I started hand sewing my gomlek on Monday. Of course it's a slow process, but I'm really enjoying it! I never though I would enjoy sewing things by hand this much, but...
...look at that French seam!
Now, I don't mean to brag, but that's a pretty perfect French seam for being the first one I've ever done. I kind of feel like I've made a huge step here!
I back stitched the seam, pressed it open, trimmed it a bit and then folded it together into a casing. The purpose of a French seam is to keep the edges of your fabric from fraying to the point that your seams fall out. I'll be honest, though, I don't know if the French seam is necessarily period for my persona. But it was used extensively in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, and since thus far I have not found any secondary or even tertiary research on what seams were used in Istanbul during the 1540's, that is close enough for my liking. For now.
For those wondering just what the heck a gomlek is, think of it as underwear -- a chemise or undershirt -- that goes under all of your clothing, but shows at the collar and sleeves and hangs down to the knees or ankles. The neckline is cut into a high, round collar which is buttoned at the throat (I have some sweet little pearl buttons for this), but is open from the throat to the navel. It is not a fitted garment, but instead hangs loosely on the body. Based on what is seen in period miniature paintings, the cloth is sometimes very sheer, perhaps cotton or linen, but since there are no surviving examples of period gomlek, the fabrics they were made of and their construction is mostly conjecture. I prefer to use the pattern provided by my friend Basina, which can be found here (gomlek instructions start on page 41).
The best example of a reconstructed gomlek I have seen can be found here on Mistress Agnes' blog. Hers is made of linen, which is my goal once I find a good linen supplier. There is not much in the way of good fabric around here, so I may have to wait until Gulf Wars and purchase from a merchant there. (I know I could always buy online, but I prefer to feel what I am buying first and buy from SCA-friendly people.)
Anyway, back to my current gomlek. I bought the fabric for $1.50/yard at Wal-Mart. I know, I know, it's practically a sin, but I was desperate to get started and this fabric, while it doesn't feel too authentic, looks really good in person. I'm sure it's a polyester/cotton blend, but it is rough-woven and I'm okay with that until I can gain access to more period fabrics (and more money with which to buy said fabrics). And, yes, I'm planning on using the same fabric for my veil (I bought the entire bolt...).
I've been sewing on it quite a bit in the evenings at work and again when I get home. At this rate, I should be done with it some time next week, if not sooner since it's really pretty relaxing. The rest of my kit, however, will probably be machine sewn simply because event season is fast approaching and I've got to get this stuff done! But now that I know how, I'll probably do all the visible hems myself.
Edit: I should mention that my research on the gomlek comes mostly from Urtatim's Dar Anahita and the article by Basina mentioned above. I just condensed the information to familiarize you with the garment. Also, the miniature is from the mid-17th century and originally appeared in 9000 Years of the Anatolian Woman, borrowed from Urtatim's website with permission.