A Circa-1500 Venetian Dress and Over-Dress
The manuscript image of Dorothea Zacarias you see on the right was my prime inspiration. It shows an under-dress and over-dress combination, worn with a belt.

The under-dress has a scoop-necked gold bodice and black skirt, and is embellished at the hemline. It appears to have substantial embellishment at the neckline, or possibly to be worn with heavy jewellery. Matching gold sleeves are attached to it.

The black over-dress features a deep scoop or V neckline, a contrasting figured green lining, and false hanging sleeves lined with the same figured green fabric. It is embellished at the front opening edges and hemline.

I am terrible about making sure I have enough time in which to both complete an outfit and take step-by-step photos of the process so I was unable to do a proper 'dress diary'. I started to do so with the under-dress, but ran out of time. In the end I decided to make the hanging sleeves and embellish the over-dress at a later date, and to change the under-dress sleeves from those of the original to those seen in one of Durer's drawings of a Venetian lady, circa 1495 (see the first of the 'other inspiration images' below).


Unknown Venetian Artist, c1505: Dorothea Zacarias from the Memorie della famiglia Freschi


Other Inspiration Images:
Some of the following photos were taken during construction (under-dress bodice), the rest for one reason or another were not taken until more than two weeks after the event that I wore the outfit to - Innilgard's Baronial 20th Anniversary on November 25, 2006. I have not colour-corrected them, nor compressed the photos, so please forgive the time it may take to view them.

1. This is the under-dress bodice. It is cut from a yellow/black/metallic gold silk jacquard. It has been interlined with black cotton, then sewn to the lining (same black cotton) at the neckline and sides. This was taken before clipping the curved seam allowances , pressing, and turning the lining to the inside through the neckline.

2. Same photo, with flash - this gives you a much better idea of the colour. Both the left and right sides of the bodice will have openings.

3. The lining has now been turned to the inside and pressed again. Both the armhole and waistline edges are raw and the lining on both is loose.

4. This shows the skirt pleated and pinned in place along the under-dress bodice waistline edge, right sides together, lining out of the way. The skirt was made from two panels of a slightly ribbed black wool fabric which were pinned together along the selvedges and stitched - an opening about six inches long was left in both sides and neatened. The skirt was then stitched in place. The skirt was not lined as the wool is quite heavy.

5. This is the almost completed under-dress on Brunella. She's not exactly the same size as me (yet!), but at her largest measurements her top half is close. She's handy for checking how the dress is looking. At this stage I was sure I was going to need to adjust the length of the shoulders (easy with the lining loose), but otherwise it was looking good.

6. This shows the side openings, pinned together at the top edge. I deliberately designed the bodice to be a bit small at the waistline seam - I am currently losing weight and want the bodice to fit snugly as I continue to do so. I can disguise a loose over-gown with the belt, but the under-dress has to provide the support that a bra normally does - if it doesn't fit very snugly it's not doing its job. 

7. This is one of the side openings as seen from the inside - the lining will eventually be turned in and whip-stitched to the skirt's waistline seam.

8. The finished side opening - with hand-sewn eyelets and black lacing cord in place.  And yes, I do cross-lace in areas of high tension.

9. Here's how the finished under-dress looks on me. The embellishment was made from bias strips that I cut from the black cotton velveteen that the over-dress was to be made from. The edges of each strip wee folded in and pressed, then had metallic gold cord simultaneously machine-couched down onto it and sewn to the bodice and lining in one. It would have been very time consuming and fiddly to try to do it with the lining out of the way, not to mention very difficult to make sure that the edge of the bias strip lined up perfectly with the edge of the bodice. Doing it this way (over both bodice and lining) gave me more control over the end result. Later glass-based pearls in ivory were sewn on.

10. The back view. pearling was limited to just those areas of the neckline that would not be covered by the over-gown.

11. You can see here how there is some room for adjustment as I lose weight.

12. Edges are lightly boned - very important where the lacing is under tension like this.

13. A full-length shot of the front.

14. A full length shot of the back

15. The under-dress with the sleeves attached. They too are interlined and lined with black cotton. I could have done a better job of  'poufing' the camicia sleeves - trust me, I did better for the event!

16. The top half of the sleeve now needs to be taken in - I have lost weight in my arms in the two weeks since the event! It was staying in place much better on the night, but now (because it's not gripping my arm) it's wanting to slide down. Might shorten it a little too I think. The bottom half also needs taking in just a tad now.

17. Another view of the sleeve. I think the sleeves need a slightly more substantial cord, which also needs to be shorter than this one was. And maybe next time I'll have time to attach the aiglettes before the event!

18. This is the over-dress. It is made from black velveteen. The bodice in interlined and lined with black cotton, and has side seams. The opening at the front is laced closed (but not very well in the photo I'm afraid!). A few more pearls on either side may be added.  Yes, more pearls. One can never have too many pearls on one bodice!

19. the view from the back. It looks a little off-centre and it is - I dressed rather quickly and Claudia 9who took the photos) didn't notice. I think I will add a couple more pearls on either side to give the illusion that the pearling continues beneath the over-dress.

20. Please excuse the "I'm about to sneeze" expression - I think I was! Anyhow, this is a full-length shot of the overdress without the belt worn with opening edges laying flat.

21. Now with opening edges turned back, as in the Dorothea image, to reveal the lining. No - it's not fully lined in gold silk jacquard! I couldn't get my hands on enough of this pattern to do that.

22. The back view, without belt.

23. A side-back view, without belt.

24. Full-length, with opening edges turned back, and belt.

25. Close-up, on my sewing table. The belt buckle is silver, so to tie it into the colour scheme I hand sewed a row of metallic silver braided trim between the lines of machine-couched gold cord.

26. A close up on me

27. A side view

28. Yeah, I know I look pregnant. No, I'm NOT pregnant. :-)

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