The Realm of Venus Presents....
A Set of handsewn dresses of burnt peach and dark copper silk,
and a pair of cork chopines, both circa 1495
Note from Bella:
Asa is the winner of Ealdormere's annual Arts & Sciences
Competition known as Pentathlon. Along with the set of two
dresses, Asa entered a pair of zoccoli (chopines), an
illumination, food entries and a banquet translation, all circa
1495 Venice. Asa provided me with her extensive documentation,
for both dresses and chopines, the edited versions of which I
present to you here. Grab your favourite hot drink (or cold if
you're in the Southern Hemisphere!), make sure you won't be
disturbed, and prepare for a great read.
Images below can be clicked
on to view a larger image.
I hail from the Canton of
Eoforwic in the Barony of Septentria in the Kingdom of Ealdormere
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada). I recently completed a set of five
entries based on 1495 Venice for Ealdormere's annual Arts &
Sciences Competition known as Pentathlon, and won! The entries
were a dress, chopines, illumination (Girolamo da Cremona style),
food entries and a banquet translation.
Set of handsewn under- and overdresses of burnt peach and dark
copper silk, lined with linen and imitation gold tissue,
embellished with pearls and garnets, accompanied by matching
finestrella sleeves. The dress is designed to be the height of
fashion for 1495.
These dresses would be laced over a low-necked, gathered linen
camisa with wide sleeves. Accessories would include pearl
necklaces, earrings, a narrow belt, zoccoli (Venetian platform
shoes), and an elaborate hairstyle.
No gowns are known to have survived from late 15th century
Venice. Without extant pieces, I have relied on pictorial
evidence for "the typical high-waisted dress of Venetian
women recorded in the great Scuole paintings of the end of the
fifteenth century" (Newton 48) and written reports by
visiting pilgrims. These sources include:
"Durer's drawing of a Venetian woman is
jewelled than one would have thought possible in view of the
prevailing sumptuary laws, her dress belongs to exactly the same
moment in fashion as the dresses worn by the two courtesans
(Carpaccio). Its low neckline allows only a minute strip of stuff
on the shoulder; its sleeves are made up of segments held
together by laces; through their gaps the full sleeves of her
chemise emerge in light puffs." (Newton 52)
Albrecht Durer's sketch is my primary inspiration for this dress.
Vittore Carpaccio (several works)
Carpaccio is responsible for several paintings which show the
dress, in particular Two Venetian Courtesans and the St. Ursula
fresco series. The two women in the former (see right) wear
deeply coloured dresses in plain silk and velvet. The sleeves on
the second lady have been cut from a richly patterned brocade.
The hems of both are decorated with trim. Their low necklines are
decorated with large pearls and the sleeves of the first lady are
also decorated with small pearls along the openings.
The Memorie della famiglia Freschi portrait series (Zorzi
216-219), dated late 15th/early 16th century, includes two
portraits of Venetian women, in particular that of Dorothea
Zacarias. Dorothea's outfit is very similar in construction to
that in Albrecht Durer's sketch, composed of a pair of dresses.
This illumination is an important find that to my knowledge has
not been cited anywhere else. (see left)
The under-dress is apparently made of a gold-coloured brocade.
The bodice is edged with pearls in a solid line around the
The over-dress is made of a dark material (dark brown, purple or
black), lined with a green patterned material that is exposed by
front and side parts. The neckline is appliquéd with a wide band
of gold-coloured material, which has been beaded with pearls and
ornate flower-like roundels.
The bride wears one-piece open-work sleeves, tied at intervals.
Additionally, there appears to be long hanging sleeves that flow
to the floor. Finally, the bride wears the same bunned hairstyle
and lavish jewellery shown in Durer and Carpaccio.
Another Scuole painting, familiarly known as The Engagement
(Bestetti 103), shows a slightly earlier and less extreme version
of the dress with the overdress parting to expose the underdress.
Giovanni Mansueti, Gentile Bellini were also inspirational, as
were a few eye-witness accounts/journals.
