adjective:old fashioned, out of style, unfashionable [from French, the past participle of démoder "to go out of fashion," from mode "fashion"].

the concept

1550s Florentine gown
1540s Florentine gown in the style of Eleanor of Toledo

the fabric

orange damask
orange silk damask / brown cotton velvet

the pattern

draped by me, based on the Eleanor of Toledo gown in Patterns of Fashion

the deadline

nothing specific!

the result

what's on the dvd player?

Dangerous Beauty

useful links

Festive Attyre: Research

Milanese Tailor's Handbook


Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, c. 1560-1620. New York: Drama Book, 1985.

Landini, Roberta Orsi. Moda a Firenze, 1540-1580: Lo Stile di Eleonora di Toledo e la Sua Influenza. Firenze: Pagliali Polistampa, 2005.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I'd gotten bored of this project, and distracted by Costume College, but when I decided to go to a Renaissance faire as a customer -- being totally bored of my courtesan gown, since I have to wear that for Bella Donna -- I decided it was time to finish this up.

First thing was to fix the bodice front. I couldn't figure out why the trimming looked off-kilter on one side - til I realized that I hadn't cut the bodice top edge symmetrical. Oops! Had to untrim, open up the top seam, cut the curve down a bit, and resew all that.

Luckily, I'd gotten halfway through trimming one sleeve before I got distracted, so I just had 1.5 sleeves to trim. I did the handsewing over a few weeknights, then spent Friday afternoon/evening finishing things up.

The trimming worked out 95% well -- there are a few places in the sleeve seam where the trimming doesn't match entirely (ie it's slightly off), but not bad. I sewed up the sleeve and lined it in cotton muslin. Then I peered at the 1540s dresses in Moda di Firenze to try to figure out how they did the baragoni (the sleeve tabs) - particularly looking at this 1540s portrait of Eleonora that I love. The baragoni were sewn to the sleeve cap, not the shoulder strap which I would have expected (aren't English gowns trimmed on the sleeve cap, or did I hallucinate that?); and in this decade they weren't stuffed (like a shoulder roll) but still had some body. I ended up cutting tabs of the silk damask, lining it with the orange cotton and interlining with silk organza for support, and adding a strip of the gold braid to each. Then I just pinned them to the sleeve cap and futzed with them until they seemed to work.

The final bit was attaching the sleeves to the dress. It seems like they mostly used decorative buttons and loops; since I didn't have time to get any period buttons, I used gold decorative jewelry toggles (ie a toggle and a loop).

My hair turned out fabulous - all the portraits I've found from the era seem to be either the classic Eleonora di Toledo gold net snood, or a version of this slightly later hairstyle with the braids looped around the head and jeweled accents:

1560-70 Woman With Dog

That style really struck me, as I didn't have time to make a good snood, and I loved the little curls in front and the jewels/ribbons in the hair. After peering at it a bit, I realized there was a decorative comb on top (see the jewels?) which is why her hair is pulled straight back without a part.

So for me, I got a wire comb and added some pearls to the edge, with which I pulled back the hair on the top of my head. Then I braided my hair and crossed it in back, then added a false braid with gold ribbon woven in to create the coronet -- and left out a little bit of hair at the temples for curls (lots of gel/hairspray for those!).

First, the good - I'd gotten so bored of this while making it, and had started wishing the brown velvet was a warmer, more chocolately color (more matchy with the orange damask), that I didn't think I was going to like the finished dress all that much. So I was pleasantly surprised by how smashing it looked on! The dark velvet is very striking in my opinion, I love the bodice trimming pattern, and I love the spiral trim on the sleeves (and I love that I took in the sleeves some from the pattern I used on my courtesan gown - I felt like I looked less like Henry VIII). And it was just so much fun to finally wear something new!!

The bad - not too bad! - I had some bad luck with the very front toggles popping off the sleeve. Need to resew those with about 5,000 knots so it doesn't happen again! Also, I didn't realize that my spiral back lacing had loosened up on top (can't see behind me!). Finally, that weird wrinkle in the bodice front lining is still there - I spent the day tugging at it to no avail, so I'll need to see if I can open that up and pull it smooth (bastards!).

Finally - pictures!

1540s Florentine1540s Florentine1540s Florentine
1540s Florentine1540s Florentine1540s Florentine
1540s Florentine

posted by démodé 6:25 PM 18 comments

Monday, July 16, 2007

While I really want to be working on other projects, the most sensible (grumble grumble) thing to do is to finish this sucker, which only needs sleeves and a bit of trim reworking on the bodice. Grumble.

So out it came! I'm using the same sleeve pattern I used for my courtesan dress, except without the split down front. It's drafted on one of the sleeves in Period Costume for Stage & Screen, and while I generally like it, it's too big -- I always feel like Henry VIII when I wear it. So I took about 1" total out of it and it's fitting much better -- here's the mockup:


I was busy thinking, "Oh, I can make a pair of sleeves in a day!" when I remembered - trim! Handsewing! Right! Duh.

I had to fiddle a bit to figure out how to make the trim appear spiral on the flat pattern, as I want to trim them first then make them up. It all worked relatively well, except that because the sleeve is tapered, the very bottom row is spaced a little more closely than the rows above. Oh well, that's what was needed to make it all match up!


And now I just have a lot of trim application ahead of me!

posted by démodé 4:40 PM 0 comments

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The skirt is attached, with only one major mishap. I'd put the skirt panels together and hemmed it (via a lining) a few weeks ago, so it was just a matter of figuring out the skirt lengths and cartridge pleating.

Given the side back openings, I needed two skirt side back openings as well, but of course the skirt panels didn't line up. So I measured and thought I'd figured out where to slash the skirt -- slashed, handsewed the openings to the lining to finish, and put in the cartridge pleating -- only to find that the openings were very much NOT at the right place! I had this lovely tight cartridge pleating all around, except at the center back where it was much looser. Sigh. So I sewed up the wrong openings, remeasured, and redid the openings at the right place. Luckily the center back is full enough that the resewn-wrong-openings seem to blend in with the folds of the skirt.

The bodice front lining is wrinkling in this photo -- I'm not sure why! Need to mess with that to figure it out. And obviously I've tied off the lacings in a totally random way (I think I'm giving my husband a heart attack every time I ask him to lace me into this!).


posted by démodé 11:15 AM 4 comments

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I've been working on the bodice trimming for a while now, but since I wasn't sure about it (and wasn't done) there were no updates. I had originally thought I would get a narrow gold metallic lace, like the one I used on my Venetian dress, to do an outline of the traditional Florentine bodice trimming. I was outbid on a number of laces on ebay, and so stopped looking so closely at the descriptions -- when I saw this stuff, I just put in a bid snipe and hoped -- and when it got to me, it was much wider than I'd anticipated. Fine by me! So I started sewing it on, and realized that if I doubled it, I could get the same wide trim effect as on the Eleanor of Toledo funeral gown. So that's what I went for, although I stuck with the pattern fashionable in the 1540s (without the center front vertical). As I was sewing it on, I kept thinking, "Is it too much?" and I really wasn't sure until I was finished that it wouldn't be huge and tacky -- but I think it works!

Please ignore the fact that the back looks somewhat off-center -- it's because of how I put it on my form. And obviously I screwed up the lacing on the left side...

bodice trimbodice trim

posted by démodé 11:38 AM 2 comments

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We have achieved a bodice that fits! Yay! Which is a little scary, really, given that I lost about 10 pounds on my vacation. Let us not think about whether this actually fit my pre-vacation body... and let us keep that 10 pounds off, so this continues to fit!

I spent the last couple of days making eyelet after eyelet. Jen's The Zen of Spiral Lacing was invaluable in explaining how to lay out the holes. Finally finished last night and here's the result:


I love the fit in the front; the back has a few small issues -- for one, I started with my Venetian pattern and cut off the back V, but as you can see it still dips a bit at the side back (the bottom lacing holes should be horizontal, but they're not). Oh well! Also, I think I should have done something different with the side back opening -- I've got some pointy bits near the armhole that shouldn't really be there. But oh well, there's no way I'm taking this sucker apart!

