The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Jennifer McDaniel
(Antonia de la Vale)

Evans, Georgia, USA
Kingdom of Atlantia; Shire of Border Vale Keep)

Costumer and SCA Member

A Venetian Gown in the Style of  the 1520s

Jennifer Says


Some days, even a courtesan has unfashionable duties to which she must attend. And, at times, these duties cannot be attended to in fabulous, luscious fabrics, dazzling jewels and mile high chopines.



 Thus, we must turn to the less than fabulous, not quite so luscious, maybe a bit less than stunning bits and pieces of our wardrobe. But, that doesn't mean they're of lesser quality or any less extraordinary in their own right. For instance, perhaps a gown allows one to actually catch one's breath while chasing a devilish 5 year old around the piazza. And, when the day grows hot and humid on the Grand Canal, a couple of discreet tugs renders a dress much cooler. Also, perchance this dress is perfect for climbing trees to rescue the 7 year old's gatto, and with a couple of brushes with the hand, it returns to its original extraordinary state.

Velo! We have a dress in the Venetian style of the 1520s.


I wanted a dress that was 'simpler' than the more extravagant later 1500 gowns, since I do have children and they would probably be with me at some of the events I attend. Also, I wanted something I could, if necessary, get in and out of by myself, camp in, wear more than once before cleaning, could take some abuse... the list was endless. And, after scouring Bella's site, I saw her gown of much the same style. So, I filched the idea!

When designing this dress, there were some very real issues to consider. Unfortunately, as much as I would love (and often covet) the more flamboyant and elaborate gowns of the later 1500s, there's a certain reality I have to face. Form has to follow function in my life, as I've given birth to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (or, their Renaissance equivalents), and I know that as soon as I create one of those beautiful creations, it will wind up a pile of stained rags. There's also the consideration that I live in South Georgia, which 6 months out of the year is like living in a pot of boiling water. Comfort under layers and layers of garb is also a very real consideration. While I may LOOK fabulous while passing out from heat exhaustion, all my work would be ruined when the EMTs take their scissors and cut right up the bodice of the gown and corset.

So, I have to be a bit more practical at the moment when creating historical garb. Thus, I used practical fabrics, sturdy construction, not to mention a bit of internal ingenuity when piecing things together.

The outer gown is made of unlined 100% cotton drapery twill. It's of medium weight, and drapes well, but allows for airflow. I loved the sage color. While I don't know I really have a historical reference to it, it just looks like an earth toned plant dye, so I couldn't resist. The underskirt is also 100% cotton, but of a darker Prussian blue. To help the skirts stand out a bit, since the fabrics aren't as stiff as some others that might have been used, I am wearing a corded petticoat. For the cords, I used braided denim (read: old blue jeans, cut into 1" strips) with a leather stripping for braid integrity. It seems to work well, but still offer some flexibility.


What do I consider the best feature of this garb? No corset! I made an inner lining for the bodice where I inserted the boning. I used cable ties for flexibility. One small difference I added was side lacings. These aren't 100% historically documented on a gown of this period, but it gives me more flexibility when trying to get in and out of the dress by myself. The ties are satin ribbon, which, I have found are NOT the best for the job, particularly when trying to create some tension. I'll probably remove at least the front ribbons and replace them with hidden rings and a different ribbon or fabric tie at some point.

The chemise is mid-weight linen, and the neck is decorated with crystals and freshwater pearls. Accessories include a hand strung necklace of freshwater pearls and quartz beads, a hand knitted snood, parasol and straw hat. I have also included pearl prayer beads and a reproduction chain with Faith, Hope and Love charms documented to be in the Vatican Collection from the 1500s.


At some point, I'll add the angel outer sleeve and tight middle sleeve, but I ran out of time and I can't find exactly the right fabric for the lining.

All in all, I'm happy with the dress. It turned out well, and as it was a learning experience, I'm just thankful I didn't once have to rip out a seam. Of course, there are things I'll do differently next time, and I'll probably continue to tweak this one.




Antonia De Vale (Jennifer McDaniel) is in the Kingdom of Atlantia (barely), and in the 'real' world is an elementary music and art teacher. What she REALLY is, though, is a dabbler, and can't turn away from a challenge, which includes (but is not limited to) recreating historical garb. 

Bella Says.....

Ok, I know I'm biased, but I just love this style of dress! And I love the colour. And the trim. And the accessories. Ok, so what don't I love about this gown? Umm...nothing! Well done Jennifer, it's a dress any Venetian would be proud of.

You can reach Jennifer at sixdegreesarts (at) comcast (dot) net or check out her website at

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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.)