The bodices shown are very high waisted, sometimes extremely
low-necked/backed, sometimes off-the-shoulder (Durer in
particular). At first I was concerned that the neckline had been
exaggerated by the artists, but Casola's eyewitness account
confirms the look:
"These Venetian women, especially the pretty ones, try as
much as possible in public to show their chests--I mean the
breasts and shoulders--so much so, that several times when I saw
them I marvelled that their clothes did not fall off their
backs." (Casola 142-145)
The very high-waisted bodices for this period appear not to have
any boning and rely on cut and tight lacing for support. Normally
the overdress bodice is cut in a v front and back to expose the
material of the underdress.
I draped and fitted a template bodice using linen and then drew a
paper pattern. I then cut the peach silk for the underbodice and
the copper silk and orange taffeta silk lining for the overbodice
from this pattern. In each case I tried to maximize the effects
of the brocade patterns.
All the skirts shown are full to the floor, pleated or gathered
to the high waist. The skirt of the overdress is usually open
from the waist down.
I completely finished the fully lined skirts before attaching
them to the bodices. Tiny whipstitches (15-20 per inch) were used
to attach the lining at top and bottom and give a sharp edge. The
join in the underskirt was sewn in three layers with the fourth
layer hemmed down. The overskirt edges were folded over and
Each finished skirt was then roll-pleated to a linen strip, which
was then sewn into the lining of each bodice. This provided
strength, especially for the heavier underdress. Rolled pleating,
knife pleating, and gathering are all shown in the artwork. I
used roll pleating because of the quantity of material.
The sari material used for the skirts includes a woven border,
avoiding the need to apply trim.
Sleeves are shown tied to the bodice by ribbon points in some
portraits and sewn on in others. I have chosen tie-on sleeves.
Durers sketch clearly shows two-piece openwork sleeves that
lace together at the elbow. This design is very attractive and I
have used it on these sleeves. Normally only one pair of sleeves
is worn at a time the voluminous chemises peek out in all
the portrait examples.
The sleeves were cut to maximize the silks existing brocade
pattern. In the portraits the sleeves are made from elaborate
brocade that matches the underdress. I could have elected to
include hanging sleeves as shown in the Freschi illumination, but
so far this is my only source for hanging sleeves with this dress
and the identification is not confirmed.
For the exterior I used two silk brocade saris that I received as
an anniversary present.
The silk industry was very important to Venice in this period.
Venice had built the industry on the expertise of Luccan
refugees: "Venetian production by then (1462) dominated the
market. In describing the life of Doge Tommaso Mocenigo, Marin
Sanudo explicitly states that the products of Lucca and her
wealth had passed to Venice, and that Lucca was in decline". (Santangelo 29)
Naturally, Venice took steps to protect it: "The Great
Council and Senate
against importing into the Venetian Republic silk stuffs not
produced in Venice (July 13, 1410)" (Santangelo 28). Such
prohibitions were renewed:
while Venice exported fine silks to other countries,
she also imported or at least shipped silk fabrics from abroad.
Restrictions on these were severe. In 1490, the Senate decreed
that no zentilhome, citadin, or habitante of Venice or her
dominions on the mainland was to wear or to use in any way any
cloth of gold, silver or silk which had not been manufactured in
questa città". (Newton 175)
With these rules, an upper class Venetian lady would legitimately
only be able to use Venetian-made silk for such a dress. However,
sumptuary laws are usually created to correct rather than confirm
In review of extant silk brocade fragments from Venice and other
parts of Italy, several pieces for the 14th and 15th century
(largely ecclesiastical survivals) show large-pattern vertical
pineapple/lotus/tree-of-life ("pomegranate") designs in
jewel-tone velvets (red or purple especially) with gold
brocading, as well as other highly stylized flower in-and-out
progressions (examples from Santangelo, Poli and Dupont-Auberville).
"The fabrics surviving from the first half of the 14th
century, largely samites, diaspes and lampases are enriched with
vegetal and floral elements of Chinese or Oriental inspiration,
like the peony, the lotus, and tree of life. Those of the second
half of the century are more dynamic and lively with added animal
elements such as the fawn, the eagle, mastiff, leopard, pelican,
caught in animated and realistic attitudes". (Poli 41)
In recent times, select Italian boutique manufacturers have
revived these distinctive patterns, but the cost is prohibitive
sometimes thousands of dollars per yard.
