The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Jennifer Stephens

Renaissance Faire Participant
A Florentine Gown in the style of Bronzino

"Anyone have an extra right arm they need a sleeve for?"


Jennifer Says...

Hi, my name is Jennifer Allison Stephens. I became interested in costuming shortly after moving to Texas, although Iíve been sewing for about the last 20 years off and on. Iím lucky enough to live 30 minutes from the Texas Renaissance Festival, and can go pretty much as often as I want during the season. Itís a beautiful festival, with some amazing costumes. My first few years at the festival, I went in street clothes, but the more I attended the festival, the harder the costuming bug began to bite.

I started researching Renaissance paintings to learn more about historical costuming, and came across the portrait of the Blue Dress that I have re-created here. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it and decided to take this on as my first historical recreation. Luckily for me, it is also an Italian which allows me to share this with you through Bellaís wonderful website. I hope you enjoy the photos and story behind its re-creation.



Main Fabric and Trim:

It took me over a year to find the blue silk that I have used for the doublet and overdress. I really wanted to capture the original color of the dress as closely as possible, and refused to settle for any but the "right" material for this dress. Letís just say my husband is a very patient and understanding man, and went on many treks with me to help me scout for the material. As much legwork as we did, it was funny then, that I finally found the perfect material on a website. The silk is woven into a chevron "linen look" pattern and is a perfect weight for our wonderful warm Texas Renaissance days. I was lucky enough to find the black and gold trim in the width I wanted, also on a website, and it was pretty close to the pattern on the original portrait.


I constructed everything from scratch for this costume, including all underpinnings. I wanted to re-create this portrait as closely as possible because the detail in this dress, the color combinations, and the accessories are all so stunning together. I hope I have done it justice.


 Click for larger image Smock

I constructed a very simple smock from white linen to protect the outerwear, which in Texas heat, is a complete necessity. I can't imagine trying to wash all of this material every time it is worn, although with our orange Texas dirt, I'm sure the skirt will see a few washings each Renaissance Faire season.


I constructed the corset from blue linen, and prefer to wear the dress with the corset as it gives me the lines that look as close to the portrait as possible. I used 1/2 inch cable ties from the local hardware store as boning. It holds everything in quite well, but is flexible enough that I can still move freely.


The farthingale is constructed with cotton broadcloth and I used buckram covered wires for the hoops. I like the way the wire gives enough stiffness, but it doesn't have much weight. I didn't want the dress to look huge, because as you can see in the portrait, it isn't a very wide skirt, so I made the farthingale a medium width.


Sleeves and Forepart

 The sleeves and forepart are lightweight silk, underlined with cotton broadcloth for support and slight bulk. I thought long and hard about what to use for the stripe, and decided that organza ribbon might work well. I double-layered the ribbon to get the right color and thickness. Consequently, the stripes came out with a great sparkle because of the double layering of the ribbon. The hardest part of the sleeves was getting the stripes to run parallel on the sleeve and still match up on the seamline. I pinned, and re-pinned, and said many bad words before they were complete. Imagine my frustration then, when I realized I had made two "right" sleeves, rather than one for each arm! Anyone have an extra right arm they need a sleeve for? J I made the ruffle at the end of the sleeve detachable in case I want to wear the sleeves in a different manner later on. The ruffle is edged with a matte gold trim.


 Click for larger image


 The partlet is constructed of silk organza, and I adorned it with glass pearls and Swarovski crystal beads rather than attempt to embroider the collar. Iím much better at working with beads than embroidery thread.  



The skirt is 5 panels and trimmed down the front and around the entire bottom. This was my first attempt ever at cartridge pleating, and I have to say it was easier and faster than I imagined it would be. Who knew you could fit so much material in so small a space?





The doublet is the first one I have ever made, and was a bit of a challenge. I had to redraft some of the pieces to fit, but once I had the pieces drafted properly, it came together pretty quickly. I trimmed down the front, and also across the top of the shoulders just as it looks in the portrait. The double-roll sleeves attached to the doublet were quite a challenge. The first one I constructed looked like it came from an animated film, straight off of Snow Whiteís costume! After getting over my giggle fits, I completely re-drafted the sleeves and they are now a much closer match to the portrait. They are "stuffed and puffed" with the same silk organza used to make the partlet.



The headpiece is made of heavy wire (electric fencing wire to be specific Ė I had to get creative) strung with large glass pearls. I already had a pendant similar to the one in the portrait, and simply clipped it onto the headpiece.

To make the spirals on my head, I completely doused my hair in gel. I've decided I like the style and it's comfortable, so I might try wearing it to work this way. Only if I don't want to go back the next day though.

I was lucky enough to find two belts in a local department store that were pretty close to the girdle and neckpiece in the portrait, and I added the pearls to complete the look.

I found some great shoes at a discount shoe retailer in gold suede, and they are incredibly comfortable, as well as being as close to historically correct as possible.


Thank You!

My thanks to Bella for hosting this wonderful website, my husband for putting up with me, and to all of you for taking the time to view my work. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at lost_flamingo (at) hotmail (dot) com


More Images 

Bella Says.....

Wow. Well, what more can I say? I am always flabbergasted by the effort so many of you put into making an historical re-creation, and what a re-creation this is! It is so true to the portrait it's almost scary. Almost. Nothing this gorgeous could ever be truly scary. Isn't that blue silk truly scrummy? And I just love those sleeves. And those accessories. And that hairstyle - just perfect. Ok, I'll stop drooling now.

If you would like to contact Jennifer you can do so at lost_flamingo (at) hotmail (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.)