The Venetian at Costume College

Yes, this is indeed another post about my damn Venetian dress. It has seen some revisions since I last posted about it, all because of a painting that came in a Facebook group I'm a member of.

Go look at this painting. Go look at it now. Or the rest of this post won't make sense.

It's a painting of a noble lady brushing her hair in what appears to be a state of undress by Bernardino Licinio. I'm going to admit that I actually gasped when I saw this image. She's wearing a white gown with no front opening and no sleeves. The fabric of the dress appears to be tiny pleats or some kind of ribbed fabric. To my eye, it is slightly padded to create a smooth and slightly rounded shape over the torso.

My speculation is that this could be a sort of under gown that will mimic a chemise when a ladder lace gown is placed over it. It would provide support, padding, and take some of the strain off the gown. The skirt of the under gown would act as a petticoat, and you could put another petticoat on underneath it without any visible waist band issues.

This painting is not definitive proof of anything, but is some back up evidence to some ideas I've been wondering about. My experiment with a sewn in stomacher that laces in at the side worked pretty well, but it was no practical at all.

It's a miracle I never got stuck in this contraption.
I've thought for a long time that it would make WAY more sense for some of these gowns to be laced over a supportive under gown, like they were doing in many other regions in the Europe during the mid to late 16th century. I don't think this was always the case, though. I think there are a lot of images where it probably IS a gown laced over a chemise. But there are other gowns that have a lot of structure and a rigid body shape that I think would be very difficult to get without more serious support and padding underneath them. I also know that with my figure I've had trouble achieving the silhouette I want.

What I wanted.
What I got.

I also had an issue with the way the shoulder straps sat on the original dress. They were too tight and uncomfortable. I also felt like they weren't set quite far enough on my shoulder for the very wide set straps of the Venetain style. I took my completed gown all apart and made an entirely new under gown to wear under it. 

The changes I made ended up involved a lot of piecing. I didn't have the fabric to cut an entirely new bodice, so I added fabric to the interlining in the back with top stitching and I reinforced it with some extra buckram. I wanted to change the straps to match the angles found in the pattern from the Juan Alcega tailoring book from 1589. It's a sharp acute angle in the front and more straight up and down in the back. I had hopes that this would help the straps stay up and achieve a more comfortable fit.

Front. The new piece is on the left, the original on the right. These pieces I did have to re-cut.
The back piece. The altered strap is on the left and the old one on the right. You can see how much I altered the armhole.
 When that was done, I built the under bodice. I took a new pattern off the altered bodice pieces and cut it from that. Most of the interior padding was recycled from the old stomacher and stitched to a new bodice piece. I altered an old skirt and lined it with it felt to make it full and made it into a dress. It laces on the sides with hand bound eyelets. As before, no parts of this gown have boning.

The middle section is the padded part.
The completed under dress. Look at the shape!

For Costume College, I made a new partlet from silk organza and styled a wig. I used a few braided styles from portraits as an inspiration and styled my own bangs in the front section to get something close to period.
Very close to the Lady in White I think!

The under gown set up was much easier to get in to and wear than the internal stomach situation. It was, however, not easy. The trick to getting everything to lay nicely was many many pins. I pinned the chemise into the under bodice neckline before I put it on. Some helping hands pinned the partlet to the under bodice for me and lace it up all up. For Costume College, I ended up removing the attached skirt because I wore a second Elizabethan outfit, and I didn't want to cram two padded petticoats into my suitcase. My petticoat was also pinned to the bodice. Then the gown itself was pinned to the under bodice at the shoulder straps.

This is what was going on underneath.
 This rather elaborate set up did mostly keep the sleeves up, but it was not particularly easy or comfortable. The straps were still not fitted particularly well and it was difficult to move. Because the straps sat so far off the edges of my shoulders, all the weight of the gown was on my waist and it was very uncomfortable. Not to mention not being able to move my arms because the straps were so tight and binding. I only wore it for a couple of hours before I had to take it off. I also did have problems still with the front edge of the bodice buckling with no boning to support the lacing. But, overall, I was very happy with how the gown looked!

What I wore the rest of the night.
So that's it for this gown. I only have the tiniest of tiny scraps left, so the odds of me remaking it again are slim. But I have some ideas on how to improve the fit of the strap situation for future gowns, so there will be more experiments about that in my future!


  1. Very interesting article, thank you for posting your results

  2. You looked beautiful.

    Thanks for the in depth post on how you remade this, it will be useful when I finally make a Venetian!

  3. I've given a lot of thought to many of these questions myself. I love reading everyone else's approach to solving this construction secret. I'm sure we're missing something basic and obvious. I love when costumers go to all the trouble to try a theory out. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I think we are missing something basic and obvious too! It's caused many sleepless nights!

  4. !!! That painting! I can't believe I've never seen that before!

    Thanks for the whole writeup, always interesting to see what others do. And the whole outfit put together is beautiful!

  5. Could you explain a little more about the actual construction of the stomacher? Yours looks great and all the pleats are staying in place. Thanks!

    1. Sure! I gathered the linen and then set the pleats by hand and with some steam. I hand stitched them down every row. It was a pain! That part was mounted to a linen canvas and buckram foundation that was padded under the bust and down. I hope that helps!

  6. I love how dedicated you are to fixing the dress and pattern!!!

  7. Hello. I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated your blog for the Liebster Award. You can find out more here -

  8. Hi! Thank you for the share this information. This is very useful information for online blog review readers. Keep it up such a nice posting like this.
    Pattern Making Software and Tailor App


Post a Comment

Popular Posts