My Entry in
"Iron Dress" Competition
When I first heard about the
competition I was trying to decide what to make for our Barony's
hosting of the upcoming Crown Tourney. The challenge of making an
outfit from the Elizabethan period using Margo's Elizabethan Lady's
Wardrobe pattern, with just what's on hand in the fabric stash and a
very limited amount of money was just the thing I needed to inspire
me, and to help me keep to a schedule - and a budget!
My costuming efforts are for my
participation in the SCA, where I have a very decidedly Venetian
persona. Until now I have only ever made sixteenth century Venetian
gowns. But I do love almost anything 16th century Italian, so, after
clarifying the contest rules and finding it was ok to do so, I took
the opportunity to research and make an Elizabethan era Florentine
high-necked camicia, a doublet-style overdress, and matching peacock
In searching for pictorial
documentation of garments from the 1590s, there can be found many
portraits and manuscripts, like the ones above, of Italian ladies
wearing doublet-style bodice garments that do not feature doublet
skirts or tabs. In these the skirt appears to be attached to the
doublet bodice, and appear to be an over-gown. It is these one piece
garments that I will be re-creating.
About 5 metres of handkerchief
weight, 100% linen (smock, interlining smock collar and cuffs,
interlining doublet bodice)
Approx. 1.5 metres of 100% cotton
calico (flat lining sleeves)
several metres of 100% cotton lace in
white, salvaged from another project (smock collar, neck opening and
About 5.5 metres of hunter green 100%
cotton velvet (Sleeveless over-dress)
Scraps of white 100% cotton voile (to
make and cover shoulder rolls)
30 12-inch long peacock feathers
Lots and lots of gold seed beads
(doublet bodice over-dress)
Lots and lots of good quality pearls
(doublet bodice over-dress)
a small section of plastic canvas
a wooden spoon (fan)
What I Bought With
1.5 metres of 90cm wide 100% silk
tabby weave in grey @ $6/metre = $9.00 (non-visible lining)
2 metres of 112cm wide brown
silk/metallic gold thinly striped fabric @ $10/metre = $20 (visible
lining in bodice, collar, skirt and for sleeves)
22 metres of gold cord (cotton core
with metallic gold braided exterior) @ $0.40/metre = $9.80 (Couching
70cm of plastic boning @ $2.35/metre
= $1.75 (Bodice)
5 metre packet of black poly-cotton
bias binding $1.99
Total: $41.54 from the Australian
allowance of $44.75
(You can click on some images for a
A Florentine noblewoman's high-necked
linen camicia trimmed with cotton lace; velvet doublet-bodice
over-gown with shoulder rolls, circa 1590s; with peacock feather fan.
The over-gown is made up of:
*doublet-style bodice made from the
hunter green cotton velvet (retaining the side seam for ease of
alteration later in case of weight loss), cut with selvedges to lie
along the front opening edges, the bodice completely flat lined with
linen, and fully lined with silk so no seam allowances show: grey silk
in back and side back, "cloth of gold" in fronts and collar.
Plastic boning was used along front opening edges only, and hooks and
eyes were used to close it from waist to chest. I chose to omit
closures above the chest because it is meant to be worn open at the
chest as was fashionable in Florence.
All major seams were done by machine.
Hand sewing: collar facing/lining, lining on front closure edges,
lining sewn down by hand.
*Shoulder rolls covered in white
cotton and matching panes of green velvet, trimmed. I altered my
original plans for paned cap sleeves, finding the shoulder rolls more
suitable. I used the trimmed panes to decorate the rolls. I used bias
binding to neaten the raw edges.
*Curved sleeves made from "cloth
of gold" silk, flat lined with 100% cotton, attached to doublet
by means of hooks and eyes as seen in Patterns of Fashion. I added my
own small piccadils to the wrists - strips of matching silk,
interfaced with fusible interfacing for fabric stability, stitched to
the sleeves and snipped to create the piccadils.
cartridge pleated "round" skirt (full panels of fabric,
front panels shaped to fit the point) hand-sewn to bodice. These
cartridge pleats are done a different way to standard to achieve the
less structured and less stiff pleating that is seen in Italian gowns.
The skirt, being of thick velvet, is not fully lined, but the front
opening edges are lined with "cloth of gold" silk from waist
to hem for 25cm on both edges.
