The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase



Signora Catalina Doro
(Heather Rigaud) 

Shire of Nordenhal, East Kingdom
Kingston, NY, USA )

Costumer and SCA Member

A Venetian Outfit in the Style of  the 1510s

Heather Says...


This gown is based on Titian's famous 'Garden of Sacred and Profane Love' (1514). In my opinion it's one of the most beautiful gowns in Venetian art and it was a joy to recreate.

While many people overlook Venetian fashions of the 1510's and 1520's for the flash of earlier or later periods, I find these gowns gorgeous. Venice was at war with most of Europe during this time (see 'League of Cambrai' on Wikipedia). It was a violent, turbulent period and is fascinating history. Venetians were placed under strict sumptuary laws because of the wars. Hence, you will notice the lack of jewelry in the art of the period and the relative simplicity of the styles and fabric.




I spent a great deal of time searching for the right fabric. I believe it's the fabric that makes this gown work and I was very lucky to find perfect silk taffeta damask for it. (And even luckier in finding it for $10/yd)

I've made other Venetian gowns before this one, so I had a ready pattern and the benefit of experience. Once I had all the materials this gown came together in about a week. This gown was a healthy mixture of hand and machine sewing. The long, straight, boring seams, such as the skirt panels, were machine sewn, where as the entire cartridge pleating and detail work were done by hand.

The bodice is lined with two layers of fine linen to support the gown, and underlined with silk organza for shaping. It's very short, even by Venetian standards. However, I do believe I could have made it shorter. The gown is open on the sides, and laces closed with little 'faux ivory' rings. I put a length of hemp cord between the fabric and lining at the front edge of the neckline to keep it smooth and to recreate the detailing of the gown in the painting. The top of the bodice sits just below the nipple line as in the painting.

Sleeves were enormously important in Venetian culture. The cut of the sleeves on a man's gown showed his rank in the government; the larger the sleeve, the higher the rank and the more power you had. Women's sleeves, while not indicating rank, followed the lines of the men's sleeves. The sleeves on the Titian gown are what are called dogale, which are the fullest and the highest rank, reserved for the Doge and his ministers. 

The sleeves are a full width of cloth each (60") and are cartridge pleated at the shoulders, then hand sewn into the armscye. Since they are clearly not lined in the painting, I used a flat fell seam so they would be neat and finished. One of the more 'educational' aspects of this gown is how physically limiting these sleeves are. They look great, but even walking through a doorway is a challenge (they get caught on the doorknob). Let's not even talk about trying to use the bathroom.


The skirt is made up of four straight panels, which were cartridge pleated, and then attached to the bodice by hand. The fullness is one of the things I love about this gown, and it makes look right. I have no doubt that hemming those 20 feet of fabric was the longest part of making this gown.


The camicia is made of white linen and was my first entirely hand sewn garment. It's pleated into the neckline using really tiny cartridge pleats. Under it I'm wearing a 'pair of bodies' made from silk satin and linen, stiffened with hemp cord. While I know there is no extant evidence for such a garment this early, the sad fact of the matter is I've remarkably 'blessed' in the breast area and I need some form of support. I'm doing more research now to see how breast binding might work with this gown.

The belt is velvet ribbon on a pearl & enamelled buckle. The under sleeves are made from a rose colored silk taffeta that I knife pleated for the upper arm and the lower arm is quilted onto a linen base. Please note that in the painting, she's only wearing one under sleeve. This is evidence for my belief that they are just under sleeves, not a whole under gown, and that they in place with pins. 


This was a great project to make, and I feel so beautiful in it. While I had been planning on this gown for a couple of years, I was fortunate enough to finally make it and wear for the first time on the occasion of receiving my Maunche. The only change I would make, if I were to do it again, would be to shorten the bodice by raising the waistline. I think I could safely shave 2 inches off of it and look even more like the painting. 

I'm looking forward to making my next Venetian, which will be a 1520's velvet gown with a'comeo sleeves. I'm so grateful to Bella for giving me this opportunity to show my work, and my love.



Signora Catalina Doro is a costumer living in the SCA's East Kingdom, otherwise known as Kingston NY. An SCA member for over 25 years, Catalina's interest include medieval and renaissance fabric, period cooking, and of course, 16th century Venice. When not floating along in magnificent Venetian gowns, she's out camping in 14th century French gear to match her husband. The mother of two quickly growing boys, she is apprenticed to Maestra Lucrezia Franceschina Andreini, OL. She is a member of the order of the Maunche and the order of the Burdened Tiger.


  You can see more of Heather's gorgeous creations at her website. If you would like to contact her, you can do so at catalina (at) pearlofvenice (dot) com


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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.)