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The Venetian Project completed (for now)

Submitted by Eleanor Hall on December 4, 2012 - 12:18pm

See the previous post about this project HERE

It appears that the only thing I’m worse at then actually finishing a project… is writing about it!

Without making you wait any longer here is the gown:


I thought the easiest way to cover this is in layers from the skin out:


This is a simple chemise that is slightly shorter then knee length – it’s a pair of rectangles with two triangular gores and is worn under the corset, I had meant to put shoulder straps on it but discovered during early fittings that I could just fold the top down over my corset and it would protect my corset and ensure that the shift does not peek out from under the camica.


I have already covered the corset in detail in my previous posts.


This camica was fairly simple in construction – it was made from two large rectangles for the front and back and two slightly smaller rectangles for the sleeves.  There are no underarm gussets added the sleeves were just sewn straight to the body.  The width of the camica was based on the width of my material – I think it’s 1.2m wide. The long seams were French seamed on the machine and the neckline and cuffs were roll hemmed by hand.

Once the bodice was made I was able to gather the neck line.  To do this I simple ran two lines of gathering stitches in a contrasting thread across the section I wanted to gather (I did the front, back and each shoulder separately so the camica sat right at the neckline of the bodice) and then pulled the gathering threads until the section was as wide as I wanted it to be.  Once I had the width right I got a length of ribbon the right length and then stitched the ribbon to the inside of the camica, tacking the crest of each gather to the ribbon and then going back and attaching the trough of each gather to the ribbon as well to make the gathering much finer.

I left the cuffs of the camica ungathered as my sleeves were so tight I couldn’t add any extra bulk.


This is a very simple item. It’s a rectangle sewn to a wait band and has two openings (both side back) that are held shut with lacing points.  I haven’t managed to get the hem done yet so I haven’t worn it with the dress.


As I was worried about the side opening of the gown gapping slightly I made a quick pocket out of some of the left over Petrov fabric – I based the shape of a hand little pouch I have and just extended the top – I made it long enough that I could just reach the bottom of the pouch when it was tied to my waist. The pocket was attached to a length of ribbon and tied around my waist over the corset and camica (and over the petticote once I finish it)  as the pocket was made from the same fabric as the gown it meant that if the gown gapped slightly it would hardly be noticeable.


After trying to figure out how I wanted the skirt to close I decided the last thing I wanted was a front closing skirt; as the bodice is front opening this posed a problem.  Eventually we came up with the solution of making the bodice and the skirt as two separate items, the shirt is side opening and is lined with mint green silk, the lining and the outer skirt are hemmed separately but are gathered and sewn to gown as one.  After examing a large image of the Lady in White portrait I decided to gather not pleat the skirt.  The skirt  has a waist band but the shirt is pleated to the top of the waist band so when the skirt is sitting against the body the waist band is not visible.  Lacing eyelets were sewn into the skirt at regular intervals around the skirt, they are placed in pairs at the crest of the gathers and when the points are laced through them they are tied the waist band covers them to reduce the risk of them coming undone.  The waist of the skirt is stright across the back and the sides but follows the point of the bodice down at the front – the bodice does curve to a point at the back but we did not follow this curve, the bodice just sits on top of the gathering at the back- due to the weight of the skirt at the back we figured that it was unlikely that the skirt would sit right across the back if it was shaped.  The skirt opens on the right hand side and the slit gives access to the pocket.  The fabric pattern is not matched on the skirt. The skirt pattern was based on the Eleanor Toledo burial gown as recorded in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion but the train was omitted – I don’t like trains and as I intend to dance in this gown I needed to move freely.


The bodice is a simple design, it was mostly patterned and drafted by Catrine who did all of the pattern making and fitting for this gown and helped me a huge amount by sharing her knowledge of how things fit –we looked at the pattern for the Eleanor Toledo gown for the basic shape and then tweaked it after looking at a  large number of portraits from the time.  We pulled the front and back necklines of the gown up a bit as after the first fitting I was not happy with how low cut the gown is in the portrait.

