Re: What are the "little" things that make an Italian Ren gown really period?
- Wow. Italian Renaissance covers a lot of time and, because "Italy"
was a peninsula and full of city-state-like entities, many of which
were being influenced by what we would recognize today as "foreign"
government in a sort of "Whose the land, his the religion" equivalent;
and because these city-states, duchies, republics and kingdoms and
papal state were quite distinct from one another they had their own
local or regional styles of clothing, you're asking a very large
But I'll answer you in a general way that applies to garb of other
times and places, too.
I do want to state, though, that these are things I think about when
I'm doing a piece of garb, or an entire outfit, whether it's for me or
for someone else. At events, I've learned to note whatever it is, and
then let it go by, or not to notice at all: I'm not there in a
*Cut: line and general silhouette is important.
*Fit, which has to be correct.
Other aspects have to belong to that quarter century or decade, and
they have to belong *together* in a garment or outfit.
*Colors: Not any and every color was "acceptable" from 1452 to 1600
at all places on the Italian peninsula. You don't have to be able to
recite book, chapter and verse, but gentles around you absorb a lot
more than they realize they do, just be looking at artwork; this
happens even when they're looking at art to confirm some non-clothing
aspect of life at the time of the painting and believe they have next
to no interest in accurate clothing (but they'll have some, if they're
looking to confirm other life details.)
*Textile design: If solid silks or solid wools, without brocading or
even textural interest were favored, use those. If Milan was into
deep, rich subdued colored brocades at the end of the century, and
your garment is made of a pale ochre-y gold damask, it's going to look
wrong to someone who specializes in Milanese clothing during the late
Rinascimento (by the way, I don't know Milanese fashion, so no one
should take this example as gospel.)
Pay attention to *how* a textile design is formed. Sometimes a
lattice-like pattern is achieved through the weave with a strong
linear component marking off the diamonds; other times you'll find
that the "lattice" is, for instance, the formation of botanicals, such
as acanthus leaves, into a diamond-shape and the shape repeated in the
weaving into a diamond lattice pattern.
One of the things that bugs me is one of the things it's hardest to
avoid, especially if you're on a budget, or have to find fabric and
get a gown sewn up in nine days before an event, and that's fabric
that is obviously modern. If we all had unlimited income, we could
afford some of those fabulous, authentic Italian Ren patterns still or
again being produced or reproduced.
*How does this gown close? Front laced? Front hook-and-eye? Back
lacing? Back side lacing? Hooked under the arm on a side closing?
Is the closure invisible, as some of the hook-and-eye closures are?
*Proportions. How deep are those pointed bodices, in a specific
decade? How full or tight are the sleeves? How are the necklines
cut? One set of sleeves, or two? How are they shaped? If there's a
hanging sleeve, how long is it? How full? How stiff or soft?
How full is the skirt, really? What about the underskirt if there is
What sorts of embellishments are used? Embroidery? If so, are we
talking about blackwork, white work, pulled work, polychrome?
*What accessories (neck ruffs, closed or standing; shoulder ruffs?;
and wrist ruffles) are used? Kerchiefs? How often? By what class?
What are they made of? Sheer fabrics? Lace? Opaque? If there's
lace, is it linen or metallic? If you want to be very picky, how
closely does it mimic reticella, punto-in-aria, bobbin lace, needle
lace, take-your-pick.... Is it obviously machine made and modern?
*What about jewelry? How is it fashioned and of what? Do most ladies
appear in portraits at this time and place, wearing earrings, for
instance, or do we see them without? And are earrings appropriate to
the station of the gown you're creating? What sort of belt, sash or
girdle? What about other jewels? Religious articles such as pilgrim
badges, prayer beads, and so on? Did you remember to remove your
modern wrist watch and either put it away in a safe place, or have it
concealed on your person in such a way that you can retrieve it and
look at it without causing a sensation?
*How do elements combine according to the evidence we have? (I kept
envisioning an Italian Ren for myself, very mid-sixteenth century
Florentine, and I kept SEEING, in my mind's eye, the full, ruched
upper sleeve, and a paned undersleeve. Haven't made it, yet. And I
haven't found any evidence of a fully paned undersleeve.
Longitudinally slashed undersleeves worn under the full, ruched or
balloon upper sleeve, yes. And paned sleeves which form a puff or
roll at the shoulder seam/armscye. But not the two together. Very
disappointing, as I had two wonderful fabrics for the paned
undersleeve but that isn't going to happen.)