At the other end of the scale, some modern synthetic upholstery
brocades use the pineapple design. In my opinion, these heavy
fabrics are inappropriate for this silken dress.
Silk sarees from India and Pakistan are currently the most
accessible and affordable source for silk brocade in quantity,
and have the correct weight for this dress.
Although sarees often have flower patterns, I have not found any
with the distinctive pineapple design. The Islamic prohibitions
continue to be maintained in weaving Eastern silk sarees and I
have not found any examples with heraldic beasts either.
On the other hand, the peach silk saree I used is similar in
design and colour to a 14th century Venetian remnant (Santangelo,
Plate 25). Additionally, the lavish acanthus-like borders on
these sarees also resemble border elements in illuminated
manuscripts of the same period (which took them from classical
Finally, it is entirely possible that imported Turkish silks with
similar characteristics to my sarees legitimately made their way
into Venetian clothing, despite the prohibitions, as gifts or
souvenirs through Venice's long diplomatic relationship with
In this context I have decided to use the silk sarees as the best
middle ground choice.
Medium-weight white linen was used to line the underdress and for
the pleating strips. This is a period choice.
Yarn-dyed silk taffeta was used to line the bodice and sleeves of
the overdress. This is a period material.
Imitation gold tissue was used to line the skirt of the
overdress. Cloth of gold was routinely banned by Venetian
sumptuary laws: "
regulations governing expenditure on
certainly ruled out not only clothing of gold
or silver stuffs but also embroidery in precious metal threads
and expensive silk cloths." (Newton 52). However, these laws
were frequently ignored or bypassed by various loopholes. Using
imitation gold tissue to line a skirt is a way to cock a snoot at
the sumptuary law.
I have used orange-tone silks for these dresses.
The brown-orange-yellow palette was coming into vogue in Venetian
painting during the late 15th century.
"Orange had not been used as a colour term by Petrarch or Boccaccio: Italians refer to the yolk of egg as rosso
it is likely that any yellow deeper than crocus was traditionally
categorized as red. But in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,
published in Venice in 1499, the adjective naranceo is frequently
used to describe the orange-coloured. Thereafter naranzin becomes
a colour in dress
So orange, fruit and colour, was in the
ascendant in Renaissance Venice". (Hills 146-150)
Manuseti's Miracle (
) shows orange-tone dresses, but this
may simply be part of the palette he chose for the painting
rather than an actual model.
With orange, yellows and browns being increasingly used in
portraits, tile and maiolica on the cusp of the Cinquecento, it
is reasonable and highly fashionable to use the burnt peach and
dark copper silks for this 1495 dress.
a) Stitches used
These dresses are entirely hand sewn. Because no 15th century
Venetian clothing has survived, I have referred to construction
techniques used in the extant 16th century garments discussed in
Janet Arnolds Patterns of Fashion, using running stitch,
back stitch and whip stitch as needed.
Gold-coloured silk thread (bodices and beading) (authentic and
White linen thread (bodice, pleating strips, eyelets) (authentic
Orange synthetic thread (skirt and sleeve construction)
(strength, low cost, matches fabric)
Modern hand sewing and beading needles were used throughout.
15th century Venetian ladies wore a profusion of jewels, and
their necklines and sleeves were frequently jewelled or beaded:
"Those who can afford it, and also those who cannot, dress
very splendidly, and have magnificent jewels and pearls in the
trimming round their collars. They wear many rings on their
fingers with great balass rubies,' rubies and diamonds. I said
also those who cannot afford it, because I was told that many of
them hire these things." (Casola 142-145)
"I was in fact informed by a merchant, who pointed out to me
a young and wealthy citizen's wife with her neck and hands
covered with countless costly and beautiful jewels, that in his
opinion the jewels were worth more than 600,000 ducats."
