An Arabesque Velvet Gown

Ok, so I'm a sucker for garb contests, although somehow I did manage to avoid the recent "Mary Queen of Scots portrait comp!) First it was the inaugural Margo's Patterns "Iron Dress" competition, now another contest organized by the members of Margo's mailing list - the Portrait contest. I resisted. I really did. Truly. I haven't even finished the last dress diary project due to a prolonged attack of the SCA/sewing doldrums. All I've sewn since the last contest is garb for other people. I've got to start sewing for our Baronial Investiture/Divestiture in May, not to mention four nobles court garb outfits for July (midwinter) Coronation which is to be held in our Barony. What am I thinking?!! I reasoned with myself that since the end date for this contest is June 30 2005, this project could always become the outfit for both the May Baronial Investiture and one of the outfits (I've got others in the works!) for Midwinter Coronation in July. Yeah right. But here I am. Hoping this project leads me out of the fit of SCA blues which seems to have decided to hang around for a while. At least I've now got a digital camera to make the whole dress diary process easier. :-) The end result does not have to be an exact copy, merely "inspired by", but I love this gown so much - it's in my arms colours of red and gold - that I would really love to make as close a copy as possible.

This will be another fitted Florentine over-gown. I'm going to try to make an under-gown too, but if I run out of time it'll most likely end up as a pair of sleeves and underskirt instead, just like last time.

For the top layer of the bodice, and skirt trim, I have some 'cloth-of-gold', like that used on my green Florentine over-gown, which I bought quite some time ago with this very project in mind. I also have some red velveteen on hand, for the skirt and appliquéd designs. I might use the same high-necked linen smock I made last time too, since it's the right style. I have some gold Thai silk, about 2 metres I think, that might do for the sleeves, in lieu of white. I also have a gorgeous silver and yellow silk brocade which might work for a forepart on an underskirt. The only thing bugging me is the jeweled belt. I know many others have been doing wonderful things with modeling clay, but I don't know if my skills run quite that far, nor do I think I'm going to have enough time. I might have to fudge it with something else.

October 27, 2004.

Ok, so I've decided to go with appliqué for the design in red on the bodice/sleeves/skirt trim. Played around with the design last night. Since the design is basically large S-shapes with stylized tulips on the ends, I will use half the design as a basis for a cardboard template which I can then use, reversed where necessary, to draw on the shapes. The little extra scroll-like flourishes emanating from each S-shape I will draw in by hand where necessary. This should work well on the skirt trim, where the regularity of size makes this simple, but I think the bodice will need a couple of larger design templates - the design will have to be somewhat flexible to accommodate the area covered.

The initial "thinking out loud" doodle.

The graph paper divided into equal sections. Originally I was going to draw the complete S-shape, until it occurred to me that I'd get a more evenly balanced design if I just drew out half the design and flipped/reversed it when necessary to draw each individual S-shape.

The design drawn out on the graph paper.

Here the finished motif has been cut from the graph paper and traced onto stiff cardboard.

I've cut out the cardboard motif and reversed and flipped it, and placed it next to the card one to show how I'll use it to draw the complete motif on the fabric.

November 3, 2004. It just occurred to me that I forgot to give details of the portrait I'm using! The above colour image is from La Couturière Parisienne Costume and Fashion Site , according to which this is a portrait of an Unknown Lady by a follower of Tiziano (Vecellio). However, the identical (monochrome) image is also located at the Bildarchiv zur Kunst und Architektur in Deutschland, where it is listed as a portrait of Eleanora de Toledo by the school of Bronzino. Whatever the case, it is almost certainly a Florentine overgown. The style is very similar to others in portraits by Bronzino.

The fabric used for the bodice appears to be wrought velvet, the "Figurato veluto - figured velvet, wrought or branched velvet" of Florio's A Worlde of Words, an Italian/English dictionary of 1598. It is essentially a cloth-of-gold backgound with red velvet pattern. Obviously it would have been impossible, today, to obtain any fabric woven in any way that would imitate the relief quality of the patterned velvet on an opaque gold background, so the next best thing was to try to duplicate it with applique. I'm glad that I have velveteen of the right colour (or close to) on hand for this project, as the longer piled cotton velvet would have been very difficult to use to applique I think.





Ciao 'till next time,


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(Copyright Information: As author I, Anabella Wake, known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona, hold copyright on all information on these pages. In addition I hold copyright on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.)