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12th century tunic for my husband – spotting the stress points of a 12th century neckline

2015-12 - Racaire - 12th century tunic grey light wool tunic - 12th century neckline - stress points - blue dalmatica inspiredIn my most recent postings I showed you my period inspiration for my husbands 12th century neckline as well as how the finished neckline looks like. And today I will tell you how to spot the stress points of your own neckline before I show you how to strengthen and secure them in my next posting.

In order to prevent problems like ripping fabric at the stress points of your neckline, I need to give you some more information about how to find the stress points of your 12th century neckline first so you can determine and strengthen them:

Stress points of a round neckline

2015-02_Racaire_12th-century-male-tunic_finishedA very basic round neckline has one great feature – the round form of the neckline distributes the developing tension rather evenly along the border of the round neckline and therefore avoids major stress points for the fabric.

But as soon as you add a slit or some corners to this equation, most of the tension shifts to these newly created stress points and makes the fabric in this points much more vulnerable.

Stress points of a keyhole neckline

12th century inspired embroidery - Medieval embroideryThe main part of a keyhole neckline consists of a round shape which is able to distribute any tension resulting through normal wear rather evenly. The major stress point of a keyhole neckline lies at the bottom of the slit of the keyhole neckline.

This bottom part of the slit might not get exposed to a lot of tension while worn but this changes dramatically as soon as you dress or undress. While you are putting your dress or tunic on or off, the bottom point of the slit suddenly has to face a lot of tension – especially when your tunic or dress is tightly fitted and doesn’t give you a lot room for movement.

Stress points of a slit neckline

12th century slit neckline with surface couching - Medieval embroidery

(The picture on the right shows the bottom part of my embroidered 12th century slit neckline before I made the long cut through the middle and applied it to my dress.)

The special form of the slit neckline – which is basically just a long slit in the fabric of your dress – makes this type of neckline also quite vulnerable at the beginning and the end of the slit. Unlike the keyhole neckline where the bottom of the slit doesn’t have to cope with a lot of tension while worn, the beginning and the end of the slit are constantly exposed to tension of more than one direction.

While the long straight borders on both sides of the neckline can distribute the developing tension rather evenly along the edge and also to the beginning and end of the slit, the beginning and the end of the slit neckline accumulate this tension in just one point. And these major stress points not only have to deal with the tension coming from the long border of the neckline, they also have to deal with the tension applied by the lacing of the dress as this neckline is normally just used for very tightly fitted and laced 12th century court dresses.

Especially the front bottom of the slit neckline has to deal with a lot of tension. It has to cope with the whole tension resulting from the tight lacing as well as the movement of your breasts and your chest and the surplus tension coming from the straight border of the neckline. But the end of the slit neckline at the back doesn’t have an easy life either. This part is normally cut much shorter and has to open up mich wider than the front, which already adds a lot of stress to this part of the neckline. Just add the tension added through your shoulder movement and the rest of the neckline and it becomes obvious why this point is quite vulnerable.

…and last but not least let’s take a look at the special neckline I just created for my husband’s tunic:

Stress points of the blue Dalmatica & white Alba inspired neckline


This blue Dalmatica & white Alba inspired 12th century neckline could actually be counted as a special variation of the above described keyhole neckline. The major difference to the keyhole neckline lies in the split which is now located on the right side of the neckline. Otherwise the basic concept appears to be quite the same.

I suppose that due to the nature of the applied embellishment (a tablet woven band), the round basic shape of the head opening (compare to the neckline of the white Alba) had to be adjusted and resulted in the rather special form of the blue Dalmatica neckline. This adjustment, due to the use of the tablet woven band, created two additional stress points for this neckline shape besides the one already located at the bottom of the slit. This two new stress points can be found at the right angle corners at the backside of the neckline (see top part of the neckline at the picture above). [emember_protected not_for=3-4 do_not_show_restricted_msg=1]

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And this is how you can spot the stress points of your neckline – in my next posting I will show you a good way to strengthen and secure them. 😀

Best regards Racaire