The Realm of Venus Presents....

he talian howcase



Lady Amalthea Della Valle
(Amanda Stewart)

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(Kingdom of Ealdomere, Royal Citie of Eoforwic)

Costumer and SCA Member

A 1570s Rapier-legal Fencing Outfit


Amalthea Says...


Greetings to all!

I am Lady Amalthea Della Valle, originally from the shire of Lionsdale, in the Principality of Tir Righ, in the Kingdom of An Tir, but hail currently from Ealdormere, mundanely Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have played heavily in the SCA, but due to life happening, haven't had the chance to get out to many events in Toronto. I am involved in historical dance, as well as the A&S aspect of the SCA. As well I have been doing rapier fighting for almost 6 years and that is what brings me to this project.

 While moving cross country, I had to prioritize my belongings into what could fit into half a Sunfire, and needed to severely edit my garb, and *gasp* my fabric stash (6 very large Tupperware bins, off to the sally ann *sigh*). I sold off all but one fighting outfit, which doubled as tourney garb, and sold my swords, thinking that I wouldn't fight rapier in Ealdormere. How plans change....

To make a long story short, I decided to make a new fighting outfit that would pass marshal inspection out here (the marshals here hadn't ever seen a female fighter in Tudor court garb before, and were not certain there was enough overlap for the partlet to cover the neckline of the bodice), that was stylish (there are a lot of t-tunic rapier fighters out here, and I believe you need to show a bit more flair when trying to represent late period combat...if you want to wear a t-tunic, be a heavy), versatile (3 outfits in one), and laundry friendly (fighting makes you stinky and dry cleaning gets expensive if you are doing it every time you fight).

The original plan was to do a blue cotton duck outfit for the down and dirty fighting in wars and in woods, and it may still occur, but when a perfect fabric comes along, it's destiny.

So, this is the portrait I attempted to recreate.

I had been ogling this portrait for quite some time, since Aliana Blackram created her outfit.

I didn't want to undertake making it without having the right fabric to start. I didn't want velvet, as I have a very similar dress in an exceedingly heavy upholstery velvet, so I was looking for something a bit more lightweight and breathable. One day at Fabricland, the 100% red wool I had been eying up waiting to go on sale, finally did, and so I bought all they had, 6 meters, and began to amalgamate the other notions needed for this dress.

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 I also received for Christmas a new sewing machine, with lots of bells and whistles including about 10 different blackwork/trim stitches, and one of them I decided to utilize for recreating the trim in the portrait. It's a trefoil leaf pattern and to create the right look, I ran the stitch down the fabric, then mirror imaged it, and ran the stich parallel to the one already done. Then I couched down some gold cord in the center to make it look like this (see left)  not too shabby.

So, the big plan was to make a Venetian ladder lace dress/kirtle, that could be worn on its own with detachable sleeves, an under doublet in white corduroy that has the front puncture resistant protection that the red underdress lacks due to the front being open, and ties in the back, and finally a fancy over doublet that has the underarm protection built into it, as well as additional torso puncture resistance.

 The underdress has shoulder-straps that detach at the front for ease of getting out of, as with my other ladder dress I need to struggle to get out of it if I am on my own, due to the snug fit of the armhole. First, I embroidered the trim on, then on the canvas lining I used wide cotton twill tape to create channels in which the ladder lacing goes though. (See right) I saw what other ladies had done previously to get the lacing to stay straight, and just built upon the idea. For boning, I have been converted to plastic cable ties due to the flexibility as well as the firm support they provide.  Amalthea-reddress13.jpg (100537 bytes)

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 The skirt is cartridge pleated to the bodice, and for ease of making the stiches even, I used a check printed fabric. I applied to gold stitching prior to pleating for ease of doing it. 

Now, for the white under doublet, the original plan was to get some gold and silver ribbon from Fabricland that was leftover from Christmas, and I kept putting it off and putting it off, until when I finally went to do it, they had put all the Christmas trims back into storage. So, for right now, I have a simple white corduroy doublet that has 2 layers of canvas, a bit of boning, and ties in the back for adjustability.

