Trystan L. Bass
(Lady Violet Ruthvene)

California, USA
(Shire of Crosston, Principality of the Mists, West Kingdom)


A Florentine Outfit in the Style
 of  the 1530s

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

Trystan Says....


I've been sewing since I was a kid, taught by my mom and grand-mom. I fell in love with the English renaissance when I first saw "Elizabeth R" starring Glenda Jackson on PBS in the 1970s, and soon after, my mom took me to the original renaissance faire in Northern California. In my 20s, I participated in Ren Faire guilds portraying nobility and later dabbled in every form of costume from Lord of the Rings elf gowns to 18th-century polonaises. Five years ago, I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and returned to my first love, the 16th century, where I portray a lowland Scots gentlewoman. However, I've begun to test the waters of Italian Renaissance costume a bit. 

The Inspiration

This is the gown I first made to portray Veronica Gambara, the hostess of the “Feast in 1530s Correggio” at the SCA’s Collegium Occidentalis XLVII. I was running the event and wanted to cap off the day with a festive meal set in a specific time and place in history (which is not typically done in the West Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism). The gown has since become one of my favorites to wear at other SCA events.

I was inspired by the portrait of a lady by Pierfrancesco di Jacopo Foschi, 1530-35. I’ve loved this portrait for ages and was just waiting for an excuse to make it. However I would not recreate it exactly. For one, it would not be pink. While I adore pink, I wanted to use fabrics from my stash, and I had a perfect cranberry velveteen for this gown. I also didn't want to put the fur on the sleeves, for practicality. Fur is too hot, even at an indoor event. But the shape, style, trim, hat, and accessories would be as close as possible to this portrait.

The Gown 

I started with the giganto sleeves of d00m. I loves me some big crazy sleeves, and these are the biggest ones I’d made yet. First, I enlarged the pattern I had drafted for somewhat similarly shaped sleeves from another gown. 

(Note: always keep patterns you’ve drafted for yourself, but try to write down when you made them, so you know what the size might be, and it helps if you mark whether or not seam allowances are already included). I needed to enlarge the top part of the sleeve twice to get it suitably enormous.

Then I cut the final sleeves out with an interlining of canvas twill for body, along with a linen lining and the velvet outer layer. These got sewn up, with the bottom edge of the top section gathered into the snug lower portion of the sleeve. I cartridge-pleated the sleeve head into the armscye.

Next up was the bodice, and I used a side-lacing bodice pattern I’ve used for several past gowns, after a fit-check with a friend's help. Once done, I sewed that up, also with a canvas twill interlining, then put boning down each lacing side and made machine eyelets, since I can. These eyelets weren’t perfect due to the thickness of the material, but neither would my handmade eyelets. They’re functional, and that’s what counts. The trim was quite simple, just hand-sewing two lines of black ribbon around the neck, like the inspiration portrait. I bound the bottom of the bodice with linen so it was tidy when I cartridge-pleated the skirt to it.


Lastly, I cut out the skirt — I only had enough fabric for three panels, so I hoped it wouldn't look skimpy. It was about 130″ around in width, which is just barely reasonable.

One problem was when I tried on the gown with a shirt to get the look of the portrait, I HATED IT. The beautiful wide neckline of this gown looked AWFUL with a high-necked shirt/partlet underneath. Maybe my physical proportions are too different from the tall, long-necked woman in the portrait. I don’t know. But the shirt/partlet thing did NOT work at all. Icky. At least I realized that before of the night of the event.



The Accessories

Underneath the gown, I wore 16th-century reed-boned stays made by my dear friend Sarah Lorraine (probably not historically accurate for this era, but comfortable for me!), plus a simple white smock made by me. I wore plain black hose with handmade 16th-century shoes made by my friend Francis Classe.

I'd planned to make a gold cord belt similar to the one in the portrait but ran out of time. Instead, I wore the real pearl and glass garnet girdle I made several years ago.

For the balzo, I realized I had a already made little roll hat. It was of a burgundy brocade fabric that went really well with this gown, just needed a bit of reshaping. I added a filigree gold piece and a ton of gold trim crisscrossed to bling it up. When I've worn the gown at other times, I may wear a gold medallion and gold and garnet earrings.

The Event

With the great help and creativity of many dear friends, we turned a generic church room into a grand renaissance dining hall filled with candlelight, music, wine, and food. I played Veronica Gambara, widowed ruler of this small Italian city-state, a poetess and diplomat, known for inviting diverse peoples from foreign lands to her court — thus, quite appropriate for the somewhat unusual gathering of SCA dignitaries and people in 16th-century garb from various places who were at the event. It turned out exactly as I'd hoped and as we'd all planned and worked so hard on for a year.



  You can contact Trystan via her website, here.

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© 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.