Realm of Venus Presents....
A Venetian Gown in the style of 1495-1505
be #@*%ed, it worked for me!"
Greetings! I am the Honorable Lady Sorcha
Meadhbh Lassair OBranigain of the Province of Tree Girt
Sea. I have been active in SCA for nearly 17 years in various
kingdoms. During the early part of my SCA activities I put
clothes on so many people that I could go to events all over the
kingdom and most likely see someone wearing something I had sewn.
The Middle Kingdom is much larger now and that doesnt
happen often anymore, but over the years I have managed to hone
my craft of costuming and needlework. I teach more people now
than dress them, but I still find it difficult to make something
solely for myself. So it is with great pleasure that I was able
to take the time to make the dress you see here.
In fact, with being a cook, calligrapher and
illuminator, and a consummate bead fanatic [carpe beadum!] I find
it a great joy to make actually two dresses for this showcase.
You may think I am talking about the underdress and the
overdress, but actually I have made this overdress reversible so
that I have two looks for the price of one! It economized labor
and since it will probably be a year or two before I can finish
anything else for myself I utilized a decorative lining that
would otherwise be hidden for the most part.
I have admired Vittore Carpaccios
work for a long time. His everyday people are fascinating
in their detail. Primary inspiration comes from The St.
Ursula series circa 1495 1505. The original gown
detail is from "The meeting of the Betrothed
" The quest for gold fabric was set out
for me by seeing the exquisite patterns used by Carpaccio
in both the Betrothed and The Pilgrims Meet the Pope. I
have looked at several contemporary works for design
Chemise or Camica* is a cotton voile. I had difficulty
finding a patterned linen of the weight I needed and I
had it on hand. [My husband says "no more
fabric" comes in unless I get rid of what I have].
Probably in period the cotton would have been too
expensive for a shirt, but I liked it and the simple
diamond pattern went well with the angular form of the
||Drawers again they
are cotton, lightweight approximately 3.5 oz. I started
with the photos from Bellas site and adapted mine
from there. I actually do Civil War reenactment as well
so I combined the usefulness of crotchless drawers and
added lace to the bottom so I can get several centuries
of wear out of them. They tie in the back with easy
access so I dont have to fuss trying to pull them
up and tie a drawstring after a visit to the facilties.
Sleeve Uppers Linen herringbone
weave blended with an unidentifiable fiber. Burn tests showed
that my $1.00 per yard fabric was indeed linen, but I
couldnt figure out the black warp thread. My best guess is
rayon [which I have recently found out is a period fiber but I am
not certain what its best uses were].
Lower Sleeve Okay, shoot me
is a polyester blend. [I see you authenticity mavens cringing] I
was interested in finding a gold color with a pomegranate design.
I found silk with a similar design, not the right color and was
$30 per yard. Polyester be #@*%ed, it worked for me. Hits the
light like silk brocade, hits the pocketbook much lighter at $11
per yard. I found 4 illustrations in Fischbachs Historic
Textile Patterns with similar color and patterns coming from
Italy during the 14th through 16th centuries. [see below] So I
ignore the man-made materials.
These are the
fabric samples from Fischbach. I based my fabric selection on
these examples which are Italian from the 14th -16th centuries
|Lining [reversible] Duchess satin and cotton brocade. I
wish it were silk, but per hubbys orders, I used
what I had on hand.
velvet, lame, and silk ribbon; gimp; Murano glass
beads, metal beads, freshwater pearls, gold work
Jewelry My husband bought me an emerald and
pearled necklace which is one of the only real pieces I
own. Venetians love their "bling" so I wear
that and a strand of pearls to match my earings I
received for my wedding. In case you havent noticed
yet I am a pearl enthusiast. My wedding ring was made for
the period so it works well for this outfit.
Hair I am a big fan of hair taping, but I
have only seen a few examples portrayed by this time. I
braid my hair and wrap it around my head three times to
pad out the roll and then use a plastic yarn darning
needle to thread a silk ribbon over the braid and the
back of my head. For this gown I also strung a thread of
pearls and whip stitched that over the braid as well.
Camica The pattern is adapted from
Bellas website and has the ninety degree seams. I
left the sleeves in bell shape since as I am unaware of
any existing camicas of the early period that are cuffed.
It will come in handy if I decide to attach more lace at
the sleeve ends. I was only able to purchase enough
Venice lace to cover the neckline. I plan to add more
when the stores stock is replenished.
Underdress the round neckline was taken from
"The Betrothed" which appears to show some type
of embroidered detail peeking out from the V-neck of the
overdress. Some glints of light suggest pearls or some
form of dotted embellishment. I had a purchased gold
appliqué in my fabric collection for years. The shape
met the image of the portrait so I based my beadwork on
that. The beading is done on the bodice prior to seaming
and backed with an interlining of lightweight calico.
Pieces were sewn together once the beading was completed
and self-lined. The seams were prick stitched to hold
them in place to prevent snagging and wear on the back of
the embellished portion, Hidden hand finishing stitches
close the lining covering the raw edges of the skirt
which is hand pleated into the bodice. The waist is
higher than natural which gave me the
"pregnant" silhouette of the period.