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I had a choice to make for fabric management. Should I have a 180" wide skirt or a 120" with lots of leftover fabric to make extra sleeve panes and tabs. I decided to do the wider skirt and utilize as many bits and pieces of fabric leftover from cutting as possible, so I ended up intentionally not doing the additional row of tabs on the sleeves, not just because of lack of fabric, but also due to my machine not liking me for forcing it to sew though 8-10 layers of wool, canvas, and piping.

I wasn't 100% sure how to proceed with doing the doublet, so I went and checked for existing patterns, and I was able to find a coat pattern with a standing collar from the 1950s that had about the right look for me. After heavily modifying it, and getting it to fit over a corseted body, I began the arduous process that has become...


the Over-Doublet.

First, I flat lined the wool with a layer of canvas, then I did the gold stitch and cording. Now the interesting part was making the bias. The original plan called for red velveteen but I wasn't able to find the right shade of red. So I figured, hey, why not try dyeing it? It can't be that hard, right?

Well, yes, yes it was. I did a test piece of a meter with some coral colored, cold water Dylon and it was really messy and took forever to do, but it turned out at almost the exact shade I needed it to be. So I decided to dye the rest. Now with this dye, you have to get a stabilizer and add a ton of salt in with the dye, otherwise it will run, and guess what I ended up forgetting to add? The salt. So I decided to give up on the velvet, as I figured it would most likely rub off on the white doublet and turn it pink anyways, and went for a heavy cotton/poly cuddle satin coat lining instead.

Making homemade bias isn't as easy as I thought it was either. I had to buy a rotary cutter and a mat and ruler, and satin, being the creature that it is, likes to shift when you try and do anything to it, no matter how much pinning or basting you do. However, my mother told me a trick. Use your zipper foot and adjust your needle to as close to the core as possible and then stitch it. I also found through trial and tribulation that if you stich one side of the bias down to the foundation fabric, then place the core, wrap the other side over the core, then stitch again, it shifts less. I was using a 3/8" core and so a standard piping foot wasn't too much use for me.

The standing collar was fairly straightforward, the canvas gave it a lot of stiffness and I supplemented it with a bit of ridgeline on the seam line, plus the bias cording helped to keep its shape as well.

The parallel lines of piping that go on the doublet are bias tubes around a core that have been hand stitched on, as I didn't want to structurally weaken the doublet and have marshals not liking me. I would have been much easier to just have it be piped, but easy doesn't always work for me.

The bottom tabs/peplum were fairly straight forward, flat-lined wool with canvas, stitched with gold, piped with red.

 Amalthea-reddress26.jpg (210166 bytes)

The biggest challenge on this was the sleeves. Looking at the portrait, there are two rows of tabs at the shoulder, a biggish pouf, a third row of tabs and a bottom band. Tabs, no problem. Except for that my machine didn't like stitching them together. I decided to do the double row at the shoulder by hand, and my fiancée Adam did the hand stitching for me, as he is a lot stronger than I am. Due to a lack of fabric, I skipped doing the bottom row of tabs. 

 The sleeves are underlined in canvas to get the required underarm protection, and then set into the doublet by hand. the doublet is then entirely lined in muslin, save for the front facing that is in the satin.  Amalthea-laviniapose.jpg (51617 bytes)

I had planned on making a ruff specifically for this, but couldn't find a nice silk ribbon with which to do it, so improvised with a box pleated one, for collar and cuffs.

All the jewellery I had from my previous Italian dress, and the dead animal (whose name is Pepe) is from my Fiancée, Adam. He also crocheted my caul for me.

Things I learned from this:

*Buy trim when you see it if you think you will use it, otherwise when you go back for it, it will be gone
*Dyeing is evil
*making bias is a pain
*make sure you have enough fabric to do the job
*my machine is wonderful, but I think I need an industrial if I make another like this
* my fiancée is even more wonderful

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If you would like to contact Amalthea you can do so at Amalthea911 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Would you like to be Showcased? E-mail me!


© 2001 - 2009 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and 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.