Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Realm of Venus

The Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

 April 21 to August 21, 2011

Hannah Longbottom

Location: Wyoming, USA

Bio: I have been sewing all my life, and have been part of the SCA for about three years now with an early 1500's Florentine persona. I have have sewn many outfits for myself and others, mostly Italian Renaissance and 18th Century, but I have also attempted recreating clothing from the Roman times to the Victorian. 

Project: For this challenge I would like to make an embroidered linen camicia, a front lacing Venetian gown loosely based off of Giovanni Antonio Fasolo's 'Portrait of a Lady', and a loose gown to go over. I have not yet decided on my accessory, but it will probably be a partlet and/or veil.

Project Blog: http://caravanofelephants.blogspot.com/

So my main inspiration for my challenge gown is in 'Portrait of a Lady' (1565) by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo, my favorite part being the lovely trim. I do not intend to follow the portrait exactly, as I do not particularly care for split front skirts. I have a bunch of ivory silk dupioni for the main part of the gown, and for the trim I will appliquť on bits of a cream-coloured velveteen, and further edge it all in silk ribbon...and of course there will be beads!! For my over-gown I have several yards of dark green upholstery velvet and allot of wide metallic gold braid. I want it to be fairly loose fitting, as it will be heavy, and have the short puffy paned sleeves, but beyond that I haven't determined the details. 

I have cut out all the pieces for my camicia, using an ivory linen/cotton blend, and I have begun the embroidery. The pattern is simple, a vine of pomegranates and I am working it in pale gold and amethyst coloured flosses. I don't think it could technically be called black work, even though I am using Holbein stitch, but there are plenty of examples of coloured embroidery on shirts and other underpinnings in Janet Arnold's books. I plan to embroider the strips of pomegranates down the sleeves and down the front, and maybe all around the hem depending how enthralled I am with it when the rest is done.

May 17: So there really isnít too much to update on. Iíve been busy with different work projects and travelling, and mílord officially asked me to marry him. Very Exciting. I did start a blog however, and thereís a few more pictures and info on there.

I was hoping to get my camicia done by now, but that hasnít happened. I have however finished rolled-hemming all the individual pieces, by hand of course, and have begun assembling them, using a herringbone type stitch to join the pieces. I have also finished the cuffs. They are smocked by hand, the embroidered band added, and then trimmed in a narrow gold lace. They tie shut with braided cord. I am very pleased how they turned out. One thing I have also learned is that, even though it may take longer to individually hem all the little gussets and gores and bodice pieces, it sure make Y seams much easier to do and looks much nicer.

May 27: I finally finished my camicia. All the seams are sewn using the herringbone stitch and the neckline is also hand smocked. All the finished edges are trimmed in that pale gold lace. I also was able to quickly whip up my drawers, they are made using identical methods as the camicia, the edges are rolled hemmed and join with herringbone stitch, there is the matching embroidery and lace on the bottom edges. The fabric is pleated onto a narrow waistband, and closes with a braided cord and two handmade eyelets. The other Item I was able to whip up has been a pair of garters. They are made of the white silk dupioni, and are embroidered at the middle and the ends with the same pomegranate motif, and then beaded with purple and light gold glass beads, just to give it more sparkle. The ends are trimmed with the same gold lace as on the camicia and drawers, and like the camicia and drawers, the garters are completely hand sewn.

June 12: Two more things finished. First I have my flag fan, which was a quick and easy project. I know most Flag fans were constructed out of painted vellum and stuff like that, but I wanted It to co-ordinate exactly with my gown and so I used the same gold silk as my zimarra and some of the white velveteen that Iíll use on the gown for trim, and the same pale gold floss and the jewel tone beads as on my camicia and garters. The elephant motif is on both sides, I used a split stitch around the edges to sew it to the silk. There is a layer of white cotton canvas in the very middle to keep it all stiff. I used a blanket stitch around the edges to hold it all together. The handle is actually recycled from an older flag fan of mine (so I donít know if this will count as an accessory since that was a long time ago that I made that) but I rubbed the wood down with an antique gold finish and repositioned the middle bit to accommodate the dimensions of the new flag.