*Incorrect hair styles; no attempt at period hair-dressing or a
failure to put a period headdress such as a balzo on the head and
cover up the hair when that was what was done; no hat for men. I know
this isn't *Gown* but it's an incongruity that gives me the feeling
the subject is attending a costume party because she or he is "into
wearing funky clothes." It's as if they're self-conscious and rather
flippant at the same time; it looks careless.
*In the same vein, whole outfit needs to be pulled together; congruity
or the lack of it makes a big difference. Having a "foreign" element
in there makes an unpleasant "clang." As an example, to have either a
German element in an early sixteenth century Florentine gown, or a
late sixteenth century element used in an early sixteenth century
Florentine gown, just sort of grinds.
Is it "Generic Italian Ren" you're making, or are you going for
Parman? Milanese? Florentine? Roman? Venetian (which some folks
consider to be entirely separate and in a class all its own?)
*Just a note: The most easily ignored or forgiven detail is shoes,
which for most re-enactors are the hardest thing to duplicate, and
often quite costly, too. Since you had asked about a *gown,* I can
say that for most upper class ladies' clothing, shoes won't be much
seen, and as long as they are modest, simple, a solid color and
unobtrusive they oughtn't be an issue.
Yseult the Gentle
-- In Italian_Rennaissance_Costuming@yahoogroups.com, "Vicki"
> The stuff people take for granted or the stuff that makes peopleyour
> think "it is pretty, but it needs..." Or for that matter what are
> things people do wrong in making Italian Ren gowns that keep it from
> being more period?
> I'm looking for things/ideas that take garb to the next level or
> peeves when looking at someone else's garb.
> The stuff people take for granted or the stuff that makes peopleThe main thing that makes an outfit for me is correct fitting. You can
> think "it is pretty, but it needs..." Or for that matter what
> things people do wrong in making Italian Ren gowns that keep it from
> being more period?
> I'm looking for things/ideas that take garb to the next level or your
> peeves when looking at someone else's garb.
have the perfect material, the perfect trim, or the perfect head gear but
if the dress or doublet doesn't fit correctly, then it looks like a
I see many examples of great attempts.......but the bodice is wrinkled
(not enough fitting and/or stiffening), or the bodice gapes or doesn't
give enough support (incorrect fitting), or the shoulder strap is falling
off or it is in the wrong place (incorrect fitting), etc.
Clothes from this time period should look like they were made for you
(because they would have been) and if you have a poorly fitting outfit,
your outfit will not look correct.
My two lira,
"Everything for the Costumer"
- Enough fabric and fabric with the right "hand" to it. I've seen one
that while it was silk, the girl either didn't know to line it so it
had more body or she just wasn't using enough fabric. Other wise the
cut and fit looked okay
--- Diana Habra <dch@...> wrote:
> > The stuff people take for granted or the stuff that makes
> > think "it is pretty, but it needs..." Or for that matter
> > are
> > things people do wrong in making Italian Ren gowns that keep it
> > being more period?
> > I'm looking for things/ideas that take garb to the next level or
> > peeves when looking at someone else's garb.
- Do you have any suggestions for sources where someone who is a self-taught
sewer might be able to find information on that sort of thing? I know that
I've had a lot of trouble finding something that explains what purpose
linings serve and explains them rather than just saying you need one... if
you don't know why you're supposed to have one, then that's a bunch of
fabric that you don't see the point of spending money to buy.
I would love to find a really good book that explained the theory and
purpose as well as the techniques of things like linings and facings and
interfacing and seam finishes and edge-binding and thread shanks on buttons-
all those little technical things that make such a difference in the
appearance of a garment but that are difficult to figure out on your own if
you don't have an experienced sewer to ask about.
On 9/28/05, Alex Doyle <dubghaille@...> wrote:
> Enough fabric and fabric with the right "hand" to it. I've seen one
> that while it was silk, the girl either didn't know to line it so it
> had more body or she just wasn't using enough fabric. Other wise the
> cut and fit looked okay
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Honestly, the best sources I have found are mailing lists
like this one. There are lots of knowledgeable people who
are willing and happy to share their collected learning. I
learned a lot more from folks on mailing lists than I ever
did from books (for the most part), especially since when
you're a beginniner and/or self-taught sewer, it's hard to
know what information applies to modern techniques and what
applies to period stuff. So feel free to ask questions here!
If you can handle a lot of email traffic, the h-costume list
is also a great place to learn new things. I haven't been on
it in a while, but I got so much out of it when I was.
