Believe it or not, the Venetian is actually done! It's been about 90% done since New Year's Day, but I've been dragging my feet on finishing a partlet and figuring out how to make photos happen. This dress is VERY difficult to get in and out of by myself, so there are some bits and pieces that I wish were tucked in better, and the lighting is not great, but the pictures do give you an idea of what this gown looks like. Which is the point.

I warned you about the lighting.

Before I get into this, I want to apologize for my headwear. I recently cut my hair very short and I don't yet have a wig for this period. My not-matching 1580s English cap was less offensive than my hair, I assumed. ;)

I think in general, I really achieved the silhouette I was aiming for. There's a nice slant from the top of the bodice to the bottom and things are reasonably smooth. The padding is really doing its job. The buckram is mostly doing its job, but the more times I put on the gown and the more I work with it, the more the buckram softens. It likely either needs more buckram or a different type of buckram. Period buckram was likely quite different than the modern stuff I'm using, so that's probably part of the issue here. But, looking at this pictures, I'm can see that it looks good. Therefore, I declare that the "no boning" portion of this experiment was successful, but it's not something I'm likely to do again. I've proven to myself that it's possible to make a gown like this look correct without boning, but boning is definitely an easier solution. I might even retrofit this dress with boning eventually, so I can be sure it will hold up over time.

There was a second experiment involved in this dress. One of the great struggles of Venetian dresses has always been making the ladder lacing stay even and operate as a working closure. That problem has been mostly solved by costumers before me, so in the past I've laced the gown directly over a padded stomacher. I wasn't thrilled with the results, however. I felt that there was too much strain on the ladder lacing and that the laces dug into the stomacher. I decided for this dress, considering how much support was coming from the stomacher, that I wanted it sewn into the side seam of the dress and then laced on the other side. That means the real support of the dress is coming from the back piece and the stomacher, with goes from side seam to side seam. Then the gown is laced over that.

The hidden inside support and lacing successfully takes most of the work of the body shaping, which allows the bodice to fit smoothly over it and and does not disturb how the stomacher section lays. I think it's a big improvement in the silhouette. I have NO proof at all that this was done in period. It's sort of the opposite of what Tudor gowns were doing, with hidden lacing and a stomacher on top, so I would say it's possible. Having lacing under my arm, however, adds to the complications of getting into this gown. I think it would be vastly easier to get in and out of it with a maid or two...

 Here's a closer look at my partlet. It's linen with a fine stripe in it. I hand-sewed the whole thing with rolled hems and whip-stitching the pieces together. On the shoulders, I have eyes that match hooks on the straps of the dress to help hold the whole thing up. In my pictures, that system isn't working very well because I can't get the straps lifted to hook in on both sides by myself. I wish the partlet were a little more sheer, but I do like how the pattern I made came out.

Here's a better look at the sleeves of the chemise. It's hand sewn with lace insertions. This chemise is why I made the sleeves of the gown removeable - I want to be able to flaunt them like a hussy!

And there we have it. A successful experiment, three years in the making.


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