Neckline beading, especially using a line of large round pearls,
is shown in the Durer sketch and in Carpaccio's Two Venetian
Courtesans. In the meeting scene between the saint and her
fiancé from Carpaccio's St. Ursula cycle (Meeting of the
Betrothed Couple, Bestetti 149), the saint's dress is lavishly
beaded with large pearls along the necklines of both dresses.
Pearls were prized by the Venetians.
Another example of neckline beading is found in Carpaccio's
Portrait of a Lady (Bestetti 162), a rather dour looking woman.
The neckline of her underdress boasts 2x4 groupings of pearls at
intervals, while the overdress is studded alternately with large
pearls and gold plaques.
Neroccio di Bartolomeo's Portrait of a Lady (possibly Alessandra
Piccolomini (Bestetti 148)), shows a neckline decorated with
small pearls sewn in clusters of three at intervals.
Finally, the neckline in the Freschi illumination seems to have
been appliquéd with roundel or flower shapes.
I appliquéd a decorative strip (taken from the edge of the
saree) to the neckline of the underdress and then beaded it with
small freshwater pearls and garnets. I also used five gold
bullion flowers (as per Freschi). The neckline of the overdress
didn't need embellishing as the material was very busy and would
not have benefited from it.
The finestrella sleeves in Carpaccio's Two Venetian Courtesans
have been beaded with small pearls around the openings.
As well, the left sleeve on Carpaccio's St. Ursula (Meeting of
the Betrothed Couple) bears a large rectangular jewel in a heavy
gold setting surrounded by pearls.
Pinning a brooch would achieve the same effect as St. Ursula's
Eyelets overcast with linen thread are the most common period
bases for lacing (Arnold, numerous photographs). I used two awls
to make openings for the eyelets, which are used on the bodices
and sleeves for lacing, and overcast the holes with linen thread.
An alternative would be to use yellow silk floss to overcast the
Period aglets are very thin, about 1½ " long and unadorned
(Arnold, several photographs). I was unable to buy reproduction
aglets of the correct size and shape, so I attempted to make
period aglets using metal from aluminum pie plates, which was
cheap and accessible. Unfortunately, the metal was brittle and
low-tolerance, cracking when rolled or folded into the correct
shape. Stable pie-plate aglets were too big for the eyelets.
I decided to use modern bolero point aglets and sewed them onto
the ribbon ends. Because these ornamental points are too big for
the eyelets I pre-laced the ribbons into place before attaching
the aglets, which at least have the virtue of being pretty. I
couldn't make the eyelets any bigger without tearing the fabric.
I investigated using 100% silk taffeta, moiré and gros-grain
ribbons, but my sources were too modern in appearance. One option
would be to hand-sew silk ribbons that would give the correct
rumpled look. I decided to use a non-period beautiful polyester
gauze ribbon in peach with gold edges that perfectly complemented
I laced the bodices using a period technique similar to that
found in Carpaccio's Ritratto di giovane donna (Bestetti 162) and
Antonio Pollaiolo's Ritratto di donna (Bestetti 97), instead of
the modern criss-cross lacing. The ribbon is strong and
a) Hair style
"As strange as the dress itself is the style of dressing the
hair, and this too, is peculiar to Venice." (Newton 51). As
previously discussed, in 1495 the hair is universally shown in a
tight bun on top of the head, with curled fringe around the face.
Fake hair was frequently used to bulk out the look:
"As to the adornment of their heads, they wear their hair so
much curled over their eyes that, at first sight, they appear
rather men than women. The greater part is false hair; and this I
know for certain because I saw quantities of it on poles, sold by
peasants in the Piazza San Marco. Further, I inquired about it,
pretending to wish to buy some, although I had a beard both long
and white." (Casola 142-145)
In general, short but heavy necklaces of pearls and other gems
are worn with the dress. Large earrings are sometimes worn as
Some art shows a narrow belt worn on the bodice line. From
experience, this support can be an invaluable, even with tight
lacing, as gravity works.
