Laura Ulak

Modelled by Georgiana Philip

Edina, Minnesota, USA


A Venetian Outfit in the Style
 of  the 1570s


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

Laura Says....


My name is Laura Ulak and I have been making costumes of various sorts for almost 20 years. I learned to sew from my Grandmother who taught me how to quilt. My aunt and my mother always made very elaborate Halloween costumes for us and eventually I decided to make my own.

I originally started out making children’s clothing and costumes and eventually became a co-owner in a Highland Dancewear business. After making lots of dancewear for Scottish and Irish dancers, I retired and started making Renaissance wear for various festival participants and my own “Wench Posse,” (WP) and other costumes for friends and clients. I am also the President of the Minnesota Society of Costumers (MNSOC) a brand new chapter in the International Costumer’s Guild (ICG).

Last year my costuming group and I recreated the outfits of King Henry VIII, his Six Wives, and other assorted relatives from their most famous portraits. This year our group descended upon MNRF in a Courtesan Invasion, with 20 different Courtesans of different styles, and different specialties. (We had a set of twins, a contortionist, a flirt, etc.) We can’t wait for next year’s group project – The Noble Court of the Island of Wenchlandia. Because everyone wants to be a Princess for a day, right?

I had found this really beautiful brocade patterned reversible silk fabric at our local Mill End several years ago, bought 6 yards and put it away. Periodically I would take it out, pet it, refold it, and then put it back. I didn’t really have any particular plans for it, but knew it would make something lovely some day.

When the WP decided to do a Courtesan Day at MNRF, I knew this fabric would be perfect for someone. It didn’t go with my hair at all, and when Georgiana mentioned that we needed to go fabric shopping for her costume, I knew this would look beautiful with her coloring. She was very excited and agreed that she loved it and could she take it home and just snuggle it for awhile? (It is VERY soft silk.)

We knew that she would need an accent color, and discussed the idea of using dark green. She wasn’t sure what style of gown she wanted, but when she saw the showcase of Cynthia Kalina, also of Minnesota, she knew she wanted a dress like hers. 

I used Jen Thompson’s excellent camicia pattern on Festive Attyre for the camicia, and made the neckline a drawstring one for ease of adjustment, but put elastic in the cuffs, per Georgiana’s request. It is made of very lightweight cotton and is very comfortable to wear.

Georgiana wore her old black corset that had originally NOT had tabs, but was converted after we discovered how much more comfortable they were, made from an Elizabethan Corset Generator pattern. It is nearing the end of its usefulness, but it worked for this particular event. It is made of two layers of duck cloth, with plastic cable ties for boning.

She wore her pink cotton bloomers with white cotton hose and her red canvas sneakers, as she needs a more stable shoe for walking out at MNRF, which is notorious for its uneven and rocky ground. (This is what happens when you build a festival on a rock quarry.)

To get the proper shape we opted against the farthingale, and made a green duchess satin underskirt for the dress out of 3 yards of fabric, gathered at the top with an elastic waist. The trim we found was already in my stash and matched the green very well.

The overskirt was knife pleated into the waistband to reduce bulk, and the skirt closes with several hooks and eyes. Because the silk fabric is so lovely on its own, we decided against trimming the overskirt.

The bodice was made by modifying a back-side-lacing bodice pattern from Margo Anderson. The front of the bodice was heavily boned, and the back has minimal boning, mainly just to ensure the smoothness of the fabric over the corset top to the shoulder. It was flat lined, and then corded piping was sewn onto the edges and stitched to the inside. The shoulder straps were adjusted and sewn down (leaving the extra sewn inside in case it needed to be worn by someone else at some point) and small looped tabs with various trims were stitched around the armhole opening.

Tie-on sleeves were made of the same fabric, but discovered to be shorter than Georgiana’s arm length, and so small ruffled cuffs of the same silk fabric were added to the bottom, and the seam was covered with trim. The sleeves tie into the shoulders via gold rings sewn into the armholes. The sleeves tie with coordinating ribbon with gold aiglets on the ends.


At this point things were looking great, the outfit was beautiful, and the only thing left to do was to grommet it. (We elected to use grommets rather than hand bound eyelets as this wasn’t intended to be historically accurate.) Of course something has to go wrong, and this is where it happened.

My grommetting buddy started grommetting around 9pm (which is against the Cardinal Rules of Grommetting, which include never drinking while grommetting, never grommetting after 8pm, and always counting out your grommets first to make sure you have enough), while chatting with my 13 year old, and watching a MN Vikings game. As the game heated up and she got more incensed by the play of the team, tragedy happened with the grommetting due to her being rather distracted. The hole puncher used was discovered to be too large for the size of grommets we wanted to use, and on the back of the bodice the fabric had folded in half, and we wound up with two sets of holes next to each other. 

Honestly, I wanted to cry at this point. We were so close to being done, and now I had multiple rows of grommetting holes that were uneven and too large. We put the bodice in time out and I went to sleep. The next day I asked the WP Brain Trust for their opinion on what was best to be done (we had no more fabric, and we were under a time crunch) and the best suggestion was to remove the old grommets, sew fabric/trim on the inside of the bodice, again on the outside of the bodice, and regrommet. Which is how the dress came to have an unusual trim placement on the back, which we decided to call a “design element.” The grommetting went better this time, although at some point we will have to wind up actually stitching around all the grommets with thread as the front ones are starting to pull loose a bit from the size of the punched holes being too large in places. So in the end it will look more period appropriate (in regards to lacing) after all.

Georgiana wore her hair in a very long curly top knot for Courtesan Day, and for pictures wore it back in a bun. We still need to add some hooks and eyes to attach the skirt to the bodice, as well as come up with a better solution in regards to attaching the underskirt to the overskirt, but she looked beautiful in the gown, and was very happy with it.

Georgiana found a gold pearl necklace that coordinated beautifully with the gown, and a pair of earrings from Target that she thought would work well. The girdle was a large gold beaded necklace that I got at a garage sale in a “Buy 25 items for $2.00” box, and the pendant on the front is from a thrift store. The girdle needs to be tightened so it will lie better against the dress, but otherwise it matches quite well.

By coincidence we happened to run into Cynthia (the woman whose showcase inspired Georgiana) at MNRF, and showed her the gown and told her about her being our inspiration. She was charming, and happy that we had been inspired by her gown.

Georgiana has been so happy with the design of the gown and its comfort level that she is thinking about another one. I am just happy that despite what could have been a REALLY awful tragedy, the gown turned out as well as it did. My new motto is “when in doubt, add trim.”


  You can contact Laura at lauraulak (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.