The 1560 Venetian Gown

The 1560 Venetian Gown

I think it's just impossible for me NOT to have a project to work on. And, Faire season is coming up.  Who doesn't want a new gown each year? : )  The French gown is too hot to wear during the summer months, and the gold gown, well, I don't really have an issue with that one. But I did want a new gown.  I wanted something fairly light and cool, and I'd been looking at darker blues and green fabrics and dreaming.   Last August, Joann's had fabric on sale, and I picked up some gorgeous darker blue damask.  I wanted to make something different, and so I started looking into Italian designs.  I really want to do a late 15th century gown, but I wouldn't be able to wear it to faire. But, I did find some beautiful 1560's Venetian gowns that would be a nice change from the usual English gown that most people wear to faire. Italian gowns have a few features that differ from English and French gowns - they have a ladder laced front that is open in a V shape to show the undergarment, the Camicia.  They have a pointed front bottom edge of the bodice, and also a pointed back bottom edge.  The backs of the bodice are square cut, and the straps are narrow and wide-set.  The gowns do not use a farthingale to give them wide skirts; instead, they are cartridge pleated with strips of fabric in the pleats to give some volume. And, instead of an English chemise, the italians wore camicias, which tend to be much more voluminous, especially in the sleeves.

The fabric:

The inspiration:


For the construction, I started with modeling the bodice after one of the corsets that I wear often. I did elongate the front point, cut the sides higher (after having the corset dig into my hips with the weight of the gowns, that seemed like a prudent idea) and cut the width slightly shorter so that I would have a gap in the front for lacing.   I cut out two layers of duck canvas, which would be sewn together to form the structure of the gown. I cut similar pieces in the damask, and in linen to line the gown.

I sewed boning channels into the duck, and cut boning.  Once I inserted the bones and tried the bodice on, I remembered something that I THOUGHT I had learned on the corset... bones take up space, and SHRINK the width of the garment.  With a 6" gap, between the sides, the bodice was too small. Luckily, I had more canvas, and cut more pieces, this time adding in extra fabric on the sides to compensate for the boning.  After another hour of sewing boning channels, and cutting more bones, I finally got it right.  I made shoulder straps from canvas, and covered them in damask.  To attach them to the bodice without visible seams, I pinned the damask onto the duck bodice, pinned the straps into place, and lifted up the front of the damask, so that I would sew through the duck layers, the strap, and the portion of the damask that was folder over to the inside of the garment, but not through the damask that would become the outside of the garment. It worked like a charm! Once all four seams were done, I re-inserted the boning, pinned the damask back into place, and tried the whole bodice on again for a final check. That's when I realized that the waist was cut a bit too large, and would not only come together where it would attach to the skirt, but it would overlap. SIGH.  I was REALLY tempted to dart the sides of the duck, but we all know they didn't use darts in the 16th century, and I refuse to use a modern technique like that on these gowns. Plus, darting would cause the already-cut damask to  lay funny, and that I am really not okay with.  But, since I already have the straps and damask attached at the top of the duck bodice, I kind of have a situation.  I am thinking that when I work on it again tonight, I will pull apart the side seams, and re-lay them in the same place at the top of the seam, and pull in more at the bottom of the seam, near the waist. Not technically a dart, but will achieve a similar effect. Wish me luck!

(Inside of the duck bodice with the straps and damask pinned on.  The right side of the picture shows the armscythe eased and pinned into place; the left side still needs to be eased.

So, tonight, the goal is to undo and redo the side angled seams on the duck, redo the side angled seams on the damask, if necessary, and handsew the damask into place.  If I'm REALLY motivated, I'll then sew in the linen lining.  I suspect that I will need to sew a fake boned inset into the open V, covered with a fake Camecia panel.  If so, I may start cutting that tonight as well.

Later, I will need to line the skirt panel, cartridge pleat it, and attached it to the bottom of the bodice.  Then, after hanging for a week, the skirt will need to be hemmed.  The bodice will need the false front attached, and then lacing rings will need to be sewn in. I will also need to make a Camecia to wear under the gown, and then sleeves in the same damask of the gown will need to be made (although I can wear the gown without the sleeves, so those will be last.


Wow, I always learn so much from your blogs. I love the fabric, its a very nice color and I love the texture. Its amazing what you are capable of doing. I wouldn't want to write a term paper on this much less actually make it...nice job, its gonna look really nice. Good luck with the darts.

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