The Realm of Venus
Bice da Ghiacceto
Orange County, California, USA
Costumer and SCA Member
A Florentine Gown in
the Style of 1485-90
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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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to be Showcased? E-mail