The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


Baroness Marit the Wanderer

New South Wales, Australia
(Shire of Agaricus, Kingdom of Lochac)

Costumer and SCA Member

A Venetian Gown in the Style of  the 1530s

Marit Says

Bernardino Licinio   Venetian gown with bronze lace wrap and gloves/“Portrait of the Artist’s sister-in-law” 1530’s.  Museo del Prado, Madrid

(note side lacing indication and camicia showing at bottom of upper sleeve)

 Whilst looking through portraits of people in Renaissance clothing I came across Bernadino Licinio’s “Portrait of the Artist’s sister-in-law” (see left).  Painted in the 1530’s, it is now housed in the “Museo del Prado” in Madrid.  It is a “Venetian gown with bronze lace wrap and gloves” according to one web-site.


I was fascinated.  Yet I was sure I’d seen a similar gown somewhere else, and had a photo of it somewhere.  I looked for and found it (see right).  Painted at around the same time by the same artist, it was the same woman. 

I looked at the subtle differences and decided to make it.

Bernardino Licinio  Second Portrait  1533  

(note extended shoulders and artists correction of left shoulder)



When I compared the two portraits the structure of the gowns became clearer… 

·                    One appeared to be side-laced.  (The slight puckering of the seam indicated it.)  The other wasn’t clear enough to show one way or the other.

·                    Both showed slightly gathered box pleats.

·                    Both had a very full upper sleeve.  (my sleeve is the full width of the fabric)

·                    The fore-sleeves were slightly different, with one having slashing and the other not.  I’m not a fan of slashed sleeves so I opted for the other type.

·                    The turban was consistent in both outfits.

·                    The “partlet” (and here I use that term loosely) was depicted in one painting as a net drape.  In the other it was depicted as an integral part of the gown.  In fact it showed a difference in the artistry of the painter.  One was painted with the shoulders as they were; the other was painted with the gown past the shoulder point and used the “partlet” to extend the shoulder-line of the woman (past that humanly possible).  Artistic interpretation still bore the traces of where the artist had made the change.  I opted to lose the drape.

·                    The short gloves appear in both paintings, and appear to be leather. 

·                    The necklace is different in both paintings.  So, my choice there.

·                    The belt was another matter.  I liked the idea of the belt, but the one in the portraits was indistinct.  I took a little advice from Mistress Oonagh and made one to my liking, attaching a pomander to the end.

·                    The gown was clearly velvet.  My attempt was made possible due to a sale at my local fabric shop.  8.5 metres of velveteen later I was ready to go.  I used velveteen as a closer approximation to the velvet of the time, and a lighter and slightly cooler fabric than the heavier velvets now available at exorbitant cost.  As it is the velveteen is very hot for me to wear.  This is a winter gown.


Bodice showing cording of corset layer

 My order of work tends to be fairly rigid so as to fit everything together.  I first over-lock the raw ends of the fabric and pre-wash it.  Fabric shrinkage is a horror.  When dried, the fabric is folded ready to cut.  I lay out my patterns which I draft myself, and cut.  I top and tail over-lock the skirt sections and sew the seams, in this case leaving the side seams.  There are 6 drops for the skirt in my version of this gown.

I determined to use a self-corseted gown using a modified rope corset technique (see left).  This is mainly due to a medical condition which sees me change size rapidly. To do this, three bodice layers are cut - 1 from the fabric and 2 from strong silk. 

The two silk layers were sewn together with channels for the “rope” (in this case jute). The rope was threaded into the channels and trimmed.  The remaining bodice piece was then attached and turned through. 

The sleeves were assembled with the fore-sleeve being lined with the strong silk.  (This is not a slippery silk fabric.)  They were then pleated onto the armscye.  The upper arm was left partly open under the arm to allow the side lacing to be done properly, and for ease of getting into the gown.  I noted that the original paintings both show topstitching along the neck edge, so I top stitched mine in fine gold thread.

The skirt was box-pleated onto the waist, and the skirt sides sewn leaving adequate lacing room.  The gown was then hemmed using Tailor Stitch. 

Due to my size problems the bodice is triple laced.  That is the back laces together underneath at the front, and then the sides lace up (see right).  There is a 4 inch overlap on each side for the side-lacing.  This allows for size differences up to 8 inches.  

Marit the Wanderer

Lacing side back showing variations


Belt showing pomander and scent ball



My version of the dress



Bella Says.....

Wow. Not only is this dress beautiful, but it's ingenious in its execution! What a wonderful way to make a dress fit despite variation in one's size. I love it! Well done Marit! 

If you would like to contact Marit you can do so at mayhem_401 (at) hotmail (dot) com



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