The bodice is made up of three layers- the outer layer, a heavy canvas interlining and a linen lining.  Each panel was sewn together, turned in the right way and then whip stitched to the other layers – This reduces the bulk of the seams and also means if I go through a dramatic weight change and need to take the bodice in this can be easily done without taking the whole gown apart – I just need to unpick the whip stitching and overlap the panels.  The fabric pattern is matched at the front of the gown and the main motif of the material is centred at the back of the gown.

There is a line of boning down each edge of the front opening (the boning is trusty cable ties from a automotive shop – they are 8mm wide and origionally 45 cm long but cut down to length) and after a couple of different attempts to find a nice lacing solution I used Jen Thompson’s double ribbon lacing technique – I found that when lacing the gown the lacing thread had to be double looped around the outer ribbon or the lacing would go weird and the gown would bulge in the middle which was very unflattering.

There are about 14 lacing points around the bottom of the bodice- they are just short lengths of cord which are sewn into place at the middle of the cord and the ends are finished with tape to making threading them easier.

All of the edging has been top stitched to ensure it sits properly.


I have given the sleeves their own little write up separate from the bodice as they were the most complicated part of the whole gown.

To make the pattern of the sleeve we looked at a variety of puff sleeves in different pattern books and picked one that had the overall shape we were after.  We drew up the puff pattern, checked that it fit and then devided the sleeve pattern up into sections where we would like the box pleats to fit.  We then cut the pattern into sections (there were about 8 sections) and started to draw up the pattern again to include the pleating.  To do this we had to get each piece, draw it up and then turn it over and draw around it twice more to start forming the pleats – I had never done this before and I’m doing a very bad job of describing the process but it worked in the end and we had a weird looking pattern that one pleated was the same as the pattern we started with but had the deep pleasts we needed.  These puffs were then attached to top of a standard straight sleeve and the sleeve and puffs were attached to the bodice.  Once te sleeves were attached and the bodice tried on and the sleeve puffs adjusted slightly the bottoms of the puffs were secured to the sleeves.  I do have lace to go around the bottom of the puffs as seen in the portrait but I was struggling to get it right so left it for now and will attach the lace once I have someone to help me get it right.


I wore a pearl necklace that was a birthday gift from friends

I wore drop glass pearl earrings – I do intend to change them slightly as they were store brought and were a post and butterfly earring which I will change for earring hooks when I have time. 

The rings were just findings from a local costume jewellery shop which caters to teenagers – I’d picked them up during my frantic last minute dash to find pearl drop earrings


This was made from glass pearls, metal filigree balls, tiger tail and a large cross that my mother had brought from a garden store some years ago.

The weight of the cross was enough to make the tiger tail behave and as I broke the ring and bar fastening on the girdle when getting dressed it was just tied at the back with embroidery floss which allowed me to adjust where it sat – I think I will replace the fastening with ribbon as I was really happy with how it sat.  I also secured the from with a small pin – it was pinned from the inside of the bodice and so was not visible.

Hair :

I had my hair tied back in a bun, my own hair is just long enough to reach the bottom of my shoulder blades so I was unable to get the bun looking right without using hair pieces.  I pulled my own hair back into a pony tail and then put a hair doughnut around the ponytail, spread my hair over the doughnut until it was totally covered, secured it with another hairtie and then pinned the ends of my hair into place under the doughnut, I then took the end of one of my fake braids, stuffed it into the middle of the doughnut (the hairties held the braid in place) and then wrapped the plaited braid around the doughnut until I reached the end of the braid, I then tucked the end of the braid under the doughnut and pinned everything in place.  This gave me a bun that resembled some of the simpler styles seen in portraits of this time – it’s a little early for the venetian horns but I might try them with this dress another time.

Things I still need to make to turn this from a pretty gown to a full outfit:

-Finish the silk petticoat

-make a roped petticote to give the skirt a little volume

-make a partlet – I already have the silk organza for it, I just ran out of time

-Make a street veil – because I really want one

-Find pearl cuff bracelets

 - Take photographs of all the items and put them up

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