Monday, July 6, 2009

16th Century Venetian Courtesan with Flair

So we children we all have our "something". For me it was (and still is) "dress up". With a lifelong burning desire to have the ultimate gown I began researching. I started off in the wrong direction the keywords in my researching were failing to conjure up the images I had stored in my minds eye. I was thinking renaissance, medieval....not finding what I was looking for. I broke it down into centuries, and began Google image searches of 14th, 15th, 16th...

A ha!
16th century it is! So I began to get more specific...a region, a style..."Wait a minute...where am I going to wear this dress?!" I began to brainstorm....I looked at Ren Faires, nahw, I looked at the Jareth Ball up in LA....getting, Italy! What about Carnavale?! I sent out the feelers to my lovely and he was actually into it! We booked a hotel and I began dreaming bigger. Venezia...It was meant to be, before all of this I knew the gown would be red. Why? You ask, I still don't know. Lets say, it came to me in my dreams. Turns out the colour of Venezia is red. Now that the dress has an ultimate purpose, Venice, Red, Carnavale...The ideas are coming together...a combination made in heaven.
So that evening that we decided to "do this" I went over to my friend J's house and threw the idea out to her and her husband after several glasses of vino. They booked their hotel that night and we started shopping for patterns online!!!
So the two pictures above combined the major elements I was looking for, but no one image did my imagination justice, so the improvisations and customizations just keep on coming. With no "one" dress how am I to find a pattern? We bought many, many patterns and have been piecing them togther, using instructions for the waistband then making the skirt as we is a collaborative process. We found an online corset pattern generator and started there...we found an "onion peel diagram" of what layers we would actually need... now we can begin sewing! First we made the smock (in Venice at that time it was called a "camica") and a corset.
So round one corset needed a few alterations, a slightly higher rise in front and a little more room on the back top half of the lacing area. In an effort to save money where we can we decided to use massive zip ties as the boning, as we found out boning is super expensive when the zip ties work just as well. I was determined that I would only make two corsets for my "bodies"as they are called in antiquity. J made 5 prototypes before she was happy...I just don't have that kind of patience.
Round two went well, no more adjustments needed. I learned however that binding is a bad idea with such closely spaced tabs. I had a really hard time with that!
So at this point I had had it with underpinnings! I wanted some voluptuous fabric! Big Skirts! The little girl inside me who wants this costume is getting impatient! So onto big skirts :)
I had bought in the very begining of this whole ordeal 9 yards of dark red heavy satin. I saw it, and I knew it was right for the job. I took all nine yards and prepped it for cartridge pleating.

So I spent one whole weekend prepping and pleating. The process is ridiculously simple. You take your fabric and fold over about 2 in, press and pin, then make your mark. Every inch make a set of three 1" lines 1/2" apart, starting 1/4" down from the fold. Then get your big ass upholstry needle out and stitch a long (as long as your material) thread through every 1" line. When you are done, draw it up and you are ready to attach to waistband. Every pleat needs to be whipstitched to the waistband twice with heavy duty thread.

In order to have the skirt sit properly you need a bumroll, so I made a bumroll. Two cresent shaped pieces of fabric stitched together. Usually you can use polyfill for the stuffing (which is supposed to be according to the pattern "firmness of a ripe tomatoe") but J had some leftover Alpaca fiber from her herd so we used that as stuffing instead.

Showing off my "bum".
I have now progressed to the second skirt a vision in gold and red brocade. same process as mentioned above.

Progress continues to the bodice next and then onto sleeves! I am making the two forparts tonight. Will continue posting progress! Let me know if there is any info about patterns etc. you would like me to scan and post. Thanks for reading.


Rachel Eloise said...

I am so impressed with this dress and completely in awe of the cartridge pleats. I can't wait to see the finished product. I'm also curious to hear the entire yardage amounts for this costume. I want to make a Regency Era dress (think Jane Austen) to use as the author pic for when I finally write my own bodice ripper. (I've already earmarked some nice blue home dec fabric for it.) Maybe I can make the dress and wear it for inspiration while writing the book!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Did you ever finish this? How did it turn out?

Evie said...