The Realm of Venus
A Florentine Gown in the style of Bronzino
an extra right arm they need a sleeve for?"
|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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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