So now it's on to cartridge pleating the skirt to the bodice. Then I need to pattern and make the sleeves. I finally found some gold metallic lace for cheap enough on ebay; I really want to trim the sleeves while they're flat as I think the whole spiral thing will be much easier. And, of course, figure out the shoulder treatment.

posted by démodé 9:38 AM 6 comments

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I'm back from travelling and sewing promptly -- helps that I've had the rest of the week off. Of course, factor in a recovery day but still -- progress!

Before I left I'd finished most of the edges, except those that needed boning, on the bodice. I did end up going with bias facings as that seemed the easiest (I'd already cut the interlining w/ seam allowances), but I'd like to experiment with more historically correct methods on my next project.

Yesterday I put together the skirt. It was so nice to come back to a project that was all cut out! The main hassle was that the velveteen was REALLY squigy, so I tried to sew it to the damask about 3 times only to have the damask move on me. Finally gave up and hand basted the entire blasted thing (thank god for the '95 Pride & Prejudice!). Luckily the cotton lining went together easily -- I do want a lining on this, since there's some piecing on two of the side gores plus the velveteen band -- I just want all those seam allowances tucked away neatly.

This morning I ran out to Lacis to get boning, then spent the day hand sewing it in -- spiral on the edges of the side backs, and 3 flat steeles in front to reinforce the front V.

I took some REALLY crappy photos, just to prove I'd been doing something. It's not fitting my dressform well, as it's not laced and I have less shoulders than my form.


Next up will be putting in the lacing holes and praying it all fits! I'm a little worried... then cartridge pleat the skirt to the waistband, and on to sleeve-land.

posted by démodé 5:32 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I spent most of Saturday working on this, but really only got through the cutting out of the fabric (well, everything except the sleeves, but that includes the 4 layers of the bodice and all the skirt panels [which includes the velvet bands]). Me = slow! Le sigh!

About the style:

I agree with everyone that the brown velvet sleeves are better, which is fabulous because it allows me to put more fabric into the skirt, which means that I can make this more of a 1540s style than a 1560s. By the late 1550s into the 1560s, skirts got much narrower (hence the relatively narrow Eleanor of Toledo skirt in Janet Arnold). But I really like the trim patterns, partlet styles, and hairstyles of the 1540s much better.

I'm not sure about the skirt shapes in the 1540s, because I can't find any full length standing portraits, but here's my guess: This is a good representation of the traditional Florentine style (1520s-40s). Eleonora di Toledo (born in Spain, but raised in Naples) brought with her Spanish styles and basically created a new, hybrid style which was a cross between traditional Florentine and Spanish (here's another hybrid style, and another). Now I don't know for sure what the skirts looked like, but my guess is that they are somewhere between the full, probably straight rectangular panels (or possibly slightly shaped panels) for the traditional Florentine style (see the cartridge pleats?) and the narrower, shaped style of the 1560s gown (the Eleonora dress in Patterns of Fashion). So what I'm doing is two big rectangular panels (54" wide) plus 4 shaped gores, two on each side. We'll see how that works out!

So with all that preamble...

I started by making a mockup off of my Venetian bodice, and then fitting that to cover the full CF, cut off the pointed V waistline in back, and make side back seams:


From there I made a mockup to be sure of the fit -- figured out I needed to adjust the side back seams so that they ended (at the top) farther away from the shoulder straps (since that will be the closure -- yes, I am going to suck up the hassle of the side back spiral laced closure):

And then I spent all day Saturday cutting out! Everything is still flat, but I thought I'd take a picture of the bodice so you can at least see the fabric (the orange silk damask):

Now to decide about lining. I'm interlining with a layer of silk organza (not period, but it always makes my bodices look better!), and a layer of cotton muslin (I did this on my courtesan dress on the advice Hunnisett's books, and it really did help to "pad" a bit so you don't see the boning through the bodice). I ran over to Stone Mountain and found a 2 yard piece of a heavy cotton (not quite a twill, but heavier than broadcloth) in a great coordinating orange-y color to use for the lining.

