an Italian Renaissance costume
dress: Period Patterns #41, view IV (VI sleeves)
dress: dress weight wool, cotton (lining)
An early costume (2002) and my second
attempt at a Renaissance something.
The bodice & sleeves are embellished
with approximatly 4 yds of gold trim,
of grosgrain ribbon, 19 gold beads
and 955 pearls in various sizes.
Completed Spring 2002.
At The Maryland Renaissance Faire.
At The Maryland Renaissance Faire.
More photos from this event can be found here.
In the backyard. I put my sleeves on backwards - oops!
On my dressform.
This is my second attempt at a Renaissance something, the first being my Elizabeth the Beloved costume. After attending a Renaissance Faire last year without a costume I was determined not to be without ever again! So the saga begins!
I have only changed my mind 10 times on what I'm going to make, a Tudor something, a Star Wars dress ... well I finally decided to be practical and make an Italian Renaissance dress, like those in the film Ever After. They are simple to make, comfortable to wear and very flattering.
My stash is full of patterns, fabric and all sorts of sewing stuff so I am determined to use what I already have. The fact that I am broke will make it real easy. The plan is to use Period Patterns #41 for the pattern. The gown will be made out an eggplant colored wool I've had for years. I will embellished it with pearls and gold beads.
September 15 2002
I know I want to embellish my dress with gold couching and pearls. I'm debating about how much. I'm so inspired buy this chemise - I would love to do something like that (yes I am insane!). On the other hand I was watching Ever After this week (for inspiration :>) and my favorite dress in the film is a simple blood red velvet dress that has only some small, simple gold trim. Intricate or understated; I don't know!
September 24 2002
Well I have good news and bad. I finally decided on which dress and sleeve I want but we are not going to make it to the Renaissance Faire this year. We can't get our schedules lined up, October is going to be crazy and I don't have any money to spend at the Faire anyway. I'm bummed.
I going to go ahead with my costume though. I have already invested much time dreaming about it, I have the stuff and no deadlines can't be bad, oui? I will be making Period Patterns #41 View IV with View VI sleeves. I don't know how accurate that is but this dress is for fun anyway.
The outfit consist of:
- corded bodice
I have been tinkering with a few ideas, including tons of pearls, couching gold cord, beading and using no embellishment at all.
I had trouble finding a gold cording to couch that was pretty and that I could afford. Instead I found some gold trim I really liked. I don't know how accurate it is but I found it at Jo Ann's and it was about $1.30 a yard - pretty cool!
While looking for pearls I found some great gold beads at Michael's. They are spacers for beaded necklaces. I think they look cool and they are very heavy. I will use them on the ends of the lacings for the sleeve ties. I also have a few to use on the dress itself.
While I was sick with the flu last week I spent my time coming up with designs using all my elements. In the end I created the design to the right. I'm very pleased with it, elegant but simple. It will look great on the purple wool! This trim will go along the neckline as well as the top and cuff of the sleeves. It would be fun to use more on the sleeve and maybe along the hem but I'm going to wait and see how it looks and what my budget is first.
September 25 2002
I have hit my first major snag. I was originally going to use my 18th century stays as the foundation for this dress. Not quite period, but comfortable and close enough for me. Well I tried on my stays today and they don't fit anymore! It's good because that means I am losing weight - but bad because I now have nothing to wear with this dress. So another project is born!
November 10 2002
Now that my corded bodice is in good shape I have finally been able to start my gown. So far it has gone together like a dream!
I made a muslin of the gown bodice and tried it on over the corded bodice. I didn't have to alter a thing - way cool! It has only taken me one day to cut out and sew the bodice. That is probably because, for once in my life, I simply cut the pattern and followed the directions (think of that!). The only changes I made were to stay stitch the front neckline and finish the bottom. I still need to create the lacing holes and add the trim but it looks great so far!
I did not follow the pattern for the skirt at all. I simply cut two lengths (fabric width times the skirt length) of fabric and lining. I sewed the lengths together, then sewed the skirt to the lining, finishing the top edge according to The Renaissance Tailor's wonderful instructions.
It was then I discovered a mistake; I had no opening. Good grief! To avoid having a seam down the center front, I cut a new seam down the back (so now I have a seam on each side and one in back). I need to sew up that seam to the opening and finish the opening edges then I will be ready to cartridge pleat. I'm not looking forward to the process of pleating (it's so time consuming) but the finished product will be worth it.