I have also almost completed my Zimarra. My original plan had been to use a bunch of green upholstery velvet from my stash, but after realizing it had that nasty rubberised backing, I took a shopping trip and found some gold silk that exactly matched the colour of the floss I had been using. I am glad I did, because I feel so much more at ease with this colour and think it will really help tie the whole outfit together, where the green velveteen would have stood out. 

I took my inspiration for the Zimarra from several Venetian portraits from around the same time period as the inspiration portrait for my dress, but it is a copy of none of them specifically. It is flat lined in an ivory silk/cotton blend, and the inner seams are flat felled seams, first sewed by machine and then whip stitched down by hand. For the trim I took two and a half inch strips of the silk/cotton and slashed them diagonally all down the length, before folding the strips and sewing them into the front seams and on the sleeves. I really like the effect this gives, but next time I think I would make my strips narrower to give the tighter rolled effect as seen in many portraits. I then sewed a narrow gold braid down the front edge and over the collar. I plan to do a second row of this trim parallel to the first, but I doubt that I will have time to finish that before leaving for Uprising next week. The internal seams were all sewn by machine on this layer to save on time, but any external or visible stitching is all hand done.

I have also been continuing work on my veil, but progress on that is slow.


June 24: I have finally finished hemming my veil. It is made from lovely silk chiffon. The edge is rolled hemmed, and then blanket stitched and beaded at intervals of about an inch. I intend to gather this to a comb and add pearls and needle lace flowers....just waiting on the comb to arrive in the mail. I'm attempting to loosely achieve the look of the veil/flowers as seen in Alessandro Allori's 'Portrait of a Woman' from 1560-70. 
I have also finished my partlet. It is made from the same silk chiffon. The edges all have a narrow hem, and the curve around the neck is finished with the same blanket stitch and beads.

July 14: It seems like it has been a while since Iíve updated, but I have been able to get quite a bit accomplished. I have finished the trim for the bodice, finished the bodice, sewn the skirt to the bodice and assembled a quickie petticoat.

The trim I actually started at the beginning of the contest and I have been slowly plodding away at it. The technique is based off of that shown in Pattern of Fashions, on Eleanoraís burial dress, where the velveteen was embroidered and then cut away and sewn to the gown to give a raised effect. I did it a little different. I first drew out my pattern and traced it onto wonder-under, fused the wonder under to the backside of the velveteen, and then proceeded to cut out all the little holes with a craft knife and pair of embroidery snips. Then for support I fused the velveteen strips to scrap of the white silk so that there is some stability, and when I went to sew the trim to the gown I only had to sew around the outer edges, instead of having to sew around all those little curves and leaves. Before I sewed the trim to the dress I went around all the edges with gold embroidery floss using a split stitch and then beaded down the center of all the leaves with an assortment of tiny glass beads.

The bodice is constructed fairly simply. I cheated, and used a commercial corset pattern and modified it until I had a shape I liked. The outside is my white silk dupioni. For interlining I have two layers of cotton duck and a layer of muslin. The inside lining is some ivory silk/cotton fabric. I have two or three bones in the fronts just to help keep it from buckling when laced. For the lacing I have brass lacing rings sewn to the inside. To keep the lacing stable I simply go through all the lacing rings with both ends of the ribbon going opposite directions. As long as the ribbon is thin, it kinda crowds together and looks like one cord. Iím not sure if there is any documentation for that method, but it works quite well for me.
The skirt is loosely patterned off of the Eleanora dress in Patterns of Fashion, but due to having only so much yardage, I modified the pattern to where there is one wide panel in the front and one in the back, and one triangular gore on each side. The opening is also located center front than on the sides. It is completely lined in muslin, and the top edge is bound in white velveteen and turned in several inches and then sewn to the inside edge of the finished bodice with several different pleating techniques. The bottom edge is not yet hemmed. I have the dress hanging now while I decide whether or not I am ready to tackle making the trim to go around the bottom edge.
I have also finished a quickie petticoat. It is made from 3.5 yards of purple cotton and trimmed in a narrow strip of gold cotton jacquard. I experimented with the petticoat. I have previously been unable to wear petticoats with my front lacing gown unless I wear them under my camicia (which seems weird to me) because they show under the lacingÖso I made a waistband with a nearly ninety degree angle center front...so far it seems to be working and not buckling or doing weird things with all the weight of the fabric. We will see. And I was bad...the whole thing is machine sewed, except for the button that I still need to sew on.

