Lorna McKenzie
(Bethan of Dismal Fogs)

Modelled by M.

Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia


A Gown loosely based on 1530s Venice

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

Lorna Says....


I am the daughter of a Sydney couturier and learned to sew as her ‘tailor's apprentice’. She taught me how to make clothes that fitted well and were fashionable.

I came to historical garb sewing first through the Society of Creative Anachronism a few years back. I started with a T-Tunic but quickly moved on to Cotehardies, Burgundians, and Bliauts. When I found the Italian Renaissance I found my home. I’ve always loved vintage and dress-up, but this was the first time I had made something exactly in period.

For me, making an historic gown is like time travel. I am taken back to a pre-industrial world, when a new gown couldn’t be bought in a shop; where creating something special was exciting and filled you with such anticipation; where you spent time on the embroidery and beading and couldn’t wait to finish your creation and wear it to the ball. I find combining period-correct hand stitching and historic construction methods with my 21st Century sewing machine combines the best aspects of past and present. It is amazingly satisfying.

As an authorised marriage celebrant I specialise in historical weddings, so having a wardrobe with appropriate garb is always useful.

I made this gown in 2009 for a good friend who teaches. She loves historical gowns and has longed passionately to have one in her wardrobe. She also wanted a piece of ‘living history’ to use with her students who were studying 12th Night. As Illyria is the setting of Twelfth Night, we could use creative licence and work on a late Italian gown.

My friend uses the gown with her students when working on the play, the boys love putting on the gown and playing the female parts in the traditional manner. The gown has been used to demonstrate many other ‘living history’ historical points as well.

My friend worked with me the entire way and learnt skills as she went. She improved her seamstress abilities and gained insights into the lives of the women of the period. Making and mentoring the creation of this gown with my friend was another impetus in the creation of The Tailor’s Apprentice.


The design brief was: velvet, green and gold as a colour theme, places for embroidery, split sleeves, side-back lacing, split skirt, late Italian Renaissance. It was loosely based on this image by Paris Bordone.


For a period gown to look right you must wear the correct period foundations and we used the following internet resources and I highly recommend them: Festive Attiyre’s ‘How to make an easy Italian chemise’ (a fabulous tutorial), ‘Everything you ever wanted to know about boning with hemp cord, but were afraid to ask!’ (I couldn’t locate hemp cord, but I used a natural twine that worked as effectively), and ‘The Zen of Spiral Lacing’, (to ensure correct period lacing). And also the Elizabethan Costume Page's ‘Custom Corset Pattern Generator’. 


Gown construction

Gown construction was ably assisted by Artemisia Moltabocca’s Venetian Courtesan Gown blog post where she goes step-by-step through the creation of her beautiful gown, including video clips.

*I also blogged the process on my Blue Mountains Bliss blog and you can follow the entire process here, here, and here.

(*Note from Bella: My apologies for not including Lorna's full write-up here. I normally insist on it as a condition of participation in the Showcase, but with the sudden influx of people wishing to be Showcased in a very short period of time I realised that breaking my own rule just this once would save me some time putting the pages together to get them online as soon as possible. I do hope this doesn't affect your enjoyment of the Showcase too much.)


  You can contact Lorna at lornamckenzie (at) ozemail.com.au

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


© 2001 - 2013 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.