Carol Strand-Siebers

Hopkins, Minnesota, USA


A Venetian Outfit in the Style of circa 1560

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

Carol Says....


My name is Carol Strand-Siebers and I have been sewing since I was six years old when I put the needle from my toy sewing machine through my thumb, which left quite an impression on me! My first costuming gig was as a costume mistress for a children’s theatre company when I was 12. I went on to work at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival as a street performer for 10 years.

I am now a mixed-media artist and a teaching artist at the Minnesota Textile Center. I took an extended hiatus from costuming to start a family and because, frankly, I was burned out. Then I came across this crazy lady who had decided to recreate Henry VIII’s costumes on her blog, and it sounded like fun. I offered my services as photographer and jewelry maker (I made Jane Seymour’s jewelry!) and brought in my sister as tour guide and last minute slave labor. And thus began a new chapter in my costuming and theatrical life. I am now a proud member of the Wench Posse and am also the Vice-President of the Minnesota Society of Costumers, an ICG Chapter.

After creating my first ever Elizabethan to play with the WP last year, as soon as I heard "Courtesan" for this year, I signed on. There is a reason the word "Sassy" is in my business name! I enjoyed getting my flirt on with men and women in my role as "bilingual courtesan" and swanning about looking lovely. Because I may be 42 years old, but I can still bring it! 

My costume began in the AS-IS department at IKEA as curtain panels. My friend Laura bought them intending to make an outfit for herself, as they go nicely with red hair, but then I drooled on them and they were mine! (I also have red hair and blue eyes.)

I had planned on doing a true Venetian as a challenge to myself, having never made a strictly historical gown before, and my original inspiration for the sleeves were the beautiful cutwork sleeves seen on Jen Thompson’s website, Festive Attyre. However, as I spent more and more time looking at 'Moda a Firenze', I kept going back to the sleeves on the extant petticoat of the Red Pisa dress. And then I found a perfectly color coordinating ribbon at our local version of Mood Fabrics (SR Harris), and I was smitten. There may have been squeeing involved.

For my camicia I ended up making Jen Thompson’s version from Festive Attyre, but put a drawstring at the neck because of time constraints and to be able to showcase my décolletage, if I so desired. It was made of a simple bleached muslin cotton fabric. The sleeves were kept on the smaller side so they would fit inside the form-fitting velvet sleeves, and they end in a small ruffle. I am planning on making a new camicia out of fine lawn fabric (that I got on clearance!) before I wear the garment again.

My corset was made by our group’s corsetiere, Erin Schneider, from the Elizabethan Corset Generator. It is tabbed all around for incredible comfort. I can drive in it, eat in it, etc. I could I would wear it all the time, it is so awesome. It is made of cotton duck with plastic cable ties (synthetic whale!) and fully grommeted down the back, including the tabs. One of the WP members had read on Kendra Van Cleeve’s blog about extending grommets/eyelets into the tabs for better back support. I pay homage to the historical nature of the garment, but for comfort and extended wearability in all kinds of climates, I have chosen to not have the garment be strictly historically accurate.

I made a faux camicia front to go over the corset and that was based on Fiore’s showcase that I have seen referenced before.


My drawers/bloomers are a black and grey striped knit sleep pant with added ruffle purchased from Target - because I love stripes, hate making bloomers, and am all about the comfort. I purchased rayon corn-silk colored knee high stockings from Sock Dreams because they cater to people with wider than average calves. Given the difficulty in finding shoes in my size (women’s size 11) and the rocky nature of the site of Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I scored a pair of red Mary Jane style Crocs on clearance. They were comfortable, and can be hosed off at the end of the day!

I opted to not wear a farthingale or petticoat for better ease of movement and because the skirt was very full and stood out nicely due to the heaviness of the velvet.

The bodice portion of the over-gown was created by modifying a Margo Anderson Elizabethan front lacing bodice pattern. I chose to have the “V” in front come to a point rather than a “U” shape because I had seen portraits with this and it was a more flattering look for my body type. The bodice is triple layered, with the boning in the back (which smoothes out the line of the bodice where the corset ends) and boning on either sides of the “V” opening and sides of the bodice sandwiched between the two inner cotton lining layers with the velvet on top. I chose to use Jen Thompson’s ladder lacing technique with the ribbons and was really happy with how the laces set on the front of the “V”. 

I sewed some of the ribbon along the front of the “V” and the top of the bodice and straps to mimic the inspiration gown. I laced the front of the bodice closed with burnt gold rattail cording that matched the gold in the ribbon perfectly!

The skirt was attached to the bodice along the back to the side seams. It was cartridge pleated, but looking back now I should have knife-pleated it due to the bulk of the velvet. It is not super pretty back there, but no one needs to be looking at my seams! The rest of the skirt is on a waistband and it hooks in front under the bodice and faux camicia insert. The skirt in front attaches to the bodice with hooks and eyes, but there is still some engineering that needs to occur to make it lay more smoothly. The bottom of the skirt has a black micro-suede mudguard and one row of ribbon trim. Again, sort of mimicking the bottom of the Pisa dress. The mudguard is a necessity for going to Minnesota Renaissance Festival due to the dusty and muddy conditions of the grounds.

The sleeves were made using Laura’s basic sleeve pattern. While the sleeves were still flat I marked where the ribbon was going to go, kept that pinned in place and before sewing them down, I cut my slashes with an 'Exacto' knife. I tried spraying the back of the fabric beforehand with fray check to reduce excessive fraying of the slashes, but this did not work. Eventually I will sit down with a small bowl of fray check and a mini-paintbrush and paint each of the slashes – I think this will be the only way to keep them from fraying excessively.

 I lined the back of the sleeve with a white linen fabric which was intended to give the appearance of little puffs through the slashes, but underestimated the amount of fabric needed. However, with the ribbons sewn down into place and when the sleeve is bent you can see a flash of white in the slashes, which gives the illusion of a camicia. I bag-lined the sleeves with a cotton fabric, and added more ribbon trim to the top and bottom of the sleeves. They are tied into the shoulders of the gown via gold rings on the shoulders AND the tops of the sleeves. They are then tied in place with ribbon. I started with rattail cording, only to discover it to be too slippery to hold on a joint that gets that much movement, and switched to ribbon, which holds much better.

As someone who LOVES to make jewelry, I am all about the accessories. I rocked two different hairstyles on the two times I wore the costume, neither of which is completely historically accurate (think 'Dangerous Beauty'), but I grew my hair out for the character, and wanted to show it off! The first wearing I added in hair extensions, and a braided bun that I added ribbon to to give the illusion of hair taping. The second wearing it was requested that I attempt hair horns, and I am all about a challenge, so I fashioned false hair horns out of a cut off bun form and sewed fake hair to it. These were then bobby-pinned into my hair by the WP’s hair stylist and my real hair was wrapped around it to incorporate it into my hairdo. I did not use the extensions that day because I wanted the focus to be on the horns. I can say with certainty that the hair horns were a success – everyone commented on them. Next year I will attempt an up-do, with full hair taping and horns.

Earrings were giant pearl drops scavenged from a thrift store find that I put gold French loops on. The necklace was a knotted glass pearl necklace that I have had since I was in high school. I wore rings that used to be clip-on earrings that I modified into rings. 

My girdle was another thrift store find, and I changed out the ugly glass beads for red India glass that looks like Venetian glass beads. (Venetian beads being very expensive!) The girdle ends in a large faux pearl drop.

I made a zibellino from a thrift store find of really soft mink and added some jewelry parts and stick on crystals to the faceplate. I did some antiquing on a gold earring to add as a focal point to “Zeb’s” mask. I added a chain woven with ribbon and this attached to my girdle. He spent most of the day draped over my arm. 

My fan was made of marabou and peacock feathers that I found at a local costume shop. I made a matching bag with matching trim from scrap fabrics, and added a brooch. (You always need to add a brooch!)


The only changes I would make are the tweaking of the skirt attached to the bodice. Things that I plan to make (besides the new camicia) are a basket-weaved coif with pearls, and a partlet for under the bodice, also woven with pearls, as I found pre-woven gold fabric that just needs pearls added to it.

I got tons of compliments on the color, and told people, “I saw it in the window and just had to have it!” I was very comfortable in it – the cotton velvet breathes very well, and as this is my first “recreation” style gown, I am just pleased as punch with how well it looks, and how much the sleeves match the picture. I can’t wait to wear it again! 


  You can contact Carol at ms.sassy (at), and you can find her website here.

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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.