The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Showcasing:

Danielle Nunn-Weinberg

SCA participant and art historian specialising in 16th century women's clothing
A Gown inspired by Bronzino's Ladies











Danielle Says.....

My name is Danielle Nunn-Weinberg. I am a finishing a Master’s in Art History with a specialty in historical clothing and textiles at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota. In January I will start a Ph.D. at the University of Manchester in England, focusing on clothing and textile references in 16th century wills and inventories from Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire.

I have been interested in historical clothing for as long as I can remember. Involvement in the SCA provided an outlet for my costume obsession. Initially I tried costumes from many different countries and centuries, but eventually settled into the 16th century as the time period I find most interesting. Once my interest in the 16th century was established, I soon encountered the works of Agnolo Bronzino and Lorenzo Lotto. I find the elegant simplicity of the gowns they painted during the 1530s and 1540s greatly appealing, and have made a couple of variations on the theme.


The gown is made from 14 yards of green and black Indian silk with metallic gold dots. The sleeves and skirt are lined in purple multi-colour striped cotton and the bodice is lined with cotton canvas, for structure and support. (At left. See also
medium image; large image) The textiles for this gown while not actually correct for the garment were chosen using the time-honoured costumer’s method of "I had them on hand." (Well, I did feel like being a trifle rebellious in my chosen lining fabric <g>). In most of the paintings I have examined, the gowns appear to be made of velvet, or heavy silk. The green silk is very lightweight, so additional yardage (additional skirt panels) was needed to give the same appearance of fullness in this cartridge-pleated skirt as is demonstrated in the paintings.


This gown is not a copy of any one particular gown but inspired by many. Bronzino’s "A Lady with a Puppy," inspired the brevity of the bodice, (right) while the sleeves were inspired by numerous portraits such as Bronzino’s "Lucrezia Panciatichi," (left) and Bronzino’s "Laura Battiferri" (left, below) which my apprentice has nicknamed "the lady with a giant slug on her head…"





The orange under-sleeves are also of Indian silk and are basted into the armscye instead of being fastened to the kirtle or under-dress layer, which I omitted in this photo since I didn’t get it finished in time. (Of course none of you know what I’m talking about do you? <G>) The kirtle layer, aside from providing the outfit with the lower or under-sleeves, it gives the wearer the support needed without resorting to corsetry which is incorrect for this time and place. In specific terms the kirtle compensates for lightweight fabric, and gives more body to the skirt of the gown. I’m sure you’ve noticed in portraits that you can’t see the sitter’s legs outlined through the skirt.

The construction of the gown is quite simple. When striving for accuracy, one key thing to remember is the way a tailor’s shop produced garments within a guild/apprenticeship system. Each piece of the garment was finished individually, possibly by a different apprentice or journeyman. Using extant garments as a guide, one way to finish a bodice piece is cut the lining and inter-lining without seam allowance on all edges except those which require sewing or other reinforcement, such as eyelets or other closures, the ends of shoulder straps and side seam areas. The outer (fashion) fabric is then rolled over the raw edges of the lining and stitched down so that it doesn’t show through to the outside. (Right. See also medium image; large image) Expanding a garment constructed in this manner is easy, and doesn’t require piecing the outer fabric. Once all the pieces were finished, they would be joined together. So, the bodice front panel was finished on all sides before being joined to both back panels.( Below. See also medium image; large image).

I believe from my study of paintings and a basic knowledge of period construction techniques this style of gown would have fastened up the center back, with laces, hooks & eyes, or buttons (my preference is lacing). My reasoning is as follows: there is clearly no front opening in any of the portraits of this style I have seen, and side lacing or side-back lacing (like Eleanora of Toledo’s gown) is not practical with the large set-in sleeves. The gown’s sleeves are heavy and if one tried to make them removable (i.e. tie-in) there would likely be large gaps between the sleeve and shoulder strap, or they may not stay in place at all. The bodice back should be cut high to keep the shoulder straps on the shoulders once the sleeves are attached. Unfortunately, I did not cut the back of my gown high enough. (Below. See also medium image; large image)

I am frequently asked how to make the sleeves for this type of gown. I have used two methods successfully, and the choice of method depends completely on the desired look of the final product.

Method 1 - sleeves on green gown

Supplies:

A sleeve base - cut an elbow (or above) length sleeve based on your favorite sleeve pattern.

Fabric for outer layer of sleeve (I used 1 widths of 45" fabric for each sleeve and double the length of the sleeve base)

2 (or 4) 1 " strips of your gown fabric to be used for binding the sleeve bottom edges (binding the top edge is optional)

Optional: COTTON batting if your gown fabric is very lightweight like mine is.

Step1



Cut the sleeve bases out of your lining fabric. Make sure you have a left and a right sleeve that fits in the armscye comfortably without much ease or gathering. Keep in mind the "S" shape of period sleeves and make the curve fairly shallow. (Left)









Step 2

Sew sleeve lining together to form the sleeve. Leave it inside out so that the seam is on the outside. Press the seam open.

Step 3

Draw the "S" shape for the sleeve head. The "valley" under the arm section should be the width of the half-width and the "hill" should be the width of the full width panel of the sleeve. (Left) If the fabric is very thin, back it with a single layer of cotton batting.

Step 4

Sew outer layer sleeve together to form the sleeve and press the seam open. You may have to grade the seam if you are using batting in the sleeve. Turn the sleeve right side out.

