Ariel Kottke

San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA


A Venetian Outfit in the Style
 of  the 1580s

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

Ariel Says....


Hello my name is Ariel. I’ve been sewing for about 10 years on various types of costumes but nothing really serious until the past three years or so. My mom and I sewed my wedding dress and it helped land me on the cover of Renaissance Magazine’s wedding issue in 2008. Since then I’ve been trying to hone my skills and pay particular attention to quality and durability. I can say those two things are the most important to me in costumes, I need to be able to wash it and wear it without worry!

Before I say anymore, I need to give great thanks to my friend Marti Miernik (the wonderful seamstress of Majestic Fashion Design. She helped me create this outfit, spending hours fitting it properly on me, teaching me techniques, letting me browse her library of costume books, giving me alternate ideas when things didn’t work…without her it wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks Marti!

With her encouragement and that of the loved ones around me I’ve also started sewing costumes for sale. So thanks to everyone who supported me thru this!


Until this dress I had never done a period outfit. However, I loved the high lace collars of the late 16th century Italian courtesans. So I figured if I was going to make a period outfit, I may as well do something that no one else had done yet and something that I really loved…to really go all out.




Nothing terribly special about the chemise other than a note to say I made the sleeves 5” longer than normal so that I could pull some poufs thru my pie crust cap sleeves.



We made a typical Elizabethan style corset with tabbed waist and spiral laced grommets in back. Only later did I realize my chemise fabric was very sheer and so I made a snap on privacy panel of white duck cloth that would extend past the bodice opening by about one inch so the black corset didn’t conflict with my chemise but could be used with other outfits.



The bodice was fit over the Elizabethan corset by first fitting the lining (many, many times) and then cutting the outer fabric to match the lining. We started with a closed front on the bodice, and once fitted perfectly we cut out a symmetrical V shape to make sure it didn’t affect the fitting or shift in the process.

Lightweight, sew-thru boning (Rigilene-how I love thee) was added on each side of the grommet channel, up the bust and in a V shape along the back with one down the spine. After grommeting, I sewed embroidery floss around each hole to match the contrast color in the fabric and bias tape edge.

I made bias tape out of the silk remnants of the underskirt. I hand stitched it to the bodice around the edges and arm holes. After that, I made and attached shoulder rolls of thick upholstery piping and attacked the woven sleeves (more on that later).

To make the look complete, I ladder laced thru the grommets which I found easier than negotiating eyelets inside the bodice which I’ve seen friends and other costumers do. 


Once EVERYTHING else was done I attempted the collar. I sandwiched 24 gauge wire between two pieces of Venetian lace. If my lace had thicker webs I would’ve used thicker wire. I left one inch of wire at each end of the lace tip, then topped off with a bead. I starched it a million times with spray starch and hung upside down for roughly one week. I stitched it to the neckline by hand. There is one step I’m purposely leaving out of the construction here simply because I haven’t come across it yet online and I’d like it to remain my trade secret…however, I’m happy to help make collars for others.

Woven Cap Sleeve

I made a square of 16, ½” wide strips, wove them like a pie crust and sewed each one at the intersections by machine and serged all the edges so they wouldn‘t unravel. I then inserted them into the armhole, and hand stitched it in place to the lining.

After that I made a cuff that was slightly smaller than my upper arm, so I could tie it together for a snug fit without getting my chemise or arm stuck while getting it on. The cuff was made of the two layers of the bodice fabric, sewed around the bottom edge and sides and the top left open to insert the pie crust sleeve. I edged it in bias tape to match the bodice, trimmed the strips where needed to fit into the cuff and sit properly, and sewed them into the pocket of the cuff. To finish off the look, I added pearls at each intersection.


The underskirt was made of a green silk and box pleated with three double box pleats in front for some extra body. I lined it in cotton for comfort and to add some weight so the skirt didn’t end up between my legs as I walked. Hemmed in that same bias tape (I made entirely too much of it).

The overskirt was pretty simple: three panels each 54” wide in the length I needed. The top I gathered and then gathered a few extra points again at the back for some extra booty poof. After it was gathered, I put it on a waist band that was fitted to the bottom edge of my bodice, hand stitched with the heaviest thread I could find and added hooks and eyes to have it attach to the bodice. The edges were also finished in silk bias tape. One note, the front of the skirt needs to be taken up by however far down the front tip of your bodice is from the back.



I topped off the entire look with a custom wig from a lady on Etsy, her seller name is Puppycatmeow. Tell her Ariel sent you! She is a braider at renaissance faires and has been doing hair for ages, so she knows what to do and how to do it well.

My earrings were from the gift shop in the Medici Chapels in Florence, just came back in September! I also donned a faux pearl belt given to me by my friend Sandi and a large faux pearl necklace from a thrift store find.

Underneath the skirts I’m wearing chopines that my Uncle Mark helped me make. After entirely too much research, we made the base out of cork blocks used for yoga which happened to fit my foot perfectly (I wear a size 7.5). They are extremely light! Mark did the shaping and crafting himself, then sealed them with a waterproof solution. We covered the exterior with fabric and then attached a slipper type shoe to the top. Wearing these with stockings is slippery so I attached some trim that also ties around the ankle to help them stay on. Not terribly hard to walk in on level ground, however for grassy areas it’s tricky.

Final Thoughts

Since making and wearing the dress a few times, I think I would’ve liked to change a few things on the dress. First I would’ve made the neck a bit wider and more square. I was worried about it being able to support the collar if it was too wide but now I see that it could’ve stood on its own on the kitchen floor, so the neckline wasn’t an issue. 
The outfit needs a person or two to help get it on, if for no other reason than the sleeves make my movement VERY limited. If I had made the sleeve rolls a little higher under my arm I may have had more movement but overall I’m willing to sacrifice not being able to cross my arms very well to have this outfit.

Aside from those few things, I’m very happy with how this turned out and will definitely be making more period outfits in the future.


  You can contact Ariel at Sewbeitcreations (at)

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© 2001 - 2010 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.