The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Michigan, USA

I have made four Venetian style gowns over the last six years. I wear them as a performer with the Carnevale Della Muse at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly, Michigan. All gowns were inspired by historical paintings and documentation - most from the Realm of Venus. Artistic license and modifications are made for comfort and durability while performing outside for 8-10 horus in Michigan's unpredictable weather.

This current project will consist of: silk partlet; corded petticoat - with a possible overskirt; gown in the Venetian style with detachable sleeves; detachable shoulder ruffs as the accessory - however this may change or be added to as the project moves along.

First Update

This month I began with sketches based on the fabric that I had purchased and then incorporated it into a design inspired on several images from historical paintings and sketches. Considerations that I always keep in mind are (in no particular order):

1. I must be able to dress (and undress) myself with little or no help.
2. Comfort-I often wear the ensemble for 10 hours at a time. Much of that time is on my feet and I have to be able to MOVE—carry items and bend down.
3. Comfort is on a sliding scale of weather unpredictably-The run of our 7 weeks of performances includes 90+degrees with 100% humidity, rain (torrential at times), mud ruts, frost in the morning to mild temps in the afternoon, and on a few occasions near freezing temps throughout the day.
4. Distinctive Venetian style from the Elizabethan styles of court (we are not part of court) that has a WOW factor.
5. A complete ensemble goes from the tip of the head to the feet-accessories and attention to all of these details. I wear the gown—it doesn’t wear ME.

This is the fabric washed and hung, ready to be made into a new gown, and a preliminary sketches:



Project Piece 1: Silk Organza Partlet with a Falling Ruff

Inspiration photos for a falling ruff partlet:


The Mock-Up

I used the free pattern from Margo Anderson’s website and began with a mock up. I used some cotton that I had in my stash and faux organza before I cut the embroidered silk organza. I also wanted to play around with the neckline and the ruff construction since I had never made a ruff before.

The Finished Partlet

This is the silk organza that I serged with a metallic gold thread in the upper looper. I would have preferred to have metallic thread in the lower looper as well, but that was NOT happening after several re-threading attempts.

Project Piece 2: Corded Petticoat

I wanted a new petticoat and have had success with a previous corded petticoat. I chose a silver metallic linen fabric because I wanted to move to cooler colors (my other petticoat is gold/cream). Many resources show this type of support under gowns in the place of hoop skirt..errr Farthingale. I used measurement from my old petticoat as a basis for the new one. Basically you sew up the side seams to form a big tube that is longer then the final skirt. I did do some very basic math of ~1 inch of fabric for each cord X how many cords I wanted and then added a hem allowance to help with the correct length of the skirt.

Starting at the bottom I folded up a hem allowance and then started sewing cotton clothesline cord (pre-washed and dried) near the bottom and worked my way up. I had to purchase a narrow zipper foot for Sven (I name my sewing machines-the serger is called Sergio). Every once and a while, I would try it on and see how well it seemed to flare out/stand up. I ended up with 24 cords in total, nearly double what my other petticoat had.

I wanted to have more support in this petticoat because my skirt will be black velvet (I know that is not in my sketch—I change my mind as I go. I use wide band sew on velcro for the closure on the waistband (cotton duck is sandwiched in the wide waistband for support). I also added a strap/hook for my car keys that I keep on me during the day (secured and out of site). These are design choices for a performer knowing that I sacrifice historical accuracy for convenience.

Progress shots:

The finished petticoat and partlet: