Venetian gown from 1500 for Atlantian 12th Night 2015

I did not write up a dress diary at the time I was working on this project, but I did take some process photos at the time, planning to write one. I almost never remember to take process photos! So excite!

The Concept

Atlantian Twelfth Night that year was themed around Venice in 1500. I got pretty excited and ended up teaching  some people in my local Barony about it and a bunch of us made appropriate garb. We were very pretty! I had done some more research since the blue and teal gamurre on what differentiated Venetian fashion from Florentine since then, so this was my next big attempt at the “make my garb actually match my persona” idea. I continue to use Realm of Venus for art inspiration – in this case this page in particular. I focused in on the ladies in Gentile Bellini’s Miracle of the Cross at the Bridge of S. Lorenzo.

I came up with two dress ideas, one for a linen gamurra as a test run in pale green, and one for 12th night itself in silk with a velvet vestito (overgown).

Patterning

In December 2014, I worked up a new bodice pattern by cutting a copy of the old one from two linen gamurre and modifying it to be self-supporting and with the wide v neckline. I then cut the bodice for the pale green linen test gown and put it together quickly by machine-sewing, flipping, ironing and top-stitching. I interlined it with a woven modern interfacing for additional stiffness. There are some textual sources that mention interlining in bodices of the period – it seems that wool felt and linen “cardboard” (stiffened with glue) were both used. I put the sleeves together in the same way. I gathered and sewed on the skirt by hand.

I then took this rough draft of a dress up to Pennsylvania when visiting my parents for Christmas and enlisted mom to help make it fit right. It was too lose and not as supportive as I wanted. She took in the side seams and changed their angle as well, and recommended I raise the bottom of the bodice. I copied these changes to the pattern and took it home to cut the final gown. For the pattern of the vestito I used the back of the gamurra bodice, and altered the front to deepen the neckline. I added a very small amount of ease to the side.

Cut and construction

The silk fabric for the gown was a sari someone had gifted me years before, saying that I would find something to sew with it. I lined the bodice in black linen as well as using the same interfacing as I had for the pale green gown. For the vestito, I had polyester velvet (looks more like silk than cotton) and a polyester brocade lining fabric. I did not have money at the time to buy fabric for this project and I was looking for something in the right color scheme (red/gold/black) while my stash was full mostly of shades of blue and green. The velvet and brocade were a gift from my mother.

For the final gown I wanted to use a more period construction than the machine sew-and-flip. Note that the lining and interfacing pieces are cut with no seam allowance in certain spots. After sewing the back center seam, the lining and interfacing were stitched together for reinforcement, and then the fashion fabric was turned over to the inside and sewn down. This particular silk was stiff, so rather than a double turn, I used a blanket stitch over the raw edge to sew it down, planning to tack twill tape over it if fraying became a concern.

The skirt was one long rectangle which I sewed up the side, leaving a slit by where they side lacing would be. I cut a slit in the opposite side and finished the edge. I then pleated it onto the bodice and sewed it down by hand. Here you can see the biggest mistake – I did not line the skirt. I had black linen underskirt I wore with it. (I actually  have this dress taken back apart with a lining pinned to the skirt, waiting to be sewn on. I spent the entirety of that event terrified I would kick a hole through my skirt.)

The sleeves I did up at least partially machine sewing and flipping before sewing on the trim and ties. Unlike the test green gown, I did not use interfacing on these sleeves. I hadn’t liked how stiff it made them.

Here, I stop having process photos as time before the event got more rushed. The vestito was cut and sewn next. The bodice of the vestito was constructed the same as that for the gamurra. The skirt was made of 3 straight panels of the velvet, although I had less of the lining fabric so only lined the two panels towards the front. Pleating the lined velvet was a pain, I ended up sewing down the pleats to themselves and then to the bodice.

The last step was sewing on lacing rings for the side-lacing of the gamurra, which I did a lot of on the car ride down to the event. I did not do lacing holes mostly because I was unsure of being able to do them with the odd texture of the silk.

Results

This was how it looked on the day of the event. I did not get a new camicia sewn in time for the event, so the one I wore had the wrong neckline for the gown.

Reflections

The vestito was too heavy and my shoulders hurt by the end of the event. I also already mentioned the concern about the gamurra skirt. I ended up remaking the vestito skirt by taking out the center back panel. I wore it again for another event over my teal gamurra. Other than those issues, the dress came out well. I did eventually finish the camicia I had cut for this event although I haven’t worn it with this outfit as I still haven’t finished remaking the gamurra skirt. I learned a lot from this project, that’s for sure.

Also a year later I finished fixing the green gamurra, sewed on gold ribbon as trim, sewed some lacing holes in (although a friend helped with that) and wore it to the SCA 50 year event. I really like how it turned out.

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