For Caterina’s elevation, I originally was going to do a later-period Italian Renaissance gown, but the fabrics offered just didn’t seem to lend themselves nicely to the period and my figure. I felt that the figured velvet would just be too bulky for all of the gathering and fullness in the later period fashions, and so I ended up opting to go back to the earlier Renaissance period that I’ve explored before and found flattering.
With this…. I’ve started using the 1480s tag as well for these posts, and switched from 16th Century to 15th Century. I’ll still use the Caterina’s Elevation tag however if you want to follow this specific project.
I started with some matcha / apple-green silk broadcloth and some white linen. I originally was going to line the bodice in something darker, but thought that since this will be going over a white chemise, I thought that rubbing of the colour might negatively stain the chemise.
I started off by cutting two layers of white linen -one lining, one interlining. I sewed the darts in all four pieces. The shoulder darts at the back I can’t document, but felt I needed it for fit with the V-neckline. The waist-bust darts are documentable, albeit rare. I have tried garments without bust darts and they don’t well account for the somewhat significant difference between my waist and my bust – though I am hoping that with more experience I’ll be able to work with patterns more common to the time period – without bust darts.
With the darts sewn, I layered the lining and interlining, and sewed channels for cording. I did this previously on my earlier red and gold Gamurra, and really was happy with the results, so opted to do this again. In the photos above I have the channels sewn (and marked with yellow because otherwise they were difficult to see in a photo – white on white…), the channels stuffed with cord, and a back piece held up to the light to see the cording in the channels.
From there I cut out the green silk, and sewed the darts in those pieces too. I then sewed the back pieces together, fashion fabric to lining/interlining, and pressed it. I realised that I had forgotten to pad between the fashion fabric and the corded piece, and that where I was pressing I could make out the cords. I forgot that I had done this the first time on my previous dress…
I decided NOT to take the pieces apart and add padding to the back, but did decide to cut padding for the bodice front.
I cut the padding out of white cotton flannelette. I cut the bust dart out entirely, and whip-stitched the edges of the dart together. This isn’t strong, but has zero bulk. The dart of the padding doesn’t need to be strong in any way, but reducing extra bulk was important.
At this point the bodice is ready for hand-work.
I decided to do the eyelets and lacing rings while the bodice was still in pieces, because I thought they would be easier to handle. I started with hand-sewn eyelets on the center back of the bodice. I found these MUCH easier through linen and silk than recently on the front-laced dresses I made. (Black wool dress, grey dress)
I arranged the eyelets for spiral lacing, following the instructions on The Zen of Spiral Lacing, though didn’t do all the eyelets down to the bottom, since I wanted to wait to attach the skirt first. I used embroidery floss in a matching colour to the silk with the hope that the stitches would be discreet and blend in.
For the bodice front, I sewed on lacing rings using the same floss, but set the rings for ladder lacing. Like the back, I didn’t put the rings all the way to the bottom, knowing I want to add the skirt first before finishing the closures. (My lacing rings are the ring part of toggle clasps from Fire Mountain Gems. In future I’d like to try a lacing ring meant for two-strands, to better secure the ring from wiggling.)
For the sleeves, I sewed a single “end bar” to the shoulder seam. This has one loop on one side of the bar and two loops on the other. I didn’t want to put eyelets in here in case I need to adjust the bodice later – plus with the cords there was a bit too much bulk to stitch through. The sleeves themselves got hand-sewn eyelets, and I used a red ribbon to attach them. (End bars from Fire Mountain Gems)
Although the bodice would not be fully boned, but corded instead, I know from some experience that a bit of boning can be a very good thing to support nice stable laces…
When applying the lacing rings and sewing the eyelets, I left enough room to slide in steel bones between the edge of the fabric and the lacing. This will more evenly distribute the strain of the lacing across all of the holes, and should keep the front ladder lacing from shifting and causing the bust to gape.
While at Borealis Days of Dance and Music, I spent my random “free” time making lucet cord for the lacing. I used a pearl cotton, (Colour #3348, #5 Pearl Cotton) and one skein (25 meters of thread) made 3.3 meters of lucet cord. (While there I also started wiring the buckram for my hat…) I did this with one skein for the front, and one for the back, though I think the back lacing is too long and I can trim it off later.
So…. as I mentioned, I originally planned on making a later period costume… I made a green silk petticoat, the green silk sleeves, the green silk bodice, and then planned on adding the skirt to the bodice in green silk as well.
BUT… when I was ready to cut the skirt – I realized that I was short about one skirt panel. I went out to shop for more silk- and thought that I found the right colour (comparing the selvage in the store), but after I washed and pressed the new fabric… it wasn’t the same. (More about that here)
So I had a few options.
- Cut out the skirt in the slightly different colour and continue as planned.
- Remove the waistband from the petticoat and use it as the skirt.
- Re-cut both the bodice and the skirt with the new fabric and start again from scratch.
- Finish the bodice of what was supposed to be the Gamurra, and use it just as a bodice with the petticoat as the skirt.
The ideal option would be #3 – re-cutting the bodice and the skirt, but with fewer than 2 weeks to go before the event, and the amount of effort that went into constructing the bodice – this really wasn’t my favourite option. (Contrasting sleeves wouldn’t bother me, though ideally since the new green is just *slightly* different, I might want to do this too.)
Option #1 I knew would constantly bother me.
Option #2 seemed like a good idea, but I couldn’t figure out how to nicely add in a front opening into the existing skirt, and I HATE going back into perfectly good garments…
So I opted for #4, given the time crunch and the other projects I needed to work on.
So… my not-quite-right option was to do the bodice and skirt as two separate items, which meant finishing the bodice edge where the skirt would have been attached.
With scraps of the green silk, I cut bias strips, and attached these to the lower edge to finish the edge. From there I finished off the remaining eyelets and lacing rings that were at the bottom of the bodice.
Here are photos of the finished “gown” with the sleeves and the camicia and hat I’ll be showing off in an upcoming post.