Among the other projects I was involved with at the Garb Weekend, one was an experimental project with Lady Órlaith.
At this point, I was just starting to agonise about how to construct the Hedeby Apron Dress based on the few fragments found, when Lady Órlaith, also seeking help, volunteered herself and her fabric as test subjects. We had a brief discussion about my ideas so far, and she agreed happily to the one I wanted to try. Handing over her beautiful jade green linen, I snipped it into a one piece front panel, and two back panels, pinned it, and handed it back for sewing. Darts in the back panels and hip-length gores in the back and sides swiftly followed, all sewn up by Órlaith. Truly this was the best of partnerships, with each of us feeling that we'd gotten the better end of the deal.
The finished dress is a fitted linen sheath, shaped to the hip, and flaring out thanks to the gores and is almost completely self-supporting even before the straps are added. Unfortunately, I misread some of the Hedeby information, so the darts lie to the inside as per the modern aesthetic, rather than the outside of the dress. The lady herself seemed utterly delighted with it, for all that it was, in my mind, full of "first dress mistakes". Truly it was very generous of her to allow me to experiment on the dress that she'll be wearing.
The final effect this experiment had for me was to set my mind down the path it needed to go to consider the Hedeby dress. I've seen various reenactor versions featuring 3, 4 or even 5 panels, and arguments against each. And there being no final say which one is correct, I needed to make up my mind how I was going to attempt my own final version, and I'll cover my thoughts on that in my next post.