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16th century

1550s Venetian, 16th century, projects

New Venetian Renaissance – Fabric Shopping!

If you’ve seen my desire to costume, please let me know!  I don’t know if I pinned a note to its shirt, but hopefully it knows where it lives and could be sent to me COD?

I am trying to overcome my TOTAL lack of enthusiasm for costuming.  I did get on a fabric buying spree a few months ago, so that’s something!  I’ve been wanting to make a new dress for Bella Donna, and been wanting red for a while, so about a year or so ago I finally found some that would work:

I still love the fabric, but one of the things I’ve been trying to do as Bella Donna costume maven is to get us to broaden up our color palette.  We originally started with only shades of red (everything from gold through red through burgundy).  It worked great for a common look, but I think non-costumers don’t distinguish as much as costumers do, so we got a lot of, “Why are you all wearing the same dress?”  Hence, my last Venetian was in green.

Well, we got together to talk fabric a few months ago, and I realized that suddenly everyone was going to be back in red shades. I think part of it is what fabrics people got excited about, but also that it’s HARD to find good silk damasks! So I thought I’d better walk the walk and shelve my red (for now) and see what else I could find.

Cue months of fabric shopping, and I FINALLY came up with these, which are both in my hot little hands now:

Medium blue and bronze silk damask

Peach and gold silk damask, from Renaissance Fabrics

Okay, yes the peach is still in the red family, but at least it’s a lot lighter than red and it’s shiny!

So, now I have to figure out which one to use! For a while I was more excited about the peach just because it’s REALLY SHINY, but now I’m leaning more towards the blue — which is SUCH a coup, as finding blue silk damask that works for costuming?  Shockingly really hard!  And I don’t do baby blue, thank you very much.

I’m still planning to make this dress, including the weird gold shell/flower-y bits:

Veronese - Woman Holding Gloves, 1550-60 (via Realm of Venus)

I even found some butt-kickingly good gold lace that will work for the stomacher, which I’m REALLY excited about.

First up will be a new corset, basically a strapless version of my 1780s stays.  I even managed to cut it out and mark the boning channels on Sunday, which is a major accomplishment given my total lack of energy for costuming!  More on that soon.

15th century, 16th century

Illuminated Manuscripts on Wikimedia Commons

This could be old news to you, but maybe not!  I recently discovered that Wikimedia Commons has a specific category for illuminated manuscripts by century, which includes TONS of gorgeous manuscript illustrations from the 2nd through the 16th century — and these illustrations are a fabulous source for medieval costuming.

[Edited to add:  Might have been nice if I’d added the link to illuminated manuscripts by century in Wikimedia Commons!]

In particular, I am stunned by the gorgeousness of De Mulieribus Claris, which is from the late 15th or early 16th century.  Here’s a small sampling of images:

16th century, books, research

Lucas de Heere 16th c. costume illustrations

Researchers of 16th century English costume are probably familiar with Lucas de Heere’s sketch of middle and lower class London ladies (discussed here, higher resolution image here).  It’s an important source, given that de Heere is documented as having actually BEEN in England when it was drawn, and it shows the common people.  Most images depicting common people of this era are drawn/painted by people who may never have seen a commoner of whatever-country in their lives.  There are a couple other famous-within-the-costuming-community images by de Heere:  his images of Irish dress and his allegory of the Tudor succession.

About five years ago, I found some further images of Englishwomen by de Heere in a book on the Valois tapestries, but they weren’t the highest resolution and were only in black and white, which started me on a hunt to find more.  It turns out that he published a costume book with a number of images I’d never seen.  I found an online copy of a dissertation written somewhere in the Netherlands or Belgium which included all of the images, but the resolution was TINY.  So, every year or so I’d do some poking around and hope to find an online or print source with usable images.  And today I found it, digitized at the University of Ghent!

There’s a lot that’s in it that I think will be very interesting to 16th c. costume researchers.  The book is a mix of representations of historical and contemporary dress.  Some of the illustrations are probably pretty accurate, and some may be completely made up.  However, there are enough images that are likely to be correct to make it a great source for costume research, and importantly costume books like this often served as models for future painters (ie an artist needed an image of some French peasants to fill out his/her landscape, so they’d copy those peasants out of a costume book).

Here is a link to the bibliographic data on the book, and here’s the scanned PDF of the book itself…. and here are some individual images from the book that I find most interesting!

16th century, events, projects, SCA

12th Night, a New Dress, Sarah’s Laurel, and possibly more!

This past weekend was 12th Night for the SCA West Kingdom, and my super good friend Sarah received the Laurel award!  The Laurel is kind of like a lifetime achievement or master-level award in the SCA for arts & sciences; she received her’s for costuming.

Sarah asked me to be an attendant in her ceremony, so both I and Trystan decided to make outfits to coordinate with Sarah’s. Originally she was planning to do 1560s English, and I was all set to make a dress worn in a portrait by Mary I, but then she changed her mind to Florentine. I went through my image files and Moda a Firenze and found myself most inspired by this portrait, which worked perfectly because Sarah’s colors are black and white:

Trystan and I both wanted to distinguish our costumes from Sarah’s, so since she was doing a black veste (overgown) and white sottana (undergown) with sleeves that would show, we contrasted with black sleeves. Don’t ask, I overthought this!