All seams sewn by machine, lining
stitched down by hand so hem doesn't show, hem done by hand.
Gold cord made of a cotton core
around which metallic gold has been braided, was machine couched onto
the bodice front, back, shoulder rolls and skirt opening in double
columns. This, of course, was a time-saving measure, which "in
period" would have been done by hand. Between these columns were
sewn 147 pearls and 294 gold seed beads in groups of three.
The high-necked camicia, which is
essential to the look, and made from my stash especially for the
*Made from and interfaced in the
collar and cuffs with 100% linen.
*I omitted the neckline gussets to
fit in with the construction of an extant Italian shirt, late 16th
century, located at "The People's Museum of Zadar,
Yugoslavia", and examined in "Cut My Cote" by Dorothy
*Collar, neck opening, and wrist
frills were trimmed with 100% cotton lace.
*The wrist frills were made
separately and are removable for washing/replacing.
More Front and
feather fan pattern was altered to suit what I had on hand, and was
30 peacock feathers
hot glue, quilting thread
white felt for padding (synthetic)
scraps of green velvet
trimming to match gown
wooden spoon for handle
gold acrylic paint
Two layers of plastic canvas were cut
from the basic shape. Feathers were applied with hot glue, let cool,
and then stitched down on one piece of plastic canvas, and the wooden
spoon handle applied with stitching and duct tape to the other piece,
the two were then laid one on top of the other and stitched together.
The padding was done by means of felt glued in place, the outer cover
of green velvet trimmed to match gown went over that. Wooden handle
was painted gold.
1. Dress, or Skirt and Bodice?
No one that I have asked is sure when
skirts and bodices first began to be worn separately. Certainly
sometime after 1600 it becomes obvious that the skirt is no longer
attached to the bodice. Prior to 1600, there is conjecture, but no
definite proof. It can be conjectured that when skirting or waist tabs
first began to be seen on women's doublets is when skirts were first
worn as separate items, the doublet skirts helping to hide the gap
between bodice and skirt. Since my inspirational images didn't feature
waist tabs or skirts, my garment didn't either, so the skirt was hand
cartridge-pleated to the bodice.
2. Under-pinnings - Farthingales and
A Spanish invention they say, and much
of Italy was under Spanish dominion. But did Italian ladies wear the
farthingale? There are few portraits that show ladies from head to
toe. But there are lots of images in two post 1581 costume manuscripts
located at LACMA. Comparing the silhouette of a Spanish lady wearing a
farthingale to an English or French one, one can note a certain
difference in the notable width at the hemline of the skirt - the
Spanish is usually less wide. Comparing Italian ladies with Spanish, I
find the hem line less full again, and less round - especially those
ladies of areas less influenced by the Spanish fashions. If
farthingales were worn they may have been less wide than the English,
French and Spanish ladies wore.
There is evidence for rope/rag
petticoats in Elizabethan era Italy, as there is for non-roped
petticoats or under-skirts, that much can be seen in period portraits
and especially manuscripts, although I feel that the skirt volume
needed to get the right silhouette relied more on the use of two or
more petticoats, than on the roped petticoat, which may have only been
worn alone under the main garment in summer to avoid a build up of
heat. For my outfit I chose to wear two petticoats.
3. How it is worn
This particular style is an over-dress,
meant to be worn over another dress. In some portraits hanging sleeves
matching the gown material are seen. Some images (like the lady in red
in the manuscript image above) feature a type of hanging sleeve that
doesn't show at the front of the arm or over the top of the shoulder
at all, leading me to believe that this type was a "fake"
hanging sleeve. Other portraits show the doublet bodice being worn
with sleeves of another colour altogether - in these cases the colour
usually matches that of the under-skirt, which most likely indicates
that the sleeves belonged to the under-dress.
These over-dresses then, can be seen as
sleeveless apart from the kirtle sleeves worn under them, and open
skirted. Although I have a couple of Venetian low-necked dresses I
could have worn beneath, none were of a colour or style suitable to be
worn under my future gown. Therefore, for the sake of not detracting
from the look of the over-gown I made, I chose to fake an under-dress
with a green damask underskirt I already own, and to make a pair of
curved sleeves from the main doublet lining fabric.