January 5 2003
No, it's not finished but I'm almost there! I pleated the skirt with 1¼" cartridge pleats. I love the way they turned out. I ended up stitching the skirt to bodice twice. The first time wasn't very secure so I went over it again. I'm not sure I'm doing it right but it works.
Adventure in Lacing Rings
My plan was to use lacing rings to fasten the back closure. Having never cared for the look of eyelets I decided to use them on the sleeves as well. The rings I used were brass curtain rings. The full name is Warm Window Insulated Shade System Brass Rings. I had a hideous time finding them so Katherine was kind enough to send me a package. How sweet was that! Thanks Katherine!
Once I began applying the rings it was clear I was not going to have enough. I trotted off to Hancock's to buy the cheap plastic versions (my last resort) when lo and behold, what did I find? The little brass rings! I had looked all over that section and managed to missed them.
It's kind of weird they way they have them, they are kept in a plastic bin, with other small supplies in a corner of the home December supply area. They are sold individually for 5 cents a piece. The package Katherine sent me came from Jo-Anns. In my search I learned that Jo-Ann does carry that brand of rings but only in the "super" Jo-Anns (the large, grade "A" stores or whatever they call them ... ). Anyway, thought I would pass that information on for other ring-seekers ...
Hems Are A Drag!
Because I fully lined the gown the hems were a bit cumbersome. Have I mentioned before that I hate hems? They are the single thing I hate the most about sewing. Yuck! After Mom pinned the hems for me, it took an entire afternoon to straighten, pin and sew the hems. I cheated on the lining hem and did that on the machine (sue me!) but the rest was done by hand.
I took some of the drudgery out of the process by working to an audio commentary from the Fellowship of the Ring DVD. (The Design Team one if you are really curious.) We got the DVD player and DVD for Christmas so it is still new and interesting. I've also worked on quite a bit of the embellishment while "watching" the Fellowship of the Ring. I will always think of LOTR when I look at that dress!
My Favorite Part
The embellishment is the only thing left to finish on the gown. I have tweaked my original concept and pattern of the embellishment a bit.
I decided to embellish the sleeves more, creating vertical stripes with a row of narrow black ribbon, flanked on either side by a row of the gold trim. I changed the pearl placement by removing the long pearls and gold beads and adding smaller pearls to the inside of the trim. The result is very rich. What is it about gold and pearls that is so elegant? All of this has required extra ribbon, trim and pearls of course.
I think I've finally come the realization - the one that all costumers must eventually come to - that embellishment annihilates one's budget. All I can say is thank God for Jo-Ann's 50% off coupons!
I finished tacking down the ribbon and trim along the bodice neckline last night. I decided on black ribbon flanked on one side with the trim. It's nice to see some color on the dress, I can't wait to see what the pearls do for the gown!
So that's all, the bodice pearls and a sleeve and a half left to embellish. Think I can finish it by February 1st? Hey! No snickering from the peanut gallery!!
January 7 2003
I have finished the gown! I still have the sleeves to finish but the gown itself is done. I just tried it on for the first time with the jewelry and one (almost fully beaded) sleeve and everything. In fact, I still have the gown on right now. :> It's so comfortable I may wear it for the whole afternoon! I wish I had a digital camera so ya'all could see too, it looks so cool!
February 3 2003
I'm done! (and the crowd goes wild!) I actually finished everything a week or so ago but haven't had time to post. I took pictures yesterday and am off this morning to put the film in to be developed.
February 4 2003
I must admit that headwear is the part of historical costume that gets me the least excited. I was sort of hoping I wouldn't have to worry about this part of the ensemble but when I tried on my gown for the first time, I found I really needed something on my head to complete the look. So I began ...
I love Juliet caps anyway but I totally fell in love with one in the Italian Renaissance Costumes paper dolls (by Tom Tierney). It is featured on Plate Two and is described as " ... a reticuled (or network) cap trimmed in pearls ... " I have no idea how period correct it is for my gown but I don't care!
I used a wide crocheted headband for my pattern. I traced the headband onto tissue paper (minus the ties), then used the paper pattern to cut out the basis of the cap. I used some black point d' esprit scraps for that.
