The Realm of Venus
of the Outlands, Barony of UnserHafen, Canton of Bofharrach
Costumer and SCA Member
A Venetian Gown
in the Style of the 1580s
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.
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.
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.
Two: The Shopping
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Would you like
to be Showcased? E-mail