The Realm of Venus Presents....

talian howcase


meistara Vigdis vestfirzka
(Stacy Sandstedt)
Province of Silver Desert, West Kingdom
(Sparks, Nevada, USA)

Costumer and SCA Member

A Venetian Gown in the Style of  the 1550s


Vigdis Says

I have been sewing since I was a little girl. I was raised by my Great Grandmother… so it was expected. I discovered the SCA when I was in High School, which gave me a great outlet for that particular talent. I spent many years doing the “Norse Thing,” but it became the “in” thing in my Kingdom, which made me want to do something else entirely. So, I’ve started dabbling in later period clothes. Germans, Italians, Tudors; I’m planning on doing them all! Below follows my journey into Venetians.


I spent many, many hours searching the web for inspiration. I read dress diaries, looked at paintings, spoke with other costumers, and generally day dreamed instead of working. [grin]

The portraits that made me the happiest were:


Portrait of a Gentlewoman with a Book
(Licinio, c.1560s)


Portrait of a Lady
(Licinio, c.1530s)


I absolute adore the fact that they are “larger” women. It is very nice to see that you don’t have to be a modern thin woman to look fabulous in these dresses. Especially since I’m not what anyone would consider thin!

Before I had finalized the shape of the dress that I wanted, I found my ultimate fabric. I was wandering around one of my local upholstery stores, and came across the most delectable taffeta:

It is a wonderful copper color – brown and orange cross weave – with yummy embroidery all over. And… one of my favorite parts… the pussy willows are fuzzy!


Okay, I had my inspiration, I had my fabric. To top it off, we had our “fancy dress” event coming up! Only problem? It was in 10 days! That’s okay. My friends say that I’m insane… and I just might be.

I started out with having a friend “tape me up,” to build a new bodice pattern. I hadn’t had one done for several years. We got me cut out of it, and I laid out a muslin to check it. Stitched it together, trimmed off some front bits for the deep “V”, and tested it out. It fit just fine, so I cut out the linen and another couple layers of muslin. I stitched the pieces together, and sewed in channels for boning. I started out with using ¼” wide cable ties. Once it was all together, I tried it on. The smaller cable ties worked in the back… but the front was just under way too much pressure. They were buckling. So, I took out the front channels and re-sewed for wider/heavier cable ties. I used Jen Thompson’s method of ribbon lacing, it made a lot of sense, and looks amazing. The bodice is 5 layers total; two linen, two muslin, and a layer of fashion fabric.



The first try-on of the bodice showed that I needed to raise the hip curve. A lot. I took it up about 2 inches, then hand stitched the fashion fabric onto the linen. The camicia is made out of light cotton batiste, which is gathered. The gathering is held together by a double line of black ribbon.




The skirt was a challenge, as I had chosen to make points in the front and back of the bodice, the top line couldn’t just be pleated straight across. But, with a bit of direction from my wonderful Fifi, I laid out my fabric from 4 panels stitched together. I trimmed the top edge to build in where the points of the bodice hit, and then cartridge pleated. And cartridge pleated. The skirt is a total of 222 inches of fabric. That is a lot of pleating!




The sleeves are simple bag sleeves tied onto the bodice using ribbon.

For jewelry, I’ve chosen pearls, pearls, and more pearls. Fortunately, I have an understanding husband… after spending many years gathering Norse jewelry bits, I’ve now completely turned around into late period stuff! So, because he loves me, I now have a lot of pearls too. The belt is made up of a combination of amber colored glass beads and gold chain.



Bella Says.....

I love it - it's gorgeous! The fabric is stunning. Why can't I find fabric like this? Bravissima!!

If you would like to check out the dress diary for this showcase you can do so at You can contact Vigdis at venetian (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.)