First a note: I didn't enter the ACC with an aim of winning. With such outstanding talent from the likes of Crystal, Hastings, and others, I didn't stand a chance. But, I did want to see if I could work within challenge outlines, if I could come up with enough items, and if I could finish them all according to my own standards. Also, participating in the challenge makes me more visible as an Artemisian artisan, and I wanted others to see my work, not just my (fabulous!) circle of friends.
A Florentine Outfit circa 1550
By Lady Jane Fox
For the ACC I decided to make an outfit that a Florentine noblewoman would have worn in the middle of the 16th century.
The four layers consist of six items total:
1. A smock and a petticoat
2. A gown for court wear
3. A loose gown or coat
4. A girdle belt and necklace
The smock is made of a linen/cotton blend. I chose to make an English smock, as opposed to an Italian camicia, because my persona is English and I nearly always wear English gowns. I wanted to be able to wear this smock with my other gowns, and the smock looks appropriate under the Florentine gown. All of the smock was sewn by machine, except for the attaching of hook and eyes to the cuffs by hand. The pattern is a mix of different smocks from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4. It has a square neckline, hip gores, gathered cuffs with black stitching on the tips, and faux black work done by machine.
Total cost: $10. Finished 11/19
Total cost: $0 (stash fabric). Finished 12/30
The Florentine court gown is based off of multiple portraits of women living in Florence during the 16th century, and also the burial gown of Eleanor of Toledo. It is made from a poly blend fabric I bought in 2010. I liked the blue and gold scheme, and thought the pattern was very close to period patterns, ignoring the fact that the fabric content isn’t natural fibers.
My pattern was simply enlarged from a side-lacing Italian dress pattern owned by a friend that was drafted for her body, with a few tweaks for fit. The bodice has four layers: Silk lining, cotton duck cloth and heavy weight linen interlinings (that hold the bones in casings), and fashion fabric. The bodice is self-boned with spring steel (cut, filed, and plastic-dipped by hand) and needs no corset. It has 20 eyelets on the sides, done by hand.
The sleeves were the most complicated part of the process. Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, with the Eleanor burial gown, gives no pattern for the paned sleeves. I studied the portraits and came up with a pattern of my own design. It has one top and one bottom pane, connected by a two inch wide strip of linen, with gold gimp trim on the panes. Many period examples have three or four panes, but I wanted to simplify the sleeves because I’d never tried something like this before. The buttons (36 of them) are sewn to the sleeves, gathering the linen to form the puffs. I added an oval-shaped piece of linen to the sleeve head and the shoulder strap to create a puff at the top of the sleeve. Looped ribbon holds the sleeve’s buttons in place. A gold lace trim decorates the wrists. Hand sewing on the sleeves includes the buttons, half of the linen strips, the linen sleeve head poufs, and the lace cuffs.
The skirt is a front panel and back panel, sewn up the sides, with one-inch cartridge pleats sewn to the bodice. The pleats are padded with a heavyweight linen that reaches to my hips to help the skirts stand out from the waist. The pleats and stitching to the bodice were done by hand; the rest is machine-sewn. The entire garment is meticulously pattern-matched, with the exception of the underside sleeve pane. This was a first for me, as I typically use solid fabrics.
Total cost: gown fabric and silk lining, $0 (stash, bought in 2010); all linen pieces, $8; buttons, $4; duck cloth interlining, $3; gimp trim, $6; gold lace trim, $5; embroidery thread for eyelets, $2. Finished 12/27
The loose gown, or coat, is made from grey wool velvet, lined in silver silk. The pattern is from the Tudor Tailor book. It has a small collar that folds back to show the silk lining. It is not extremely warm, but helps stop the wind. It is deliberately short to prevent the fabric from dragging on the ground.
Total cost: $0 (velvet and silk stash fabrics bought in 2010). Finished 7/15
I made a jewelry set (girdle and necklace) to wear with any of my gowns, purchasing the bulk of the components before the ACC was announced, and begun in May. I chose an amethyst purple for the main color scheme. The purple accents don’t match the blue fabric of course, but it looks great together regardless. The girdle features Swarovski amethyst crystal beads and settings, with gold square components, and Swarovski pearls. It is connected by jump rings, and is .75” wide. The large drop was bought in 2010 and was a dark antiqued brass color, but I painted it with gold leaf to match the gold components. The necklace is pearls, crystal beads, and bead caps strung onto beading wire.
Total cost: $10. Most components were bought in May and count as stash, but some extras were needed later on, adding to the cost. Finished 8/23
The grand total cost of this project is $48. Fortunately so much of the fabrics and jewelry parts were bought before the ACC was announced, otherwise the project would have totaled around $150.
I obviously did not use a large amount of hand sewing on this project. I confess to not being extremely proficient yet in this skill, but am working to improve. Also, the project came together much faster with the machine than by hand, considering all the long seams and hems involved.