Quarantine Fashion for Plague



Kate Worek

Outline the story …

"The Last Hours" by Minette Walters tells the story of Lady Anne, an impoverished noble in rural England who saves her people from the black death by using - you guessed it - quarantine. Raised in a convent, Anne is taught to be practical and hardworking by the nuns. She possessed a dowry which allowed her to get married at the age of 14. Unfortunately, she married a complete bastard who squanders all her money and destroys everything he touches. The story starts almost 13 years later, when the black death hits England in 1348 and Lady Anne and her servants must find a ways to keep from getting sick as well as starving. Anne's wardrobe is rarely discussed, except that she wares homespun clothes and is sometimes indistinguishable from the servants. Anne is intelligent and practical and despite being a Lady, her clothing reflects the serious and poor circumstances she finds herself in. As she doesn't worry about appearances, I have made her a kirtle that is extremely plain and functional, in keeping with the harsh reality she lives in as well as her practical religious upbringing. Despite never been mentioned, I also wanted to create something a bit grander to show off her real status. Anne would have had a trousseau with some fancier outfits, so I created a modest surcoat, which I like to think she has stored away carefully for those few times a year when she needs to look like the 'Lady of the Manor'.

Outline the construction…

I’m a complete novice! I've done some cross stitching, but my sewing experience boils down to a denim quilt and an ottoman slipcover that was in a word – serviceable However, I saw Cathy's competition video on YouTube and took her words to heart Using YouTube, and both hand and machine sewing, I attempted to make a Kirtle and Surcoat. I probably should have just picked one or the other, but I always bite off more than I can chew! The challenging thing was finding materials! Being broke ass broke - I knew historically accurate materials where out of my reach, so I tried to find convincing alternatives. The kirtle is made out of 2 wool camping blankets and the Surcoat is made from 3 tablecloths from Walmart which is lined with a bed sheet. I realized I would need to compromise my vision to fit these materials. I originally wanted a brighter colour for the kirtle - like red or blue, something more historically accurate. The surcoat would have been made out of brocade, so I tried to "fake it" somewhat with embroidery. Inspired by Cathy's 'Leaf Dress' I attempted to make my own with some dollar store cording and embroidery thread. The Leaf design came right from the cover of the book - which looked historically accurate. The bird motif in the middle was inspired by a piece of real medieval embroidery and the birds themselves are made of felt. Hope you like my first handmade outfit!




  1. Avatar Pixie Rose on March 11, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    I absolutely adore the overdress! These colors together are absolutely -chef’s kiss-

    • Avatar Kate Worek on March 13, 2021 at 7:18 pm

      I’m so glad you like the colours! I finished this the night the entries closed, so I had to take photos inside as the sun was setting! I was worried that the colours wouldn’t translate very well in bad lighting, but your comment makes me feels so much better about it! Thanks so much – I really appreciate it!

  2. Avatar Catherine Murray on March 11, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    I’m so impressed with your ingenuity. The kirtle is just right – you’ve really captured the shape. Well done.

    • Avatar Kate Worek on March 13, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks very much! God bless YouTube! 😀

  3. Avatar Laura Boyles on March 12, 2021 at 12:35 am

    Ingenious, and a lovely result. Best of luck x

  4. Avatar Lindsey on March 12, 2021 at 2:41 am

    AS much as I love the surcoat I think the kirtle is perfection.

  5. Avatar Yanicka Hachez on March 12, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    If you hadn’t told me about the fabrics provenance, I would never have guessed! Love the ensemble.

  6. Avatar Andrea Olinte on March 12, 2021 at 3:49 pm

    I just go with Yanicka – never guessed the fabrics. It looks marvellous.

  7. Avatar Teri Plemel on March 12, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    This looks wonderful and I think you captured the character very nicely.

  8. Avatar Nadine on March 12, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    I love the way you made the outfit. It shows true creativity and flexible thinking. I’m impressed how historically accurate dress and surcoat look. Beautiful embroidery! i would wear it.

    • Avatar Kate Worek on March 13, 2021 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks so much! I was very lucky that there are so many skilled makers on YouTube who could show me how to make an accurate kirtle! I would have been completely lost without them!

  9. Avatar Carolien van Alphen on March 12, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Beautiful! I love the embroidery on the surcoat. It just makes it that bit more special, without taking away from the simplicity of it.

  10. Avatar Anne on March 12, 2021 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, it came out absolutely stunning!! I LOVE the embroidery. That is the next thing on my list of things to learn – embroidery. I love this gown, it is absolutely fabulous!!

    • Avatar Kate Worek on March 13, 2021 at 7:05 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment! I was worried that it wouldn’t translate very well in photos, so I’m so glad you like it! I had originally planned to embroider the whole surcoat, but at 35mins – 1hour for each leaf, that dream died quickly! 😀

  11. Avatar Anasazi on March 12, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    I love this silhouette and your embroidery! Your book sound really interesting! Well done! And great work finishing two garments beautifully!

  12. Avatar Amy Sakovich on March 13, 2021 at 12:43 am

    Your ingenuity sounds like it fit the character well. I love your embroidery as well. Great job

  13. Avatar Sarah Helgeson on March 13, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    Very nice work! The beadwork is beautiful!

  14. Avatar Donna G Earp on March 13, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    I do like your first outfit, especially the design. Well fitted, well done.

  15. Avatar JAYE SUDAR on March 15, 2021 at 3:03 am

    You did a beautiful job! The design is good, and your outfit just works. 🙂 Be proud of yourself. 🙂

  16. Avatar Audra Borders on March 16, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Your work is incredible especially considering what you were working with. I am a consummate scrounger, good job with finding materials that would work for your project.

  17. Avatar Valerie on March 17, 2021 at 1:38 am

    I love a good sideless surcote, I adore effective use of household textiles for historical garments, and I really really love your embroidery!

  18. Avatar Suzi Smart on March 17, 2021 at 6:05 pm

    The kirtle is a beautiful. I think that the dark green would have been very apt and serviceable and suits you well.

  19. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 23, 2021 at 12:28 am

    This is awesome! I love this. That embroidery is very nice! This is one of my favorites! Thank you!

  20. Avatar Elowen Blackthorn on March 26, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Fantastic job! I especially love the surcoat but they’re both wonderful pieces!

  21. Avatar Vanessa Isobel on March 26, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Love your resourcefulness! I would never have known otherwise – up-cycling all the way! This is a great design and interpretation too. I love Minette Walters and even though I haven’t read this one I know her character styles well enough to see your interpretation.

  22. Avatar Bianca on March 29, 2021 at 4:33 am

    The embroidery and birds look so good!

  23. Avatar Lizzie Blake on April 1, 2021 at 8:36 pm

    You did an amazing job with this! Beautiful embroidery and construction

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