Late Medieval Fashion Redressed

Setting a godet into slit fabric

*Update: I’ve traded out the word “gore” for “godet”, as I believe I was using “gore” incorrectly. Gores are panels added to the entire  length of the garment or sleeve to expand its shape, while godets are triangular inserts that create a more pronounced and concentrated flare.*

Are you trying to sew your own Charles de Blois-style pourpoint and are not sure how to set a godet into a slit? You will need this skill for attaching the front godets and underarm godets, which are part of a faithful reproduction of the sleeve. Inserting a triangle into a slit in fabric can be tricky, especially if the point of the triangle is sharp. Aside from the pourpoint mentioned above, many other surviving garments from the Middle Ages employ this tailoring technique.

It is found in multiple 14th- and 15th-century kirtles from Greenland and Scandinavia (Bocksten Man, Kragelund, Skjoldehamn, Moselund, and the Herjolfsnes 38, 39, and 41 to name some) as well as hoods found in Herjolfsnes, Greenland, London, England, and Dordrecht, The Netherlands. It is also found on the pourpoint of Charles de Blois, from Angiers, France, the St. Louis shirt also from France, Fernando de la Cerda’s saya and pellote in Spain, and the Moy Bog dress in Ireland. Some extant hosen employ a similar tailoring technique in attaching the foot to the legging. It is worth noting that not all gordets set into slits are pointy: some are gently curved at the top of the slit, others have multiple prongs sewn into the slit. If you want to explore 14th-century tailoring techniques, this is a good one to master.

Below, you will find a picture-aided tutorial showing a step-by-step process for inserting a godet into slit fabric.

I found it was easier to learn this tailoring concept when first practiced by hand, rather than by machine. If you get the gist by hand and are comfortable using a sewing machine, feel free to proceed to the machine, if that is your preference.

I used two contrasting fabrics in the pictures below to better illustrate what each piece does in relation to the other; not because godets should contrast with the main fabric. I don’t recommend sewing contrasting godets into your historical clothing without some documentation for doing so.

Start with a swatch of fabric with a slit cut into it and a triangular godet as seen below:

Practice fabric pieces
Practice fabric pieces

With the slit fabric front-side-up, turn the godet back-side-up and line up one of its edges with one side of the slit. (It doesn’t matter which side you start with.) The picture below has been marked to show you how the godet should be placed on the slit fabric:

  • black lines to indicate where the slit should be located under the yellow godet,
  • a red dot showing where the godet stitching should begin, and
  • a red dashed line to show how the stitch line should progress.
Placement of the gore on the slit
Placement of the godet on the slit

To begin sewing, insert the needle through the back side of the slit fabric, keeping it very close to the top of the slit as seen below:

Inserting the needle at top of slit
Inserting the needle at top of slit

Sew one side of the godet to the edge of the slit. The stitching should remain a steady 1/2″ or 5/8″ (whichever is your usual preference) from the edge on the godet side. On the slit fabric side, the stitching should begin very close to the top of the slit and gradually move outward until it is 1/2″ or 5/8″ away from the slit at its bottom. The next two pictures show what the stitching should look like on each side. First you can see that the stitching remains 1/2″ away from the godet’s edge:

First side sewn
First side sewn

Second, you can see that the stitching starts very close to the slit fabric’s edge and gradually moves further away until it is 1/2″ away from the edge at the bottom. To understand why this happens, click here:

How stitching looks from back
How stitching looks from back

Next, begin to pull the godet open so that the second side can be matched up to the other side of the slit:

Beginning to pull gore fabric through the slit
Beginning to pull godet fabric through the slit

Carefully pull all of the seam allowance of the godet into sight on the back side of the slit fabric. Line up the remaining godet edge to the remaining slit edge. Note that they will not line up evenly until the bottom of the slit, as already demonstrated above:

Fabric pulled through the slit
Fabric pulled through the slit

To begin sewing, put your needle through the back side of the slit fabric, very close to the top of the slit, just as you did with the first side you sewed. It is ok to have both knots right next to each other:

Sewing the second side
Sewing the second side

Stitch the second side of the godet to the second side of the slit. Notice that on the slit fabric, the stitching starts very close to the edge of the fabric, gradually moving further away until it is fully 1/2″ or 5/8″ from the edge by the time it reaches the bottom:

Second side sewn
Second side sewn

When finished, iron the godet flat over the seam allowances of the slit fabric. You may need to snip a small slit in the slit fabric’s seam allowance at the point of the godet to relieve tension there. Notice that on this side, the stitching is always 1/2″ or 5/8″ from the edge of the godet:

