The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase



Amanda Wood


Costumer and Ren Faire Participant

A Venetian outfit in the Style of  the 1570s

 Amanda Says...

I started sewing in 2004, because my high school madrigal choir was singing in a competition at the PA Ren Faire, and I thought all the school costumes were fearsomely ugly, so I made my own. For that first costume, I didnít have a machine, so I sewed it all by hand. These days, I tend to take advantage of my sewing machine. Iím not in the SCA, and most of the time, I have no good reason for making the costumes that I do, though I do go to Renaissance Faires when I can. 

 I bought this fabric about a year ago without any definite plans in mind; typically, I saw it and thought, ďooohh, pretty fabric...I can use this some time.Ē It did suggest Venetian to me when I saw it, as itís hard to find any silk-type fabric with a remotely period pattern thatís affordable. Well, this was a silk-viscose blend, and it still wasnít affordable, but I used the money I got as gifts for graduation. So I bought it, admired it, and put it in the Stash. And yes, just so no one feels the need to inform me, I realize that another person in the showcase used the same fabric as I did. Occupational hazard of shopping at large chain fabric stores. What can I say, we must both have good taste. ;)

Conveniently, almost as soon as I went away to school, with no machine, no supplies, no Stash, and nothing sewing-related (I told myself I wouldnít sew anything up at school- that resolution lasted about a week and a half), I was bitten by the Venetian bug, for absolutely no reason. But when inspiration calls, itís best not to ignore it. So I went home Labor Day weekend, made most of the bodice, and brought all the stuff I needed up to school. Minus the sewing machine, unfortunately; dorm rooms with unfriendly, taciturn roommates and sewing machines do not mix well. Hence everything that was made at school, which is most of the costume, is hand-sewn. 

 Originally, I was going to make a closed-front bodice, to show off the pretty fabric, but then I thought about back-lacing myself into a gown and decided against it. Then I decided on the ladder-laced bodice. Yeah, everybody does it, but itís easier to get on, and that gets brownie points from me! Then I did a bit more nosing around on the internet and found a couple examples, both by Fasolo, of ladder-laced bodices with a split skirt (found on this wonderful Realm of Venus site, btw). So I decided to be a little bit different and make a ladder-laced bodice with a split skirt, since thatís not seen too much among the recreations nowadays.

It was hard to find time (and good excuses to waste the time I did have) to work on the gown, but it didnít matter, as, for once, I had no looming deadline. How nice. Then my friends and I decided to go to the PA Ren Faire on a weekend in October. The weekends in October have costume competitions...oooh. Whether I would dress up was not even an issue. Where I would find the time to hand-sew almost an entire gown in less than four weeks was.

  The bodice was boned with cable ties, and I made the back pretty high in the hopes that doing so would prevent the straps falling off my shoulders. Seems to have worked, for the most part. The sleeves were made by the very scientific method of eyeballing, cutting, pinning, and hoping it comes out looking like a sleeve. I didnít have enough fabric to make the sleeves as long as I wanted in one piece, so thereís a join near the bottom of the sleeves thatís now covered by lace (lace courtesy of the Wal-Mart remnant bin). I padded the cartridge pleats of the gown, as I wanted to see whether it would hold the pleats out noticeably. It did. (I like big butts and I can not lie...ahem.)

It was finished in wearable condition in good time (read: I went to bed before midnight the night before!), and I wore it to the Ren Faire and entered it in the costume competition. I even won second place; since the costume that won first place was a seven-foot gargoyle with glowing red eyes and enormous moving wings, I didnít feel too badly about it! (Iím scheming for first place this year, and no gargoyles shall stand in my way! But thatís another story.)

Second prize notwithstanding, the gown was not without its problems. The hem, for one thing, was quickly done in a rather haphazard manner. It was finished last, for one thing, and I hate hems, for another. Also, for a reason that completely escapes me now, I had attached the velveteen underskirt directly to the bodice. This wasnít the best idea for a couple reasons: 3-plus yards of velveteen is not exactly light, which put more strain than I wanted on the bodice, and since it was sewn almost all the way round the skirt, this, along with the already-laced ladder lacing, made it a very interesting experience to put on. Use your imagination.

I also hadnít gotten around to getting any lace to put on the cuffs, any trim on the bodice, and I had sewn the sleeves to the bodice due to a lack of time, imagination, and any type of fastenings. (This added even more fun to the experience of getting dressed - I had to turn into some kind of contortionist to get that thing on!) I also thought the plain net partlet I made was kind of boring.

Since Iíve been home for summer vacation, Iíve made all the additions and revisions to the costume I didnít get to on the first incarnation, and I also made a corset to wear with the outfit. I wanted to see if it made a difference to wear the gown with a corset as opposed to simply the boned bodice. I personally feel more secure with the corset on, and I think it gives a slightly nicer line. I did have to make a false camicia front, which was, for some reason, more of a pain in the neck than anything, and the gathering stitches prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that I cannot sew, draw, or cut in a straight line. Itís just a gathered piece of muslin large enough to fill in the front opening, and I pin it to the corset.  

All in all, Iím quite proud of this costume; itís one of the best Iíve made so far (not that Iíve made that many!), and I will keep it forever. Or until I get too fat to fit in it; thatís what college does to you! But thatís why I made a corset, right?




If you would like to contact Amanda you can do so at amneris96 (at), and you can view her blog here.


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(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.)