Susan Malovrh

A Corset and Pair of Drawers

I wanted to make a corset for myself even though there is much debate if such an item of clothing was worn in 16th century Italian. With my age and weight I am not able to get the correct body shape without some help. I have come upon several pictures of Venetian ladies in exposed drawers and decided I needed them also. The examples that I worked from were a picture from Janet Arnoldís POF and a Venetian courtesan flip picture by Pierto Bertelli. Their chopines also intrigued me.

I drafted a pattern using Custom Corset Pattern Generator and found a piece of pink brocade in my stash along with some cotton canvas for the back. I machine sewed the channels and used cable ties for the boning. I put a wooden busk in the center front and bound it all in pink bias tape. I used small metal eyelets in the center back and spiral laced it up with a silky pink cord. All in all Iím quite pleased with my new corset though I havenít tried to wear it a whole day at a Ren Fest yet to know how comfy it is.

For the drawers pattern I kind of went by the venetians (menís trousers) in Janet Arnoldís Patterns of Fashion 3. I was disappointed not to find any natural fibers when I fabric shopped and ended up making the inner layer from a piece of rayon linen blend in rust color I already had and the outer shell in a pink synthetic lining fabric. I slashed the outer fabric with a rotary cutter after failing in an attempted more historical method to pink it with my leather craft tools and also trying an ancient pinking shears that wasnít sharp enough. I machine sewed the seams and also the waist and knee casings. I meant to do a waist band with eyelet holes closure and knee bands with garters but didnít make the time to do it properly. 
I started a veil of a raised pattern shear fabric. I decided to try natural dyes while I was harvesting my garden and though I read that beets were not a good fabric dye, I had to see for myself. Even with the use of a pre-dyeing salt bath, simmering the fabric in the beet juice for an hour and vinegar as mordant to set the color I can see that most of it washes away in the rinse water. The raised design in the fabric held onto just a hint of soft pink color while the background remained white so it turned out quite pretty. I didnít get it hemmed and the lace attached by the end of the challenge.

The other thing I attempted to make were a pair of chopines from a block of wood. I spit the wood with a chisel and hammer, sawed the rough shape with a skill saw and then spent hours with a file and small wood carving set to shape them. I have a LONG way to go yet before they are shaped correctly and I can cover them in fabric and decorate them. 


I didn't think of any way to raise money for Breast Cancer research but I told everyone what I was doing and raised awareness. I will be making a donation in our area. Thank you Bella for challenging me to try new things. [You're welcome!]

Banner image taken from: Domenico Ghirlandaio, Birth of St John the Baptist, 1486-90, Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.


© 2001 - 2012 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.