Beauty’s Loose Gown



Josephine Dykstra

(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographers: Wendy Gouine and Isabel Paul

Outline the story …

I’ve been inspired by Beauty, from the classic fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” with a special nod to Robin McKinley’s 'Beauty'. Beauty is the youngest daughter of the wealthiest merchant in the city, until he loses his fortune through a series of bad luck and the family goes to live in the country. She is a kind girl who loves flowers, and in adaptations is often bookish or scholarly. Even though the most well known versions of the tale were written and published in the 18th century, I feel that it has a strong connection to the 16th (though this may be only the motif of roses and my conviction that the Beast should wear a gown and trunk hose). Since I am interested in middle and working class women’s clothing from the 1500s, and there is some fascinating commentary about gender and study through women’s clothing in this period, I decided to create this loose gown for a late 16th or early 17th century Beauty.

The gown itself is pulled heavily from the gowns in Janet Arnold’s 'Patterns of Fashion 5'. The pattern and basic construction is derived from the V&A gown on page 118 (with help from a friend on patterning), and trim from the “Bess of Hardwick” gown on page 98. The hanging sleeves are based on the Alcega sleeves on page 10, figure 47.

Outline the construction…

My goal was to create this gown with materials and techniques as close to those seen on extant garments as I could manage. The gown is made from a midweight, napped wool twill with a herringbone silk half lining, linen canvas interlining, and linen facings. The trim is a velvet ribbon (polyester due to supply issues). Interior seams are hand sewn with a waxed linen thread, and exterior with a matching silk thread. The buttons are rayon machine embroidery thread over a wooden core (similar supply issues; I struggled to find a chocolate brown silk buttonhole twist), and the button loops are a simple square fingerloop braid of 5 bowes using the same thread doubled.

The interlining is pad stitched to the silk half lining using running stitches, in a pattern seen on the V&A gown. I also pad stitched an interlining to the collar, which is a new technique to me. The hem has a canvas interlining felled in place under the facing. I learned to cover thread buttons and fingerloop braid for this project (many thanks to Morgan Donner’s instructional video!) All the trim, facings, and seam edges are felled down; interior seams are sewn with a running back stitch, and the sleeves are sewn and sewn on with a whip stitch to reduce bulk. The tabs are edged with a blanket stitch, and the collar is topstitched.

Other garments (beside shoes and socks) are hand sewn or knit by me.




  1. Avatar Beth on March 12, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    Robin McKinley’s Beauty is one of my favorites too! I love your attention to detail and stitching. Looks Fabulous!

  2. Avatar JAYE SUDAR on March 14, 2021 at 4:06 am

    Well done. I love the buttons!

  3. Avatar Manon L'Hostis on March 15, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    The inside pictures are so satisfying! Your stitching is very neat, well done♡

  4. Avatar Kathleen Davies on March 20, 2021 at 12:13 am

    Your stitching is so neat! And your buttons are phenomenal!

  5. Avatar Laura Mims on March 23, 2021 at 2:01 am

    McKinley does such wonderfully descriptive and new retellings! Beauty has been one of my favorite books since I was 12 or so. My copy is quite well-worn at this point. Lovely job, I can just see her up on Greatheart calling him a great brute!

  6. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 26, 2021 at 5:13 am

    Very beautiful, I’m astounded by the amount of work that went into this! As Kathleen said, your buttons are indeed phenomenal!

  7. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 29, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    This is gorgeous! It looks very well made, and really warm 😀 I love that the buttons are in sets of three!

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