Monday, September 12, 2016

Obnoxiously Plaid Skinny Pants and the Irish: The Dungiven Trius Documentation

I am extremely happy to say that this is the end of a fairly long project.  Not the trius, which are the principal subject of this post, but the Dungiven Suit project in general:  making the garments--consisting of doublet, trius, and shoes from the Dungiven find.  I chose to leave the brat/cloak of the find out of my recreation because I already have a late period Irish brat made, albeit with wider material.

This project is a pair of trius--close fitting Irish trousers--based and patterned from those in the Dungiven find, in Northern Ireland. 

Photo by Travis "Twobears" Abe-Thomas.  Trius are being worn with the full outfit*.

The Find:

The Dungiven find consisted of a pair of trius (the Irish trousers), a jacket, and a brat (Irish variation of a cloak) dug up by a farmer on April 23, 1956. There were several other pieces found as well as the major ones—a pair of Lucas Type 5 [Henshall, pp. 135] shoes (sewn with wool thread, interestingly enough), and fragments of a belt that was found in the waistband of the trius. No skeleton or body was found with the clothing, which is not unusual given the acidity of the soil. The pieces were found slightly North of Dungiven, Co. Derry, North Ireland (the tiny red dot on the map). One of the interesting things about the find is that we do not actually know what period the garments are from—it is estimated, based on shape of the jacket and the garments taken as a whole,  that they could have been make any time between 1570 and the 1640s.  There is also some dispute as to whether the trius are actually Irish, or if they may have been imported from Scotland (more on that later).

My main source of information is the report on the clothing written by Audrey S. Henshall for the Ulster Journal of Archaeology in 1961-62.  While Reconstructing History does have a pattern and a little research out for it, I intentionally chose to work from as close to the original material as I could, partly because I much prefer to pattern things myself to get closer to the original (pretty much any commercial pattern is going to be cleaned up, and any irregularities removed), and partly because almost any commercial pattern is going to require more work to fit than just doing so myself.

My Goals:

My goal in making the trius was primarily to face the challenge of understanding out how the blasted things went together--my Donna made a pair from the Reconstructing History pattern, and had serious issues working out how it went together even with the instructions--and when I saw hers and the image in Henshall, I had no idea of how it worked.  I chose to figure out and draft my own pattern, since I feel that the understanding may come with more difficulty--but deeper--if I did so.

In addition, I needed the trius to finish the overall project--to have the trousers which go with the jerkin.  Happily, I also planned on them as being my entry to the HSM Pattern challenge--they may also fit into the Historicism Challenge.

I was not attempting to make an exact duplicate or maintain the scale of the original pair--that would have been a waste of time and materials, since they would not have fit me.

Garment Description:

Other than the terms I used in my post title, the best way to describe what they look like (assuming you know about basic medieval clothing) is that they are a pair of chausses...and really, they are.  With a bit added on so you don't have to wear separate braies.  So you have a pair of closely fit, bias cut plaid leggings, attached at the top to a baggy body made of a funky, almost wedge shaped piece--I'm not sure how to describe the shape.  Rather than having a full foot, the trius have a stirrup strap to keep them taut.  Interestingly, the overall fit and feel of wearing them is extremely similar to wearing the Thorsjberg trousers from over a thousand years before.  The top is folded over to form a casing for a leather belt.

Henshall, pp. 127
This pair of trius is fairly obviously a descendant of the medieval hose/chausses, given the shape of the legs.  What is unusual is that they were worn with just a doublet/jacket, assuming the various garments were actually worn together (I am operating on the assumption they were)--rather than something with longer skirts.


Originally, the trius were sewn of a fine wool plaid woven in 2/2 twill, with occasional reversals to form herringbones.  While it is now various shades of Bog Trash Brown, it would have originally been a moderately brightly coloured fabric, woven in red, green, brown, and orange, with the first two being the main colours.  For a recreation, you would look for the Ulster tartan, which was designed from this find.  Henshall notes that they were likely sewn with linen thread, since the thread rotted. [Henshall, pp. 125].  In addition to the original wool, they were heavily patched with no less than nine others.

The material I chose was actually fairly close; an even wool plaid of similar set, with red and dark blue as the primary colours.  However, it isn't as finely woven as the original, since my fabric is 25/27 compared to 32/35.  It is also not heavily fulled as the original material was.  The fabric was actually a lucky find--I ordered it from (chosen for budget), hoping it would work fairly well, and I couldn't have been happier.  I did use linen thread for all my stitching.

The pattern:

This, and the major challenge in this garment.  The legs were fairly simple, once I realized they have a standard shape for hosen after the diagonal seam is sewn; so the only challenge there was figuring out how to draw it out with the correct measurements and the seam--in the end, I made a scale (approximately 1/13) drawing and took my measurements from that.  The cuff was draped to fit, rather than attempting to measure it.

The uppers, on the other hand, required a couple of hours of my staring at Hanshall's diagram while I mentally absorbed how it works.  Eventually, I figured out that the straight edge equaled your full rise measurement, the top edge is the waist measurement, and the curved edge was approximately equal to the top edges of the legs.  The tricky part is that the diagonal measurement (from the right angled corner to 'D') on the above image equals your over seat measure (from back waist to just below the butt cheek)--similar to the difference between inseam and outseam with a bit extra for ease when you bend or sit.

