The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase



San Antonio, Texas, USA

Costumer and Ren Faire Participant

A Venetian Gown in the Style of  the 1560s


Susan Says


My name is Susan and I first became interested in sewing historical costumes about two years ago. I'd never dressed up for fair until a sudden Texas rainstorm left me wet and cold. I purchased my next several costumes but quickly decided that sewing would be the only way I could get exactly what I wanted without taking a second job. I'd sewn on occasion for a number of years. Soon I was hooked.


A pair of drawers from Janet Arnold's Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd

 This dress started out actually as practice for another. I was in love with what appears to be a red and gold figured velvet bodice over gown and I had decided to make it by using cutwork and appliqué. But I did not want to practice on expensive plush velvet and wool so I purchased 10 yards of Walmart velvet in black. I mean, how hard could just a couple of cutwork sleeves be? Then I thought to myself, "I should make this from the inside out". So I bought about 20 yards of handkerchief linen (one can never have enough) and began researching drawers and camicie. 

The drawers are rectangles, a square gusset at the crotch and the waist pleated onto a waistband. (see left)

I decided to make both an under and an over camicia with the under-camicia sleeveless and with a wide, deep round neckline and large armholes. The over-camicia that I made to go over my new corset I made square necked, pleated onto a neckband and the shoulder heads pleated onto the shoulder of the camicia with gussets under the arms similar to this style. 


The partlet is gold cord couched onto silk gauze with gold thread. I made it by tracing out where I wanted a partlet to be on an old shirt using a pen then cut it out and made a paper pattern adding a bit around the edges. I used dissolvable embroidery backing to stiffen it while couching, then added the pearls. 



I then made the dress itself. The bodice is cut in one piece and the shoulders attached at the back. I then cut out the sleeves and used the rest of the fabric, over 7 yards, in the skirt. The cartridge pleating went very smoothly once I cut curves in the front and back to allow it to drape in a straight from the dropped front and back points.

The sleeves are what took me "forever". I started out with a square piece of paper that I folded in half, then half, then half again like cutting snowflakes. I cut a simple pattern from it then used it as the basis of my sleeve cutwork. I had ironed some interfacing to keep the fabric from fraying until I could edge it better. If I do it again, I will use a spray fray check, then the iron on interfacing. Once I had cut both sleeves out with an Exacto knife I appliquéd them down to a linen base.




The sleeves are attached to the gown by loops on the dress and buttons on the sleeves.




After trying the dress on and walking in it for awhile I discovered I needed two more items. I needed an underskirt a couple of inches shorter than the gown for when I lifted the front of my dress to walk uphill (as I did not want to shorten the dress nor show lots of stocking), and I needed a roped petticoat to keep those 7+ yards of velvet from wrapping around my feet. 

The underskirt I made from 4 yards deep yellow-gold dupioni silk, the roped petticoat from rope and linen cloth but I just roped 4 close loops around the bottom as I was not aiming for width, but ease of walking.

I made the chain girdle for the dress as well - learned how to do Japanese knotting for the beadwork, which is much easier in my opinion than single thread knotting.




Bella Says.....

Stunning gown. Simply stunning. I think black is highly underrated colour in costuming circles - look how magnificent this turned out! Of course, those wonderful intricately cut/appliquéd sleeves help the overall 'WOW' look too, don't they? Marvellous stuff. 

If you would like to contact Susan you can do so at SWETIEPETI (at)

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.)