The eyelets are hand
done with a stab stitch instead of buttonhole stitch as I
normally do, because I was experimenting after coming
back from a costuming symposium. I think it is messier
than if I had done the buttonhole stitch, but it is being
covered by the overdress so no one should notice [and if
they are looking at my backside and see those
well they had better have a good reason for
being there to nag me].
Sleeve uppers are
attached into eyehooks sewn inside the armscye. Beading
reflects the trim on the bodice. The lover sleeves are
reversible again and are tied on with green silk ribbon
to reflect the color of the undergown.
The embellished bodice
Attachment of sleeves
The shape and
construction of sleeve uppers
Bodice under construction
Skirt sewn together
Skirt turned and
The sharp "V" neckline was cut straight
on the bias. My original pattern curved around the
breast, but too deeply. The stretch of the bias lends it
to gently hug the natural curve. I cut the pattern to
show the embossing of the brocade and centered the cut on
the motif. I also matched the motif in cutting the skirt,
which left me with several eight-inch long strips, but in
the interest of utilizing as much fabric as possible I
turned into my lower sleeves. There are more than four
yards of each of the brocade and Duchess satin in the
skirt making it warm and weighing about fifteen pounds.
Which will be nice for my Chicago winters.
The skirt was sewn with right sides
together and then turned out and pressed as if a
pillowcase. I hung the fabric for several days before
putting together and then hung it again overnight before
final pressing and basing the waist together to help
eliminate sag. The skirt was then hand pleated again with
most of the bulk in the back to help set off the twenty
inch train. The finishing was done by hand. And six long
hours into the deep dark night I spent adding the velvet
trim and pearls.
I sewed the front together and
left a short slit for ease of donning. I know some
paintings show an opening down the front with only the
clasp, but my research and sewing opinion of many of the
portraits viewed indicated that this style of dress was
not always done that way. The Betrothed portrait shows no
indication of an open front. She clasps the front of the
skirt in her hands and from the drape of the fabric it
does not appear to be open. Another portrait shows an
overdress obviously laced up the front several inches
with eyelets with the remainder sewed together. I
havent put the eyelets in yet. I am waiting to see
how it drapes when I walk to see if it is necessary.
While there are arguments both for and
against using portraiture as a Primary Source, I looked at
numerous painting of the Venetian School as well as other
contemporaries. I made an amalgam of the images I saw to best
reflect what I thought a Venetian Noblewoman might have worn. I
was not able to use strictly authentic materials due to cost and
husbands evil look. I do however believe I achieved my goal
and provided myself with spiffy garb that is also dually
functional. Obviously I cannot confirm that a Venetian would have
made a reversible dress, but as conspicuous as his or her
consumption was I can extrapolate that someone may have thought
it a useful idea to turn a dress inside out when the outer fabric
has become worn.
The dress worn
I hope you enjoyed seeing my dress as I am and will enjoy wearing
it. Thanks Bella for allowing me to participate in the Showcase!
Historic Textile Patterns in Full Color. [New York, Dover
Publications, Inc.] 1992.
Janson, History of Art 2nd
Edition. [New York, Prentice-Hall Publications]
Boucher, 20,000 Years of Fashion: the History of Costume
and Personal Adornment -- Expanded Edition. [New York,
Harry N. Abrams, Inc] 1987.
Christoph Weiditz, Authentic Everyday Dress of the
Renaissance: All 154 Plates from the
"Trachtenbuch". [New York, Dover Publications,
Inspiration From -- Vittore
Carpaccio: Hair http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/c/Carpaccio_Vittore/large/Holy_Family_with_Two_Donors_WGA.jpg http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/c/Carpaccio_Vittore/large/The_Daughter_of_of_Emperor_Gordian_is_Exorcised_by_St_Triphun_WGA.jpg http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/c/Carpaccio_Vittore/large/Carpaccio_Arrival_of_the_English_Ambassadors_detail4.jpg Fabric and
Clothing http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/c/Carpaccio_Vittore/large/The_Daughter_of_of_Emperor_Gordian_is_Exorcised_by_St_Triphun_WGA.jpg http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/c/Carpaccio_Vittore/large/Meeting_of_the_Betrothed_Couple_and_the_Departure_of_the_Pilgrims_WGA.jpg http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/c/Carpaccio_Vittore/large/The_Baptism_of_the_Selenites_WGA.jpg.
Other Artists of the Venetian School -- Botticelli, Titian, Da
Vinci, Bellini, Giorgione, Tintoretto Color, style and Chemise http://library.thinkquest.org/21960/q523.htm
Micellaneous Sources: Italian
by Laurie Adams, Laurie Schneider Adams
Bellissima! This outfit is simply gorgeous, whilst managing to be
both versatile and cost-efficient at the same time - what more
can anyone ask for? Perfect!!
If you would like to contact
Sorcha, you can do so at sorcha_obranigain (at) hotmail (dot) com
*Camicia or camiscia are both
correct spellings for the 16th century (Florio's Worlde of
Wordes, 1590s) , camica is not as far as I am aware. I have
noted a few people using the spelling camica, hence this note. If
you know of a period correct use of this spelling, please do let
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