TUNIC NECKLINES : A TUTORIAL
There is a lot of information out there regarding tunics, and their construction. Most articles and diagrams show a rectangular body with isosceles triangular shaped gores either on the front and back, on each side or in all four places. These patterns and diagrams show different ways of laying the tunic out on a piece of fabric so that you may cut out the tunic in a way that utilizes as much fabric and prevents as much waste as possible. Not a lot is said about the construction of the neck of the tunic though, and so that is what this article is about.
In the 1200s, the shape of the neckline seems to be mostly oval to round. There are some that are more square or pentagonal cut, and some, such as the shirt of Saint Louis (which we’ll come back to shortly) are tear drop shaped, but most are rounded. You can see these different shapes from the Maciejowski Bible. Here are a few examples:
Images from the Maciejowski Bible
The St Louis Shirt
When we look at the neckline of the St. Louis shirt, we see there is a bit of tape, or a band around the collar that crisscrosses at the center of the front. This band has several purposes; it serves to provide reinforcement so that the neckline doesn’t rip or wear out from usage, and it absorbs the body oils from the neck and prevents them from damaging the cloth of the tunic making it wear out faster. The tape band is also easily replaced when it finally does wear out. My friend Robin tells me that many of these pieces of tape have been found archeologically in London where old tunics had been refurbished for the second hand clothing trade.
Close up of the St Louis shirt neckline
Middle of the body in my left hand, the shoulder seam in the right
Pointing to the 1/3 mark, while Naomi takes up slack for me.
Making the initial cut
Cutting a straight line from the initial cut to a point ¾” below the edge
The middle front is in my left hand, the middle back is in my right. You’ll see the
Shoulder/clavicle area in the middle now
The shoulder/clavicle part in my right hand, front middle of the body in my left
Making the cut
Cutting a straight line to a point a half inch below the edge of the fabric.
A high spot
Trimming it straight
Our rounded neckline, higher in back than the front
Measuring an inch and a quarter
The strip is uneven, as you can see. I’ll trim and pull threads till its 1” wide
Start ¾” to one side of the middle, unroll and pin
The tape is pinned, and the excess is cut off, leaving two overlapping flaps ¾”
Whip stitch the raw edges…
…until the raw edges are whip stitched all the way around and look like this
Folding the flap edge under
Putting all the raw edges together
Folding the tape to the inside covering all of the raw edges
Whip stitching it all down
Folding the edge of the second flap over to hide the last raw edge
- Josh Wilson, 2017