So recently I have been doing some research on the italian dress of the time, of course it is easy to find venetian gowns that are reminiscant of Romeo and Juliet and The Princess Bride, but I didn't go through all the work of that corset to just lay it off to the side and not wear it! So I stumbled across these pictures and fell in love! Although I don't think that the corset is necessary in this style of gown, it certainly makes me feel better to have the flat, rounded barrel chest that I admire so much in portraits of the day! The portrait on the left, the orange dress with the black ribbon laid the frame work for the dress that I wanted to make. I like the colors but being the skin tone I am I realized that orange was not the right option and I needed to switch the orange dress and blue sleeves to be the opposite (great choice, now that I look back in hindsight). So, being unable to wrap my head around pattern making, I found a pattern from renstore.com that had the perfect style of dress in it.
I used Period Pattern Number 41;
View IV, bottom far right. The trick with this pattern that I wasn't a fan of is that all the different bodices are drawn onto one bodice pattern and you cut that pattern based on the gown you're making. So, to reuse and make all 8 views you should invest in a role of butcher paper and not cut a single piece of the pattern itself. For my purposes though, being a fan of the one and not the others, it worked just fine. The only thing I would have been upset with having to trace out is different styles in the sleeves, but those came seperately drawn, so crisis averted!
The pattern is easy and pretty general, so I started making muslin mockups...Which meant I laced myself into my corset for a few hours and began cutting and sewing the same pattern with different tweaks, over and over and over, until I got the perfect fit! After fitting my muslin, I started the bodice...
I used that same sandwich method to sew my lining into the corset, I used six layers of black duckcloth canvas to keep the satin from moving or wrinking and such. A great choice for strength without thickness but my machine wasn't too happy with me. I treated it with oil and a good dusting afterwards, I was afraid it would quit on me halfway through!
After the bodice, everything else was easy. Panels and panels of blue fabric, pleated to the bottom of the corset was easy athough time consuming.
Simple bias tape (store bought because I'm a cheater) lined the edging of the bodice, and eyelets to close the bodice. Here I did run into an issue; perhaps it was my novice lacing partner's lack of garb knowledge but the middle would slide open as soon as he tied the top...I fully believe that being laced by someone else will solve this issue. But some creative lacing was the solution we needed! Instead of lacing the bodice with one long string of ribbon, we tie each set of eyelets closed with a short piece of ribbon and let the long pretty bow hang down the back of my bodice. Problem solved, crisis averted.
All that was left on the blue dress was the ribbon on the skirt, which, in hindsight would have been better if I had sewn in on before putting the skirt panels together and attaching them to the bodice, but we all make little mistakes right?
Pairing the dress with a simple partlet made it perfect! Modest and perfectly period!
Eventually, sleeves will be created, I have gold fabric with pretty flowers just waiting...Pinned and all, laying to the side on my sewing desk waiting for me to stop getting distracted and cut and sew a few simple lines! I plan on attaching small hooks to the top of the bodice arms, at the edge and on the inside seam of the sleeves so that I can attach them just at the top and have the shirt sleeves peeking out from under the arms just as the portraits above. Will update when I get there!