The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase



A Florentine Gown in the style of the 1540s

"...the bodice became smaller while hanging in my closet..."

Anéa Says...

A little about me: I’ve never been a talented seamstress. I’m not saying this because I’m coquettish or shy – it’s a fact. The actual seamwork in my gowns are not very professional and a little sloppy. What I AM good at, on the other hand, is to figure out how things are constructed, or how things can be made. If I could choose, I would rather BUY gowns than make them myself, but what’s a poor gal to do? I also like the everlasting hunt for JUST the right fabric, ribbon, colour or fact when I’m working on a project. Then I’m like a blood hound… :D Also, seeing the results on some of my projects, I see that there’s point in continuing making costumes, and it gives me inspiration to start on a new (and even more advanced) project. So far, my main interest have been Italian Renaissance, but I'm also quite obsessed with the costumes from "Phantom of the Opera". :)

Bronzino: the portrait I've tried to copy


This gown was the first "real" historical outfit I made. The first version was finished around 1997, and was meant to be a replica of a costume from the musical "Which Witch". The bodice was quite a disaster, but the sleeves and skirt worked – so I started making a new bodice. I still tried to make a replica of the WW gown, but somewhere along the road, I realized I preferred the portrait of which the costume was based on – Bronzino’s "Lucretia Pantiatichi".(See right)

Biggest difference between the portrait and the WW costume, is the sleeves. Where the WW costume have two layered sleeves (a burgundy sleeve with chemise visible through slashes), the portrait consists of THREE layers – a plum upper layer with a stripy undersleeve, and under there a chemise. This meant I had to make a whole new pair of sleeves.

First version of gown, but unfinished (especially the waist and shoulders)

Detail of the portrait sleeve

The striped undersleeve before adding the plum sleeve. Nice bathrobe, eh?

Another difference was the bodice – my second version was rather straight in the neck lining and with a very pointed front. The Bronzino bodice is more cone shaped, with a curved neck opening, and not pointed in the front. By this time, I had decided to copy the portrait rather than the WW gown, but alas! The bodice was too short to make it exactly as in the portrait. But I managed to make a nice curved neck opening, and I made the bodice less pointed. I also made the shoulder straps sit further out on the shoulder, gining a bigger neck lining.

The second version was finished around 2002, and I liked it very much. The new sleeves turned out to be very successful, and the new bodice were WAY better than the first version. I also repleated the skirt, but it don’t look to different from the first version.

Second version of the dress

The story could have stopped here. But…. Hmmm… I like to think that the bodice became smaller while hanging in my closet. But it’s probably not as likely as the true story – I gained some weight. So the bodice became to small, and I could no longer wear the gown as it were – I had to enlarge the bodice. And while doing to, I did a third re-modelling of the gown, to make it look EVEN more like the portrait. The bodice were made longer using some scrap pieces of fabric, and enlarged in the sides. I also added a piped edge to the neck lining, inspired by the Bronzino painting. The skirt were also repleated once again to acheive thick and full pleats. I also did some minor work on the sleeves (shorten and narrowing them a tad), but it’s not really that visible. More visible is the re-puffing of the puffed sleeves, and it gave the gown a little lift. I’m also working on a partlet and a girdle (rather similar to the portrait) – and I am very sorry I didn’t get to finish this in time to add to this site.

Third version. VERY wrong light, but I love the effect of the picture. It also shows details of the gown better than any other picture

The aglets and sleeves of the third version

Version three. Don't mind fuzzy the details, it was a late night photosession...

Some technical facts about the gown:Version 2

The bodice and puffed sleeves are made of a wonderful antique pink thai silk. The colour is absolutely identical to the skirt (which was kept from the first version), but as the skirt is made of long fibred cotton, and the rest of silk, they behave slightly different in light. Still, you have to stand very close to tell them apart. The bodice is made out of five pieces – one front, two side pieces and two back pieces. The side pieces make it easier to adjust the size, and I was VERY happy I added them when re-doing the bodice. The neck lining is piped, as written above, and it’s closed in the back by five metal hooks and eyes.

The skirt is, as written above, made of cotton. It is fully lined, and closed in the back by two snap buttons. It’s cartridge pleated, and the pleats are rather full and thick.

The main sleeves are made of two parts: upper layer is of plum cotton velvet which is slashed both in front and behind. Underneath, black silk sleeves trimmed with golden ribbons are viewable. They are made of a gorgeous opaque black silk, with several rows of golden ribbons sewn on. These striped sleeves are viewable through the slashes. Where the back and front slashes are almost connected, a golden/black ribbon forming small tassles are attached, and the bows have some filagree aglets. I wrote earlier that the sleeves almost makes the gown. I really mean it! The colours looked so odd when I just saw the fabrics together, and I really feared the result would be garish. Plum, black, gold and white are NOT colours I’d normally use together…. But they really gave the gown an authentic look, simply because they’re not so MATCHY as we like it today.

The puffed sleeves are hard to explain without adding some drawings, but briefly explained, I used a standard sleeve pattern, making it MUCH shorter and wider. They were lined with a white cotton fabric, and a string gathers the fabric in two places. I hope that make sense….. They are, as mentioned above, made of the same thai silk as the bodice.

I must also add a little about the jewellery. I worked at a store selling mens clothes for two and a half years. Next door, there was a small shop selling womens clothes, and since my sister worked there, I stepped by quite often. But it took me half a year to see a wonderful necklace they had, which were amazingly similar to the Bronzino portrait. When I finally SAW it, I almost freaked out! It is really, really beautiful, and unless I had paid someone to copy the portait, I couldn’t have gotten anything as similar. I’ve since made a pearl necklace out of some 10mm frosted pearls and attached the pendant. The other jewellery will have to wait until I’m rich…. Lucretia wears a lovely golden necklace with plated with inscriptions saying "Amour Dure Sans Fin" – Love lasts eternally. It’s assumed to be a gift from her husband, whose family were French. I really want ot make a copy one day. I’m also working on a girdle similar to the portrait.

For shoes, I use some black "chinese shoes" made of silk. They are slightly resemblant to Mary Jane shoes, with a rounded tip, and a closing strap crossing in front. If not totally historical correct, they reminds of stuff I’ve seen in paintings.

A last thing I want to tell about the outfit, is that most of it is sewn by hand… Basically because I feel I have better control then, but also pecause parts of it were made when I didn’t have a sewing machine. Only thing I’ve made machine stitchings on, is the long seams in the bodice (feels more secure), and the golden ribbons on the black undersleeves. Rest is by hand. That’s the result when the sewing knowledge is poor….. ;)

Love, Anéa

Side view of the gown, with bumroll


Back view of the gown, with bumroll

Bella Says.....

DROOOOOOOOOOLLLL. Ok, I have to admit it, I love pink. I didn't used to be such a fan of the colour, but lately I just droooool whenever I see pink used well...and boy, has this pink fabric been used well! And what a bold, courageous move (whatever the motivating factor) to combine a silk bodice/sleeves with a cotton skirt! Another great tip for costuming on a budget, no? Besides, it WORKS. So well. I am truly inspired to use my pink velvet now, just as I was a few months ago when I first saw this gorgeous creation. "Pretty in pink" has never been more apt.

You can contact Anéa at operafantomet (at) hotmail (dot) com. If you would like to read more about Anea's pink gown, click here. You can find her main website here.

Would you like to be Showcased? E-mail me!


(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.)