The Realm of Venus Presents....

he talian howcase



Lady Gabriella Rizzo
(Rebecca Egan)

Kingdom of the Outlands, Barony of UnserHafen, Canton of Bofharrach
(Colorado, USA)

Costumer and SCA Member

A Venetian Gown in the Style of  the 1580s



Gabriella Says...


Iíve loved costumes since I was a little girl; until I found the SCA I got to play once a year at Halloween.  Halloween really started by sewing career.  When I was 10 my mother stayed up all night to make a complicated costume complete with wig.  The following year when I presented yet another really complicated costume design she said it was time for me to learn how to sew.   Thus began my sewing career.  Iíve dabbled over the years but didnít really get into it until I joined the SCA two years ago.

 Step 1  The Planning

            The gown is my first attempt at anything complicated or that aimed for historical accuracy.  My lady mother (yep, I got her interested in the SCA too) thought I was nuts.  I didnít really have anyone in my Barony that did late period dress so the internet was my best friend.

            I decided that I wanted to aim for SCA competition level with the dress both in construction and historical accuracy.  Most of my searches led me to Realm of Venus  -- thanks Bella.  I spent exhaustive amounts of time online and reading books like Janet Arnoldís Patterns of Fashion.  I developed a plan for a dress.

For my inspiration I chose a fresco detail called Apotheosis of Venice by Veronese. I wanted to emulate the courtesan in the middle in the carnation (pink) gown.   My original game plan was this: gown of carnation silk, lining cream dupioni, sleeves and hem decorated with Venetian lace, partlet of pearl tufted silk edged with the carnation silk, a small ruffle of opaque silk attached to the partlet, and a white camicia with a ruffled edge.

            The dress would have a steel boned bodice with a cartridge pleated skirt attached.  Iíve read a great deal of debate online as to whether or not Venetian women wore corsets; I made the decision to bone the dress and not wear a corset. The research material available showed that while there is firmness and shaping to the dresses there is a curvy look to the finished dress that doesnít indicate the rigid support of period corsets.  To attain this look Iíve boned the bodice in a ĎVí formation to provide support but still promote a curvy silhouette.





Step Two:  The Shopping

Finding all the fabrics I wanted was a bit of an international adventure.  The pink silk came from an E-Bay seller in NJ, the cotton voile for the camicia and pearl tufted silk another E-Bay find out of India.  The dupioni lining and steel boning came from a local online seller here in Colorado.  The last dibs and dabs of stuff came from my local Jo-Anneís Fabric, with the real find small solid brass drapery rings.  I didnít keep an exact record but believe my total cost for fabric was around $250.00.

Step Three: Pattern Construction

            I started with drafting the bodice pattern out of brown paper starting with the Elizabethan Corset Generator.  After drafting out the directions given by the generator I started to adjust the pattern for fit over the hips and bust.  I adjusted the bodice for style by bringing up the height of the back neckline, dropping and squaring the front neckline, adding the point in the back, adding angled straps, and extending the point in the front.  After every addition or adjustment I put the paper pattern on to check for fit. I also did a test layout on paper as to how I wanted the boning placed.

Next I made a test bodice.  I took a double layer of fabric similar in weight and feel to heavy cotton duck and cut out the bodice based on the paper pattern.    After basting it together to get the feel of the finished Ďbodiesí for the bodice I adjusted over the hips, around the armhole, and at the neckline to allow for the drape of the fabric.  I used duct tape to attach the boning in the ĎVí shaped pattern in the front and back, with the additional small pieces on the side.   The pieces on the side are mostly to help hold the weight of the skirt but also keep the fabric from rolling. I added four more small pieces of boning on the front to achieve the fit and type of shaping I wanted.



 Step Four: Construction

            I started on the camicia.  The camicia is constructed with about 5 yards of white cotton voile that arrived with a beautiful lacy selvage on it.  I recalculated to use the selvage for the hems and neckline for the camicia.  I followed the instructions on the Realm of Venus website: machine French seams. 12 by 12 gussets hand set in the arms and hand gathered neckline. I set the pleats by embroidering a geometric floral pattern in pink cotton thread, back-smocked for firmness and to adjust for size.


Using the bodice pattern that I had developed I cut the cotton duck bodies; bodies were joined and channel for boning were machine sewn.  Boning was inserted and I checked/adjusted the fit then closed the channels by machine.  Lining for the bodies were basted to the bodies; pink silk covering was hand whipped on.  To complete the bodice all three layers of the straps were hand attached to the back, I reinforced the front Ďví with an additional layer of two strips of canvas duck and silk inside the piece, and then attached brass rings that I had covered with cotton crochet yarn.


 To make the skirt I cut the dupioni and the silk taffeta 50 inches. A 2 inch strip of wool felt put at the top between the dupioni and the taffeta to stiffen the pleats.   I sewed the 3 layers together and started to hand cartridge pleat the skirt with a 5 inch to 1 inch ratio taking it from 224 inches to 40 inches.  I attached the skirt to the bodice by hand, lock stitching each of the pleats with two stitches per pleat.  I turned up a ľ inch hem in the lining to finish the edge and then blind stitched the hem by machine, pressed under an 1/8 of an inch on the silk taffeta and then blind-stitched a 2 inch hem using silk thread.


            The sleeves were cut as an angled tube and then contoured, after being fully lined with the dupioni.  Side-seams were French seamed on the sewing machine; then the straps were cut 1 Ĺ inch wide and 5 inches from the top.  I turned the edges under and whip stitched them closed by hand.  The under-arm was contoured to fit with a rolled hem to finish.  I decided that the Venetian lace that I had purchased for the sleeves didnít work as I had planned but the sleeves didnít look finished.  I added a cluster of three small pearls at the join of each strap.

            I then began on the partlet by draping the pearl tufted silk on the dress form.  Again the fabric seemed to overload the dress.  Iíll save it for another outfit.  The other tiny snag I had while creating the dress was losing 30 pounds and 4 inches on my waist. So the dress no longer fits, and will have to be put away until I swing back up to that size.

            All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and am already planning the next two dresses.  Yes I am insane -- but itís a good way to go.




If you would like to contact Gabriella you can do so at
Regan73178 (at) comcast (dot) net


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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.)