Tatiana's Easy Breezy Late Period Garb

Updated 26 May 2009

The following information has been posted on behalf of Her Excellency, Viscountess Tatiana Nikolaeva Tumanova, OL. Please contact her if you have any questions.


For everyday wear I favor sarafans. My first one was utterly lousy as I hadn't a clue (http://history.westkingdom.org/Year21/Photos/B05.htm) and it was done with two straps and was way too form-fitting; I started serious research and eventually made a much better one (http://history.westkingdom.org/Year25/Photos/B10.htm) and then made my first red sarafan with a period closure using cording and buttons just based on illustrations as I hadn't translated the texts as yet. I am not a seamstress, so making a garment from scratch is difficult and I was adapting regular patterns.

I wanted to make a sarafan using a period pattern, which is made from rectangles (even the side panels are made from a rectangle cut on the diagonal). So I worked with Mistress Aldith to get the period pattern worked out although simple in concept, it took a master dressmaker (which I am not!) to analyze the layout of the garment. It is amazing how much difference the placement of the "armholes" can make on the period sarafan. The secret is to make the bottom edge of the armhole (i.e., the place where the gore made of two right-triangle side panels is attached) start where the breast dart would angle into the side seam on a regular dress. Place it right, and the front of the sarafan won't gape weirdly at the armholes or strain across the chest. I wasn't able to figure this out on my own I knew it wasn't working and it didn't look right, but couldn't figure out what to do about it, short of going back to "European" style round armholes.

The sarafan can open up down the front or be pulled on over the head; when making one where the front is going to open, cut the front panel in two pieces and make both panels two inches wider for an overlap. If you do not have the overlap, no matter how loose the garment is, it will gape at places down the front (and also admit cold air). If the garment is not going to be lined or faced (i.e., a colored facing turned to the outside of the garment), cut the front so there is a shorter rectangular panel in the middle and two long narrow rectangles running from shoulder to hem to either side; when attaching the center part to the two narrow side strips (which will become the "straps" running over the shoulders), leave the last half inch of the seam open. This will permit you to turn the raw edges at that right-angle inside corner. When attaching the side panels (gores), leave the last half inch of the seam attaching the panel to the main body of the sarafan open again, this will permit you to turn the raw edges under.

The only other trick to a sarafan is that if there's a lot of decoration down the front of it, it ends up being "front heavy" and drags the garment forward so it doesn't sit properly on the shoulders. To counterbalance this, place two round flat dressmaker's weights under the trim around the back of the neckline, right at the two back corners. If that's insufficient, attach two small weights at the back of the garment near the hem (this trick courtesy of Mistress Aldith - Baroness Aldith Angharad St. George, O.P.).

Layer 1 bleached white linen rubakha with short (to the wrists) gathered sleeves, neck gathered into a narrow collar, buttoned with a knotted cord loop and metal filigree ball button. Belted with a plain leather belt. This rubakha has shoulder panels and underarm gussets; it does not have side panels or gores. Layer 2 dark blue rough woven silk sarafan cut on a period pattern (note the "square" armholes) with woven multi-colored trim and decorated down the front with wooden ball buttons, lined with unbleached cotton. This sarafan does not open down the front; the buttons are decorative. Second try at the period style.

Layer 2 red (cinnabar) linen sarafan cut on a period pattern with orange linen trim, period red cord loops/button "closure" with metal filigree ball buttons, worn over a long-sleeved white cotton rubakha with red cotton bias trim. This sarafan does not open down the front; the button closure is decorative (see close-up). Unlined for hot-weather wear.

Worn with a headdress/viscountal coronet, accessories/jewelry, and boots.

Layer 1 - Rubakha with Gathered Neck and Sleeves

Layer 2 - Sarafan from Period pattern

Layer 2 - Sarafan with Long-Sleeved Rubakha

Layer 2 - Detail of Sarafan - Fake Opening

Layer 2 - Sarafan with Long-sleeved Burgundy Rubakha

Layer 2 - Sarafan closure detail


COPYRIGHT (c) by BJ Gerth - bj.gerth at sbcglobal.net. You may make copies for personal use and to distribute for educational purposes but only if the articles remain complete and entire with original authorship clearly noted.

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