The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Mistress Isabeau de l'Isle

SCA Participant
A Venetian Gown in the style of the 1560/70s

"I have very little patience with shrinking eyelets"

Isabeau Says...

I pursue my love for costuming in the SCA, so I'll introduce myself in the SCA-dian. My name is Isabeau de l'Isle, and I'm a costume-ista. I've tried pretty much everything from chitons to cavalier gowns in my (roughly) 13 years of SCA sewing. For the first several years my garb was pretty much, er, crap, then I got better. Research is your friend. I've finally settled within the confines of the 16th century, with the occasional foray into the early 17th. I use natural fibers almost exclusively and keep my Alšega on hand at all times. That said...

The Inspiration:

I love fabric and Italy had the advantage over all of Europe when it came to fabric. Trade with the near and mid-east gave those who could afford it nearly limitless access to the best textiles available at the time. Much of my design inspiration came from Cesare Vecellio's woodcuts and Titian's portraiture, most especially his Lady With a Fan.I especially like the clean lines of the 1560's silhouette.

Mostly, I wanted a pretty, girlie silk gown that rustled when I walked. :)


The Textiles:

Silk was the obvious choice for the gown, as linen was for the camicia. Nearly all of my linen comes from

I managed to get my greedy little paws on 3 different silks in the same pale peach color at a local fabric store - taffeta, heavy faille and shadow-striped dupioni all in 54" width. For the skirt I used the taffeta, faille for the bodice and sleeves and the dupioni for the petticoat. The bodice was self-lined and the sleeves were lined in the same taffeta as the skirt. The skirt is flat-lined with a very light-weight unbleached cotton as the taffeta was a bit light.

The bodice, sleeves and skirt are trimmed with a gold bobbin-style lace from Europa trims.

The Patterns:

I drafted the bodice pattern from my existing 16th century English/Elizabethan sloper by dropping the back neckline, rounding off the v-front point in the front and angling the bodice straps out a bit more towards the point of the shoulder. I did not add the v-back to the bodice. In my *opinion*, the v-back was used on the ladder-laced gowns, not the side-back closure. In Patterns of Fashion, there is a small picture taken from a larger painting of a little girl with a side-back laced gown. Everyone and their Laurel uses it to illustrate that style of lacing.

For the sleeves I started with the Simplicity 8881 sleeve pattern and modified it by making the elbow curve a bit more pronounced, cutting off the upper part of the sleeve and dividing the upper "poof" section into panes. Unfortunately the faille shreds and I didn't serge it soon enough. I lost nearly an inch off the length of the sleeve and had to make it up with a small box-pleated frill at the hem. Pooh.

The skirt is simply 3 panels, 45" in length .

I used Jen Thompson's camisia pattern. I shortened the sleeve length to about 30" and the width to about 25".

The Underpinnings:

Underpinnings front Underpinnings back

I apologize for the corset, at the time I wanted something silly and girlie. I didn't realize that anyone outside of the changing room would see it. Certainly not here. I keep meaning to make a new one, but since this one gives me the right shape, I keep putting it off.

The pattern is based on Elizabeth I's effigy corset without straps. The corset is made up of two layers of heavy cotton and boned through the tabs with 1/2" steel.


The bodice is 3 layers-silk, linen and silk. The lining and interlining were sewn as one and then right sided together with the outer fabric. Armsye and waist were left open for the sleeves and skirt. I used a center-back lacing which is easier for me to get in and out of by myself, although I've practiced more with the side-back and can now manage. I poked holes on either side of the back opening, inserted metal eyelets, crimped the eyelets and sewed over them with DMC floss. I do this because my hand sewn eyelets tend to shrink to nothing while I sew them. I have very little patience with shrinking eyelets. Back

Outside front For the skirt I cut three lengths of the taffeta and the cotton, sewed all seams (leaving an opening at center-back) and attached the silk layer and the cotton layer wrong sides together at the top, gathered it tightly and sewed it to the bodice. I faced the hem with a 2" wide grosgrain ribbon and the lace was top-stitched over the stitch lines. I like the way the stiffness of the ribbon helps to hold the hem out.

The sleeves panes were made up individually of the faille and the taffeta, the bottom of each pane was sewn right sides together with the faille sleeve and the taffeta was right sided with the faille at the cuff, with the strip of box-pleated taffeta, and hand sewn over the raw edges to make it neat and tidy. The sleeve was then sewn into the armsye and the bodice lining hand sewn over the raw edges.

Inside front Outside back with view of inside edge

The Accessories:

I made a girdle out of a flea-market find. I added pearls on eyepins and a large pearl and rhinestone pendant with a tassel at the end. It usually gets lost in the folds of my skirts, but it's there. For the pictures I wore a veil that I pinned to a little bun on my head using brass pins with pearl heads that a friend made me. I am wearing the ubiquitous strand of pearls and my Laurel pin. Usually I add a couple of gold rings and my coronet and call it a day.

Bodice front close-up

Wearing the Gown:

I love my girlie gown. I do find, however, that the neckline is a bit tight which can be remedied by letting out the shoulder seam. Alas, that means removing the sleeve and re-attaching it. Pooh.

Some day I will finish the partlet. I swear.


Gown front Gown back

Bella Says.....

I can 'feel' that silk taffeta and hear it rustle, can't you? I love the combination of the muted, pale peach colour of the gown contrasted with the richness of the gold braid edging. Everything about this gown cries out 'elegant' and 'sumptuous', including the gorgeous jewellery! Bravissima Isabeau!

You can contact Mistress Isabeau by e-mailing rlgage (at) adelphia (dot) net

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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.)