The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Signora Emmachia Gustina Ruscelli

SCA Participant
A Venetian Gown in the style of 1580

Emmachia Says...

My name is Signora Emmachia Gustina Ruscelli and I am currently residing in the Shire of Easaraigh in the magnificent Kingdom of Meridies. Watch out ladies, I am a penny pincher, and I am going to tell you how I do it.

Portrait of Livia Colonna by Paolo Veronese, circa 1580

This gown is my Carnival party dress, I only wear it once or twice a year because it is very heavy. I have wanted a red and black brocade fabric for years, and when I found this fabric I was disappointed to find how heavy it was. It is woven of black chenille velvet yarns and regular red threads, but eighty-dollars later, I had to have it. I think the design is stunning.

The dress was inspired by the portrait of Livia Colonna by Paolo Veronese, seen at left.

[Bella's note: I have included two other portraits of this style below]

It is lined in plain black cotton and trimmed in stiff ribbons which have been trimmed with half inch white bobbin laces. The ruff is a three inch stiff ribbon also trimmed in white bobbin lace. It is detachable with hook-and-eyes, and can be worn fastened around the neck with my other clothing. I have two chemises I wear with this gown, one in silk for warmer weather, and one in linen for cooler weather.

Portrait of Isabella Canossa by Paolo Veronese, circa 1547-48

Portrait of an Unknown Venetian woman by Domenico Tintoretto

The chemise shown in my self portraits is made of silk, trimmed in 3/4 inch white bobbin lace and laced with a black ribbon. The silk was purchased online for about two dollars a yard. My courtesan compatriot Domenica Zorzi and I will buy a whole bolt roll, make four or five chemises out of it, keep one for our selves and then sell the rest. The profit pays for our silk plus some, so our chemises are free.

The linen chemise is made from a large linen table cloth that I was given by an elderly friend and a linen slip I found at the Goodwill thrift store. The linen slip was cut into two sleeves and sewn onto the linen tablecloth body. The slip included the large 3 1/2 inch bobbin lace trim which has butterflies in it and the tag said "Made in Ireland". Because the slip was too short for my arms, I put bobbin lace inserts into the sleeves to make them long enough. I think I paid $3.99 plus tax for the whole thing.

I made a corset similar to the one shown in Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion" (page 113), except that the straps are much thinner and the neck opening lower. I boned it with white plastic cable ties from the hardware store, that way I can throw it in a pillowcase and wash it in the washing machine. It is made from heavy white linen scrap, the ugly flower pattern kept to the inside. The outer layer is heavy white open-weave cotton.

A much larger image of this pattern can be found here!

The gown pattern I made myself, looking at Alcega's patterns for reference. Because the front is open, I simply cut a straight line from the side of the neck to the bottom of the bodice portion. It has simple shoulder tabs, hiding attachment points for the sleeves. Once the bodice was lined, two tabs were added to the opening where grommets were placed for lacing. Ribbon with lace was pleated then hand sewn in between the shoulder tabs. The sleeves have simple button holes in the top edge to accept the lacing.

The pleated ribbon around the stomacher was first pleated and sewn so that the pleats were permanent. It was then sewn on one side of the gown between the outer layer and the tab. The rest of the pleated ribbon is attached to the gown with hooks-and-eyes on the other side. This must be to get in and out of the gown. The front split goes down into the skirting. I think thinner ladies could probably have a smaller split or none at all in their skirting, but alas, we meatier ladies need that skirt split.

To wear the gown, one must wear a chemisette first (which looks like a sleeveless chemise shirt) under the corset. The long chemise is then worn over the corset, which allows for the stomach area to look nice. Then the gown is put on and all the lacing done. If done in this order, only the chemisette and corset need to be washed regularly. The outer gown will not touch any body oils and can be dry cleaned when ever.

And to prove how much of a penny pincher I am, with the scraps left over from the black and red, I made a strapless demi-corset and sold it on eBay for $40.00. So my whole gown cost less than $50.00. My next gown will be made from the gold and black brocade shown in the background of the mannequin photos. I bought nearly nine yards for $8.00 at the Goodwill. The fabric used to be curtains.

The Photos...

Bella Says

One of the things I love most about reproducing the clothing of sixteenth century Venice is that it's not boring! There are quite a few varying styles throughout the decades, and as far as my own costuming goes, I've barely scratched the surface! This style is a stunner - the femininity and sex appeal of the regular Venetian ladder-laced style, with the added flair of the doublet bodice style seen elsewhere in Italy. I just love it! Emmachia has done a terrific job - the cut, colour and 'frills' are all very much have the 'feel' of those worn by Livia. It is simply stunning!

You can visit Emmachia's web site by clicking here.

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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.)