Ascension Day Dress

So continuing off of the Ascension Day Apron post, I figured I might as well make the rest of the outfit to go with the nifty new apron.

Ascension Day Dress on

‘Peasant Women in the Region Surrounding Venice, Seen in Venice on the Day of the Ascension of Our Lord, a Venetian Holiday and Fair’ Print and text by Cesare Vecellio (1590) in The Clothing of the Renaissance World (Degli Habiti antichi et moderni di diverse parti del mondo ), translated by Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal.

My darling husband bought me the very large hardcover translated-to-English version of this ” Habiti antichi et moderni di diverse” book, illustrated and written by Venetian Cesare Vecellio (c. 1530 – c. 1601).  I looked up the original 1598 Italian words by Cesare describing the woman’s outfit, and translated them to the best of my ability.  I wrote a lot about that on the Ascension Day Apron post, so I won’t repeat it here, and skip straight to the meat:

Peasant women of land round about in Venetia, whom you see on the Venetia day of  ‘Ascension from N. Lord.
These 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/gathered, 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/neat, and appearance is very delightful to look upon.

 To start off, I needed to pick my fabric colors.  I got everything in place, partly based on what fabrics I happened to have in my stash, except for the sleeves!

Ascension Day Dress on MorganDonner.comBased on the advice of lovely friends, I decided to go with the brown sleeves, although the nice thing about separate sleeves is that I can always make more!

The image shows a ladder laced bodice, with no visible lacing holes.  The laces disappear behind the bodice instead.  I have seen other costumers solve this problem with a row or two of ribbons on the inside, sewn down to create channels for the lacing cord to travel through, which I know works quite well since I used that method on my venetian gown.  But since lacing holes/rings are so common in portraiture and in all the extant garments we have (that lace up), I figured I try to see if I can use lacing holes instead.

Starting with the same bodice pattern as my red dress, I lengthened it by about an inch and a half, shortened the point a bit, and removed about two inches out of the center front (since this style is not meant to close in the front).

While I am on the subject of bodices, I figure I’ll share a little diagram I made while I was trying to decide how I wanted to make my bodice this time.  In the end, I did something that was a mix of construction techniques, but hopefully it will still prove useful to someone!

If I had to describe how I did my bodice this time in the above picture terms, then I’d say B for the striped part, with boning inserted through an opening in the center back, and then an additional layer on top, sewn down sort of like the reddish color on the lower right.  But fortunately, you don’t have to understand what I am talking about through diagrams, since I took lots of pictures instead!

I sewed the stripy bodice above out of sturdy canvas, and boned it with large zip-ties.  I added some to the back of this after the picture, which straightened out the wrinkles there nicely.

Then I added a new layer on top of the striped bodice, wrapping around all of the edges except the front so the laces remained unobstructed.

“They wear a dress of bombast, or wool of different colors”

I tried it on and found that the ridges of the bones were much more visible than I’d prefer, so I took it off and added a layer of thick wool just under the green layer.  But other than that, this was looking good, so I went on with the guards.

“With gards of velvet or other sorts of silk”

The guards are made of a grey silk, that looks very silvery because of it’s sheen.  No actual metal content, but I think it mimics the cloth-of-silver look nicely.

I did not want to fold over the edges of the green fabric twice, since it’s a bit too thick for that, but I did not want to leave the raw edges exposed, so I sewed some strips of left over silk bias over them.  Usually I just put in a whole lining, but I figured I’d try something different, for giggles.  Not period, just fun.

Since the silk is so shiny, the light bounces off of it and shows every little tiny wrinkle where the bias is being pulled unevenly.  You can see it pretty clearly on the top bar of the back piece.  I might pick out the stitches and resew it, but my laziness might win out against it.

The skirt is one big rectangle (technically two since it was sewn from two pieces) cut with the selvages running down the length of the skirt, rather than along the hem or waist.  I used to do it the other way, but since all of Juan de Alcega‘s pattern layouts involve the skirt (and all other pattern pieces too really) oriented with the warp of the fabric running straight up and down on the body, with little to no cases of the weft going up and down, I figured I’d try it this way.

I folded the top edge of the skirt over, then gathered it neatly with a thick thread.

The skirt was then whip stitched to the bodice, and I made sure to grab the canvas with each stitch, since it is the strong part of the bodice.  I arranged the pleats so that the fabric was weighted a little bit more toward the back, for more fullness there.

The bottom of the skirt was decorated with the same silver of the bodice, about two inches wide.

I think I will add another pair of holes at the bottom of the waist, to give it better closing leverage there, it keeps wanting to sneak open a bit.

I love basic Italian kirtles!  They are so simple and lovely.

I have the apron done for this outfit, which is really the showcase piece.  Since I had the dress on anyways, I took some pictures of the apron even though the rest of the accessories are not done yet.

Several more pictures of the fluffy cupcake Ascension Apron at the bottom of this post.

And now it’s accessory time! I plan to make/buy:

  1. A straw hat of similar shape to the print. -Done!
  2. A silk sash of cloth for a hat band, ending in 4 little points, with silver beads at each end. -Done!
  3. A pair of colorful ostrich feathers. -Done!
  4. Six pewter cast circular brooches for the bodice. -Done!
  5. A basket similar to hers. -Done!
  6. Brown sleeves with silver or coral buttons down the seam. -Done!
  7. A gold net for my hair. -Done!
  8. White leather shoes. -Done!
  9. Pianelle, perhaps in red. -Buffering….
  10. Silk ‘veil’ to tuck into my bodice, over my shift. -Done!
  11. The Baragoni/shoulder puff rolls.  Probably just basted on, since I don’t think I want them as a permanent feature of the dress. -Done!
  12. Maybe a new shift with a ruffled collar (I already have some, but I think I might be due for an upgrade).

Completed outfit here!

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