The gore ironed flat
The godet ironed flat

Turn the swatch over to the front side, and you will see a neatly inserted godet:

Neatly-set gore
Neatly-set godet

To finish the seam allowance, roll the godet’s seam allowances under, encasing the slit fabric’s seam allowance, using a whip stitch or running stitch to secure it:

Seam allowances finished
Seam allowances finished

The front of the finished godet looks like this:

Completely finished gore
Completely finished godet

34 thoughts on “Setting a godet into slit fabric”

  1. Thanks so much for that..
    I have made 3 garments now with underarm gores, flying by the seat of my pants, and have survived it, and they look good, but have been using a machine… (fie on me!!!)… it’s been tricky.
    Do you have a tutorial for a really good method for inserting underarm gores, or different methods you prefer?
    I’ve spent quite a bit of time picking out the seam allowances after stitching the wrong parts too far when go to stitch the next corner.. .. I think you’ll know what I mean.. I can laugh now!!!
    Thanks so much for your amazing site.

    1. Hi there, I’m so sorry for taking so long to respond! I think that inserting under-arm gores or gussets might work differently, depending on the shape you’re using for the gore or gusset, and whether or not you’re setting it into seamed fabric or slit fabric. I don’t have a tutorial for that, alas. Thank you for the compliment about my site!

  2. My first Pennsic I made myself 7 or 8 of the rectangle/triangle T-tunic and the gores in the slits drove me batty!!! I got them done but hated the way they looked (nobody else noticed, but they looked “glumpy” to me). This seems similar to the way I tried to do it, but even easier. I can’t wait to try this on my next gore/slit project.


  3. Your site came up first on my google search for How To Sew Gores, and I am so glad! Your instructions are very clear and simple and I now no longer fear the gore! Thank you so much! Now on to gore some jumpers…. :~)

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    1. Glad it helped! It’s a concept problem for most — once you accept that at the very tip there isn’t much room for seam allowance, it starts to make sense.

  5. Thank you so much for the outstanding tutorial! I just sewed gussets into a slit, as opposed to into a seam, and figured out how to do it by trial and error instead of researching it first. Turns out that my method ended up being the same as what you outlined here. It’s good to know that I was doing it right! I wrote about it on my sewing blog if you are interested in checking it out: I will be sure to point out your tutorial on my blog.

    1. I took a look and yours turned out nicely. Thanks for offering to mention my tutorial — much appreciated if you do! That style of gore (or gusset) is rather copiously represented in extant 14thc clothing, so I had to get intimately familiar with it a long time ago. Happy sewing!

  6. Wow! that went in just right! even after I had to add and extra 3″ piece to make up for the pattern piece shrinking when I turned my back! OK measure twice cut once! Now I want to go back and redo all the other gores I have set in in the last year. Thank you for the clear help

    1. Glad it helped, Gail! I had to once figure it out with trial and error myself and then I realized a lot of people still had not and I could save some frustration by laying it out pretty simply. So far, so good.

    1. Glad to hear it makes it clear! It really is a conceptual problem; once you get what needs to happen with the seam allowance, it all makes sense. 🙂

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    1. Some people like to go back over this part of the gore with extra stitches. It all depends on the fabric you’re using, the tightness and length of your stitches, and the purpose to which the gore will be put. If it’s hanging on a dress’s skirt, it’s not likely to take a lot of tension and abuse. If it’s filling in a deep armhole on a garment with a grande assiette-style armhole, it may very well take abuse, so it cannot hurt to reinforce your stitches around the top of the slit. The rough edges of the gore itself should be turned inward and stitched down too, so some stabilization is added from that.

  8. Rune Brightblade

    I cannot begin to say how happy I was to find this tutorial. I’d never even HEARD of gores in clothing until I found a relatively simple pattern for a short tunic. I play Amtgard, and being on a fairly limited income, I can’t really afford the prices that some of the garbers charge to make garb for people. So I’ve been looking around for 14th-16th century clothing patterns that are simple enough for me, with my lack of sewing skills to handle. The pattern has three different gores and I was panicking that I wouldn’t be able to use it. But this is a pretty straight forward tutorial that breaks it down in a way I can understand what I’m doing. All the love. Will definitely be bookmarking this one.

  9. This looks ever so much easier than what I have tried before. Thank you! I frequently come to your site, as I can always count on learning something.

    1. I’m so glad it’s been helpful! Good luck with your godets. They’re fidgety buggers, but once done correctly, so rewarding.

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