Finally, a lady would paint her face to complete her toilette:
"Item, these women [of Venice] paint their faces with
colours so that at night they look ugly when the heat makes the
colours run." (von Harff)
"Condemned as early as 1438 by a priest in Spain"
(Pratt & Woolley 19), chopines, an extreme platform shoe,
were worn in Venice beginning in the early 15th century and
ending in the mid-17th century (Hall 71). A 1430 Venetian drawing
(Poli 153) shows a rather blocky chopine topped by a minimalist
sandal that laced onto the ankle with a small buckle.
Chopines were worn in a variety of heights, and in some cases
they reached as high as 20 inches (Museo Correr example in Poli
154). Although there are few surviving examples that can be
reliably dated to the late 15th century, pilgrim eyewitness
accounts and contemporary art demonstrate that both towering and
comfortable chopines were worn.
A fine pair of chopines would be essential to a lady's wardrobe.
In fact, their (literally) high status is revealed in a minor
painting "depicting the meeting between the Gastaldo and the
Doge Lorenzo Priuli in 1557 in thanks for the gift of precious
clogs (zoccoli) made to his wife, the Dogaresse, Zilia Priuli, on
the occasion of his election". (Poli 34) And, as one of the
oldest guilds in Venice, shoemakers (calegheri) had the privilege
of working at San Marco on certain days, "as on the occasion
of the great annual Fiera della Sensa (the Feast of the
Ascension)" (Poli 12).
Description of Entry
Pair of Type 1 (my definition) cork chopines with vegetable
tanned leather outer and inner soles and uppers, covered in
orange cotton velveteen. Embellished with modern artificial gold
lace, secured with brass upholstery nails, and decorated with
freshwater pearls attached with gold silk thread. Carved and sewn
"Chopine" or chapiney is a European term for a range of
heeled shoes variously called zoccoli, pianelli and calcagnetti.
Because their definitions are sometimes confused, I will continue
to use chopine.
"(Chopines) were pedestals of cork or wood (
were simply shaped, like an elephant's hoof. Others had broad
tops and bottoms and looked like hourglasses. (
varied in height from circular blocks a few inches tall to
columns up to 24". Leather or fabric shoes or mules were
affixed to the top of these stilts. The shoe itself was
round-toed and embellished with jewels in the form of a rose or
other floral decoration and tied over the instep with ribbons.
The mule had a slightly up-tilted toe and the forepart was
embroidered or had slashings, cutouts or jewelled decorations.
The stilt was of cork or wood and sometimes covered with kid or
velvet in various bright colours, mainly yellow or red."
"Coryat, in his "Crudities," 1611, says,
"There is one thing used of the Venetian women, and some
others dwelling in the cities and towns subject to signiory of
) which is so common in Venice that no woman
whatsoever goeth without it, either in her house or abroad
a thing made of wood and covered with leather of sundry colours;
some with white, some red, some yellow. It is called a chapiney
which they never wear under their shoes. Many of these are
curiously painted; some of them I have also seen fairly gilt
) There are many of these chapineys of a great height,
even half a yard high. (
) I have heard it observed among
them, that by how much the nobler a woman is, by so much the
higher are her chapineys." (Hall 68-69)
Aside from Garzoni's comments (see Definition), there is little
contemporary information on how chopines were made. And, because
pieces are so rare, no one appears to have taken apart a chopine
to see exactly how it was made. Wilson describes the structure as
"Some chopines were lightly indented under the sole, which
gave them a slight "heeled" look; others were almost
circular in the shape of the forepart; most had mules attached
into which the stockinged foot slipped; but others had real shoes
attached which fastened over the instep. This was largely the
difference between the chopine and the patten
was held on by straps fastening over a separate shoe".
Wilson also provides thumbnail line drawings, but these seem
distorted compared to the surviving chopines I studied.
The column or platform is quoted as being made of cork or various
woods. Wood is strong and can be carved to a demanding shape, but
can be heavy. Cork is light and resilient, however, because cork
is the stripped bark of a tree, it must be assembled and glued in
layers. Cork is not as strong as wood and may not carve as
finely. Cork is still used today for platform shoes because it is
The outer and inner soles are always made of leather. Sometimes
kid leather is used for the inner sole. Some research suggests
that the inner sole was not differentiated between left and
right. It is difficult to determine from the examples (because of
the angle of display), however, the visible chopine in
Carpaccio's Due Dame Veneziane seems clearly shaped for the left
Soles are glued to the column, and the edges are sewn to the
leather or fabric covering. Nails do not appear to be used,
probably because they would eventually work out of the soft cork.
