Lady Morgan Donner
(Heather Morgan)

Barony of Madrone, Kingdom of An Tir
Washington, USA)


An Outfit in the Style
 of  the Venetian Mainland, 1590


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

Morgan Says....


I am Morgan Donner in the SCA and I’d love to share my latest outfit with you. I grew up with a mother who sewed for Ren Faires then for SCA, and when I found the SCA again in College, I started sewing too! Dress diaries all over the internet, and especially the ones featured in the Realm of Venus’s Italian Showcase, have been so immensely helpful. I learned so much from those diaries, and they inspired me to document my own projects, in the hope that they will someday be useful for someone else.

So some time last year, I noticed these split panel skirts. I had seen them before, particularly in the works of Jacopo Bassano, but always in a religious context, so I dismissed them as not-real garments. 

But when I started collecting apron images for a different project, I saw similar skirts worn 40 years later on mostly peasant and working class women. There were so many depictions by different artists, I changed my mind and decided that they likely did exist. And that I must have one.

The Inspiration

I ended up focusing on Cesare Vecellio’s Peasant Women in the Region Surrounding Venice, since it came with a caption by the artist describing the outfit (plus it was super cute!). The “Degli Habiti antichi et moderni di diverse parti del mondo ” book (recently published as Clothing of the Renaissance World) was originally written in Italian and Latin, and the first edition was published in 1589. Very roughly translated, the caption for this lady says: 

“Peasant women of land round about in Venetia, whom you see on the day of Venetia ‘Ascension from N. Lord. They wear such over their heads some straw hats made with beautiful fine art, and with feathers of different colors, under from ‘which they have their hair fixed exceedingly well under a net of threads of’ gold. They carry some Bavari (cape about the neck of any garment) wrinkled, and above a veil of silk or other thin cloth. They wear a dress of bombast, or wool of different colors with some silver-gilt pins above the bust, with gards of velvet or other sorts of silk, with corals or beads of silver turn/round the neck, or chest, and thus so down the seams of the sleeves. Above this they wear a round savegard of silk, or other sort of very thin cloth, accommodated with some binding rosettes made to needle with silk braiding/cord/ribbon; are encircled with a belt of crimson velvet or black; they wear socks worked with white shoes worked, and then the pianelle (similar to pattens) over, go very to order/method/form, and appearance is very delightful to look upon.” 

The Apron-Skirt

I happened to have a bolt of light weight linen, so I used that instead of silk for my ‘very thin cloth’ apron. I hemmed 10 panels of linen, about 11 inches wide and 38 inches long. I experimented with cloth roses until I found one I liked (middle left) then made 40 to sprinkle between the linen panels. 

The rosettes were made with a 1 inch wide silk ribbon, cut to 4 inch lengths. Then a long thin waist band made of the same linen finished of the top edge of the apron-skirt.

The Dress

With the skirt nearing completion, I tried to figure out which dress I would wear it with. Going through my mental closet, I realized that none of them would quite match the image! I have front-lacing dresses, and dresses with guards, but none with both! Clearly this needed to be fixed. So a new dress had to be made to go with the apron.

I started by making a sturdy boned bodice out of striped cotton I had on hand. Almost totally machine sewn since I knew it wouldn’t be visible in the end. 

The striped bodice foundation was then covered with the actual dress fabric, a nice green wool. The finished foundation layer meant that I could lace it shut without visible holes in the green wool. 

The ‘gards of silk’ came next, cut on the bias and hand stitched down.

The skirt is completely rectangular, and measures about 120 inches around. This had a good bit of weight on its own, so I didn’t line it. Instead, I turned the top edge over once, and did a big running stitch to gather the top for cartridge pleating. These pleats were stitched to the bodice evenly all around, with a split down the front opening for a couple inches. I sewed silk gards of the same color as the bodice around the hem of the skirt, about two inches wide.

Once the dress was done, I decided that since I had gone this far, I might as well make the rest of the outfit too. This involved a lot of little accessories. 

The Accessories

The hat was purchased online, and while I would not have preferred the unfinished edge style, it was the closest in shape to my Vecellio print. The ‘feathers of many colors’ were a fortuitously timed gift from my mother, and I made the red hat band out of silk, with little pewter acorns dangling off the ends.

The ruffed partlet is made of linen, and entirely hand-sewn (I do so love the wee rolled hem on the ruff edge!)

I made the sleeves a while back, but I added the big hollow pewter beads along the seam (purchased online) and added eyelets to lace through. There’s more pewter along the front of the bodice, but I cast those myself, trying to make them look like the ones in the picture.

The Shoes

To finish off the outfit, I needed shoes! Enough work went into those that they could have their own write-up, but here’s the speedy version: I sewed a pair of white slippers based on the ‘indoor shoes’ covered in Stepping Through Time. The vamps were pinked with a wood chisel sharpened by my husband, and the edges snipped with leather scissors. 

The over shoes were made possible by the fabulous information on Francis Classe’s Raised Heels website. The cork base is covered with a very thin red leather, and stitched to the outsole through the bottom edge. When I first wore them, everyone wanted to know how difficult they were to walk in. They were not too bad, much like any other modern platform shoe, although I should not have chosen such an uneven grounded event as my first place to wear them.

For more in-depth information on my efforts to translate the original text and my shoe-making efforts, visit



  You can contact Morgan (Heather) via Morgandonner (dot) felix (at)

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© 2001 - 2014 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.