The Realm of Venus
Taran of Glastonbury
of Darach, Kingdom of Caid
Oaks, California, USA)
SCA Member and Costumer
A Florentine Gown
in the Style of the 1540s
been costuming for over 35 years. My
first exposure to Renaissance costume was when I was about 9, when the Southern
California Renaissance Pleasure Faire was, if not brand new, very, very young.
I discovered the SCA about 5 years later, and started participating 3
years after that. Back in those
days, SCA costume was a great deal less advanced than it is today, but I was in
heaven. Many years later, I had an
opportunity to sew costumes for two different ballet companies in North Texas,
but my first love was, and continues to be Renaissance clothing.
Iíve created a lot of medieval and Renaissance clothes over the years,
but this is the first time Iíve tried to reproduce a gown point by point.
gown was inspired by the fabric. I
lucked into some lovely cotton damask for $2 a yard, and couldnít pass it up.
For almost a year, it sat looking at me from a shelf. Now, I almost always put my fabric in storage buckets after
putting it on my inventory, but this one wanted to stay out.
I rediscovered the 1540 portrait of an unknown Florentine noblewoman (above)
that people sometimes refer to as ďthe poison green dress.Ē
I surveyed my Live Journal friends, and the consensus was that, since so
many people had always wanted to do that dress, I was obligated to do it.
My fabric isnít nearly so poisonous a green, but the pattern of my
damask evoked the original, and Iím a much more pastel kind of girl.
construction of the gown was slowed by weeks of pondering the less common
details. There are quite a few
fussy little niceties to this gown that intrigued me, and which were
contributory to my decision to attempt it.
had a bit of difficulty interpreting the triangular bits along the
neckline--they look almost like rickrack! However, I needed to figure that
out before I could start the assembly of the bodice.
also needed to interpret the partlet--it looks like there's a box pleated
self-fabric ruff on top of the standing collar, and little blobby lace all along
the front and top edge. The fabric seems to be a sheer white silk or linen,
embroidered with lozenges or perhaps flowers. There is definitely a shoulder seam on this one.
Soutache or rattail or lucet/fingerbraid for the ties?
I ended up finding some pre-made narrow braid that matched the
inspiration portrait so closely that I stopped worrying about the problem.
also wondered: Is the carcanet
topaz? Amber? Gold? I still need to get an index finger ring
with a square red stone to complete the jewelry.
Further wondering had me asking myself, is the headband at the front of a caul
or simply a jeweled band sitting in front of her braid? I finally
determined that the jeweled band sits in front of the braid.
Although it is not yet finished, I have commissioned a big gold chain like the
one in the portrait in exchange for a gambeson. I like barter. I'll depend my Laurel medallion from it
so as not to violate the prerogatives of the Chivalry.
I need some soft green leather gloves and a lace edged handkerchief to complete
to the construction: First,
I cut, sewed, turned, pressed, folded and stitched at 1/2" the
itty bitty picadils that go around the upper arm poofs. The ones
that go around the wrists are even smaller.
When I set and stitched in the wrist picadils on the sleeves, I ran
into a stumbling block. Of course, the picadils on the first
sleeve went perfectly, so the second set had to be dreadful.
Three times, I took out the line of stitching holding the picadils and
lining onto the sleeve, reset the picadils, restitched it. The
sleeves are lined with a very pretty pale celery/spring green Egyptian
cotton that coordinates well with the fashion fabric, but of course,
no one will ever see it. I, on the other hand, will know
it's there and love it. And
now you know it, too.
I tested the sleeve and elected to have a small slit (actually an open
bit of seam) at each wrist, closed with a button, so I don't have to
fight with the hand openings every time I wear the sleeves.
The wrist picadils and
The mostly constructed
upper sleeve, which does not have stuffing. It puffs by itself.
upper sleeves went together quite smoothly.
The fashion fabric is a series of piped, lined panes. The lining is shorter than the panes, which causes the panes
to bulge outwards into a puff shape.
The sheer puffs between the lining and the panes are made by
cutting an oversized sleeve shape, both wider and longer than the
decided that the best way to do the slashes on the lower sleeves,
after testing the fray propensities of the fabric, was to do them as
turned facings. This involves putting a rectangle of
self-fabric, right sides together, over the spot where the slash ends
up, sewing a long narrow (at most 1/4" wide) box around the
designated slash placement and cutting along the slash line, carefully
clipping to the corners of the box, turning and pressing. Since
there was going to be decorative cording along the slashes, and they
are tied shut, the fact that the openings are box-shaped rather than a
pure slash makes little difference. I contemplated and
rejected the possibility of making the slashes ovals. The puffs
coming through (which are false puffs--I've never been able to get
real puffs to stay where they belong) are sufficient to make the oval
How I do the slashes,
with a puff in progress
The prairie point
detailing and piping along the neckline
found it very interesting that the little bits of cord tying the
slashes closed are frayed at their ends.
