Arms Drafting a Houppelande Pattern


There are theories and evidence for several different approaches to drafting patterns for houppelandes. Through my own observations of many paintings and illuminations of the time period, along with interpretation of evidence presented in the book A History of Costume by Carl Kohler, I have developed a pattern of predominantly triangular shaped pattern pieces. This pattern also incorporates funnel shaped sleeves with pleated shoulders and a convertible collar. This pattern can be achieved through simple alterations of an existing princess line dress pattern.

- Example of a Finished Houppelande -


Please note that while I have attempted to keep the illustrations to scale as much as possible, in some places the scale has been distorted in order to show a detail. In addition, the pattern pieces as shown are without seam allowances.

Figure 1
To draft a houppelande pattern from a princess line dress, you will need the center front, side front, side back, center back, and sleeve pieces from a floor or ankle length princess line dress that fits you. If your pattern has only single pieces for the center front and center back, split them along their centerline.

Figure 1 Figure 2  
Figure 2
On the center front and center back pattern pieces, extend the shoulder and center seams upwards, bringing the neckline up to the base of the neck. (You may wish to make a partial mock-up of this area of the garment in order to accurately fit the new neckline.)

Figure 3 Figure 4  
Figure 3
Take your center back and side back pieces and position them so that the shoulder seamlines are aligned with eachother.

(If your pattern's princess shaping seamline curves into the armsceye rather than over the shoulder, see Notes.)

Figure 4
Measure from the point under your arm that corresponds to the bottom of the armsceye down your ribs to just under your bust. Add 3" and call this measurement R. On your pattern piece, at the side seam in the underarm area, measure 1/2" in from the edge of the pattern, and mark a straight line roughly parallel to the edge of the pattern piece that is R" long. Call the point at the end of this line point 1.

Figure 5 Figure 6  
Figure 5
Extend the center back seamline down past the old hem to the length of train that you desire. Mark a second vertical line, parallel to the center back seamline, offset 42". Mark a horizontal line at the new train length. Call the distance between the old hem and the new train length H. Mark another horizontal line 1/3 H down from the old hem. Call the point which is the intersection of this line and the outer vertical line point 2.

Figure 6
Draw a line between point 1 and point 2. Measure this distance between points 1 and 2, and call it B.

Figure 7 Figure 8  
Figure 7
Measure 3" up from point 1 and 3" down from point 1, and smooth the curve between these two points

Figure 8
When erasing extraneous lines, take care to not erase point 1, as you will need it again.

Figure 9 Figure 10  
Figure 9
Take your center front and side front pieces and align the shoulder seamlines as you did with the back pieces. Extend the center front seamline down past the old hem to the new hem length that you desire. Mark a horizontal line at the new hem length.

(Again, if your pattern's princess shaping seamline curves into the armsceye rather than over the shoulder, see Notes.)

Figure 10
lay your front piece over your back piece, aligning the shoulder seams.

Figure 11 Figure 12  
Figure 11
Copy the armsceye and side seam from the back piece to your front piece. Also mark point 1. Measure from point 1 to the bottom of the side seam and call this measurement F.

(At this point you will no longer need to make any references to point 1. You may erase it from both the front and back pattern pieces.)

Figure 12
To create the new side pattern piece, start by drawing a rectangle 1" wide by R" tall. Cut two lengths of string to the lengths of B and F. Attach the F length of string to the lower left corner of the rectangle and the B length to the lower right corner. Pivot the strings, keeping them at the same angle to the vertical, until their ends are displaced 42" horizontally.

Figure 13  
Figure 13
Mark lines along the strings, and then a line between them.

Figures 14 & 15
On each side, measure 3" up from and 3" down from the angle point between the vertical and diagonal lines, and smooth the curve between these two points.

Figure 14

Figure 15
Figure 16  
Figure 16
Take your front, side, and back pattern pieces and line them up along their side seams, matching the bottom hem points. Disregard how they overlap at the top.

Figure 17  
Figure 17
Smooth the curve along the hemlines of the pattern pieces.

Figure 18  
Figure 18
Remove the excess at the bottoms of the pattern pieces.

Figure 19 Figure 20  
Figure 19
Divide your existing sleeve pattern from your princess line dress in half along its centerline.

Figure 20
Discard the front half of the pattern piece.

Figure 21 Figure 22  
Figures 21 & 22
Measure the armsceye seam length from either your front or back pattern piece. Redraw the half sleeve cap to eliminate any ease, matching the seamline length to the armhole.

Figure 23 Figure 24  
Figure 23
Measure from your wrist to your fingertips, and extend the length of your sleeve by this amount. Mark a horizontal line at the new sleeve length.

Figure 24
Draw a new side to the sleeve that angles out at about a 15 degree angle from the vertical.

