Based on the book of historical stage costuming by Giliarovksaia.

Note: this page is intended primarily for the costumers of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and written as such; however, hopefully, its usefulness is not limited to them: the same comments and directions are applicable for theatrical costuming and other applications. The translations and directions are by Masha Gedilaghine Holl, and may be printed for personal use. For commercial use, please contact me at [Here].

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The patterns and instructions on this page are based on Russkii istoricheskii kostium dlia stseny, Isskustvo: Moscow, 1945, by N. Giliarovskaia [Russian Historical Costume for the Stage ]. The patterns system Giliarovskaia gives work. However, it is highly recommended to prepare a mock-up of the garment from cheap fabric such as muslin before cutting the actual fabric intended for that garment. The basic pattern is intended for people of average height, average girth, and for men rather than women, therefore some measurements will need to be adjusted, such as overall length, sleeve length, etc. I give more extensive directions for the few garments I have actually constructed from these patterns. In general, they will apply to all the garments in the book, but details will vary. These patterns and directions are not complicated, since everything is based on straight lines, and the curves are usually easy to draw. However, because adjustments are necessary and construction details differ from commercial patterns, first-time costumers should seek assistance from experienced costumers. The historical comments to the patterns are by Giliarovskaia. For additional comments on the history of medieval Russian clothing, see section IV.

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  I.  General Directions.

In the introduction to the third section of her book (the actual patterns), Giliarovskaia provides the following key:

"The drawings of the patterns are made according to a scale system. This is a system in which the pattern is drawn on the basis of chest measurements.

Divide one-half of the chest circumference by 48. The unit in the drawings corresponds to 1/48 of half of the chest circumference.

For an average figure (48 cm) the unit may be 1 centimeter. For other sizes, increase or decrease as necessary the measurement of the 1/48 of one-half of the chest circumference.

Drawing of the patterns always begins at the vertical line, the top of which is marked with the letter A.

Horizontal lines originate from the vertical line, to the right or to the left." (page 64).

In other words, measure the chest of the person for whom the garment is intended, and divide by 96 (by 2 then by 48). Theoretically, the system works either in inches or in centimeters, but using centimeters provides more precise measurements. To create a pattern in the size you need, multiply the numbers provided in the master pattern by the personal unit you just obtained (1/96 of the chest circumference). Transfer the pattern to paper (I use banner paper or butcher paper, available in rolls of various widths at craft stores, office supply stores, or even in some grocery stores). Use the edge of the paper for the vertical line and mark the point A from which all vertical measurement will be taken. Then measure and connect the dots following the master pattern. If the garment extends both to the right and to the left of the vertical line, offset it as necessary. Essentially, you will be working from (x,y) coordinates, but from the top (right or left) instead of the bottom. Then create a mock-up in cheap fabric, fit as necessary, and finally transfer to the fabric chosen for the garment.

After you try it once, you will realize that it is really a simple and efficient system. And more importantly, a universal one, as it is based on individual measurements rather than arbitrary sizes.

Important note: the drawings are not to scale! Do not attempt to enlarge them and print them out! Transfer them to paper following the instructions!

What to call all these garments?

The names Giliarovskaia gives are usually accurate and documented for the Muscovite (post-Mongol) period. The Kievan period, however, is more of a problem for costumers and linguists alike. The consensus at this times seems to be that the mid-thigh to knee-length shir for men, and the undertunic for women, were both called srachitsa, sorochitsa , or sorochka , and that rubakha corresponded instead to "garment".

The overtunic, or outer garment, was called svita , not kaftan , which is a later word, of the Muscovite period.

Clothing Terms in CyrillicThe cloak worn over the left shoulder, leaving the sword arm free, was called the korzno , and it was a distinguishing garment of the Rurikid princes. The fur coat, sewn with the fur to the inside and covered with fine cloth on the outside, was called, as it would today, shuba . Shapka  was a man's hat, kokoshnik , kika  were women's headdresses (the names may refer to different types of headdresses, but I am not sure which). The veil was called povoi .

  II.  Patterns with directions.

  • 1. Basic Shirt/Undertunic (Sorochka).

  • Shirt PatternCut 4 of each piece; the sleeve can be cut on the fold: place top horizontal line on fold and cut 2. The back of the shirt may also be cut on the fold: place vertical A on the fold and cut 1 Shirt Body; the same can be done with the front of the shirt if it is to be a pulled-over garment rather than a buttoned shirt. For additional comments, see below.

    Check sleeve length and overall length: this is best done as the pattern is transferred to paper. Do not forget to add seam allowances to your pattern! Alternately, add seam allowances directly on the fabric (I use 1/2" or 3/4" allowances).Transfer pattern to fabric and cut.

    To assemble the garment: Sew two front halves of the shirt body together, repeat with back if necessary. Sew together the two halves of the sleeves (1), if necessary (omit these steps if you cut on the fold).

