The Realm of Venus Presents....
An Italian Jerkin/Doublet Dress, c1580
thanks to Alaina for rescuing the Showcase this month by taking
the place of the the scheduled costumer. )
My name is Alaina Blackram, a name chosen to
represent myself in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a
society we have been in for almost 10 years. I am a
pharmacist and MBA in Michigan. Though as you can see, my
profession is not where my passions lay. I am married to a
wonderful man who entices me to continue on my quest for
recreating fabulous period garments. He encourages our trips
overseas and loves studying the history behind places and things.
As I love recreating things seen in the past, especially in
paintings, it is not difficult to continue my quest. My parents
instilled in me a love of history and travel early in life.
My family has also inspired my love of handwork and
cooking. My grandmother and mother taught me to sew, cook,
tat, crochet, embroider, knit, etc etc etc.
Why did I choose the SCA as my historical creative outlet?
Primarily because it is based on education. It also allows
both of us to expand our hobbies and meet people who share
similar ideas and I love the renaissance time period.
To begin any project, one
should turn to the old masters for inspiration. I turned to the
web after searching my stash of books. I did take some time in
the wee hours of the night to surf for just the right portrait.
Somehow I ended up on the web site for the National Museum of
Women in the Arts in Washington DC. (http://www.nmwa.org/collection/portfolio.asp?LinkID=243)
There I found my inspiration.
Lavinia Fontana, a female artist in a male dominated Italian
artist community. Her Portrait of a Noblewoman (1580) painting
was astounding, although the portrait is not readily accessible.
I sought information from the museum, which was more than happy
to help. From them I got the electronic picture below and a slide
of the painting. Slides, while capturing copious amounts of
information, lack the ability to be seen without a projector.
This was a feat in itself. I borrowed my father in laws projector
and nearly had the slide melted. I have therefore procured a
newer projector and saw for myself the intricate details which I
will describe below.
This dress style has been
appealing for quite some time. I always imagined it to be more
difficult to pull off than it actually was. Upon researching what
I thought to be an open doublet overdress, I found that there was
a combination of jerkin with matching skirt and doublet and
underskirt. The doublet and underskirt do not necessarily match.
This seems to be a fashion that was recognized in Spain and Italy
in the 1580s to 1600s. Research done by others
concluded that only a full kirtle was worn under the doublet and
overskirt. Checking into patterns derived from period sources
tend to dismiss this claim. Alcega and the a Milanese Tailor book
at the V&A in London has a kirtle with a square neck only and
not a full doublet. This led me to more digging. There are
however clothing referred to as a jerkin and doublet combination.
This has also been a caption in source descriptions. In Queen
Elizabeths Wardrobe Unlocked for instance, Janet Arnold
also refers to it as a skirt and jerkin combination.
The paintings that I have primarily studied are the
paintings by Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman (above),
and Portrait of a Lady with a Lap dog (left), as well as the
painting of a Lady in a Blue Velvet gown c 1580 from a Milanese
tailors album from the Biblioteca Querini-Stampalia in Venice.
It has been dismissed by some that this is a Ropa, or Spanish
over-gown. Ropas are loose fitting garments that tend to hang
from the shoulders and do not have the defined waist as shown in
the jerkin and doublet combination. In fact, piccadils are seen
on the primary painting studied, Portrait of a Noblewoman.
Therefore I tend to agree with Arnold in that this is also a
jerkin, or short sleeved doublet.
to the painting:
This is what I have determined from the painting image shown
above. The dress is made from red velvet possibly silk, which is
embroidered in gold and silver on the doublet and skirt. As the
Spanish overdresses had the skirt attached to the doublet,
(Patterns of Fashion, Pfaltzgraffin Dorothea, figure 2), I deduce
this in this dress as well. From being in Italy and most likely
Florence, I believe it to be done in a short pile silk velvet
with the edges trimmed in long pile silk velvet. (Patterns of
Fashion, p113, figure 2) The over doublet is slashed to show the
doublet underneath. The skirt is either cartridge pleated or
knife pleated. As there are piccadils in the way, we cannot
determine for certain either way.
What I did:
This project is to take from
the painting and dress it down for a matron of the merchant class
or lower nobility in approximately 1580 to be worn for good
occasions and not every day dress. For this reason I chose
materials that are not as expensive, as elaborate or not so
bedecked. But it could be reasonably seen in the 1580s
around the regions of Italy and Spain. For this dress, I chose
cotton velveteen as it resembles the pile sheen seen in the
portrait. It was also chosen primarily because of its resemblance
to silk velvet found in a burial, also for its cost and
As far as a pattern is concerned, I used the graphed pattern from
the back of Patterns of Fashion for the Pfalzgraffin Dorothea Von
Neuberg dress and revised the collar to look like the doublet
found in A Milanese Tailors Book by Juan Alcega. This integrates
the high collar into the back panel and has a palm sized collar
attachment for the front of the doublet. This makes five pieces
to the doublet, one back, two front and two front collar pieces.
I chose a trim (see below) which was on order, and had to make a
quick Sunday afternoon switch to get the dress done on time for
the event I was making it for. This current trim is gold and
shimmers similar to the embroidery in the painting. One may ask
why I did not embroider the dress. Simply, I did not feel that it
would have been appropriate to a merchant/lower nobility station.
