The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase


Cindy Lyon

Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Costumer and Renaissance Faire Attendee

A Florentine Outfit in the Style
 of  the 1550s

(Highlighted/bordered images are click-able for enlarging)

Cindy Says....


I am very much a novice seamstress and costumer having started in the spring of 2007. After one season of attending Renaissance festivals in generic garb my daughter requested a "pretty dress". She didn‘t want to deal with a corset and farthingale so that pointed us toward Italian Renaissance styles. (I blame this new hobby/obsession on her! LOL) 

Realizing that I wasn't going to find what we wanted ready made and that I wasn't willing to pay someone else to make a custom gown for her I began searching the internet for help and discovered The Realm of Venus. Even though I hadn’t sewn anything since my ninth grade home economics class (many more years ago than I care to admit!) I was inspired by the information in the dress diaries of the featured costumers, as well as other internet resources, and I dove in head first! 

Pleased with the results of that first project I continued sewing and decided to make myself a “pretty dress” as well! I started with some handkerchief weight 60/40 linen/cotton fabric and made a camicia using the instructions found at Festive Attyre followed by a partlet using instructions from Margo Anderson. 

And, even though there is no evidence that they were worn under Florentine gowns, I felt that my very curvy figure needed a corset to get the right look so I made one of cotton twill boned with plastic duct ties. 

Meanwhile, I had found “The Fabric” for the dress, a cotton blend upholstery damask, in the clearance section of a local fabric store for $3.97 a yard. The fabric reminded me of Bronzino's portrait of Eleonora di Toledo with her son Giovanni, so my dress is very loosely based on that portrait. 



Not having any idea how to draft my own bodice pattern, and not knowing anyone who could help me, I purchased Margo Anderson’s patterns and used her bodice pattern as my starting point. I knew that I didn’t want the low pointed waist of the pattern, so I cut the bodice front with a very slight curve. However, by the time I got it all sewn together, the original incarnation of my dress ended up with a straight waistline similar to Bronzino's Lucrezia Panchiatrichi which didn't go with the paned sleeves I had made. 

Deciding that it would be easier to redo the waist than to make Lucrezia’s puffy sleeves from the heavy fabric, I’ve recently completed alterations to give the dress a curved waistline and re-pleated the skirt (of three rectangular panels) to give it a flat front which I find to be much more flattering. The bodice is lined and interlined with the same cotton twill used for the corset and is side-back laced through hand stitched eyelets. I didn‘t feel the need to line the skirt because of the heavy weight of the fabric and the fact that the velvet guard nicely finishes the hem. 

I made the sleeves with three panes of the damask fabric edged in black cord with cream colored glass pearls sewn over the joins. Influenced by what I saw at the fairs I attended, I originally tied the sleeves on with black metal tipped cords though lacing rings sewn inside the shoulder straps. After purchasing a copy of Moda a Firenze and studying the Eleonora di Toledo portrait more closely, I have removed the ties and added antiqued gold buttons to the sleeves which fasten to totally-not-period-but-very-functional black ponytail elastics looped through the lacing rings on the shoulder straps. Now I wish I would have made the sleeves with four panes instead of three and included the poofy folds at the top, but have decided to leave these sleeves as they are and save those changes for the next dress. 



This dress is also worn with a petticoat of gold and purple sari fabric; a jeweled girdle pieced together from a metal belt set with citrine colored gems, a vintage pearl lariat necklace, and some additional pearls and glass beads; and a zibellino made from a mink collar found on eBay. 

Since my own hair is barely long enough to pull back into a ponytail, I wear a braid of fake hair wrapped with the same cream satin ribbon used to lace up the gown and a pearl headband with a black snood.

The making (and remaking) of this dress was very much a learning experience but overall I am pleased with the end result. Next on my sewing to-do list are Eleonora’s partlet and caul.




  You can contact Cindy at Sea95lion (at) and her blog is available to view here.

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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.)