Let’s pretend that I haven’t spent the last month ignoring this here blog, and take up where we left off with my blue 1550s Venetian gown, eh?
One of the key elements of the portrait — why I love it — is the trim. I knew I wanted to try to reproduce those shell applique thingies, but clearly nothing premade was going to do it. I also loved the double row of trim around the edges of the bodice and sleeve.
I bought a bunch of vintage 1/4″ wide flat gold braid on Ebay with the idea that I could couch the braid onto something. I originally thought just silk organza, but then felt it would look better with some kind of filler inside the various loops. I headed off to Lacis where I found two different gold nets — one was cheap and pretty widely spaced, the other was perfect but pricey… luckily, before I put the pricey stuff back, I did the math and realized I’d only need about 1/4-1/3 of a yard, which brought the price down to something reasonable!
It looks like there are two different sizes of shell — the larger is around her hip area and shoulder, the smaller are the three around the bodice center front. I futzed a bit and came up with a pattern, which I then traced onto silk organza using a water soluble marker. I cut one layer of silk organza with the pattern drawn onto it to serve as a guide, one layer of the gold netting, and one more layer of silk organza for a backing:
I tried making the first prototype entirely on the machine, but felt that it looked clunky:
So I did the rest of the shells with the couching done by hand — which went surprisingly quick. I first basted the netting to the drawn-on layer of silk organza, so I’d have a guide for the couching.
Then I sewed the couched piece to yet one more piece of silk organza, right sides together, trimmed off most of the excess, and turned it right side out.
Sadly, making all those appliques took more of the gold braid than I’d originally anticipated, so that meant doing something different for the gown trim. I ended up using the left over braid from my 18th c. riding habit waistcoat. I didn’t have enough for the double row of trim all the way around, so I futzed and ended up doing it just along the center fronts:
Another key element that I really wanted to try was the decorative “stomacher” (under kirtle? who knows, so I made it a stomacher). Many of them, including the one in my main inspiration portrait, look embroidered, but I’ve seen some that look like lace laid on a backing fabric:
This seemed a lot more do-able, so I stalked Ebay for a long time and finally found this beautiful metallic gold lace piece:
I decided I didn’t want the high contrast of a white backing, plus some of the faires we perform at are pretty dusty, and I was worried about white getting dingy. So I ended up laying the gold lace on top of some gold silk taffeta, which I then backed with corset coutil for stiffness, and edged the top with a tiny gold metallic lace. The lovely thing about the stomacher approach is while you CAN baste it into your bodice, you don’t have to — the tension of the bodice and lacing, over the stiffness of a corset, keeps the stomacher perfectly in place.
Next up — a theatrical solution to a skirt issue, and final pictures of the gown!