Noelle Martin and her model, Holly
(SCA: Sarafina Basso, and Aine)

Utah, USA
(Artemisia - Barony of Gryphon's Lair)

A Venetian Outfit in the Style
 of  the 1520s

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

Noelle Says....


My name is Noelle (Serafina), and I've been a member of the SCA for nearly ten years. My very first sewing project was a pair of shorts for a 4-H project. Years later, I re-found my creative outlet in the textile arts during college. My good friend, Holly (Aine) and I have a great costuming relationship - she is fantastic at jewelry and beading, and I trade her services in exchange for gowns.

I tried a new method to get some basic measurements for a gown before even starting on the toile. It was an interesting exercise, but I think I would have ended up with pretty much the same results had I just eyeballed it.

In Photoshop, I took the original portrait and made it the background. I then found a picture of Aine in roughly the same position, wearing a corset and overlaid it. In the overlay I brought 
the opacity down so I could see the portrait behind her. I moved around Aine’s picture to match up on the shoulders of the portrait.

I then made a 'ruler' (the red dotted line) using the measurement between Aine’s lip and chin. Each dash is ¾” – the distance between Aine’s lip and chin.

And the results -- (Roughly)

Width of bodice panel, 8 3/4"
Width of gap in bodice, 3 1/2"
Width of guards on bodice, 1 1/2"
Width of ruffle on camicia, 1 1/4"
Width of band on camicia, 3/4"
Width of ruffle on under sleeve, 1 3/4"
Width of cuff on under sleeve, 4 1/4"

The only measurement I couldn’t get that I really wanted on this portrait is the length of the bodice! This is one of the important measurements, but I can eyeball that when we mock up a 


Aine and I agreed that the portrait dress needed supportive undergarments, mainly because of the stress that would be placed on the ribbons if the bodice was doing all the supporting. Thus was born what we fondly call the "Italian Sports Bra". I used the Eleanor Toledo bodies as an inspiration. I ended up cutting off the bottom of the bodies right above the side gores at the waist.


Beginning of the fitting....I wanted to keep some softness of the bust, so the only thing boned is the center front.

The completed draping

My final pattern, and the pieces cut out.

I love this really shows off the rounded, soft line I'm looking for. The straps are going to be pulled slightly tighter, the pins couldn't take the pressure!

Front of the bodies, constructed, with boning down the front. The bias is sewn down around the edges, hasn't been tacked down yet...that's the wobbly bits around the armscye and 

The Bodice

The bodice draping went fairly smoothly.

Again, this is my favorite view of the bodice. 

I more or less arbitrarily decided to do a sharp angle on the back rather than a scoop. It seems to play nicer with the squareness of the neckline in front.


Aine wearing the bodice


I really wanted to find some deep chenille-type fabric to use for the guards, but after much searching, decided that velvet would be the only thing available in our budget range. 

I ended up sewing the ribbons to the bodice, and I think they'll work out just fine that way. When/if the ribbons need to be replaced, we will just have to unpick one side of the guards and unpick the ribbon stitching. So, not too bad, I suppose.

The Skirts

I had carefully measured, pinned, and sewn on the skirt only to realize that the pleats were off set at the opening. I ripped the whole skirt off and started again.

The front half of the skirt has regular box pleats; the back half has double-stacked pleats. To avoid the heartache of mis-attaching the skirt again, I whipped the pleats into place, and attached the twill tape for the front opening before attaching it to the bodice. The opening is going to be 1/2" from the right hand side of the bodice.

I tacked twill tape to the front 10" or so to hopefully keep the nice straight line of the skirt across the opening and to reinforce the hooks and eyes that will eventually close the skirt.

The left side goes behind the right; I'll be adding hooks and eyes to the inside, and to the outside. I hoped that I'd be able to tuck one of the hooks neatly behind the pleat that creates the invisible opening. (The opening is actually quite a bit longer than shows in the picture.)

The skirt attached to the dress with little problem! (The white part is a piece of paper for contrast)

Deconstructing the placket....the left hand side is hooked inside of the bodice. The hook on the edge will be tucked underneath the pleat to the right.

There's the pleat pulled out of the way to show the hook buried inside. (Man, it was hard getting that thing back in there!)

And the whole ensemble from the inside.

The Sleeves

I was pretty stumped as to how the sleeves were constructed in period. Under normal circumstances, I would say that these gold under sleeves were attached to some sort of kirtle or under dress, but there is so obviously nothing like that going on here. (Open front, no gold, no lacing for open kirtle, and at right sleeve cap, no gold showing.)

I started out with a sleeve pattern I had drafted for Aine’s silver dress and slit it up the middle to get a starting place for the gold undersleeves. I had originally thought I would separate the pieces evenly, but after looking at the full size paper pattern, I decided it would be better to open only the bottom....which left me more or less 
with a large rectangle. I ended up with a cuff that was just about double the width of the regular sleeve.

I turned up and ironed the cuff to create a nice finished edge of the ruffles...

I box pleated the cuff, and added a row of stay-stitching an inch down from the ruffle, and then another row about 2-3 inches down from that. Over the stitching, we tacked ribbon, which 
become the button loops as well.

Both sleeves finally creased, pinned, and stay stitched....the wrist is stitched at the edge of the turn-up, and the forearm stitch is about 3" above that. The ribbons are pinned in place over the stitching. One end looped and became the button loops. On the outside edge, I angled out the pleats to create a placket for the sleeve opening.

Close-up of how it all works...

The loops/placket

After much debate, I finally decided to make the sleeves in one whole unit. I attached the gold under sleeve to the green lining fabric, and then whipped the lining and under sleeve to the blue  outer sleeve. Across the top of the sleeve, I created small pleats where the ribbons attached.

Aine was able to come down for a fitting, and I was relieved that everything seemed to be working as it should be.

In retrospect, I think the shoulder straps could have been thinner, but at this point, I wasn’t about to go back and change them!

I am quite pleased that the ribbons held up, and that the neckline and front opening ended up nice and square.

Many thanks to Aine for her patience with my sewing, and to Bella for encouraging and providing insight throughout the project.


  You can contact Noelle at serafina.basso (at), and you can find her project diary here.

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


© 2001 - 2009 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and 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.