may be printed solely by the original purchaser. It may not be duplicated, redistributed, posted or resold without prior authorization from Lee & Pearl™. If you use this pattern to make items to sell yourself, we ask that you give Lee & Pearl™ design credit in the description of those items. Thank you!

Lee & Pearl™ is not affiliated with Mattel, American Girl® or any other company or organization.

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2,838 reviews

5 out of 5 stars

Buyers are raving!

Multiple people gave 5-star reviews to this shop in the past 7 days.

5 out of 5 stars

This pattern sewed up so beautifully! If you choose the right fabrics with the right drape, everything looks amazing. I took my time and did all the hand sewing and even added some beadwork. The fit of the dress is so flattering on the doll and the fullness of the cape is perfect. I especially liked all the instructions for the French tacks and the hand-bound eyelets. I did both, but it was my first time doing both. Thank you! This pattern gave me everything I was hoping for. :-)

beautifulhandmade Nov 3, 2017

5 out of 5 stars

This pattern looks great! It came digitally almost immediately, which is great for those who like instant gratification. I bought it to resize for A Girl for All Time, knowing that you take a persnickitous amount of pains with the patterns I have bought in the past, so I think it will work.

Sherry Jul 27, 2016

5 out of 5 stars

Gorgeous patterns with a lot of variety. I haven't had the chance to make them all yet, but the instructions seem clear and easy to follow. I (and my dolls) thank you for them.

Natalie Ciolek May 16, 2015

5 out of 5 stars

this is a great look. The minute I looked at it, my finger hit the" click" on the mouse to the purchase bar. I wanted to make it up right away, but I Must purchase the size paper as stated. Can't wait to make the outfit. Marilyn

Marilyn Chicoine May 18, 2016

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