I was super happy to be able to use fabric from my stash – a black silk duchesse satin that I bought on sale about 5 or more years ago and just hadn’t found the right project for yet.  I had promised to sell some of it to Trystan for an 18th c. costume she wants to make, but we did the math and found I had enough fabric for her and me if I made the sleeves out of another fabric.

No, I didn’t blog about the costume, because terminal laziness set in!  I am a bad, bad blogger… try to forgive!

Luckily I had two weeks off around Christmas so I set to work. Here’s a writeup and pics of the final costume, which I LOVED — I felt evil and badass, and I’m excited that I can swap out the sleeves and petticoat for a new look:

(C) Wendi Koble

Sarah’s ceremony was really wonderful and we all got verklempt!  She had a fun vigil (ie party) on Friday night, and the ceremony itself was really beautiful — the choir sung a gorgeous Italian song, there was a parade of SCAdians in 16th c. costumes, and the various people who spoke were really quite touching in their praise of Sarah and her work in the SCA. Yay!

The rest of the day was spent alternately flopping and socializing. I’ve been to two 12th nights before, and I saw even MORE pretties at this one than I have in the past, so I had a lot of fun costume-watching! The evening ended with Trystan and I at the bar creating our own SCA drinking game (don’t ask) and then a PJ party in our room with some peeps. Good times!

I didn’t take TOO many photos — mostly they are from when we were waiting around for the ceremony to start — but here they are!

16th century, 17th century, books

Another 17th C. Dress Patterns Book!

EEP!  If you loved the first Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns — okay, and even if you didn’t! — the next installment, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book 2, comes out on May 1, and can be preordered now.

It sounds really cool, particularly all the info on stays:

Book Two in the V&A’s groundbreaking new series presents 17 patterns for garments and accessories from a 17th-century woman’s wardrobe. It includes patterns for a loose gown, a jacket, a pair of stays and a boned bodice, ivory and wooden busks, shoes, a hat, a stomacher, linen bands and supporters, a bag, and a knife case. It also features a description of the stay-making process. Full step-by-step drawings of the construction sequence are given for each garment to enable the reader to accurately reconstruct them. There are scale patterns and diagrams for making linen and metal thread laces and embroidery designs. Multiple photographs of the objects, close-up construction details and X-ray photography reveal the hidden elements of the clothes, the precise number of layers and the stitches used inside.

If it’s anything like the first book, it will be of interest to those into 16th c. costume as well!

16th century, Bella Donna, events

Bella Donna 2011

Oh, how lagger-y I have become!  Oh, how many updates I have in my mind and not on my blog!  Maybe it’s time to retire this here thing… or get my butt in gear!

SO!  One thing I don’t tend to post a lot about is my 16th c. Venetian courtesan/singing group, Bella Donna.  Not because it’s not a hugely fun and time-consuming thing that I do, but because I feel like the report would be, “Rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed. Performed, had fun!” So in an effort to counteract that, I’m going to try to tell you about this season.

Way back in April, we performed at a one-day benefit for a middle school. Small (comparatively) crowds, little shade, and paved in light-colored cement so that our eyes were BURNING from the sun. Oh, the squinty pictures! Nonetheless, we had fun, debuting new music… A while back, the Queen told us that the Earl of Leicester would cover any of our expenses while we’re in London, so we’ve had a long running joke that he’s supposed to buy us all ponies, which of course he always fails to do. So we had fun telling him that we had a song about our ponies for him, and then singing “Gush Forth My Tears.”

Ardenwood Renaissance Faire was fun minus the humidity, which put a damper on things… literally, when poor Linda felt faint and was down for the count, and I got carsick on the drive home on Sat. No fun throwing up on the side of the freeway in a corset, I tell you! Nonetheless, it was good in that we had to cover Linda’s parts in our show and found that we actually COULD!

Ending the dance Spagnoleta in our stage show (C) Francisco Mijango

Much Ado About Sebastopol was in its second year and man, did they knock it out of the park. Those people who long for a more historically accurate Elizabethan faire should seriously check this out. While the location isn’t anything to get excited about (city park – but hey, there are TREES), the faire organizers are going back to the original vision of actual living history.  Most of the performers are playing English lower and middling classes, and doing craft demonstrations and other actual bits of living history. Whoa! Sadly, our director/harpist Shawna had to miss that show, and so we weren’t as exciting and sparkly as when we’re with her (no musical accompaniment, no dancing).

