Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Realm of Venus

The Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

 April 21 to August 21,  2011

Mandy L'Estrelle

Location: Perth, Western Australia

Bio: I joined the SCA about 4 years ago and about two years ago really started to become interested in Venetian and Florentine clothing from 1550 to about 1590. I am a mum to 5 wonderful kids and have a great husband who shares my loves of the SCA. I have made a couple of Venetian gowns with some accessories but not a complete outfit before so this should be a real challenge.

Project: I am considering making an outfit based upon the painting by Hieronymus Francken I “Venetian Canivale”.

Project Blog: http://mandylestrelle.wordpress.com/

After much thought and pouring over many many photos, I finally settled on making an outfit based upon the portrait of Countess Livia da Porto Thiene and her daughter by Paolo Veronese, circa 1551.

I rummaged through my fabric stash and found a burgundy and black woven fabric that I think maybe a taffeta which I shall use for the loose coat, and then went shopping and purchased a deep red dupioni which will become the petticoat. I have my eye on some fantastic black faux fur at the local shop that is very expensive so I will have to work out how much I need before I purchase. I also found some lovely gold net that will become the coverciere or partlet and some gold closures for the coat.

Hopefully I should have time to create the daughters dress for my little girl so we can complete the portrait. I have some lovely green silk that will be perfect for her gown.


May 25: I have been shopping again and have purchased some white linen to construct my chemise. I will be basing it on the women’s smock shown in Moda a Firenze, page 124.

I have also been test sewing some embroidery to sew what would look best on this chemise.

I am still searching for the appropriate fur to line my loose coat.


July 5: I have finished my camicia. I made it out of some embroidered linen and I have based it the extant camicia shown in Moda a Firenze, although I did not end up adding in the front gores as it seemed full enough already, and the cuffs are simply a draw string rather than being pleated.

I am now working on the bodice for the petticoat, and still deciding what style of sleeve to put on it as the painting does not show these.

August 15: Well as usual life has got in my way and I have a lot of stuff to do in the last few days. I sometimes wish I could just hide somewhere and sew! The gown is almost complete, just the lacing holes and hemming to do, although I am thinking it might need some lace cuffs and possibly some pearls somewhere.

The Turkish coat likewise is almost completed with just it’s hemming to go. Wrangling the fur was interesting and I decided that as I live in a warm climate I wouldn’t completely line the coat but just face the front with a strip of fur to give the correct impression. My chemise is complete and I just have a partlet to construct. Fingers crossed I will get it all done in time!

Mandy's Final Update

I have loved the portrait of Countess Livia ever since I first came across it a number of years ago, and have often thought about making a version of it, so when this challenge came around it was the perfect opportunity.

I had been hoarding a beautiful piece of black and burgundy taffeta, bought many years ago, and decided it would be perfect for the loose gown. I scoured my favourite fabric stores and found a matching burgundy silk for the gown. The embroidered linen fabric also is one I have been saving for a special project and it has now become the chemise/camicia. I also have a lovely piece of green silk set aside to create Countess Livia's daughters dress for my daughter so we can complete a remake of the portrait.

I began by constructing the chemise is a similar fashion to the one found in Moda a Firenze 1540-1580, page 124.

I was lucky that my fabric was already pre-embroidered so I could simple move straight to the construction. I left out the centre front and back gores as my fabric was quite wide enough but did add in the side gores. My neckline is edged with a thin black lace to compliment the black embroidery on the linen. I have given my chemise drawstring cuffs to better enable them to be drawn up when activities require, I am often found helping out in the kitchens and always find sleeves getting in my way.

It is quite difficult to make out what the gown in the portrait of Countess Livia actually looks like other than the plain fitted bodice and gathered skirt. I had to deduce what sort of sleeves it may have had. By closely looking at the coat, which seems to have some extra bulk at the top of the sleeves and by searching though other portrait of a similar time frame, such as the Vecellio Portrait of a Venetian Woman, I reasoned that the gown could have had similar paned top sleeves. My bodice has five layers of fabric, the outside silk, 2 layers of canvas, one layer of cotton and the drill lining. The pattern is one I have used before for my Venetian gowns so I know it fits reasonably well. It has side/back lacing opening and the skirt is gathered and attached to the bodice. The inside of the bodice is neatly finished around the waist after the skirt is attached the outer 4 layers, with the lining drawn over the rough edge and hand sewn. Similarly after the sleeves are attached the lining is hand hand sewn of the edge to neaten. The lower sleeves and panes are fully lined in the main fabric and also hand finished. I have used the spiral lacing placement of the lacing holes as I find that is the best way to close the gowns.

The loose coat that Countess Livia is wearing appears to have a raised collar that has been folded down onto her shoulders, the sleeves have a pleat in the top half to allow for the more bulky sleeves of the dress underneath and it is lined in fur. I have cut my coat with a raised collar in a similar fashion, and inserted a pleat in the upper half or the sleeves, however due to the fact I live in a warm climate, I have chosen not to fully line my coat with faux fur. I have used the fur as a facing about 30cm wide all around the front and neck openings. It was hand sewn to the lining fabric. The portrait shows a decorative stitching on the front sides of the coat but as my fabric is already quite decorative I have omitted this detail. I had originally bought braid to decorate this edge but on pinning it to the garment I found it unnecessary. I have also left off the closures I bought as these also seemed extraneous. Over all, I am really pleased with how my coat turned out as this was the piece I was dreading making as I don't have a lot of experience working with fur fabrics.
[Mandy provided me with photos of the following items, however they were unfortunately embedded in a Word document which makes them unusable for the web, so the following is provided without the accompanying images].

The partlet is a very simple piece made from a light weight cotton. It is edged with a narrow cotton lace. I have made the partlet to fit under the bust, as I have found in the past the partlet stays in place better when cut like this. I have inserted a drawstring to draw it in firmly.

I decided I wanted a nice gold mesh caul/reta for my hair to help finish off the look of this ensemble. As I have never made one of these before I reasoned it be a fairly simple snood like piece. I cut a band to fit around my head in the appropriate position, the gold mesh was a bit soft and fragile so I lined the band with some of the silk from the dress. I then cut a large circle of the mesh and gathered it onto the band, and hand finished the band on the inside. I tried it on and seem to approximate the look I am after quite well and should stay neatly in place with only a couple of pins.

I found some fantastic black beads at a craft show I attended recently and decided to incorporate them into my girdle along with some glass pearls, red glass beads, and gold spacers. I finished the ends with a large beaded tassel on one end and an antique metal bead that almost resembles a pomander on the other. I have used a very strong magnetic closure at the waist to allow the belt to come undone rather than breaks should it be pulled on or snagged.

I have been inspired to make a soccaccia for quite some time as I am often looking for someway to carry small items with me but do not like wearing a pouch over my gown. I used a left over piece of the red silk from my gown and a piece of gold I found in my off cuts bag for the lining. I embroidered the edge of the opening using my very clever machine. I am quite looking forward to trying this piece out at our next event.

Carcanet (necklace) and Ear rings
I have finished off my accessories by making a necklace and earrings from the left over gold spacers, red glass beads and glass pearls I used for the girdle.

Started but not completed pieces:
I cut out and began construction of a pair of drawers and a corset for this outfit however I have not as yet completed either piece as I am not happy with them and will probably re-cut and start them over. I have also started to draft out the pattern to make a matching dress for my daughter so we can re-create the portrait.

I have learnt quite a lot from this challenge and have enjoyed it immensely. I wish that I had been able to properly complete all the pieces I had planned but am fairly happy with what I have done.

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