Surcotes – 2 Patterns

Overview | Patterns | Gores & Fitting I | Gores & Fitting II | Sleeves | Final Fitting

This is a basic diagram of how I layout a surcote on my fabric. This varies depending on the width of the fabric or how many gores you want for fullness.

The lavender pieces are the pattern pieces needed for a surcote.

The yellow areas reflect where fitting will occur during the construction phase of your surcote and are an approximation of what your scraps will look like.

The numbers correspond to the following:

  1. Back pieces – shoulder width halved plus 1/2″ seam allowance (1/4″ on each side.) This narrow seam allowance allows the garment to fit more closely to the body. Any additional fitting needs will occur in the construction phase (kirtle page 3) and will happen with piece 3. Cut 2.Measure:
    across: back shoulder to shoulder ÷ 2 + 1″
    down: shoulder to hem + 1″
  2. Front pieces – shoulder width halved plus 1/2″ seam allowance. Cut 2Measure:
    across: front shoulder to shoulder ÷ 2 + 1″
    down: shoulder to hem + 1″ (if you want your hem to trail, add inches here)
  3. Side Gores – The narrow width is the following formula: total bust measurement at the widest point – your front + back measurements, divide by four + 1″ + plus seam allowance. The extra 1″ and the angle will allow you to fit your kirtle once you are in the construction phase. This will make more sense when we get there. Cut 4, 6 or 8 as you like. Adjust accordingly if you cut 6 or 8. You will divide by 6 or 8 instead of 4.Measure:
    across: bust – shoulder width divided by 4 + 1″ (for instance, 42 (bust) – 32 (shoulder) = 10 divided by 4(# of gores) = 2.5 +1″ = 3.5″. Make your side gores at least 5″ at the top so there is room to fit).
    down: shoulder to hem + 1″ (if you want your hem to trail, add inches here)
  4. Front and back gores – waist to floor for front and lower back to floor for back. I cut two sets of the smaller pieces to use as extra side gores for my fuller hips. You may or may not need to do this.Measure:
    across: make at wide at the hem as you have fabric for. See diagram.
    down: waist to hem + 1″ (if you want your hem to trail, add inches here)


There are three typical sleeve types for surcotes:

  • A long sleeve that might button (A),
  • a sleeve that has a tippet (B), and
  • a short sleeve just below the elbow (C)

There might be other versions but these are the three that I am familiar with. The tippeted version (B) might have just a little bell shape or a very long piece hanging well past the hand almost to the knee. The small triangular pieces will be inserted at the back of the shoulder for fit. You may use them both (2 per sleeve), only one, or need to use three. This will depend entirely on your body and how tight you want your sleeves at the upper arm. The size of the triangular gores will be determined by the difference between your armscye measurement, which you determine during fitting, and the top of your sleeve.

You will measure your arm length (top of shoulder to wrist). This is longest part of the sleeve.

Then measure around your bicep while your arm is at your side. This is the width of your sleeve at the widest part. (picture forthcoming). You will need to create the curve yourself. I draw a line across the top of the sleeve and then a mark 1.5″ above and one 1/5″ below. I then trace a curve moving from the top to the bottom. I try
to not have a greater difference more than 2.5″ or 3″ top to bottom on the curve.

The sleeve has a button placket that rests on your forearm. This placket is created on the seam, which runs, not under your arm but from back of your shoulder blade to your outside wrist. This is why the sleeve pattern looks different from a modern sleeve which has a seam that is directly under your arm from pit to underside of wrist.

down: shoulder to wrist or forearm + 1″
around: bicep to determine top, wrist to determine bottom, forearm below elbow to determine where to begin decrease + 1″ each

For a tippeted sleeve you will want to measure to your wrist and create a regular full length sleeve. Then carve out your tippet. You will remember to do this on a mock up fabric, right?

If you plan well here, you will find that the only waste you have is where you cut away the yellow areas. Everything else should be usuable for creating pouches, garters, or applique for other projects. The goal here is to conserve your precious fabric, expensive even by today’s standards.

Sideless Surcote

For a sideless surcote you will need to measure:

  • Across shoulders to determine shoulder width
  • Around hips to determing hip measurement (divided by 2)
  • Shoulder to hem

The width at the hem of piece #1 is determined by the width of your fabric. Your side gores (piece #2) are determined by the measurement from your hips to the hem and divided into 4 sections based on the width of your fabric.

The lavender sections represent the sections that will be cut out for your neck and for your sideless indent. The sideless indent should begin at your armscye and end just below your waist at your hipbone.

You may add a front triangular gore. You would measure and cut these pieces based on the main surcote diagram #4.

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