Inner soles are reportedly often stamped or embossed with simple
repetitive designs. One example has small roundels embossed in
rows (Durian-Ress 37).
The sides of the chopine can be covered in kid leather, velvet or
brocade. Type II and III chopines are almost always covered in
kid leather. Many Type I chopines are covered in velvet. The
covering is drawn extremely tight over the column.
This covering is essential, not just aesthetically, but as a base
to attach the leather outer and inner soles.
The uppers (portion covering the top of the foot) are made of
leather, which can be covered in fabric to match the body. The
uppers can be closed or open toe, depending on the height,
various widths, sometimes finestrella. Some uppers are split and
laced together like modern shoes, but without a tongue to protect
the foot. Sewing the uppers to the sole is easier if they are
Common colours reported are red, yellow and white (though most
surviving leather chopines are cream coloured). Surviving fabric
examples include a golden brown velvet (Bata chopine), dark green
figured brocade (Poli 156), and an aquamarine velvet (Bernhardt),
all with contrasting trims.
Most chopines are basically mules on stilts; however, some early
examples have an ankle strap and buckle. This closure would
re-emerge as the chopine declined in popularity and was replaced
by a kind of heeled shoe.
g) Seams and Stitches
The horizontal seams used to attach the outer and inner soles to
the covering are clearly visible in several examples, such as
Durian-Ress (32), constructed using either backstitch or double
Vertical seams are used at the spine of the chopine to draw the
material taut. Whipstitch is normally used.
g) Brass Tacks
Round-headed brass tacks, similar to modern upholstery tacks, are
found on the columns of many Type I chopines (Pratt & Woolley
19, Hall 70, Wilson 143, Durian-Ress 37, Caovilla 26-27). They
serve a functional as well as decorative component. Leather or
fabric, however eased or sewn to fit, tends to pull away from the
hourglass body of the chopines. Tacks placed at the junction
point (often over a piece of fancy trim) arrest this and help
keep the covering smooth. In surviving examples they are arrayed
in lines or zigzags. Sometimes they have a haphazard appearance,
perhaps because some have fallen out.
Many Type I chopines are decorated with braid, metallic lace,
ribbons, tassels or even rick-rack trim (a late example).
The structure of the extant Type I chopines I am recreating is an
hourglass shape built on a figure eight base. The upper half
gradually conforms to the actual shape of the foot, with the heel
being built up on a slant. The shape is elegant and reasonably
After drawing around my feet to get the approximate shape of the
inner sole, I drew a large figure eight around it to get the
base. I then traced around these two shapes on a large piece of 3
mm cardboard, making 12 copies of the figure eight.
To produce the hourglass shape, I then reduced the figure eight
shapes by approximately 5-6 mm per piece to get the right
reduction and expansion by height. In order to get the correct
tilt to the heel it was necessary to build it up with another
Since I intend to wear these chopines, I kept the height modest.
The finished height is 4¼ inches, well within the range for Type
Because the composite cork I used is weaker than natural cork, I
could not make the extended, unsupported heel shown in some
examples, as the composite would crack and flop. As a result, the
hourglass shape is not as extreme.
I decided to make distinct left and right shoes instead of
b) Cork Columns
Natural cork sheets are the most authentic choice. I was unable
to acquire blocks of natural cork that were wide enough, so I
decided to work with sheets of composite cork (6 mm thick,
24 x 36), which are not as strong as solid cork.
Because the cardboard is half the thickness of the cork, I was
able to make up a full size scale model but with half the height,
to tweak the shape. Once I was comfortable, I cut out 12 pieces
of cork using a large exacto knife. I slanted the edges of the
cuts to make the shape flow better.
