The Realm of Venus
Renaissance Faire Goer
A Venetian Gown
in the Style of the 1580s and
I have always loved the Renaissance period, and used to attend the west coast Ren Faires years ago. I was inspired to sew myself a new costume (as the old one will NEVER fit again) after seeing both the movie Dangerous Beauty, and a PBS mini-series about King Henri VIII. Having done a bit of design for various gowns and clothes before, I decided it was the now or never point in my life. I used a basic pattern, and modified it to suit my vision of a Venetian gown.
I knew I wanted a deep red or burgundy color, a beaded tapestry bodice, and sleeves that tied on with loops, not grommets. I had no idea the amount of work, which would be involved when I first started this project.
First, I find the perfect tapestry on happen chance in a tiny fabric store chock full to the ceiling of mainly quilting textiles. It was the color combinations I wanted, and the design would be easy to embellish with beads. My sister gave me some antique beads, I had some from my 20-year-old stock, and, I purchased a few new ones…but not many. The beads are genuine amethyst, some Australian crystal, amber opalescent, faux glass pearls, and other glass beads. It took me 6 weeks to bead the bodice, for a total of 150 hours. There is even a genuine 100+ year-old pendent sewn onto the bodice. I sewed into the lined bodice super heavy interfacing and some boning, so I would not have to wear a corset. (I will let the side lacing expand as needed…HA.) Below are two pictures of the beading.
Finally, done with the beading! Little did I realize that beading would be the EASY part!
I had to sew a camicia, which was easy in comparison to the gown. I got the pattern from The Realm of Venus, which is fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone. I searched and searched for the perfect fabric, got lucky and found imported 100% gold silk organdie, at only $2.00 a yard! I made the camicia fuller than the pattern called for, because I wanted lots of ruffles! I trimmed the edges of the neck and sleeves with gold ribbon, for a curled effect. Pictured below are photos of the camicia. I have quit counting the labor hours now. It is simply a lot.
I tried the gown on, sort of, with the camicia to see how it looked. I was falling off my shoulders, and I do not have the other sleeve tied on. I still need a headpiece. My son took the photo below, and next to that is a detail photo of the sleeve cuff.
I decided I needed a headpiece, for two reasons: one, to visually tie the whole look together with the use of color, and to hide my shorter hair. I don’t think that any Venetian woman would have had short hair. And of course, I needed a peacock fan, so I made that also! I discovered that my silk camicia is a really slippery problem, and I will need to adjust it so it lines up well with the sleeves. But here below, you get the idea from my “final” photos.
Comments: This gown took a lot of time, and don’t know if I would ever consider making something this intensive again. I have almost 300 hours into this project. But, I have four more gown designs in mind, which I want to make. I love costume design, so I am sure I am destined to make another. HA, I am already shopping for fabric!
I would like to extend a special thank you to The Realm of Venus for such wonderful information and historical outlines. I could not have done it without all of the help I received from Bella’s beautiful site. Grazie Bella, and Ciao!
Overview of gown, without all the blabby details.
-Made of polyester silk, and heavy tapestry fabric.
-Designed by myself, using a basic pattern and modifying it greatly.
-Hand beading on bodice took 150 hours, skirt approximately 20, I think.
-Beads are genuine Australian crystals, amethyst, antique opalescent glass, and faux pearls. Pendent sewn on center of bodice is also antique-Victorian and approx 100 years old.
-All seams are hand finished. Two are French seamed, the rest are bound with hem tape, sewn on by hand. I decided it looks much nicer with seams hand-bound.
-At least half this gown was hand sewn. The machine was used for long seams, and trim on the bottom.
-Gown is attached with ties only, no modern attachments. (Takes quite a while to get into this thing!) Ties at side of bodice, sleeves top and bottom, shoulders, and waist near the side seams. The hidden ties allow one to place hands inside the gown like pockets, so you can have a hidden money wallet within the gown.
-Headpiece made of same wine colored material, with twisted rope around it for decoration. The lace for the head veil is actually a woven mesh, and I sprinkled it with gold dust for a beautiful sparkly affect. Seems I can’t catch that on camera however.
-Peacock fan, was a totally improvised project. Used a wooden rod for the fan, wrapped in ribbon. Feathers glued on to a plastic base. Lace backing (not shown) was glued on to hide the plastic base.
-Everything is hand wash, cold water, drip dry only.
-Total hours spent on this gown, mainly because of beading and handwork is 300. And that does not include the headpiece, or the fan. They took a combined additional six.
I'll bet Tamara turns heads at the Ren Faire with this gown! It's so sparkly and pretty and yummy...the colours are to die for! Well done Tamara!
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