The Realm of Venus Presents....

he talian howcase


Lady Dianora Salviati
(Sahrye Cohen)

Barony of Storvik, Kingdom of Atlantia
(Silver Spring, MD, USA)

Costumer and SCA Member

A Gown in the Style of 1530s Urbino

Dianora Says...

 This dress started as a generic Italian dress that my friend gave to me.  She had completely beaded the bodice but when I started to cut it down the beads started to fall off and the whole concept changed.  I decided to base the gown on the La Bella by Titian, which is a blue/turquoise dress with purplish sleeves.  It has what appears to be slashes on the bodice, as well as poufs on the sleeves. I don't think those are a different layers but rather are faux puffs. I like the idea of having some sort of ornamentation on the bodice but since I couldn't find any documentation for pearls used in the original way the bodice was beaded (and I didn't want to sew them all back on) I thought it would be nice to go with the slashes and bows. I ended up using some black velveteen since I had that lying around. I purchased some gold organza ribbon for the bows and some super spiffy shot silk (black/magenta) for the lower sleeves.

Titian's "La Bella", 1536


 Construction Details

This style of dress looks to be when structured support garments seem to start to be used, the front of the bodice is very smooth, unlike slightly earlier paintings where there is definitely a rounded shape. However, I thought it would be nice to have a slightly rounder shape so I decided to bone the bodice with hemp since that worked well as support in my 1480s dress and makes one less layer of clothing. Unfortunately that didnít work quite as well as I would have liked and I ended up wearing a lightly boned corset under the dress.

 Since I didn't have any extra fabric to make sleeves I cut some off the skirt width in order to make the upper sleeves, which were made of strips of the dress fabric and the black velveteen. These were interlined with a few feet each of tulle and lined with linen. The tulle worked well to make the sleeves puffy but still lightweight. I had tried before to make similar sleeves using cotton batting but those ended up being super heavy and deformed easily.

I do think that some of these types of dresses, particularly slightly earlier ones, may have had a kirtle underneath and the kirtle sleeves are what we see as the lower sleeves. However, I think by this time that the lower sleeves were part of the main dress because in many portraits they are the same color and that even in this case where they are a different color they are attached to the main dress and not a separate garment. The lower sleeves of my dress were made of a shot silk, with fake poufs of white silk sewn in and lined with linen.

Lower sleeves

I fully lined the skirt with linen and box pleated it to the bodice. From portraits there seem to be more skirts gathered to bodices from this period although there are certainly enough to justify this pleating choice. The most hand sewing this dress involved was in attaching all the various bits of the sleeves together and hand sewing the hem.


The reproduction gilt cross


The necklace Iím wearing is a reproduction cross adapted from an original Italian sixteenth-century gilt cross by The Metropolitan Museum Art produced in cooperation with The British Museum. The pendant came on a regular gold chain. However, after looking at some Italian portraits I think that stringing it with pearls would have been more common.

The girdle is of filigree/mesh beads and alternating black and gray beads.  Mesh beads seem to be commonly used for necklaces in Florence during this time period and many girdles are made from metal elements.


The reproduction gilt cross close-up

Additional Accessories

I had always intended to make a partlet and balzo for this gown.  The partlet is made from a gold metallic silk and the balzo is leftover silk from the sleeves and velvet ribbon over a straw base.


The balzo and partlet, front

The balzo and partlet, back


You can contact Dianora at sahryec (at) hotmail (dot) com

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