I then cut and tacked down lengths of leftover 3/8" black grosgrain ribbon at an angle all across the point d' esprit I did the same thing in the other direction, creating a large network pattern.
The ribbon and point d' esprit were pretty stiff and I was concerned about the cap sticking out in an odd way so I ran gathering stitches across both sides and fitted the cap to my head. I then ironed another length of ribbon in half (widthwise) and slipped that over the unfinished cap edge. I then slip-stitched all the layers together. It was a little tricky with the thin ribbon but I managed to do it.
I then ironed the cap (with steam), which rather flattened it again but it retained enough of the shape to work. I then sewed on the pearls with gold thread. I used larger, pre-strung Christmas garland beads on the cap.
Overall it looks pretty good. It's really nothing special and I'm sure there is a better and easier way to make one but it does the job.
March 10 2003
Wow - it has taken forever for me to post the pictures of me in the outfit. I was sorry more good shots did not come out but it is just as well since I have discovered that my sleeves are on backwards! What a totally lame mistake!
I tried them on both ways, because the pattern illustration was not clear. The "puffs" towards the fronts seemed the most comfortable and to fit better so I assumed that was the way they were meant to go. I did not bother to research it at all - bad, bad Jenny!
Apparently the puffs are always to the rear on Italian gowns such as mine. (Thanks so much for your help Ben!!) Originally I liked them better towards the front but after seeing the pictures of it on me I will admit I prefer them toward the back. It's just more elegant.
*sigh* I will have to re-do the lacing rings probably and re-take the pictures. A rather discouraging thought but I'm determined to get it right.
Facts & Figures
For those of you who like numbers, I have estimated the amount of pearls and trim used on my gown:
pearls (varying sizes) - approximatly 955
gold trim - approximatly 4 yds
ribbon - ¼" black grosgrain - approximatly 14 yds
gold beads - exactly 19
I want to throw in a big thanks to all those who helped me on this project. The gown and the journal have been a blast, I'm a little sorry to see the project end! Special thanks to Mummy, Bridget & the Pizana girls for putting up with my moods, saying "wow that's great" when I asked you to, letting me watch LOTR over and over again and helping me to dress. A big merci beaucoup to Jen Thompson for sharing your costumes on such a detailed site, for answering my never-ending questions and for all your encouragement!
September 9 2003
I finally wore my outfit in public! I wore it to the Maryland Renaissance Faire. For the Faire I wore the outfit just as I had made it, after having fixed the sleeves of course. I also made a feather fan, in the English style, that hung from my waist.
It was a decent day for August in Maryland, but I was really glad I had the fan (and I pinned up my hair!). I was only able to wear my beautiful sleeves for 20 minutes. It was just too hot. I have to admit I felt a little undressed without my pretty sleeves but what is a girl to do!
To keep my 36" long camica sleeves out of the way I simply folded them over and pinned them at the top with a highly inaccurate safety pin. It worked beautifully and was very cool and comfortable. Good thing I finished the seams since they showed all day! What did I do with my wool sleeves? I hid them under my skirts by tying them to the waist tape of my pocket. No one ever knew they were there and I didn't have to walk back to car! I wish these moments of brilliance came along more often.
I wore the outfit for about 16 hours in total ... some musings ...
Little Ideas that Worked
fully lining the dress - This meant I didn't have to wear a petticoat (= another layer). It was easy to move my skirts around and get a nice breeze under them.
using all natural fibers - Okay, I'll admit I was a little skeptical about wearing a wool dress in August but really it wasn't bad at all. I did get hot sitting in the full sun but I think that was due to the color more than anything.
Things to Change Next Time
the color - When I choose a deep-purple-practically-black wool I didn't think about wearing it in a summer sun. As long as I was in the shade I was okay but the sun was murder, especially with the sleeves on. So wool - yes, dark color - no! Not for a summer out-door event in any case.
no pocket slits - I decided long after the dress was finished that I didn't want to carry a purse or basket or anything at the Faire. I have an 18th century pocket but having it tied under my skirts made it difficult and a bit immodest to get to. In the end I put non-essentials (Band-Aids, driver's license) in the pocket and carried a reticule on my wrist. Next time I'll just have a slit in the skirt side so I can reach my pocket. I don't know how period that is but it's practical and secure.