I recently received a lovely gift from my fiancé: The Clothing of the Renaissance World. This book contains all the images from Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Anichi et Moderni, the second 1598 edition. I was surprised at how often the artist mentions veils being worn by women of all stations, in every country, but especially Italy.
Not only were veils still very much a common accessory, but they were arranged in a vast array of styles. Some might be pinned to the hair several times to create a voluminous set of puffs, in short round sets, or long ones that dangle at the shoulders. The veil could be pinned up at various places along the shoulders, arms, and belt, creating a rather different looking arrangement each time. Vecellio indicates in his (translated to English) writings that these various pinning methods were somewhat regional.
With my wedding coming up, I was extra motivated to make a period veil out of some lovely transparent silk I had. Here are the pictures of my relatively successful veil! A tiny part of the veil hung low enough to get caught on grass, and ended up with a fair bit of damage from that, but I think it would be ok to wear again, despite the many little pulled threads.
On a slightly related note, I have figured out that this dress looks much nicer with a foundation garment underneath. I know that the Italian bodice style tends to be a bit more curved, and that it’s even ok for the working class women to have slightly wrinkled bodices, but my first wearing of this dress made me dissatisfied with the underbust area.
Comparing it to the various 16th century lower class images (great collection by Anea here), the bodice looked sort of ok, but there are enough images that look somewhat straight bodied that I don’t feel too bad wearing foundation underneath to make the bodice lay nicer. I know that stays are very unlikely garments for Italian worker bees, but isn’t the straight bodied look so lovely in comparison to the one without?
Now you might say, why don’t you just make a curved front seam? I have done that on several of my other dresses, and it works wonderfully (although you might have to watch out for fabric stretching over time, and no longer being as supportive as it once was. Then you put stays on underneath that too, with surprising success.) But I really wanted to try to make a straight seamed front, and found that while I was able to get it close to the look I want, especially if I stand up straight, it wasn’t quite there without something extra.
Moving back to the subject of veils, I would love to recreate the many different draping styles Habiti Anichi et Moderni, but they are not quite ‘one veil fits all’. Some need to drape over the face, then reach all the way to the calves, or some need to be much shorter than mine to make the look with pinned shoulders work. But I bet I can make this veil work with some of them. Stay tuned for the update with many pictures of me playing dress up.