The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Dame Fearga Kavanagh

SCA Participant
A Venetian Gown in the style of 1570s


Fearga Says...

Greetings! I am Dame Fearga Kavanagh, and I have been an SCA participant for (mumble) years. Okay, 25 this summer (I joined when I was 3!). I was elevated to the Order of the Laurel for Costuming in 1998, and have pursued further insanity by allowing myself to be elevated to the Order of the Pelican in 2000.

I have been sewing since I was four years old—my mother was and is a tailor, and felt that an education in the fine art of clothing construction was more important than learning to cook. I can’t really get through the day without some interaction with fabric, be it research, shopping, or just going through my stash.

After so many years in the SCA, I had reached a stage where I was burnt out. I wasn’t enjoying research, I didn’t want to be in front of my sewing machine, and nothing was inspiring. Then I found this site just after the lovely Bella started doing the Showcases. I was re-energized by the stunning gowns and the great descriptions from the lovely ladies—the enthusiasm was contagious! I found myself drawn to two images in the portraits sections as my primary inspiration:



 I loved the lines of the gown, and I loved the color—Orange!! I love all things Orange, including my Orange kitty, Elizabeth. (Orange fur, lots of attitude…the name was a natural….) 




Then I found these charming ladies:



 More orange, and depictions of women of substance! A clear representation of a bust line curve!

Being a solid size 20-22, I was drawn to the voluptuousness of the Venetian women. I thought to myself, I have the charming double chin and the nice squishy shape of those ladies! What an ideal period to explore! Off I went to the sewing room.


Others are born with the gift of song, or the ability to dance—I was gifted with fabric karma. Go figure. I have the odd ability to find stupendous fabrics for ridiculously low prices in strange places. This roll of fabric leapt off a table at Hancock’s and fell on my foot, thereby announcing that it had to go home with me. Not only that, it was 40% off! Several years later, a roll of orange ribbon literally fell off a shelf when I was walking down an aisle at a craft store—not being one to ignore omens I bought that, too. Later, while cleaning my sewing room, I inadvertently dropped the ribbon reel on the fabric.  Voila! A match! 


The chemise is a lovely ivory linen/rayon blend that has a woven pattern and was constructed using Jen Thompson’s pattern, and edged with a fine white machined bobbin lace. 




 The day before I had pictures taken, I found this lace for the cuffs—It’s a wonderful match for the chemise lace.

I drafted the bodice using the back V as shown in this portrait:




 And also used that portrait, as well as this one:

for inspiration for the sleeves. It’s a standard back seam sleeve pattern with slashing at the top, lined with bright orange cotton and decorated with filigree buttons. I’ve tacked the sleeve to the bodice at the underarm to hold it in place and keep the “poof” on the slashing. 



   I was interested in experimenting with the plastic cable ties that every one has been talking about to see if I could construct a bodice that would hold all my various squishy parts in place, create the correct curve on the bodice, and stay comfortable throughout the day. I used the ½ inch ties and placed five lines of boning on either side of the front, and V-shaped boning in the back. 


 I used Jen’s method of lacing up the bodice, and learned that you need to be very good friends with whomever is lacing you up—it’s a challenge, and unbelievably boring to sew up to boot, but it works beautifully (Thank you Jen!). I think I managed to get the right silhouette (See right) which looks pretty close to the curve in this portrait:



My various jewelry bits are from my personal collection. The belt was strung up and then whipstiched into place to follow the line of the bodice. The outrageous pearl drop earrings were found at a local thrift shop—I dropped a piece of fabric, and when I leaned over to pick it up, there they were, staring at me in the jewelry case, and all of $3. 

The first time I got all dressed up in this gown, I knew exactly how this woman felt:

I’m not a young’n. I’m not skinny. My hair is well on the way to white. But this dress makes me feel powerful. I can take over a room in this gown—I feel confident, comfortable, and completely at ease. And I can wear it for 14 hours straight and not get a pinch, a pull, or a backache and not one bit of me slides out of place. I also feel the closest I’ve ever felt to “being in period.”

My friend Karis (last month’s showcase) and I had terrific fun building these gowns, and thank all of you who are exploring this era. You’ve really made it fun to sew again, and for that I am most grateful!


Bella Says.....

Wow. I love the combination of colours in this fabric - orange and pink! So unexpected, but so right together. Delicious. Dame Fearga has done a terrific job in creating a sumptuous and inspiring Venetian gown. Brava Fearga!

If you would like to contact Dame Fearga you can do so at fearga (at) yahoo (dot) com

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.)