Constructing the Clothes

Cut and Construction in the Sixteenth Century Manner?

Now we come to the nitty-gritty of constructing Venetian clothing. The problem is, I can't tell you that there is only one right way to make any particular garment and I that know what it is. I can only guess. Sure, it will be as educated a guess as I can make it. By studying the art of a period I know what the silhouette for the different styles of the sixteenth century looked like. By studying the relevant pictures of extant clothing examples from elsewhere in Italy as well as other places within Europe, I know a little about what types of seams, stitches, what kind of closures and how many layers went into making a bodice. By looking at a period tailor's manual I can guess at the most likely method used to give Venetian gowns that correct low and very wide neckline late in the century. I know what kinds of fabrics were used and what the fibre content was.

There are some problems to be overcome. We simply don't have any extant garment that has been conclusively proven to be Venetian, and sometimes even the "experts" can be wrong. There is an extant camicia in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that is listed as "probably" Venetian, although it has a high neckline that is almost non-existent for Venice. We have a few extant Italian garments, but clothing differed from city-state to city-state. Because of this we can't be sure just how the silhouette was achieved. Artists quite often did not show seams in portraits. We can't be certain that just because cartridge pleats were used in England, or even in another part of Italy, they were used in Venice. The best we can do is be armed with as much evidence of just how the Venetian style different from elsewhere and put it to good use.

Here I will show you how I think the Venetians constructed their clothing, and how I construct mine. I make an effort to be as true to period cut as possible. Usually I use modern implements such as electric lighting, sewing machine, and either adapt commercial patterns, or make my own paper patterns. (Don't let anyone fool you - everyone starts by using or adapting commercial patterns or those of another costumer!)

I do my best to be as period, at least in cut and the finished look of the garment, to keep striving for "authenticity - within reason. Because I am not rich, I substitute modern materials for period materials in some cases, but I will endeavour to explain why substitutions were made.


(Copyright Information: As author I, Anabella Wake, known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona, hold copyright on all information on these pages. In addition I hold copyright 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.)