Last year I posted about my intention to post all these dress diaries. I even wrote most of the up at the time. What held me up was figuring out how to get photos into them. No more! I have figured it out and will be posting these dress diaries every couple of weeks until I’m caught up.
My description at the time of what was going on in my SCA life at the time:
Having taken something of a break from the SCA from about 2008-2011, I have been working on doing some serious revamping of my wardrobe lately. When I got active again, my garb collection was pretty sad, full of really old garb made for Pennsic (ie: in a hurry) while I was in high school, and a few newer, better-fitting pieces I’d made after graduating college. My persona has always been something of a split personality – because my parents are in the SCA, I have a certain amount of loyalty to the idea of being their daughter, however, mom’s persona is 1470-1540 northern Italian (she tends to model herself after the D’Este sisters) and dad’s a 9th-10th century Danish nobleman. My own preference is for late quattrocento Venice. So last year, for Pennsic, I decided it was time to start dressing like it!
I had decided to focus on the 1480s-90s in Venice for my first foray into more persona-appropriate garb. Finding resources on what was worn specifically in Venice versus in northern Italy in general or Florence was somewhat difficult. I relied heavily on the images collected at the Realm of Venus
. I did end up wandering from just the Venetian images and also drawing some inspiration from Ghirlandaio’s Florentine frescoes.
I’m primarily writing about the blue linen one today (the middle concept sketch). The teal one isn’t finished and I haven’t even cut the brown one. 🙂 (The teal gown is finished now and I ended up making a Norse dress out of the brown herringbone linen instead.)
Like my Greenland Gown step 1 was to take my measurements and an existing pattern to cut a muslin draft, then baste it and pin to adjust. There are no extant Italian gowns of this era that I am aware of, and the images don’t really make the construction clear, other than the fact that there are side and/or front lacings and no obvious seams that would indicate complicated piecing to shape over the bust. Based on this, I went with 4 pieces – 2 front/sides and 2 back/sides. I don’t know that you even have to have a back center seam, but I find that ANY garment in a woven fabric without a back center seam simply does not fit well on me. I have to add it to modern dresses pretty often.
In pinning to fit we ended up with curved front and back center seams and straight side seams. I have since seen other people describe their patterning process for these dresses as based on the gothic fitted gown style, where you start with the back and side seams pinned straight and then pin up the front seam to be very tight and supportive of the bust. I may try this method at some point, although I’m not convinced that these gowns fit quite like that. (I have some different ideas on how to shape and pattern this now than in 2013, heh.)
For the camicia, I took the neckline of my gamurra pattern and made a neck piece which I gathered the full neckline into.
The bodice was lined and machine sewn then flipped and top-stitched. The skit was gathered to the waist. In order to use less fabric but still get a fairly full skirt at the hem I used a suggestion I found online in someone’s dress diary (don’t remember who) and cut the skirt panels as trapezoids (you can see in the cutting layout sketch above). I found Venetian glass lacing rings at Pennsic and sewed them on with buttonhole stitch. The lacing is “ladder” style which you see in some portraits and it is a piece of lucet cord that I made.
(2019 me!) I hate these sleeves. I made them without lining them and the trim started falling apart. They don’t fit how I wanted. The teal ones are a little better but also should have been lined. They were my first attempt at interesting sleeves.
The finished Gowns
Although both turned out fairly well, I end up wearing the blue a lot more often than the teal. It’s just very striking with the deep blue against the white camicia, and off course, sets off my blue eyes. I never did end up doing the planned trim on the teal, it’s ended up being more of a camp dress than something I want fancy trim on. Both fit fairly well but are not self-supporting, so I wear modern undergarments with them. Actually, I was wearing an early 18th century pair of stays with them for a bit (same silhouette) but the stays no longer fit.
Reflections from the future
(2019 me!) The blue gamurra came out much closer to plan than the teal, and I still wear it very often. The teal mostly gets brought out at Pennsic or when I particularly want that color for something. I honestly failed at the “make it look particularly Venetian” part of the plan – the blue gamurra looks very 1480s Florentine to me now, especially with the natural waist placement and center front lacing. I don’t actually mind that, but it definitely was not the goal. (I will be posting a recent project to make new sleeves and a Cioppa overgown to go with it soon.)
If I were making it now, I would actually have side-lacing in addition to the decorative front-lacing. I have seen some evidence of this in paintings and on statues since and it makes a lot of practical sense. I would also be altering the pattern to make it self-supporting, and I would not cut the skirt panels as trapezoids. More fullness! All the skirt!