We’ve done the San Francisco Italian Heritage Parade for a number of years now, twice winning first prize for “Novelty Act.” Last year, we were smoked by a group of real Italians from Genoa who had (cheesy costumes and) drums and swords and lots of people. So this year, we invited our friends from the SCA and the German Landsknecht Guild of St. Max to join us, and made a HUGE showing. The parade is always a blast — everyone’s in a good mood, random people give you wine and take your picture, and it’s Fleet Week so the Blue Angels are flying overhead. This year, we won honorable mention for “Novelty Act” and had a blast doing it! Here’s a ridiculous video of us all singing along to “Don’t Stop Believin'” while we’re waiting for the parade to start…

Augmented Bella Donna at the SF Italian Heritage Parade

Finally, it was time for our favorite faire: the Folsom Renaissance Faire. It’s the last faire of the season, so everyone’s in a good mood; the site is pretty, with lots of trees; and it’s a fabulous girl weekend. What’s not to love?

I’ve been dying to make a new Venetian dress but had absolutely no time to do so, so contented myself by making a new girdle and parasol. We all use those Chinese paper parasols, given that we need to keep the sun off somehow and Italian women weren’t into hats. I want us to step up the game and go with something more period-accurate, so to that end I recovered a vintage 1950s umbrella (with a tag inside the cover that proudly proclaimed it was “100% acetate”!) with some gold silk taffeta left over from my 18th c. Brunswick. I thought I’d have it ready to go for the parade, but the cover ended up too small — wah! So I had to unpick all the seams and let them out. I’d bought a ton of this bullion fringe, thinking I’d cover the entire edge, but once I let the parasol out I didn’t have enough, so I cut it into pieces and made tassels.

New parasol! (C) Kim Yasuda

The other exciting thing, costume-wise, was Jenn made Shawna a new costume. Shawna is our director and works her butt off for our group, researching music and teaching it to all of us, plus leading the acting brigade… but she doesn’t sew. A bunch of us got together to make her last costume, but because we all took various pieces of it, it didn’t come together as well as it should have (and the fabric she chose was affordable but not fabulous). So Jenn had had enough of it, and took her in hand to make her a GORGEOUS new red silk damask dress plus a new corset that gave her a beautiful shape. Jenn is an amazing costumer who does precision work, and the ensemble turned out stunning. Isn’t Shawna a total goddess?

Shawna's new dress

Folsom was a blast, like always, but perhaps even more fun because this time we continued with the “augmented Bella Donna” theme, having some guest/non-stage show performers — the fabulous Karen, Sarah, Trystan, and Francis. We set up a space for the first time ever, and while it was small, it was perfectly sized for us (you can see a bit in the background of Shawna’s picture). Francis and Sarah have a pavilion and a bunch of gear they use for the SCA, so we got to set up a space that was 1) our’s and 2) appropriately pretty and non-peasant-y. We had tons of fun playing with our larger group; we made the local newspaper (that picture was taken during a tipsy hour where we hooted and hollered at literally everyone who walked past our set-up; we were having so much fun, we couldn’t even stop to pose for the photographer); plus we debuted our newest courtesan, Chlamydia, which was gut-bustingly hilarious.. Trystan took a bunch of pictures, which you can see on Flickr.

Our last event of the year was singing at the PEERS Bal de Vampyre, which is probably the most fun costume ball of the season. It’s about 5 blocks from my house (ok, bonus for me), held in a GORGEOUS masonic hall with 3 floors — a huge ballroom, a social room, and a basement lounge with goth DJs. Oh, and there are 2 bars! Sadly, I had the flu the week before and was still feeling woozy and out of it, so I didn’t have as much fun as I usually did. Still, it was fun to sing and our space was set up well this year so we were able to attract a good audience. The best part was we rewrote some of our English songs to make them vampire-y, and led the audience in a sing-a-long to “Greensleeves” that was about a spurned vampire victim/lover/slave and went, “Red blood was all your joy / Red blood was your delight / Red blood was your heart so cold / And naught but my flowing red blood.”

And yes, I did make my champagne costume, and I felt it turned out totally meh… but I Brownie-promise a full post about that!

Bella Donna at the Vampire Ball (C) David Bedno

16th century, 17th century, 18th century, 19th century, books

Some Upcoming Books

Some interesting sounding books out now, or coming soon!

Russian Elegance: Country & City Fashion from the 15th to the Early 20th Century features examples of Russian dress from the State Historical Museum, from the 15th-20th centuries, looking at both Russian peasant dress and Western styles worn in cities.

Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup is written by the founder of Besame Cosmetics, so you know she knows what she’s talking about! Covers the 1920s-present, with over 430 photos, timelines, and color palettes.

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art is written by renowned costume historian Aileen Ribeiro so again, you know it’s going to be good. According to its description, it “discusses the shifting perceptions of female beauty, concentrating on the period from about 1540 to 1940″ with lots of illustrations.

Slightly further afield… ie of interest to niche markets:

Spanish Fashion in Early Modern Europe: The Prevelance and Prestige of Spanish Attire in the Courts of the 16th and 17th Centuries could be interesting to those who geek out on this era. It looks like it’s going to be more analytical than illustrative.

And in a similar vein, Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America (Gender and American Culture) “explores how and why fashion–both as a concept and as the changing style of personal adornment–linked gender relations, social order, commerce, and political authority during a time when traditional hierarchies were in flux” — again, analytical rather than illustrative.

Happy shopping!