 August 11: My dress is finally finished. The sleeves are of the silk dupioni and lined with the ivory silk/cotton blend. The slit at the top of the sleeves are beaded, and the sleeves are sewn directly to the armscye just for simplicity. 

I have also finished two more accessories, a pouch and a handkerchief. The pouch is white velveteen and lined with gold dupioni. The handle/strap is glass beads on a silk ribbon. The tassels are handmade with the same gold embroidery floss as I have been using all along.

The handkerchief is a scrap of linen, hemmed by hand and then embroidered with the same pomegranate motifs as are on my camicia and drawers. I also tried out some Armenian needlelace around the edges.

All I have left now are a few little alterations, sewing a button to my petticoat, my documentation/final write up and taking pictures of the whole thing!

Hannah's Final Update

So this is what I have done from the inside out: 

Garters - hand embroidered, hand beaded, completely hand sewn. The shape of them is loosely base off of the garters seen in Ludovica Cigoli's 'Joseph and Potiphar's Wife' 1610, mine just aren't nearly as abnoxiously large.

Drawers- hand embroidered, completely hand sewn, tied shut with hand braided cord through hand bound eyelets, joining seams are using the herringbone type stitch by hand, as seen in several examples in Janet Arnold's 'Patterns of Fashion' on shirts of the period. 

Camicia- hand embroidered, hand smocked, hand braided cords tie the cuffs shut, completely hand sewn and again joining seams are as above. Petticoat - one hand made button hole. The rest is sewn by machine. The hem is stiffened with several layers of fabric, and then a small tuck right above this, as in Eleanora's burial dress.

Gown - all visible stitches are hand sewn, hand beaded, bodice is stiffened with canvas, trim is hand embroidered using a technique similar to what must have been used for the embroidered velvet trim on Eleanora di Toledo's exsisting burial dress, skirt is also loosely patterned after her dress, but modified slightly to allow for the amount of yardage I was working with. (I did not get around to making a girdle, and instead sewed a string of beads along the waist line to mimic a girdle, I doubt that is period).

Zimarra- visible topstitching done by hand, the style is that of the zimarra in Parrasio Micheli's 'Portrait of a Woman' 1565.

Veil - edged by hand with embroidery floss and hand beaded. ( I am unsure wether or not having it sewn a hair comb is period or not, and the same with the gathering and beading I did on the edge of the comb, but this was something I did for convenience as this will be my wedding dress ).

Partlet- edged and beaded by hand.

Flag Fan - Hand embroidered and beaded. ( The handle is recycled from a previous flag fan so I don't think this will actually count as an accessory for this challenge).

Pouch - Hand embroidered and beaded, with hand made tassles. Based of the pouch in ''Nobilis Virgo Francica" by Abraham de Bruyn, 1581. (Not Italian but it is period, so it is plausible one could have found its way to a young Italian lady of the time. I believe it was intended to attach to the girdle, but since I do not have a proper girdle, there is a small loop at the top of the handle which will attatch to a hook sewn between the bodice and skirt of the gown, and I am pretty sure that that is not period). Handkerchief - hemmed by hand with hand embroidery and a handmade edging of Armenian needlelace (Mediterranean knotted lace) which had been around since humans began tying fishing nets.

I am very happy with this dress, and am even more excited for its ultimate function as my wedding dress. I had a great time with this challenge and Thank-you to Bella for putting this on for all of us! 



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