Figure 25 Figure 26  
Figure 25
On the cap of the sleeve, mark two vertical lines parallel to the centerline. These lines should be spaced 3/4" to 1" apart, depending on the width of your shoulder and how far apart you want your pleats spaced. Whichever measurement you choose, call it P.

Figure 26
Mirror the pattern piece along the centerline to create a complete pattern piece.

Figure 27 Figure 28  
Figure 27
Slash and spread the pattern piece along the five vertical lines, spacing the pieces 2P apart.

Figure 28
Smooth out the top and bottom edges of the spread pattern piece.

Figure 29 Figure 30  
Figure 29
Remove the bulk of the vertical lines, leaving only a short length of them for marking the shoulder pleats.

Figure 30
Smooth the bottom edge of the sleeve into a curve, making sure that it intersects the sides at right angles.

Figure 31  
Figure 31
Draw a line perpendicular to one of the sides of the sleeve, extending the line of the curve.

Figure 32  
Figure 32
Measure from your underarm to however long you want your sleeve to hang. Call this measurement X.

Draw a curve from the corner of the sleeve cap, starting at a right angle to the shoulder seamline, shaping it outwards towards the sleeve edge.

Figure 33  
Figure 33
As the curve approaches the correct angle, extend the curve into a straight line, approximately of length X, intersecting the sleeve edge.

Figure 34  
Figure 34
Draw a line parallel to the former side edge of the sleeve, offset 1/2" towards the sleeve center.

Figure 35  
Figure 35
Mirror this line onto the other side of the pattern piece

Figure 36  
Figure 36
Erase the old sleeve edge lines.

Figure 37  
Figure 37
Separate the sleeve into two pieces along the new line.

Figure 38  
Figure 38
Measure the neck edge of the front and back pieces. Add these measurements together and multiply by 2. Call this measurement N. Measure the height of your neck from the point at which it joins your shoulder up to the bottom of your jaw, and then multiply by 2. Call this measurement C. For the collar, draw a rectangle that is N by C.

Figure 39  
Figure 39
Add seam allowances to all of your pattern pieces. You now have a complete pattern for your houppelande.


If your princess line dress pattern has the main shaping seam travel into the armhole rather than over the shoulder, refer to the following alternate directions for steps 3 and 9 of the above directions.
Figure 40 Figure 41  
Figure 40
Take your pattern pieces with the alternate shaping variation. (Here I have used the example of the center front and side front pieces.)

Figure 41
Align the pattern pieces so that the armhole is a smooth curve, without any angles in it.

If you wish to make your houppelande only floor length, without additional length in the front or a train in back, you still need to add additional length to your pattern pieces. This is necessary to accomodate the length that will be taken up when the houpelande is belted. If you wish, you can make a mock up of your pattern, try it on with a belt, and mark the correct hem length.

The style of collar used here can be worn two ways. You can leave the neck opening unfastened, in which case the collar will spread out across the shoulders. Alternately, you can close the neck opening at the throat and fold the collar in half, creating a standing collar with an M-shaped edge in the front. If you wish to wear the collar in the second fashion, be sure to add interfacing to the collar when you construct the garment, in order to give it enough body to hold its shape.

Although you can leave the sleeves plain, they can also be decorated with a variety of styles of dagging. To dag the edges of the sleeves, follow these steps. Join the sleeve extensions to the sleeve caps for the main fabric and lining for each sleeve, then press. Lay the main fabric pieces on top of the lining pieces, right sides together. Baste the outer edges together at the edge, and also several inches further in to stabilize them. Draw your dagging design on the sleeve, sew along this line, clip, stablilize with fray-check if desired, turn the sleeves right sides out, and press. Then sew the underarm seams together, keeping in mind that depending of the design of dagging and the weight of your fabric, you may have to sew the last few inches of one side of this seam by hand. (If you sew it completely shut by machine, you may not be able to turn the dagging through itself at the very point of the sleeve.)



Here are several sample layouts for different types of fabrics. Please keep in mind that these layouts are just generalizations, based on the approximate size and shape of the pattern pieces. You will need to create your own layout that best suits the exact size and shape of your pattern pieces.

For those fabrics that are a solid color or that have no direction to their design, you can make maximum use of your yardage. It is with this layout that the advantage of designing the the pattern with triangularly shaped pieces is most apparent. Plain Layout

For those fabrics that have a lengthwise direction to their design, but which are symmetrical along their length (such as stripes) you only need slightly more yardage. Lengthwise Layout

For those fabrics that have a direction to their design (such as napped fabrics) you will need a greater amount of yardage. However, there is still relatively little waste for a napped layout. Directional Layout

© 1999–2000 Jessica I. Clark
Permission to print a copy for your own use freely given. Please contact me for permission to reprint or distribute.
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