The Realm of Venus
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Costumer and Renaissance
A Venetian Gown in
the Style of the 1570s-80s
first started sewing in high school because a few friends and I wanted to attend
the Maryland Renaissance Festival in costume. We went on a fabric spree, bought
some Simplicity patterns and congregated at my Grandma’s house.
For this reason, I credit my grandmother for teaching me all the basic
sewing techniques that I continue to build upon.
returned to costuming and sewing about 2 years ago (almost a decade after my
high school days). My husband
surprised me with my first sewing machine last Christmas, and I knew there was
no going back. I delved into the
fun and challenging world of more accurate historical sewing and Venetian was my
first major undertaking. This hobby
is purely for my own enjoyment, and I have a lot of fun working out every aspect
of my projects. I wear the costumes
to Renaissance Faires and every other chance I get.
so many others, the first inspiration to make a Venetian gown came from
numerous viewings of the movie Dangerous Beauty.
Research on the internet, especially Bella’s site, motivated me
to go down a path guided by historical references.
wanted a gown in the warm colors so often showcased in Venetian
portraiture, and initially bought red velvet for this project.
Then, as fate would have it, I happened upon a rusty orange
cut-velvet at a locally run fabric warehouse.
It was destiny. At $15/yard, it was significantly more expensive than I
initially budgeted. Regardless,
I purchased all that remained on the bolt--a scant 5.5 yards.
I looked at it often, but it took me quite a while to build up
the courage to cut it. (See top right)
particularly loved this fabric because it reminded me of one of my
favorite fresco images. (See bottom right)
first project was the camicia. I
was inspired by a 1530’s Palma Vecchio portrait that actually
pre-dates my gown’s time period (see left), but I indulged myself and
plan to use it for earlier period Italian gowns, as well.
It is made from light gauzy cotton.
I couldn’t find linen that was sheer enough for my
intentions—I wanted practically see-through.
The neckline and cuffs are edged in a deep silky deep yellow
thread and gathered for the “curled” effect. I added a red-worked
neckline and cuffs using a motif my husband helped me to design.
I would love to make myself some matching red-worked drawers for
a future project.
know that there is much debate on the use of corsets in Venetian dress, but I
personally believe that the later styles did use corsetry. Since I didn’t have
a corset, this was the perfect opportunity to make one. I used some old curtains
from the goodwill, and a mix of metal and plastic boning.
It is very sturdy, and quite heavy—in retrospect I wish I’d made it a
bit lighter for hot weather.
also wear a lightly roped petticoat to give more body to my heavy skirts.
the dress itself, I was chiefly inspired by Vecellio’s woodcuts.
was the primary inspiration for the shape of both sleeves and dress. I chose not to do the Venetian
front-ladder lacing—I wanted the fabric’s motif to be more prominent than
that style would allow. This was also an opportunity to experiment with
side-back lacing like that seen on some extant garments from the time period.
skirt is made from 3 widths of the 60” bolt, cartridge pleated onto the
bodice, and is quite full. The bodice has v-points on the front and back,
according to Venetian styles, though I wish I’d made the front dip more
pronounced, as in the woodcuts.
in the Vecellio series inspired me to incorporate contrasting guards, though I
noticed that they aren’t common in the Venetian portraits of the time. The guards are made from strips of maroon wool.
I am tempted to add a second guard at the hem of the dress, but haven’t
yet made up my mind.
fairly simple, the sleeves are my favorite part of this gown.
The Vecellio woodcuts show an atypical-spiral pattern on the sleeves, and
I decided to do an interpretation of this using my maroon guard fabric.
The sleeves are fastened to the dress with some inexpensive metal-look
buttons from ebay. These buttons also run down the length of the sleeve
front, gapping so that I can pouf my camicia through.
have a small collection of accessories to complement this dress—mostly
variations of (faux) pearls. The
girdle is made from a variety of glass, plastic and metal beads from local bead
shops and thrift shops. The large
brass metal pieces were a lucky find on eBay, which I antiqued with black paint. When at the faire, I carry a silver hand-etched goblet that I
also found at a thrift store. I
made a bag out of rich fabric strips, and carry it when I can’t suffer my
I started this costume, I knew that I had to have a flag fan, since it is so
uniquely Venetian. Mine is made
from a sample square of drapery fabric. I
embroidered it with gold thread for an accent, trimmed it with velvet and thin
lace, and stiffened it with a very sturdy interfacing.
It is larger than I anticipated, but I love the result and utility, and
was a lot of fun to make.
used the same grab-bag of glass and plastic thrift-store pearls to make
necklaces, and found earrings at various stores to use as earrings, pendants and
like to wear a veil to replicate the woodcuts--it’s a rather simple thing, but
makes me feel quite elegant. I read
somewhere that early Venetian sumptuary laws required courtesans to wear yellow
veils. I’m fairly sure that this
requirement no longer existed by the later 1500’s, but I thought a yellow veil
was fitting. I plan to make a more voluptuous veil (more like the ones
seen in the woodcuts) when the mood strikes. I also intend to make a sheer
partlet (perhaps even a falling ruff) for a later projects.
love the way I feel when I wear this gown, and I hope to add more accessories to
this with time. I am already eyeing
my fabric stash and wondering what to make next….
Isn't this gown just dreamy? I love it! Julie has done a wonderful job
creating this - everything from the top of her veiled head to the guards on
her full skirts to the tips of her ringed fingers speaks of Venetian
If you would like to see more of this
dress creation you can do so by clicking on this
link. Julie has a blog
here, and can be contacted at jewelbug12 (at) hotmail (dot) com
Would you like
to be Showcased? E-mail