Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Realm of Venus

The Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

 April 21 to August 21, 2011

Kim Butler

Location: New Mexico, USA

Bio: I love costuming in almost all forms and I have dabbled in historical costume, fantasy costuming and steampunk. My main focus in historical costume has been German Dress. I am definitely not a new to sewing but I am fairly new to Italian costuming. I have made one Italian dress before that was a Venetian dress. I have always wanted to make another one and am excited to have this competition as encouragement.

Project: I plan to make drawers, a petticoat, a ladder laced gown and a fan. I hope to make other things as time permits.

Project Blog: http://dalbeth.livejournal.com/

June 1: I have finally narrowed the inspiration images down to two paintings, both of which I saw on the Realm of Venus. I probably wont make a decision on which gown exactly until I start on the gown itself.

Paolo Caliari (Veronese), c1550-1560: Portrait of a Woman Holding Gloves

Paolo Caliari (Veronese), 1560s: Portrait of a Woman known as "Countess Nani" or "La Bella Nani"

The pattern for the drawers was taken from Patterns of Fashion 4. I have decided to hand sew my drawers and extensively embroider them. 
I have decided to make a blue gown, since I have always wanted one, with gold and silver accents. So I searched through my stash and found some lovely golden yellow silk brocade to make the petticoat out of. The brocade is in the picture, but really did not photograph as rich as it is in person. I am debating on making the petticoat and roped petticoat to give my skirts some volume. I have also begun the embroidery on my linen drawers. So far I have only completed the first row of the gold metal thread work. 

July 1: So I have been working on my petticoat and decided that I have always wanted a roped petticoat. I am very curious how well it would stand up to my skirts. I have always wanted more fullness to my skirts but it is really hot in New Mexico and so lots of petticoats never seems to work well. I lined the silk with cotton and I am adding rope between the layers. The rope I am using is pretty thick stuff I had bought from the fabric store a few years ago. I have done two rows of rope and then added a row of gold trim. I am currently debating adding two more rows and then more trim. 
I have also been working on the embroidery for the drawers and while taking a break from this I decided to look at what I had completed for the one other Venetian gown that could be used when wearing this one. I had made a partlet for my brown Venetian and I was sure it would work with this one as it is a nice light cream partlet. However, as soon as I held it near blue fabric is turned this sickly green. Panic! I donít want the partlet to be sickly green. Although I guess I should not have been surprised as the cream fabric was initially mint green and I bleached it to cream. Ok, so although not part of the plan as an accessory, I desperately needed a new partlet. So I dug into my stash and found some gold colored transparent fabric and some gold machine lace. I was excited as the partlet should have been an easy piece to make. It was not easy, this gold fabric was completely evil, it fell apart if you looked at it wrong. I ended up remaking the partlet 3 times, the first time I used a more period style but found that pinning the fabric caused the fabric to rip, and so did trying to pearl the fabric. So I used a modern short shirt pattern and hand edged it with bias tape to allow a sturdy place for pinning. I also bias taped the arm holes to reduce wear. I do really like the look of this fabric and am glad I managed to get this partlet to stay together.

August 11: So I have been working on my chemise. I know my original plan was for drawers but the embroidery is going slow and I have always wanted a lace insertion chemise. I have been trying to use only stuff from my stash and luckily I have both white linen and 40 yards of white lace. The pattern is based off the Victoria and Albert Museum chemise discussed on the Realm of Venus site. I worked this pattern up once before for my measurements and liked the result, it was very comfortable. I did modify the placement of the gussets and the size of the gussets to better fit me. I carefully stripped my linen for the chemise and sewed lace between each strip. I used 7 panels for front and 7 panels for the back of the chemise. The sleeves are four panels each. I also edged the sleeves with a more delicate lace.

So I wanted a roped petticoat for under my dress and I had worked on it prior to my last update, there is a picture of the stiffening in my previous update. I originally used really fat rope for the stiffening, but it gave me bad flashbacks to petticoats stiffened with hula hoops. Some costumers may have had this same experience, hula hoops were a common very cheap method to make hoop skirts when broke and in college. They also moved around the wearer like bells whenever you walked because they were way too light for hoop material. Although the fat rope worked and did not behave funny I just could not get the bad images of hula hoops out of my mind. 
So I ripped out the old stiffening and used narrow rope to make multiple lines of stiffening. I like this much better. The petticoat was then pleated onto a narrow band which has 2 eyelets strung with ribbon for a closure. I figure this should make the petticoat easy to adjust if I change weight a bit.

I also have been working on the dress itself. I finished drafting my pattern and started putting the bodice together. The pattern I decided to use has no side seams and the bodice is cut in one continuous piece. I really like this pattern particularly for use with brocades as it prevents interruption of the pattern. The bodice in interlined with 2 layers of linen canvas that is boned with electrical ties. The outer velvet is then cut slightly larger than the interlining and then stitched over the edge of the interlining. I will probably add a lining that I will whipstitch to the inside of the bodice. The picture shows the bodice prior to addition of the lining fabric. For me at least, this method gives a much cleaner edge to my bodices than bag lining. 

I have also decided that I would like to make a complete set of items to go with the stuff for this challenge. I am just so inspired by the Realm of Venus website and all of the other entrants in this challenge. I also realize that this is beyond what I can do during the challenge so I hope to continue working after the challenge completes. I have started keeping updates of this process on my Blog in case anyone would like to follow the progress after the end of the challenge.

Kimberly's Final Update

So here is a final update on everything for the challenge. Embroidery has been going so slowly on the drawers, I realized that I was not going to have time to finish them within the challenge. I do intend to keep working on them slowly over time. This style of embroidery is fairly new to me and I am finding myself having to redo a lot of my stitching. Here is a picture to show you how far I did get. 
I did decide I wanted a simple embroidery project I could carry around with me, so I decided to make fancy garters, since I adore fancy garters. I know garters can be plain but there is surviving evidence from the end of the 16th century that they could also be very fancy. Fancy garters are supported in Italian dress by a painting in Moda a Firenze. So I decided on embroidered and lace edged blue silk garters. The garters have a hand rolled edge with embroidered sad jesters in blue silk. This pattern comes from the New Carolingian Modelbook. It felt strange to have just new garters, so I made a quick pair of stockings out of some teal linen I had lying around. 
So although I did not manage to complete my drawers, I did get a new chemise, stockings and garters. So here is a picture of me in my new underwear! I also got a new petticoat which I hope will add volume to my skirts.


I really wanted to do fancy cut-out sleeves. This sleeves actually turned out to be a bit more of a process than I expected. I did post information on how exactly I did the pattern on my blog if anyone is interested. I did blue velvet cut out and applied to white linen canvas. The sleeves were then hand sewn to the dress. I did a simple sleeve head treatment with white linen puffs with false blue ribbon and button ties.
While I did finish my partlet, I was hoping to finish the flag fan and jewelry. I have all of the parts ready to go, but I got called to go on a last minute business trip and am currently in Houston Texas. I hope to finish those items soon and plan on updating on my journal and do new photos of the dress.

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