Step 5

a) With right sides together, evenly gather the outer-sleeve to the base along the top edge. Stitch the two pieces together then turn them right side out and press.

b) If your fabric is too bulky to sew together in the above fashion, tack the outer-sleeve gathers to the base and use one of the fabric strips to bind over the top edge so that there are no raw edges. (Right. See also medium image; large image)

Step 6

Once the top edge of the sleeve and base are sewn together run a gathering thread through the bottom edge of the outer-sleeve fabric. Arrange the gathers so that there is little bulk on under arm side of the sleeve and most of the bulk is on the upper or outside part of the sleeve.

Step 7




Use a binding strip to finish the lower edge of the sleeve, making sure that all raw edges are covered. (Left. See also
medium image; large image)









Step 8







At this point your sleeve should be big and puffy like the lady’s in Lotto’s "Messer Marsilio and his Wife" (right) or Sarto’s "Portrait of a Woman with a Basket of Spindles" (left)










To create the ruched look, start randomly tacking the outer sleeve to the lining with a couple of stitches. There is no formula for stitch placement; it looks much better if they are "eyeballed." Here you can see the random placement of the tacking stitches on the inside of the sleeve.(Below. See also
medium image; large image) Try to keep most of the fullness away from the underarm or you won’t be able lower your arm.

Step 9



Once you are done tacking the sleeve top and bottom layers together, whip stitch the sleeve into the armscye. (Left. See also
medium image; large image)

Voila! You have puffy ruched sleeves like this. (Right. See also medium image; large image)








My very first late period gown was an orange velvet recreation of Bronzino’s "Lucrezia Panciatichi." (Left) As you can see, the sleeves of the orange more closely resemble this portrait than those of the green gown. (Right. See also
medium image; large image)










Method 2
- sleeves on orange gown

Supplies:

A sleeve base - cut an elbow (or above) length sleeve based on your favorite sleeve pattern.

Fabric for outer layer of sleeve (I used 1 - 2 widths of 45" fabric for each sleeve and double the length of the sleeve base)

2 (or 4) 1 " strips of your gown fabric to be used for binding the sleeve bottom edges (binding the top edge is optional)

Optional: COTTON batting if your gown fabric is very lightweight such as that of the green gown.

Step1

Cut the sleeve bases out of your lining fabric. Make sure you have a left and a right sleeve that fits in the armscye comfortably without too much ease or gathering. Keep in mind the "S" shape of period sleeves and make the curve fairly shallow. (See drawing)

Step 2

Sew sleeve lining together to form the sleeve. Leave it inside out so that the seam is on the outside. Press the seam open.

Step 3

Draw the "S" shape for the sleeve head. The "valley" under the arm section should be the width of the half-width and the "hill" should be the width of the full width panel of the sleeve. (See drawing) If the fabric is very thin, back it with a single layer of cotton batting.

Step 4

Using very long stitches (1 inch or more) sew parallel rows of gathering stitches, forming horizontal rows. Also, run a row of regular gathering stitches along the top and edges of the outer sleeve.

Step 5

Sew outer layer sleeve together to form the sleeve and press the seam open. You may have to grade the seam if you are using batting in the sleeve. Turn the sleeve right side out.

Step 6

a) With right sides together, evenly gather the outer-sleeve to the base along the top edge. Stitch the two pieces together then turn them right side out and press.

b) If your fabric is too bulky to sew together in the above fashion, tack the outer-sleeve gathers to the base and use one of the fabric strips to bind over the top edge so that there are no raw edges.

Step 7

Once the top edge of the sleeve and base are sewn together run a gathering thread through the bottom edge of the outer-sleeve fabric. Arrange the gathers so that there is little bulk on under arm side of the sleeve and most of the bulk is on the upper or outside part of the sleeve.

Step 8

Use a binding strip to finish the lower edge of the sleeve, making sure that all raw edges are covered.

Step 9

At this point your sleeve should be big and puffy like the lady’s in Lotto’s "Messer Marsilio and his Wife." (Right.) To create the ruched look, pull all the gathering threads as evenly as possible, so that you wind up with puffy rows. (Below. See also medium image; large image)

To keep the ruching in place, use several stitches to tack the outer sleeve to the lining every so often. There is no formula for stitch placement; it looks much better if they are "eyeballed." Try to keep most of the fullness away from the underarm or you won’t be able lower your arm.

Step 10

Once you are done tacking the sleeve top and bottom layers together, whip stitch the sleeve into the armscye. Voila! You have puffy ruched sleeves.




When you are done your gown and ready to wear it, don’t forget a proper hair style. Many of the paintings show a ribbon wrapped braid wound around the back of the head ( la slug lady). Some of the paintings show the ladies wearing a balazzo or head-roll. For example: Bernardino Luini’s "Portrait of a Lady." (Left) If you were ever wondering what to do with your hair under the roll, you might want to consider a ponytail. Surprisingly, they are correct for the time period. This statute in the V&A is wearing one under her roll. (Below. See also
medium image)




Bella Says.....

Wow! What more can I say? This month I am incredibly awed and thankful to Danielle Nunn-Weinberg for giving me such wonderfully detailed information and pictures - her Bronzino sleeves are just gorgeous! Danielle was one of the lights of inspiration back when I first began in historic costuming - her attention to detail is amazing, but more so is her unwavering courtesy and willingness to share her knowledge. I am proud to feature the work of such a talented and generous person. Danielle has a new website and can be contacted at this e-mail address.





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(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.)