The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Christy Lee

Texas, USA

Costumer and Ren Faire-goer

A Florentine Gown in the Style of  the 1510s

Christy Says


 Is it possible to create something that looks the part with little knowledge, sparse time, and even less money?  I was willing to try. 

 My allotted budget, $100.  I can hear you gasp now!

I had little over 8 months to get a dress and all its trimmings together in time for the Texas Renaissance Festival in south Texas mid October.  That may seem like an eternity to most of you.  I did run out of time on some items such as a petticoat and drawers that fit correctly. 

The inspiration painting (see right) I had loved for many years, first finding it on Jennifer Thompsonís website Festive Attyre. Since this would be my first attempt at anything even semi-historically accurate the dress seemed basic enough not to become too terribly overwhelming.  It also didnít hurt that she made a similar dress complete with extremely detailed description of the construction.  It seemed like a good match for a first dress. 

One of the details I took into consideration throughout the construction was that in Texas the weather can be a gamble especially in October.  It could be cold but being south Texas it can also be very hot. So hot is what I planned on, therefore a separate corset seemed like an unnecessary layer.



The chemise is made with cotton using the pattern posted on Jennifer's site.   I smocked the front and back (see pic below, left) instead of hemming or gathering.  I secured the miniature pleats with a strip of fabric attached from behind giving it an invisible gathered look.

I made some simple drawers (below, right) but in the end I wasnít satisfied with the fit and ended up running out of time to make another pair.

 For the main color of the dress I found some unknown material in a deep blue.  I looked for more paintings showing Florentine dresses similar to the one in the inspiration painting.  While that color blue isnít a popular color for the body I found many examples for it in the sleeves.  I found the same blue as the main body of the dress in periods before and after this dress (see right).  Since the fabric was only $1 a yard and due to budget I figured this was close enough.  


I corded the bodice as illustrated in the article on Jenniferís site since I didnít have a separate corset. I also added a small pocket in the skirt to carry items that I would need repeated access to like the camera.  It was much easier than untying the purse and retying it all the time.  The pocket was purely a functional addition after having gone to a few fairs.  The purses look good and function well but can be a pain when you are trying to hide non period items frequently like a camera.

I originally wanted to go with the belled sleeves of the other woman in the inspiration painting.  After several mock-ups and research, I wasnít comfortable with those alone and would need a separate set of under sleeves.  I didnít want to make the dress too hot with unnecessary layers so I ended up using the pattern for the large sleeves on Jenniferís site using a peachy/ orange brocade in my stash. 

For the hair I wanted to make the snood thing seen in many paintings.  My hair is very straight and the mock-ups seemed too flat and pancake like so I changed course and went for the ponytail cover.  I opted not to wear the ribbon around my head to secure it figuring it would be too uncomfortable and annoying all day at a fair, same reason for not wearing my hair over my ears.  The end result (see below) I believe is close enough and was very comfortable to wear.  I didnít have to redo my hair at any point in the day.  It worked wonderfully. 

The sash is made from salmon silk scraps from the belled sleeves that I ended up not using.  The little purse is from some deep orange brocade in my stash, lined in the same blue fabric the dress is made from.

All the time to work on the dress and I nearly forgot about jewelry.  Last minute I made a small cross with a red jewel (see below, left) and attached it onto a cord similar to another painting (below, middle and a close-up below, right).  However, I didnít secure the little metal ring well enough and it broke.  Instead I made a small beaded necklace  using little wooden beads I found at Wal-Mart of all places.  I have no idea if they used wooden beads.

The shoes are little Chinese Mary Janes that have a plastic sole that I have had for a while.  Ended up busting the strap on one but they were cheap and they worked well. 

The weather was beautiful.  Mid 70ís and somewhat breezy in the shade.  It was rather hot while sitting in the arena watching the jousting with the sun shinning on you.

By now Iím sure you are wondering how the $100 budget held up.  See for yourself!


$13 Ė 13yds blue mystery fabric (not sure how much I actually used, some was used for mock ups) 

$2.50 Ė 1yd salmon silk

$3.50 - 1yd peachy brocade

$15 Ė 15yds narrow cotton for dress lining

$20 Ė 4yds cotton for chemise

$10 Ė 3.5yd velveteen

$14 - 2 6yd laces

$6 - doz aiglets

$3 - two tassels for sash

$2 Ė headband

$3 - trim for head wear

$3 - beads for necklace

Total = $95




The play by play of the construction of this and other items can be seen in my journal

Bella Says.....

Oh yummy! Isn't this colour combination just wonderful? I love it! It's a gorgeous style and Christy has done a wonderful job of re-creating it, from head-dress to hem. Brava Christy!

If you would like to contact Christy you can do so at christymlee (at) gmail (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.)