Cutting layout:

For once I actually have information on this!  Henshall notes that the fabric was likely around 22" wide, and that--based on the promanent stripes in the warp--it was probably laid out like this.  I did so similarly (with my double width fabric folded lengthwise), although I had some issues with fitting it and including the seam allowances--some fudging had to be done, but wool is forgiving.


Happily, the seams are described in detail...however, not enough detail in places (yes, both detailed and not detailed).  The back leg seam is simple enough--turned under and backstitched through all four layers, then pressed open.  All other seams, though...:
"All seams except those down the back of the leg were done by turning in a hem (except where there is a selvage) and hemming this about 1/4 inch inside the edge to which it is to be attached"
 Breaking it down, you turn it under with a hem, then use an overcast stitch to fasten it to the other piece (sewing from the right side).  What I did--partly theorized incorrectly--was fell the seam, turning it under and folding both edges together, and overcast on both front and back; part of the reasoning on this was for strength--I really don't want my seams to tear out.


It was honestly quite simple to make, once I figured out the pattern.  I should note that I did make a trial pair in a lightweight linen--they worked fairly well, and I worked out some of the kinks; these were not, however, used to pattern, just to check whether my pattern theory was correct.  There are only seven seams, and they are all straightforwarded.

After cutting out my pattern, and figuring out my seams, I basted the diagonal seam, which runs from somewhere around the hip, around the front of the thigh, to a couple inches below the back of the knee.  This was sewn with an overcast stitch on both the right and wrong side.

Next, the turn was basted down for the back seam, and I backstitched (as specified for stretchy strength) through all four layers, about 1/4" or less from the edge.

Basting then sewing (same way as the diagonal seam) each leg to the respective upper, followed by sewing up the rise.  While this was selvage and didn't really have to be turned, I did so anyways because I didn't feel the selvage was woven particularly tightly.

The last step was folding the casing over for the waistband--with a little experimenting (belting and folding the extra over), I made this two inches wide (minus half an inch for hemming).  I chose an overcast stitch for this seam.  An interesting part of this is that the back comes up much higher than the waist--when worn it is slightly baggy in the seat to give you room to move.

Second to last step, I guess--the true last step was hemming the cuff to shape, and sewing on the stirrup straps.  Both fairly simple--the instep and heel were cut out to shape and hemmed with a small single turn (overcast stitch).  The small piece required to complete the stirrup strap was sewn on with a lapped seam to reduce bulk under the foot.


This was an interesting project, which was both rather primitive, but also a bit of a pain to fit--I suspect that the back seam was draped, rather than drafted.  It was also quite an education trying to figure out the draft.  On the whole, there wasn't anything new in making it up.

What Would I do differently next time:

I sincerely doubt I will ever make these again.  Not because it was a pain to make or anything, but because I just don't care for how they look, especially with just the doublet.  One of the things I would do differently is somehow add to the center front to bring the waist up a touch there--even if it is period for the Irish to be kindof scanty.

How Historically Accurate is it?

I don't feel like I did too bad this time.  I maintained the pattern, which is taken from the extant pair (to the best of Henshall's patterning off of a decrepit pair of trousers).  The seams are basic and materials period.  I do not have the leather belt for it (yet), but that is not actually part of the garment.  Maybe 93%?


Total--not including time figuring out the pattern: 13 hours, 40 minutes.

*In the header photo I am wearing the full Dungiven outfit, consisting of the trius, the Dungiven jacket, Lucas 5 shoes, and 16th Century Brat.  More information on 16th Century Irish clothing can be found at my article, hyperlinked in this sentence.

HSM Information:

The Challenge: Historicism.  These are rather interesting in that field--at the time, this variety of legwear (closely fitted) was not the norm, and is a throwback.  However, neither is it the main style for the Irish cultural dress (bare legged under the leine)--the outfit as a whole is Anglo-Irish...a possible attempt to fit into the "fashionable" English. In addition, a couple decades before the end of the possible period for the find (1640s) you see a description of similar trousers being worn (see bibliography, Luke Gernon).
Material: Fairly lightweight, wool plaid.
Pattern: My own, based on the sketch by Henshall in her paper on the find.

Year:  Problematic....but we are going with late 16th, early 17th century Irish.
Notions: Linen thread.
How historically accurate is it?: Quite good, for once.  It is completely handsewn, and the materials are correct, as is the pattern.
Hours to complete: 13 hours, 40 minutes. (plus hours figuring out the pattern)
First worn: For fencing practice on Sunday.
Total cost: I paid around 11$ a yard for the wool, and used a yard and a half to two yards.


Henshall, Audrey S.. Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 24/25 (1961-62).  Pp. 119-142
McClintock, Henry. McClintock's Old Irish and Highland Dress.  
Luke Gernon's Discourse of Ireland, 1620 "The trouwse is a long stocke of frise, close to his thighes and drawn on almost to his waste, but very cant.... It is cut with a pouche before, which is drawne together with a string"



Dungiven Sketches: Henshall, Audrey S.. Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 24/25 (1961-62).  Pp. 127-128

© John Frey, 2016. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.  

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