Anabella Wake's 1590s Florentine "Iron Dress"
I'm always delighted when someone works out a new application
for my patterns, one that I hadn't originally thought of. So when I
got these pictures from Anabella Wake, (known to Margo's Yahoo list
as "Bella") who had carefully converted our Elizabethan English
lady into a wealthy lady of 1590s Florence, I knew I had to share them
-- and her story -- with you.
The fact that she managed to do this within the tight
confines of the Iron Dress competition simply makes this spectacular
costume all the more impressive.
I first heard about the competition I was trying to decide what to
make for our Barony's hosting of the upcoming Crown Tourney. The challenge
of making an outfit from the Elizabethan period using Margo's Elizabethan
Lady's Wardrobe pattern, with just what's on hand in the fabric stash
and a very limited amount of money was just the thing I needed to
inspire me, and to help me keep to a schedule - and a budget! My costuming
efforts are for my participation in the SCA, where I have a very decidedly
Venetian persona. Until now I have only ever made sixteenth century
Venetian gowns. But I do love almost anything 16th century Italian,
so, after clarifying the contest rules and finding it was ok to do
so, I took the opportunity to research and make an Elizabethan era
Florentine high-necked camicia, a doublet-style overdress, and matching
peacock feather fan.
searching for pictorial documentation of garments from the 1590s,
there can be found many portraits and manuscripts of Italian ladies
wearing doublet-style bodice garments that do not feature doublet
skirts or piccadils. In these the skirt appears to be attached to
the doublet bodice, and appears to be an over-gown. It is these one
piece garments that I will be re-creating.
"A Florentine noblewoman's high-necked linen camicia
trimmed with cotton lace; velvet doublet-bodice over-gown with shoulder
rolls, circa 1590s; with peacock feather fan.
"The over-gown is made up of:
bodice made from the hunter green cotton velvet (retaining the side
seam for ease of alteration later in case of weight loss), cut with
selvedges to lie along the front opening edges, the bodice completely
flatlined with linen, and fully lined with silk so no seam allowances
show: grey silk in back and side back, "cloth of gold"
in fronts and collar. Plastic boning was used along front opening
edges only, and hooks and eyes were used to close it from waist
to chest. I chose to omit closures above the chest because it is
meant to be worn open at the chest as was fashionable in Florence.
(All major seams were done by machine. Hand sewing: collar facing/lining,
lining on front closure edges, lining sewn down by hand.)
- Shoulder rolls covered in white cotton and matching panes of green
velvet, trimmed. I altered my original plans for paned cap sleeves,
finding the shoulder rolls more suitable. I used the trimmed panes
to decorate the rolls. I used bias binding to neaten the raw edges.
- Curved sleeves made from "cloth of gold" silk, flatlined
with 100% cotton, attached to doublet by means of hooks and eyes
as seen in Patterns of Fashion. I added my own small piccadils to
the wrists - strips of matching silk, interfaced with fusible interfacing
for fabric stability, stitched to the sleeves and snipped to create
cartridge pleated "round" skirt (full panels of fabric,
front panels shaped to fit the point) hand-sewn to bodice. These
cartridge pleats are done a different way to standard to achieve
the less structured and less stiff pleating that is seen in Italian
gowns. The skirt, being of thick velvet, is not fully lined, but
the front opening edges are lined with "cloth of gold"
silk from waist to hem for 25cm on both edges. All seams sewn by
machine, lining stitched down by hand so hem doesn't show, hem done
trimming: Gold cord made of a cotton core around which metallic gold
has been braided, was machine couched onto the bodice front, back,
shoulder rolls and skirt opening in double columns. This, of course,
was a time-saving measure, which "in period" would have
been done by hand. Between these columns were sewn 147 pearls and
294 gold seed beads in groups of three.
"The high-necked camicia, which is essential to
the look, and made from my stash especially for the outfit was:
- Made from and interfaced in the collar and cuffs with 100% linen.
- I omitted the neckline gussets to fit in with the construction
of an extant Italian shirt, late 16th century, located at "The
People's Museum of Zadar, Yugoslavia", and examined in "Cut
My Cote" by Dorothy K. Burnham.
- Collar, neck opening, and wrist frills were trimmed with 100%
- The wrist ruffles were made separately and are removable for washing/replacing.
feather fan pattern was altered to suit what I had on hand, and was
- 30 peacock feathers
- plastic canvas
- hot glue
- quilting thread
- white felt for padding (synthetic)
- scraps of green velvet
- trimming to match gown
- wooden spoon for handle
- gold acrylic paint
"Two layers of plastic canvas were cut from the
basic shape. Feathers were applied with hot glue, let cool, and then
stitched down on one piece of plastic canvas, and the wooden spoon
handle applied with stitching and duct tape to the other piece, the
two were then laid one on top of the other and stitched together.
The padding was done by means of felt glued in place, the outer cover
of green velvet trimmed to match gown went over that. Wooden handle
was painted gold."
Anabella, feel free to improvise and improve any time
-- this costume is stunning!
Photos on this page used with permission.