The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase



Donna Caterucia Bice da Ghiacceto
(Kerri Morin)
Orange County, California, USA

Costumer and SCA Member

A Florentine Gown in the Style of  1485-90


Caterucia Says...

Hello!  I am Kerri Morin, also known as Donna (Lady) Caterucia Bice da Ghiacceto in the SCA.  I live in Orange County, California (Kingdom of Caid, Barony of Gyldenholt) and have been costuming for about two years.  I am interested in European historical dress from the 14th – 16th centuries but focus mainly on Florentine dress.


  This dress was made for a Caid Arts & Sciences event known as Festival of the Rose.  At the event three friends and I were performing a 15th century Italian court dance, Mercenzia, so I needed a dress to go with the time period.  I have always loved Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Birth of the Virgin so decided this was the perfect time to make the dress.  When I first started making Italian gowns, I purchased three fabrics that were on sale for $2/yard.  Luckily, one of them was perfect for the Ghirlandaio dress because it seemed to emulate the portrait fabric well. I love it when  fabric  tells you what it wants to be!


 Once I decided to use the green and brown fabric for the outer dress, I needed to find fabric for the  under-dress.  I chose a gold-toned linen that complimented the green and brown fabric.  I chose linen because the dress would be worn in the California summer and it could also double as a field dress to wear to day tournaments and wars.  I also decided to make the under dress front-lacing, which was new for me (all the dresses I’d made previously had been back or side-lacing).   I have a bodice pattern fitted to me by my Laurel, Maestra Maria Theresa Ipeńarrieta, and was the basis for both dresses.   


The  under-dress bodice  was lined in gold linen and was interlined with heavy cotton canvas lightly supported with Rigilene.  I like using Rigilene because it is lightweight and easy to sew.  When planning the lacing, I decided to use Jennifer Thompson’s tip of sewing two rows of ribbon on the inside of the bodice to keep the lacing straight.  Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well for me as the sides of the bodice rolled outward when it was laced.  I decided to remove the ribbons and use lacing rings instead.  The rings worked much better for me and achieved the look I wanted.  Once the bodice was completed, I attached it to the skirt.  I made the skirt a bit short and not as full as usual because I wanted to be able to comfortably wear the under dress to tournaments.


   For the  over-dress, I modified my existing bodice pattern to form a deep V in front.  I lined the bodice in the same fabric and also interlined it with cotton canvas with a little Rigilene for support – mostly along the front edges.   The Birth of The Virgin portrait doesn’t show how the overdress is closed so I decided a pretty clasp would do the job and achieve the desired look.  


 I found a beautiful  clasp  from a local merchant that I used for the closure.  The skirts of this dress are much more voluminous than that of the under dress.  I never thought I would finish hemming it all!  


   The  sleeves  for the overdress were a challenge for me.  I have a love-hate relationship with sleeves.  They are usually the first thing I notice when looking at period clothes but are always my biggest challenge to make.  These sleeves were no exception.  I loved the bell-shape of the bottom of the sleeve and decided I did not want that to be separate piece of fabric attached to the main part of the sleeve because  I didn’t want a seam.  So I decided to shape the cuff into the sleeve pattern.   The sleeve is pieced in two parts, with a seam running up the top and bottom of my arm.  When sewing it together, I left an opening at the elbow for movement and for my chemise to show.  The sleeve ties on to the bodice with hidden grosgrain ribbons.  While I’m happy with the overall look of the sleeve I’d like to improve the shape at a later time.  I have enough of the fabric left to make one more set, once I perfect the pattern.


I really enjoyed making this dress and wearing it.  I have worn it for two period dance performances because the skirt has great movement and the bodice and sleeves are comfortable. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Bella Says.....

What lovely colour combinations, just gorgeous! Caterucia has done a terrific job with this Florentine ensemble - she looks like she just stepped out of a Ghirlandaio fresco. Brava Caterucia!

If you would like to contact Caterucia you can do so at bkmorin (at) socal (dot) rr (dot) com.

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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.)