    Attach shirt front to shirt back at shoulders -- 1.Stitching Order

    Attach gusset to gore -- 2.
    Attach gore+gusset assembly to sleeve -- 3.

    Attach completed section II (see pattern) to shirt body -- 4.

    Sew side seam along sleeve, gusset and gore -- 5.

    Back Neckline DetailThis pattern can be easily modified from a pulled-over to a buttoned shirt: Cut 2 front Shirt Body pieces. Sew together if desired, leaving an opening in front. The neckline of the shirt back can be modified.
    Offset OpeningsFor an offset shirt opening, cut front piece of Shirt Body on fold. Cut an opening off-center. Modify back neckline as above. Assemble shirt as instructed.
    A collar can be added to the modified neckline.
    The pattern produces a shirt that is approximately knee-length, i.e. a men's shirt. To make a women's tunic, lengthen the Shirt Body and the Gusset by extending the vertical lines after transferring the shirt pattern to paper: the resulting tunic will be wider at the bottom than the shirt. Add fullness to the tunic by widening the gores at the bottom.
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  • 2. "Kievan" Tunic.
  •   Family of Great Prince Sviatoslav Iaroslavich (11th cent.); from an illumination
    Because of lacunae in Giliarovskaia's drawings, this pattern requires a mock-up before cutting the good fabric.
    This garment may be made into an over-tunic or into a coat, depending on the fabric used. As a coat, it must have a front opening. As an overtunic, it may be either a pulled-over or a button-front garment. Use shank buttons, preferably cloth-covered, and loops, not buttonholes. Loops can be easily made from rattail cording.
    Calculate Unit as directed above.
    Transfer pattern to paper, then to fabric. Do not forget seam allowances: it is recommended to use generous allowances in the mock-up (about 1"). If the pattern is placed on the fold, mark carefully the top of the shoulder (corner A) on the sleeve. To adjust the length of the sleeve, shorten as needed, but keep the size of the top (wider) edge. The bottom edge (narrower edge on the pattern) may be modified as desired to obtain a different shape of the sleeve, although it is recommended to follow the pattern precisely the first time.
    Cut 2 each of Back and Front, and 4 of Sleeve. Alternately, place vertical A on fold and cut 1 Back, 1 Front, and 2 Sleeves.
    Kievan Tunic Pattern
    Sew together 2 Back halves if necessary. Sew together 2 front parts if this is to be a pulled-over garment. Sew together halves of sleeves.

    Sew Back to Front at shoulders. Attach sleeve to body. This is the difficult part: Giliarovskaia's pattern does not indicate the size of the inset (see 29* on the pattern). Match shoulder seam with top (or seam) of Sleeve.

    Baste sleeve in place. The top (wider) edge of the sleeve must fit precisely in the inset, turning corners. The bottom seam on the sleeve will meet with the body seam under the arm. Adjust the seam allowances on the body of the garment to fit the sleeve, not the sleeve itself.

    Sew side seam along body and under sleeve.

    Fit and adjust body length. Note that Russian garments never trail on the ground, and usually reach the ankle, or just below. An overtunic often reveals embroidery along the hem of the undertunic: adjust length as desired.

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  • 3.  Novgorod Shuba (coat).

  • The pattern is based on a number of representations of saints (and ordinary people in icons) that diverge from the Byzantine standard. Instead of chitons, wraps and capes, the people are shown in coats cut with a short front and a longer back, and long sleeves that reach down almost to the hem.
    Woman in Novgorod Coat, 14th Century.

    Judging from the iconographic representations, the coat was usually worn as a cloak, i.e. wrapped around the shoulders and fastened around the neck. However, Giliarovskaia’s comment is that it “could be worn as a cloak,” which seems to imply that it could also worn as a coat. According to later illustrations, the sleeves could be worn pushed up and gathered above the wrist, or sewn with slits in the upper part of the sleeve that served as opening for the arms.

    Note that there the hemline is straight: this way, it will be longer in the back than the front (see illustration).

    As with other patterns, it is best to make a mock-up garment out of cheap fabric before transferring the measurements to good fabric. It may be necessary to adjust the overall length of the garment and of the sleeves. You may choose to redraw the pattern to the final length while keeping the width of the front suggested by Giliarovskaia, or simply to crop the excess fabric from the bottom (the width of the garment at the hem will be reduced).

    Novgorod Coat Pattern

    The seam of the sleeve should meet with the underarm seam of the body. Adjust the sleeve and the armhole to fit.

    The sleeve shows two lines near the shoulder seam; they represent trim, not cutting or sewing lines.

    For the rest, follow the directions for the Kievan Tunic (sewing order, matching seams, etc.).

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    © Maria Gedilaghine Holl, 1998. The patterns on this page are my drawings, based on those in Giliarovskaia's book. All other graphics are mine. Permission is granted to copy them for personal use. For commercial use, please contact me: [Here] . If you use any of the graphics on this page, please indicate the author: Maria Gedilaghine Holl, and the URL of this page.

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