The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase



Lady Collette de Valois
(Kayleigh Cull)

Barony of Andelcrag, Midrealm
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA)

Costumer and SCA Member

A Venetian Outfit in the Style of  the 1550s

Collette Says...

About Me

When I was 5 yrs old, I was Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” for Halloween. Since then, I haven’t stopped dressing up. When I was 11 yrs old, my family discovered our local Renaissance festival, and decided to dress up to go the next year. As the next few years passed, we made more complicated clothes to wear, but they weren’t very historically accurate. Then, we found the SCA, who did a local demo at my middle school. I was 14 and it was immediately after Lord of the Rings came out, which was my favorite movie at the time. I was hooked on the Rapier fighting and my mom showed interest in the textile arts. We joined when I was 15, and started making more historically accurate garb. After admiring the websites of the Realm of Venus and Festive Attyre, I was inspired to create a dress based on the Venetian fashions of the 1550’s. This dress was created with the help of two people: My mother, Antonia de Toscano, and my friend, Alaina Blackram. 


The Dress

The dress was inspired mainly by Titian’s “Portrait of a Lady in White.” I didn’t think a white dress would be a good idea for me (I’m accident prone) and I would be wearing it to a friend’s period wedding, which would also make white an inappropriate color (at least in my eyes). Besides, it had been a while since I had a dress of my favorite color, purple, and it would end up being the color of my Arms. 

Fabrics and trim Silk taffeta was the obvious choice of fabric, due to the portrait. I was given the taffeta as a 19th birthday gift, and started on the dress soon thereafter. Alaina and my mom did a mock-up of the bodice in linen while I wore my chemise and corset, so that it would follow the straps correctly. After working out a few kinks, the silk was cut and I set to work sewing. 

Front bodice pieces (lining) 

Back bodice piece (lining)
Lacing rows

The bodice of the gown has a pointed V in back and a rounded V in front. It is interlined with two layers of organza then lined in purple cotton. The lacing method was borrowed from Jen Thompson, who has a wonderful write-up on it. The lacing was attached to the cotton before the bodice was sewn completely together. It has steel boning in-between the lacing rows to make sure everything stayed straight.

The original sleeves
The sleeves are silk lined in cotton, with a false pouf at the top of the sleeve. These were what caused the most problems. When I finished the sleeves the first time around, I found that I hadn’t put enough strips around the pouf, which resulted in more pouf showing through then I wanted. I ended up taking the sleeves off (after I unveiling it at Val Day 2007) so that I could rework them. I cut them slightly larger (they were too tight) and cut more strips to put on the sleeve head. When I finished them and attached them, I then noticed I had almost no pouf showing through. At this point, I left them on, since I didn’t have enough taffeta to redo the strips on both sleeves.
The re-worked sleeves Sleeve poufs in the making

The skirt is 3 yards of taffeta, gathered and cut to fit the bottom of the bodice. My Mom graciously hand-sewed the skirt to the bodice and also did the hem in a similar fashion. It poufs quite nicely by itself and looks quite nice while dancing.

The Under-Things

The chemise I originally intended on wearing with this gown has been remade into a collared shirt, and I borrowed my Mom’s Italian chemise in the most recent set of pictures (against the plain wall background). 
The corset is one I already had, from an Elizabethan gown my Mom made me a few years back. Yes, it is edged in pink, and is linen with steel boning. It has grommets up the back.
The under gown is made out of gold silk dupioni. It originally was Prom dress, but my Mom took out the zipper, most of the polyester lining, the plastic boning, and reworked the shoulder straps to fit on the shoulder instead of off the shoulder. It now has steel boning in the bust and laces with 40 buttonholes in the back.

The gold dupioni silk under-dress

The corset and chemise


The jewelry

I kept the jewelry very simple, to follow with the portrait. The necklace was handmade by a good friend of mine, and the ring and earrings were pieces I already had. The hair jewels (which you can’t really see…) have a set of three pearls surrounded by 3 Swarovski crystals.


The flag fan

The fan was quite fun to make. I used Tammy Depuis’ article as a basis of construction. I couldn’t find the eye bolts she used, so I used ribbons instead. I painted all the wooden pieces first (the dowel, finials, and rectangular pieces of “craft” wood) and meticulously hand painted the designs onto the main piece of wood. For those wondering, the design on the first side is a stamp I had, and the second side is from an Edith Piaf song, and means “God reunites those in love.” 

Side 1     Side 2

I wear knee-high stockings with bows on them, which are incredibly girly. I also wear sparkly shoes, since I can still get away with being a teenager.

What I would do differently next time

1. Make the bodice with full boning instead of a separate corset. It makes for too many layers and is slightly uncomfortable. The straps also get annoying and don’t stay in place
2. Do better mock-ups of the sleeves. It would have saved me time and sewing frustrations.
3. Have a different bodice strap curve. The way the bodice is right now make the straps curve and lay incorrectly on my shoulder. The angle needs to be changed.
4. Better shoes! I hope to make chopines one day, with the help of my Father.
5. A chemise with straight (not pouffy) sleeves. To achieve such a nice, fitted sleeve, the chemise sleeves can’t be so voluminous.


Thanks go out to the following people:
My Mom: for being patient and for helping with the majority of the dress.
Alaina Blackram: for doing the mock-up and for answering my many questions.
Jen Thompson: For her Featured Attyre and for her lacing article.
And of Course, Bella: For letting me be showcased and for having an AWESOME website!

I also want to thank all those who have been Italian Showcases before me. It is incredibly inspiring to see other costumers willing to show off their cool outfits. Without it, I don’t think I would have hunkered down and tried to recreate a portrait!



If you would like to contact Collette, you can do so at colletteduvallois (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.)