The Realm of Venus
Amalthea Della Valle
of Ealdomere, Royal Citie of Eoforwic)
Costumer and SCA Member
Rapier-legal Fencing Outfit
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
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.
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
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
| 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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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
* my fiancée is even more wonderful
If you would like to contact Amalthea you can do so at Amalthea911
(at) hotmail (dot) com
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