The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase



Jackie Arellano-Bongard

Holland, Michigan, USA

Costumer and Ren Faire Enthusiast

A Venetian outfit in the Style of  the 1550s


 Jackie Says...

I didn’t start sewing until 2003. I am not a member of the SCA or any guild, but I do attend plenty of faires. Basically, I am just a girl who decided she was tired of paying for dresses that looked sorta like what she wanted.

This dress started because I wanted something different than your standard Elizabethan at faire. I started researching and found that I loved the Venetian painters the most, due to the fact that a lot of the women are built like me…earthy, strong, and with lots of  T&A!


I decided on these paintings* as my main inspiration (but funny enough, found this painting **)  after I finished the dress) and my husband bought me some wonderful silk to use. Then I freaked out about cutting fabric so expensive. Having never made a Venetian dress, I had no idea how to construct it and didn’t want to cut my silk until I had everything hammered out.  So, I dug into my stash and found this fabric ***.  I figured I would make a test run dress and if it worked then I would have two dresses! The fabric is a cotton/poly blend and 54” wide. I found it in a local clearance bin for $3/yd. I only had 4 yards and am not a small girl so I got very creative in my cutting. In the end there were only two scraps left, each as big as my hand.



I used Margo Anderson’s pattern for the shift. It’s made from 3 ¼ yards of 100% linen and entirely hand sewn. I tried using a fuller camicia that I had from another dress and found that I couldn’t get sleeves over it without looking weird.

The bodice is three layers – two of heavy canvas, one gold brocade. I debated on adding another layer for lining, but changed my mind, as I wanted this dress to be as lightweight as possible. Michigan summers, while not as thermometer popping as California or Texas, are known for their humidity a lot of times ending up around 80 %. I drafted the bodice using an old mock-up, changing seam lines and such when needed. I didn’t make a corset. It is my opinion after looking at paintings that Venetians probably didn’t use stays and instead just boned their bodices. The front is laced with ribbon through rings using ladder lacing. I should have did a double row of rings to help straighten out the ribbon, but got ahead of myself sewing and by the time I realized it would have had to rip the entire bodice apart.

For the sleeves I used the old “trace your arm” method. I slashed the top to make the panes and added some buttons that I got off of Ebay. The sleeve I did line in linen. It’s all hand sewn, mostly while at work. J


The skirt is just rectangles of fabric sewn together. I tried to do gores, but just didn’t have enough fabric. This was probably the toughest part of the whole dress. I couldn’t figure out how to get the front opening to look right and still be able to get into the darn thing. I thank Bella for coming to my rescue and sending me directions.  The brocade is cut in a slit about 8-10” long and narrowly hemmed. Then the top is turned down about 4-5” at an angle near the opening and about 1-2” at the sides and back. Then I just eyeballed it and cartridge pleated it directly to the bodice.   

All the accessories I made myself. The components to the jewelry are all from Michael’s. I got a hair piece from Sally’s Beauty Supply because I chopped all my hair off after the first time I wore this dress to fair. The flag fan I made using the directions from the Renaissance Tailor’s website. I hand painted the design onto heavy card board and edged it with some lace. It works amazingly well. It took me about a day to make and it’s probably the thing I get the most comments on.  

All in all, this dress was a blast to make. It took me about 3 weeks with most of it being hand sewn at work (Don’t tell my boss!). It’s definitely one of my favorites, despite starting out as a “trial run”. Also, thanks to the following ladies for all the help whether they realize it or not- Jen T. , Alyxx I. , and of course Bella.



  If you would like to contact Jackie you can do so at Damara521 (at)

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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.)