Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sky Blue Venetian Gown

Ever since I first saw the portrait of 'La Bella Nani' several years ago, I have been wanting to make a Venetian style gown like the one in the painting. Up until now, I have not dared to try. So, here goes. Several hours of perusing other dress diaries of the same style, and lots of googling, here I am. A few weeks ago I was at the pub where I work and saw a package of fabric laying on a shelf. Upon closer inspection I found a pair of ivory cotton blend curtains with a simple scroll design on them. My boss said I could have them, since they'd been lying around for over a year and no one had claimed them, so naturally, I did! (Incidentally I also got a nice piece of red cotton velveteen from this same pub, it had been stuffed in a dusty hole under the benches next to the gas pipes along with scraps of newspapers from 40 years ago). A couple of boxes of Dylon Fabric Dye in China Blue and a rented washing machine later, I had this lovely shade of baby blue. The scroll pattern shows up a LOT more when it's this colour, and I'm still deciding if I like it or not, but it is pretty....just, maybe not too period (although I didn't think polka dots were period and then they found a polka dotted damask child's burial gown from the same time period). So given that, I'm going to ignore the pattern for now. I'm sewing the entire gown with white thread, so if I ever change my mind and decide to remove the colour, I'll be ok.. I am going to make this gown with a slightly less pointy front and
with a split skirt, using a white damask fabric as a completely separate petticoat. I'll only be using the damask for the front half, since I don't have enough for a full skirt. I found some lovely handmade looking lace with pointy bits that looks a lot like the laces I've seen in some other Venetian gowns, and that will be going around the neckline, cuffs, and possibly the shoulders as well, depending on what I'm going to do with the sleeves. I'm not going to have cutwork sleeves, as I don't want to go out and buy a matching velvet or another fabric for them, (the blue fabric frays like heck). I think I might have paned sleeves, fitting tightly, with slashes running down them like the Red Pisa Gown, but due to me having limited fabric (and wanting a full skirt) I may jazz it up with some thick white velvet ribbon on the edges of each blue panel, and to imitate slashes, join the ribbon/fabric panels together at regular intervals with pearls. For the gown I am going to try the doppia technique as shown here, and I am going to make a corded hem on the petticoat to make it stand out a bit. I hate hoopskirts. Mine always get bees and wasps stuck up them. I am terrified of wasps. For the corded hem, I'm thinking of buying some of the horrid, but semi thick orange rope they always use for construction projects. It's 100%plastic, so washing won't be a problem. It holds it's shape, and it's the right mix of firm/flexible to work..I think. We'll see. For the bodice I have used the corset pattern for Simplicity 2621 without the tabs, and modified a little. For starters, I made the opening at the front, and cut the back in one piece. I also made the shoulder straps wider, and longer. The picture below you can see that when I cut out the pieces, I made sure the blue polarfleece was cut about 1cm skinnier than the other layers for seam allowance, so I was only sewing the thin fabrics together.

 I rarely go out and buy fabric for a specific project, unless
it's a customer's order. For me, I tend to make do with what
I have around the house. For instance, 1 white cotton drill
type fabric in the form of a bedsheet (no longer! mwahaha)
white iron on interfacing, and the remnants of blue polarfleece
which I was going to use for a coat for my daughter.

Cutting the fleece just inside the seam lines allowed me to
sew only the thinner layers together and resulted in nice flat
seams. To stiffen the whole shebang, I stitched rows of zigzag
stitches along just the inside unseen layers then starched the heck
out of the whole thing.In the process I discovered that if you let
starch dry on you while sitting on the floor doing all this,
you will be glued to the carpet.

First attempt was a resounding success. Please ignore
my sad quickie attempt at linen breastbinding, but I
had to cover with something. Next time I will stitch
the rows of zigzag in the direction I want the front
to go (not straight up and down, unless the front is
flat and not a V-opening like here, and I will cut
only 2 layers or less of fabric at a time.
My poor scissors. My poor fingers!


Hor those who have said 'Venetian gowns had only closed skirts!' Here is my proof otherwise. Ha!
AND it has paned sleeves....


  1. I look forward to seeing the end result

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