The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase



Diana Habra

(Dame Roseline d'Anjou)

Concord, California, USA
(West Kingdom)

SCA and Ren-Fair participant, Textiles Merchant

A Florentine Outfit in the Style of  the 1540s

Diana Says....

 I have been costuming since 1992 when I joined a small renaissance faire group. It was a struggle making my own clothing but I loved the results and that was how I caught the costuming bug.

Since that time, I have been involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair and various historical themed dance balls and events. I have created costumes from the 11th to the 19th centuries and have had fun doing them all. I love the challenge of turning a concept and/or portrait into reality. Each new project causes me to learn or try something new and I love it!


The Inspiration

I have always loved Italian renaissance clothing and this portrait [below left] in particular. So when I bought this green & gold 100% silk brocade, I knew that it had to become this dress. Sadly, I kept putting the project off but this year I decided that the fabric had waited long enough (3 years)! 

I studied the dresses in “Moda a Firenze” to learn about the possible construction of this type of dress. I decided to make the sleeveless “petticoat” style described in the book. It would have 2 side-back lacings and the skirt would be attached and have a small opening at each side-back. One thing I did differently from the painting, however, was to cartridge pleat the skirt. I have always really liked the look of cartridge pleated skirts and since they are seen on other Italian dresses of the time [below right], I decided to pleat my skirt this way.


Detail of topstitching

The Bodice

For the bodice, I centered the artichoke pattern on the front as I had seen in this portrait. I also tried to align the pattern on the back in a pleasing manner. But other than that, I did not try to match patterns because my research shows that they didn’t worry about it in period. Then I lined the bodice with a natural colored linen/cotton as seen in Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion” book. Then I chose to hand stitch the bodice together using green hand-quilting thread in a top stitch. In my earlier sewing projects, I would stitch on the wrong sides then turn & press but I really feel that top stitching is more authentic and more sturdy. I also decided to do bias-cut piping around the neckline as is seen in the portrait. After assembly, I slashed the piping in a small V pattern to get the look that you see. Add some hand-done eyelet holes and the bodice was done. 

Detail of piping

The Sleeves

The sleeves were a bit of a challenge for several reasons. Firstly I had intended to make a 2-part, angled sleeve and cut out my lining in that shape. Then I realized that the portrait didn’t show a seam line on the inner part of the sleeve. Drat! So I lined up the 2 pattern pieces at the top and bottom and used this for my outer sleeve pattern and kept the seam at the back of the arm. It worked fabulously! 

Secondly I had to decide how to do the cut-outs. I tried just slitting the opening, folding it back & stitching it but that only worked on a larger opening. These openings were small and shaped like a figure 8. So I decided to stitch a facing over each one, clip, flip, & press. It worked really well and didn’t take as long as I suspected it would. Then I pleated cotton/silk voile onto the sleeve lining to create the false “puffs”. 

The top of the sleeve was created using strips of fabric with piping on them.  More cotton/silk voile behind the strips for the “puffs”. The sleeves were then stitched to the lining and ribbons attached to the armscye and the sleeves were done.

Detail of sleeve cut-outs

Top of sleeve

The Partlet:

I don’t have the patience to do embroidery so I was really excited to find this embroidered cotton lawn to make into a partlet. I used covered floral wire in white to achieve some stiffness in the collar. It only partially worked and I should have used a heavier wire and stitched it along more seams instead of just along the front edge. I will incorporate that knowledge into my next one.


All in all, I am very happy with how this dress came out, especially since I made it in about 2 weeks. I definitely learned some new skills and rose to the challenge that I set myself. Thank you for giving me a chance to share it with you!

Diana can be contacted at renfabrics (at) gmail (dot) com, and you can find her fabulous textiles website here.


Would you like to be Showcased? E-mail me!


(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.)