Also, this dress would take approximately 3 years to embroider if
done solely by myself. I will be satisfied at this point to just
use the trim. I attached the skirt with cartridge pleats and
continued the trim down the skirt as seen in the painting. As the
trim shifted this way and that even when done by hand, there are
slight waves in the trim on the skirt. I chose to stiffen the
dress with linen and line it with a satin. There is a modern
boning material in the collar to help it stand up.
Upon reflection, the next jerkin, a more Spanish style, will have
a more period stiffener to make it more evenly stiff. The front
of the doublet is hook and eye as seen in detail in Patterns of
Fashion with various garments. The dress is not piped in a long
pile material as it would have also catapulted the wearer into
another social class.
I chose to use cartridge pleats as I wanted a really full skirt,
and my pleats did not work out right. Because of the cartridge
pleats and the fact that the piccadils are small and rigid, they
tend to stick out from the waist instead of laying down over the
waist. This can be corrected on version two.
|For the sleeves on the
jerkin, I used the sleeve pattern from Alcega and paned
the sleeve. I then gathered the sleeve up to resemble,
not replicate, the short sleeve style in the Fontana
portrait. The sleeve in the Fontana portrait has a band
around the bottom. I chose to do it this way to have a
different, yet period feel.
|The underskirt for this
dress is aubergine embossed silk. This is the most
expensive part of the entire dress. For this reason the
underskirt is not cut in any way. The length of the
skirt, the hem and the waistband are the exact dimensions
of the fabric. I loved the way the leaf and flower swirl
in the fabric picked up the light. In future, I am
thinking of making this underskirt into a doublet and
sleeves. But for now, it is a beautiful underskirt.
The doublet is patterned satin.
I used this as it closely resembled the fabric used in the
painting. Please bear in mind that I had only a 1.5 photo
of this painting and had to make assumptions when I was in fabric mecca. I found after blowing the photo up to 2x3 that the
fabric is embellished with ribbon, more than likely silk. I had
been given the real pearls that are on the sleeves of this
doublet. I chose to use them for sleeves as this doublet is not
the main part that will see the most possible soiling. The green
faceted gems on the sleeves are Swarofski crystals are primarily
for contrast. They gave the sleeves a more period feel to them
without overbearing. The doublet is lined with trigger for
stability. It will be fully lined by hand with silk taffeta when
a suitable material is found. The pattern for this doublet and
sleeves came from Patterns of Fashion.
The corset has been purchased by someone who could do it more
reasonably than I. Unfortunately, their sense of OK out the door
differs from mine. Needless to say, I still use it. It is based
off of the effigy corset.
The chemise is silk gauze. Its pattern is from Margo Anderson.
Primarily because I wanted to try the chemise for another dress
(see Alaina's Red Bronzino Dress) and the silk gauze is so filmy.
The collar is hand sewn and is missing a ruffle on the top. This
will also be corrected in version two.
The farthingale is from my first Elizabethan, done 7 years ago.
It still holds up to frequent wear. For this reason I thought it
unnecessary to remake.
The ruff is also from my first Elizabethan and holds up to
frequent wear. It is out of a fine cotton and cotton lace.
The jewelry on this outfit comes from various paintings
and suppliers. The largest and most vibrant piece is a plastic
copy of the Hope diamond. While this is not a period piece, it
resembles some of the jewelry seen at the V&A in the jewelry
vault. The necklace seen in the photos is by VonRosselar. It is a
reproduction of a piece in the V&A vault as well. The jeweled
girdle is modelled after the girdles found on the continent
anywhere from 1500 to 1650. The pearls are found in so many
portraits of ladies, that it is difficult to pin down any one.
The most frequent use of pearls in a painting is that of
Elizabeth I. She was frequently painted with a long strand of
pearls being looped up in a fashionable brooch. The peridot
earrings are from the paintings of the Medicis primarily that of
Eleanor of Toledo.
Things I have learned from doing this dress. First I need a
stiffer material to line the bodice. Buckram is not an option due
to the fact that this must be laundered. So off to the fabric
mecca I must go. I have learned that I like this style of dress
and will complete another version in the next year or two. (Note from Bella: Watch
Alcega, Juan; Tailors Pattern Book 1589, Quite Specific Media,
Arnold, Janet; Patterns of Fashion, McMillan, 1985.
Arnold, Janet; Queen Elizabeths Wardrobe Unlockd, W.
S. Maney and Sons, 1988.
Davenport, Millia; The Book of Costume, Crown Publishers, 1948.
Ein, Claudia; How to Design Your Own Clothes and Make Your Own
Patterns, Doubleday and Company, 1975.
Vecillio, Cesare; Vecellios Renaissance Costume Book, Dover
Once again I am very happy to
present Alaina's wonderful work for your enjoyment. I love this
splendid style of over-gown, although my favourite is the less
Spanish-influenced version worn without a doublet beneath. There
has been so much attention to detail paid to the creation of this
gown, and the fabric and trim choices are just lovely! The final
touch of the jewellery really makes a grand statement. This is
such a gorgeous outfit that I really can't image just how
luscious the second version will be!
You can see this and other fine creations by
Alaina on her web site,
and she can be contacted at this E-mail address.
Would you like
to be Showcased? E-mail