As far as linings, there are a lot of reasons why you might
want a lining in a garment. It reinforces and supports the
outer layer of fashion fabric, makes it look neater and more
finished on the inside, and can even add warmth to the
garment. It also makes the garment more durable, by cutting
down on wear and tear on the seams. Frequently, you can just
line the bodice and/or sleeves and get those benefits
without having to line the whole garment, which doesn't
require as much extra fabric. In period, upper class people
would line the whole garment with a contrasting fabric or
fur to show off their wealth (as well as for the other
reasons I mentioned).
We had a discussion not too long ago about facings and
interfacings and whether or not they were used in period. I
think the general consensus was that they were not usually
used in period, though a rare example here or there might be
found (I don't recall exactly, I blame pregnancy brain).
Seam finishes are used for durability. There are a number of
different types of seam finishes, and I won't go into them
all here, but they are generally to keep the seam allowances
from unraveling over time, or to make a stronger seam. Keep
in mind that people in period did not have sergers or sewing
machines to do a zig-zag over raw edges, so they had to find
various ways to secure those edges. The Museum of London
Clothing and Textiles book has a lot of details about
techniques for hand-finishing seams. Ditto for edge bindings.
I'm not sure what specifically you mean by thread shanks on
buttons - whether they have a thread shank would depend on
the type of button. Self-cloth buttons might have a thread
shank, which would then be used to actually sew the button
on the clothing (possibly the same for later-period thread-
wrapped buttons, not sure). I actually don't do that, even
when I make cloth buttons - I find that they sit too loosely
on the garment, and I can get a tighter stitch with a
separate piece of thread. Maybe I'm just weird that way. ;-)
Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions about
sewing techniques if you like. =)
>is a self-taught
>Do you have any suggestions for sources where someone who
>sewer might be able to find information on that sort ofthing? I know that
>I've had a lot of trouble finding something that explainswhat purpose
>linings serve and explains them rather than just saying youneed one... if
>you don't know why you're supposed to have one, then that'sa bunch of
>fabric that you don't see the point of spending money tobuy.
> I would love to find a really good book that explained thetheory and
>purpose as well as the techniques of things like liningsand facings and
>interfacing and seam finishes and edge-binding and threadshanks on buttons-
>all those little technical things that make such adifference in the
>appearance of a garment but that are difficult to figureout on your own if
>you don't have an experienced sewer to ask about.
- Not off hand, a lot of sewing that I've done has been self-taught. The
"I want to do that and what do I have to do to get there" kind of
There have been times when I've done commissions for friends who have
requested certain seam finishes or such that previously I didn't think
were needed. After using them I rarely not do them now.
As to the lining or not to line question, I took that hint from a stage
costume book. Where they were coming from was that cheap fabrics might
have the right finish, but not enough weight to hang like the real
thing. If you line said fabric it will then have the weight to hang
right. I did this once with a dollar a yard print fabric that was SOOO
Elizabethan. In fact I think I spent more on the lining than the
outside fabric, and end up with a gown that looked and wore right. I
have a friend who was really surprised when she came across a fabric
scrap of the dress on just how thin it really was. And for a cheap
fabric, it has worn really well- it's in good shape after having been
worn a goodly portion of five years.
Sometimes a lining isn't required to give the right weight either. I
have one gown that is so lightweight you can see through the fabric if
held up to the light. I added a six inch heavy velvet guard about the
skirt and it not only looks right, it is a light layer that goes over
--- Oblique Red <obliquered@...> wrote:
> Do you have any suggestions for sources where someone who is a--------------------------------------------------------------------~->
> sewer might be able to find information on that sort of thing? I know
> I've had a lot of trouble finding something that explains what
> linings serve and explains them rather than just saying you need
> one... if
> you don't know why you're supposed to have one, then that's a bunch
> fabric that you don't see the point of spending money to buy.
> I would love to find a really good book that explained the theory
> purpose as well as the techniques of things like linings and facings
> interfacing and seam finishes and edge-binding and thread shanks on
> all those little technical things that make such a difference in the
> appearance of a garment but that are difficult to figure out on your
> own if
> you don't have an experienced sewer to ask about.
> On 9/28/05, Alex Doyle <dubghaille@...> wrote:
> > Enough fabric and fabric with the right "hand" to it. I've seen one
> > that while it was silk, the girl either didn't know to line it so
> > had more body or she just wasn't using enough fabric. Other wise
> > cut and fit looked okay
> > alex
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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