I chose to bind off the cords with matching thread so that the
fraying is controlled.
The lower sleeves were finished so that they can be tied in and
alternated with other sleeves occasionally, with the upper puff being
attached into the armscye. The other option would have been to
sew both sleeves into the armscye, but I chose to err (if itís an
error, which I donít believe it to be) on the side of flexibility.
The tiny little points around the neckline were done, with a vast
amount of fiddly effort, by setting prairie points between the piping
and the lining. I had to rip out about half the seam and tuck
errant points back into the seamline and handstitch them down. I
then went around and blindstitched the piping's loose edge to the
prairie points. If I do this sort of detailing again, I will
make the squares out of which I make the triangles about half again as
big, so as to allow more seam allowance!
I set in the first pair of the false puffs on the sleeves of the gown, they
didn't want to stay puffed out. I did not make this gown in a 100%
authentic manner (for example, I'm using a cotton/rayon damask with rayon piping
and cording and nylon organza for the puffs), but I didn't want to stray too
far afield if I could help it. I had a choice of leaving it as is
and hoping that the pressure of the lining and the chemise sleeve will keep the
puffs where they belong (after all, they won't really have anywhere to go) or if
I should tack a wisp of tulle inside each puff, which will guarantee they will
stay where they need to be. After a bit more agonizing, I stuffed them.
sleeves have ribbons at their head ends to run through metal rings sewn to the
inside of the bodice. I placed them
close enough together that there would be no gaps.
As it turned out, the top puff covers any gapping if there should be any.
I ran the seams on the skirt, I determined that I really don't need to
have four 54" widths of fabric, so I reduced that to three, which means I
have more fabric left over to make something glorious for my husband, and which
makes it less bulky.
the bodice with a waistline that dips somewhat in front, although a straight
waistline would make it more obviously Florentine. The seriously pointed
waistlines do not seem to be as popular in Florence as elsewhere. Unfortunately,
I canít get the lady in the inspiration portrait to move her arm to show me
the cut of the waistline, so Iím going to have to assume that the waistline is
round, similar to almost every other Italian gown of the decade that Iíve seen
partlet came together when I found a serendipitous piece of
embroidered chiffon. It
had the lozenges, but not the stripes.
It called for some flower-designed lace, but when I applied it,
it looked just a little too ďlazy-daisyĒ for my taste.
Tiny gold seed beads solved that problem.
A couple days later, I had finished putting the lace on the
partlet and jeweling it. Next was assembling and hemming it, and
finally, putting on the ties. I hand frenched the shoulder
seams. This fabric is too sheer to use the serger on it.
The stuff for the belt started as Christmas ornaments.
I got pearls instead of gold beads because they were prettier,
but I was not 100% happy with just linking them together. I
restrung them on tigertail and interspersed more of the gold beads
that made up the billament.
partlet had some difficulty standing up around the face as in the
inspiration portrait, so I added some light boning strips. Worked like
Partlet, and a peek at
Chemise, and a peek at
chemise/smock came next. I realized that I needed a new chemise
for this gown, with the pretty lace wrist ruffles and the delicate
lace band across the neck edge, partly because the edges show, and
partly because all my other chemises had sleeves that are too big.
Rather than using a drawstring, this neckline is bound into a
square shape, arguably the historical method.
Lace for the neckline was measured and pinned to shape.
Just for fun, I put some lace on the bottom hem as well.
Putting the whole ensemble together for the first time was very exciting.
I am very happy with the result, and will have no hesitation in making
another attempt at a reproduction gown in the future.
One of my all time favourite colour
combinations is green and white or green and cream, so when I first saw Mary's
beautiful recreation of the portrait my jaw just dropped! Not only because of
the refreshing colour scheme either - I've loved this portrait ever since I saw
it and love to see it recreated as wonderfully as it has been here, with the
painstaking attention to detail. Brava Mary - it's truly delicious in every way!
If you would like to contact Mary you can
do so at l.j.mobi
(at) gmail (dot) com
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