I used a quality white non-toxic glue to assemble the layers, two
pieces at a time, and weighted them down with heavy books
(textbooks, cookbooks and romance novels) to cure for 12 hours.
Because cork is very porous, I used lavish amounts of the glue.
The gluing, assembling and curing process took a couple of weeks
Once all the pieces were assembled and had had time to cure, I
used the knife to further carve and refine the shape of the chopine.
c) Leather Soles and Uppers
I used pieces of vegetable-tanned leather, an authentic choice,
for the outer and inner soles. I had previously treated the
leather with mink oil compound over a period of months to seal
it. The outer soles were cut larger and glued to the bases of the
chopines. I also cut a pair of inner soles shaped based on my own
feet. These were glued to the top of the chopine covering the
edges of the fabric.
I cut the uppers based on those of a pair of bedroom mules, which
are the same as the period examples. I covered these with
velveteen and sewed them to the top of the inner sole with
backstitch to provide a smooth base for gluing.
d) Velvet Covering
Plain velvet was used on several surviving chopines. Cotton
velveteen is fairly close to period velvet, although its nap is
shorter, and is preferable to polyester velvet.
Once the bases were finished and the outer soles attached, I cut
a long strip of velveteen and sewed it to the edge of the outer
soles using backstitch and bees waxed linen thread, a period
choice. I used an awl to punch the edge of the soles first. I
used modern steel needles.
The fabric was then drawn tight to the sides of the chopine and
attached by brass furniture tacks, which were placed at intervals
over a piece of artificial gold lace. The fabric was joined at
the back of the chopine with whipstitch. Once secured, the fabric
was brought up and over the edge of the inner sole, trimmed, and
the edges glued down under the inner sole.
The inner sole and fabric were then sewed together with
backstitch under tension to provide as smooth a fit as possible.
These gluing and sewing steps produce a stable, sound, reliable
shoe that is functional and beautiful.
Period chopines came in a variety of eye-catching colours, such
as red and yellow. The courtesans in Carpaccio's 1495 painting
own a pair of bright red Type I chopines. Because this pair is
intended to complement the orange-tone dresses I made (Entry #2),
I have decided to use a bright orange velveteen. As per the
discussion in Entry #2, the colour orange was growing in
popularity in Venice during the late 15th century. Chopines are
conspicuous consumption and the colour is in that spirit.
The artificial gold lace used under the brass tacks was also
applied in a single row to the uppers using gold silk thread, and
beaded with freshwater pearls. Some examples were apparently
jewelled. I could have gone farther with silk ribbons, but the
Carpaccio example is quite plain.
I also used a sewing awl to prick simple designs into the leather
inner soles. These circles and whorls are similar to those found
on the sides of Type II chopines.
The dresses were built using the lines, materials and techniques
that can be determined for 1495 Venice. They have been sewn to
exacting standards and have required many hours to complete. In
my opinion these ethereal dresses satisfy the Venetian aesthetic
of delicate extravagance. Venice's beauty weds post-Byzantine
design with the precarious lagoon existence, producing such rich,
ornate facades on buildings that must balance on wooden piles.
These jewelled dresses follow similar, yielding lines.
I am very happy with the end result. The dresses have the same
look as my sources. They fit well, are beautiful and luxurious.
They are the centrepiece of my Pentathlon effort.
The chopines I produced are
beautiful, light, solid and comfortable. They fit very well. They
look very similar to the Type I examples I studied. The materials
I used are period, with the exception of the cotton velveteen,
which is period in appearance, and the artificial gold lace,
which is more appropriate for 16th century. These chopines are
correctly worn with the distinctive Venetian dress of the late
15th century. Like the new Dogaresse in 1557, a lady would be
proud to own a new pair of jewelled velvet chopines, especially
for a banquet in honour of Lo Sposalizio del Mare.
Wow. Colour, texture, pattern
and the fantastic attention to detail combine wonderfully in
these gowns and chopines to produce something truly outstanding
and very much like those seen in the paintings of 1495. A tuly
luscious example of Venetian feminity and decadence at its best.
Asa can be contacted by clicking
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