1580s Venetian Gown
I have entered the Realm of Venus Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge again!
Lately I have made several outfits that were pretty much directly based off of one specific painting, so this time I am going to go wild and grab elements from different gowns that I like! But that does mean I need to buckle down and pick which specific gown elements I like and want to recreate, and keep track of them so I don’t forget where I saw that fabulous stripped frothy thing, or that other lacy doodad.
Here’s a more detailed list of plans for my late Venetian upper class outfit (listed in terms of the 4 layers required for the Challenge):
Layer 1: Shift, with gathered neckline, visible from the front-laced gown opening, with lace at the top of the bound neckline, as seen around the edges of Ludovico Pozzoserrato’s A Musical Evening (late 1570s)
Layer 2: A skirt or bodied petticoat. I need something to puff my skirts out a bit more sometimes, and while a bodied petticoat would be nice because it could double as a dress in it’s own right when needed, it would create logistical issues with the open-front gown on top. I think I am leaning more towards skirt at the moment like the one worn by the serving girl on the right in Feast at Cana by an Unknown Painter (1550’s) but we shall see when the time comes.
I have not yet made a gown with the paned upper sleeve like Madonna of the House of Coccina, so I think I’d like to try that.
Layer 4: A partlet with ruffles that continue all the way down the bust, like the child in Girolamo Forni’s Portrait of the Gentlewomen of the Giusti del Giardino Family (1570’s?).
Additional Accessories: a fun purse, possibly one of the suggestively shaped ones here and perhaps a pair of shoulder ruffs.
With all the planning done, I can think about actually making these things!
I am feeling rebellious, so I’ll start on layer three, out of order.
That neckline issue is intriguing! I started out with a pattern from another dress, adjusted it to include the Venetian backpoint, and a slightly lower neckline.
I know that I will likely have to make a couple mockups before I am happy, so I am sticking with mostly machine sewing construction for expediency’s sake.
The side seams were sewn and ironed, then the lining and outside were sewn together all around, except for a small section (my hand inside it above) so I could turn it inside out.
After it’s flipped, the bodice gets ironed flat. I left the flipping seam unsewn so I could insert bones through it. Speaking of bones…
I like to use big zipties. I mark the length I need, smooth the pointy corners, number my bones so they end up in the right spots, then sew them in! They were placed in their spot through the little unsewn section, then I stitched close to the bone with a zipper foot.
This first mock-up isn’t quite right when I compare my picture side by side with the various inspiration pictures. I have a hard time telling if my mock-up looks close to the originals by just looking in the mirror. I find it much easier to take a picture and compare my picture to the paintings. My comparing tells me I need a new mock-up: my poor Venetian backpoint is so small that my shirt has eaten it!
New mock up is better, much closer now: nearly two inches longer, back point is much more pronounced, and bust about an inch lower (though it hardly looks so!). Shoulder straps have been narrowed, trying to imitate the nearly invisible strap look of 1580’s Venetian gowns. This will certainly need more bones around the sides/back, it’s all wrinkled!
And now with more bones! And a different shift/partlet combo, to see if that would make a difference, which I don’t think it did. The center back bone is longer now, which got rid of the bra strap height wrinkle (not wearing a bra, but that wrinkle made it look like I was!). Shoulder straps may be a smidge long? It’s still not quite as low as most of the necklines of this period, although I am hesitant to go further. I do wish the square shape of the neckline was a bit sharper at the corners though… hmm.
Ok, last picture of the stripes! Just a tiny smidge lower now, and slightly more squared-off corners. I think I am happy with how low it is now, so now it’s time to cover it with my fancy silk fabric.
I cut out the bodice pieces out in grey wool and red silk. The red will be my final outfit color, and the grey is to help prevent the bones of the foundation from showing through. I tacked the edge of the red to the inside of the striped bodice, and gave that a try!
Nearly perfect! All is good except that the center front doesn’t quite perfectly mirror each other, and the red needs to come out a little more over the lacings, but those are easily fixed, and we are other-wise good to go start on the lining.
Now it’s finally time for the skirt! I sewed a strip of thin-ish wool to the top of the skirt to give it a bit of body, and sewed a facing along the front slit. It’s about 8 inches long, the shortest I could make it and still be able to get the dress on and off.
I gathered the skirt with a single pleating thread. I like the slightly random/messy look it gives to the finished pleats, compared to using several rows of gathering threads, which makes for much more uniform and parallel finished pleats. The pleats were stitched to the bodice with two or three stitches each, and I made sure to go through the foundation fabric with each stitch.
Well, I think more about that later, first we have sleeves to make!
I started with one of my other well-fitting sleeves, but since I want it to be a two piece sleeve like many of the ones in Alcega’s tailoring book, I made a little fold in the middle.
To get the splits in the top of my sleeves, I lined them in white silk, and sewed several little slashes. Once I cut between each of the narrow ‘V’s, I could flip them right side out. Now I have nice clean panes at the top of my sleeves!
After a bit of ironing, my panes are smooth and ready to be bound.
The top of the sleeve panes are bound together with more red silk, starting with an inch wide straightgrain strip. I figure I can tie these sleeves to the bodice shoulders using the space between the panes. I thought of it too late, but as an alternate construction method, I could have sewn all the way around each of the panes so that there are no raw edges at the top, flipped them all right side out, then whip stitched the corners together, no binding needed. Something for next time I guess!
With the sleeves done, the dress is done too! Time for pictures of the finished dress:
Veils are such fun! I made it last year for my turquoise dress. Not a whole lot of making to do, just hem two edges, but it adds a lot to the outfit. Plus most depictions of Italian women outdoors includes a veil, sometimes covering the face, sometimes not, so I try to wear it when I can.
Yay dress! I am very pleased with how it came out, although I should make sure to wear it to a cooler event next time.
I got this finished in time to wear it to the last weekend of the Ren Faire here, which had a Masquerade theme, so we also made masks to go with our outfits.
I was a little short on time, so instead of making my own buckram or pasteboard base, I used a plastic store bought base. It was a little big, so I cut it down till it looked a little closer in shape to some of the period visards.
Then I covered the plastic with velvet, and the inside with linen, stitching the inside around the eyeholes, mouth, and outside to secure the fabric together. I saw a couple pictures with ties, especially the half-masks, so I used ribbon ties to secure the mask to my face rather than the mouth button on the extant example.