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The Bocksten tunic: Going beyond the T-tunic

By Alric of Drentha

About the Bocksten-style Tunic

This tunic pattern is based on a number of medieval garments that were preserved when their owners wandered into bogs, drowned, and were mummified. These untimely deaths, while rather unfortunate for the people doing the dying, left us with valuable information about how to make simple, comfortable, stylish, historically accurate garb.

The Bocksten, Skjoldehamn, and Moselund tunics are all similar to the basic T-tunic that's so common in Dagorhir. The key difference comes from the insertion of four triangular pieces of fabric ('gores') into the bottom edge of the tunic, creating a wider, fuller skirt that both looks better and facilitates ease of motion; and the inclusion of squares ('gussets') in the underarms to increase range of motion.

Why would you want to make and wear a Bocksten-style tunic? It's historically accurate, more comfortable than a T-tunic, and (most importantly) looks pretty darn good.

Cutting the Fabric

Measure from the top of your shoulder to a few inches beneath your knees. This will be the length of your tunic, Measurement A.

Next, find a t-shirt that fits you comfortably - one that's a little bit baggy is good. Lay it out flat and measure its width. Add 2 inches to this measurement. This will be the width of the tunic, Measurement B.

Cut out two pieces of fabric, A inches long and B inches wide. These pieces are the front and back of the tunic.

Next, with your arm fully extended, measure the distance from your armpit to your wrist. This measurement, Measurement C, is the length of the sleeve.

Cut out two trapezoids C long, 24" wide at the top (you might have to add to this if you have really beefy arms) and 14" wide at the bottom.

An easy way to do this is the fold the fabric in half, mark a point 7" down from one side of the fold and 12" from the other, draw a line between the marks, cut along it, and unfold the fabric.

Next, measure the distance from the top of your shoulder to your navel (Measurement D).

Take your front and back pieces and fold them in half (see the picture). Measure D inches from the top of each piece and make a mark.

Subtract measurement D from A. This is measurement E.

Next, cut out four triangles, E inches high, and half of Measurement B wide at the base. Two of these triangular pieces ('gores') will fit into the slits you cut in the front and back pieces. The other two will fit on the sides. These will give the tunic a fuller, looser skirt.

Finally, cut out two 8" squares from some leftover fabric. These will be the underarm gussets.

Fabric-saving trick:

In the middle ages, the most difficult part of the clothing-making process was weaving the fabric. A medieval person would do anything possible to avoid waste. If, like me, you're on a tight budget, you would probably also like to avoid wasting fabric. Here's a way to make this tunic from as little fabric as possible; I can make it with two yards of fabric for myself. (This method assumes you're using 60" wide fabric.)

Note: when you use this method, the gores might be shorter than E". Don't worry, it will still work!

Also, two of the gores must be sewn together from two halves. Again, no worries! It just means you'll have to do a little more sewing.

Sewing It All Together

First, take the front and back pieces. Sew them together at the top, leaving 6" for the neck opening.

Turn it right side out.

Next, fold one of the sleeves in half length-wise and find the center of its wider end. Place the center of the sleeve over the seam joining the front and back pieces together and sew the sleeve piece onto the body.

Repeat with the other sleeve.

Next, sew one of the 8" squares onto each side of the tunic. You will sew it along two sides.

Fold the tunic in half, along the top seam, and sew the other two sides of the square to the other side of the tunic.

Finish sewing the rest of the sleeve together. Sew from the square gusset toward the end of the sleeve.

Now sew one of the triangular pieces onto the side of the front piece. Start sewing from the bottom to the top.

Repeat, sewing the second triangle onto the other side of the front piece of the tunic.

Next, sew these same triangles onto the back of the tunic. This time, start sewing at the top, at the bottom of the square underarm gusset, and sew toward the bottom.

Cut a slit in the center of the front and back pieces, starting from the bottom. This slit should be E" long.

Next, take one of remaining two triangles and, starting at the top point of the triangle, sew it into the slit in the front of the tunic.

Repeat on the back with the last triangle.

If the bottom edges of the tunic don't quite line up, don't worry - you can trim them later.

Finishing the Tunic

You will need to cut the neck opening larger. There are several ways you can do this (see the picture). When enlarging the neck opening, you will want to cut more fabric from the front of the tunic than the back (otherwise, you'll choak on your tunic when you put it on!).

The bottom edges of the tunic will probably be a little uneven where the triangular gores join the rest of the fabric. Trim them so they're even.

Now, all you have to do is hem the tunic.

You can also add trim or embroidery, if you'd like to. Google Tablet Weaving if you want to read about making authentic trim from scratch.

Here's a photograph of a finished tunic:

This photograph highlights the placement of the gores and gussets:

And here's the tunic on me:

Best of luck!