Now, on my courtesan dress I did do a bag lining (first time in years!), because I knew I wouldn't be piping my edges (like I often do) and I didn't want to deal with bias facings. But thinking about this dress -- which I may very well bag line, or make bias facings, mind you! -- makes me wonder: I know nothing about 16th century construction techniques! To what degree are they similar to 18th century, which is the closest period I know about? 18th century is very different from 19th century/modern techniques, because it's all oriented around handsewing and things being draped on the body. Does anyone know anything (and esp. point me to sources) for things like: how were linings attached? How were seams sewn and finished?

posted by démodé 1:43 PM 4 comments

Friday, April 27, 2007

Okay, Florentine it is! I'm really more interested in doing a new style than just a rehash of my courtesan dress, and that's the deciding factor.

Of course, I would have enough fabric to eke out a Venetian, but not quite for the Florentine style, but who cares! So I definitely need to incorporate the dark brown cotton velvet I have in my stash -- which of course isn't an accurate style for the era I'm interested in (1550s) but oh well! I need to get over my "OH GOD WHAT IF IT ISN'T 100% ACCURATE?" thing sometimes, esp. right now when I'm just thinking, "Want pretty dress!"

So which design do you like best? I was originally thinking brown velvet for the shoulder rolls, but now I'm liking the contrast with the sleeve in brown better -- plus that will give me more fabric to put into the skirt.

design #1design #2

I actually mocked up and made the bodice pattern last night, but no time to upload photos so you're going to have to wait. The first thing I started thinking is how annoying that side back lacing is going to be for getting in and out purposes. That's the one good thing about Venetian -- I can get myself in and out all on my own! Has anyone worn side back lacing -- how annoying is it? I may wimp out and just do a CB lacing...

posted by démodé 2:41 PM 13 comments

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cross-posted from my main blog, for documentation purposes:

This is me not starting a new project until I am done with the current one. Sarah posting that she made most of a Venetian dress in a weekend had me grumbling to myself -- why can't I work that fast? But then it made me think -- well, maybe I could, if I did something relatively simple that I had mostly patterned already. Combine this with some random 16th century thoughts that have been infiltrating lately, plus my desire to avoid ever making a farthingale, and my fear of dealing with the yards of velvet I have earmarked for a Tudor dress, and you get: I should make another Italian gown! Something simple, elegant, and made of the 4.25 yards of 54" gorgeous orange silk damask that I have in my stash.

That 4.25 yards is the pesky part -- I'd always assumed it was too little to make a whole dress. But then I started thinking. And looking all of your projects on the web. And I found Jessamyn's diary where she (much smaller than I, granted) made a dress out of a similar amount of fabric. And then I got out my copy of Moda a Firenze, which I've skimmed but never read, and thought about how nice it would be to have a Florentine dress... This is how my mind works!

So, the question is, Florentine or Venetian? I'm kind of leaning toward Florentine, something 1550s-ish in the style of Eleonora di Toledo (like this portrait). I'm actually intrigued by trying to do some kind of pieced skirt like in her burial gown -- I made a scale pattern (ha! I amuse myself) and found that I could make a skirt that's 158" at the hem and 79" at the waist. I'm not sure if that's enough for my size, so I'd need to mock it up. I could make a relatively simple dress -- shaped panel skirt, side-back laced bodice, simple-ish sleeves with the puffs in the Eleonora portrait. I could even make a pearled partlet, using the cream silk organza and pearls in my stash. Except that then I read in Moda a Firenze how much this style/era was done in unpatterned fabrics... so maybe my fabric isn't the best choice? And I would need some gold trim (need to troll on ebay).

So the alternative would be to make another Venetian, something simple like this 1560-61 Venetian, perhaps make a pretty girdle out of the garnets and pearls in my stash. I laid out the pattern pieces from my courtesan dress and I could get a skirt that's 135" (which is the width of my courtesan dress) and just eke out the bodice and sleeves from the fabric, with some scraps to make shoulder rolls.

Hmm hmm! What to do! I'm kind of leaning towards Florentine, since that would be a new style, but then I'm not sure if I'd have enough fabric in the skirt to look good on me (any guesses?) and I'm wondering if the fabric is appropriate (okay, so it's not like it would be the end of the world to use a patterned fabric, but I'm being a dork).


posted by démodé 1:14 PM 0 comments

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