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April 13, 2008
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1580's Renaissance Dress by silverstah 1580's Renaissance Dress by silverstah
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This outfit is not a copy of any specific painting, but rather based on the 1580’s working-class paintings of Vincenzo Campi – specifically ‘The Fruit Seller’, ‘Kitchen’, ‘Christ in the House of Maria and Martha’ and ‘The Fishmongers’. Although working-class paintings were popular in the Netherlands at the time, there were few southern European artists experimenting in the genre – so his work gives us wonderful insight into the working class of Italy. There are a wide variety of color combinations and variations of details in these portraits, so I felt comfortable drawing elements from them all to create something representative of them as a whole.

The undergarments: The outfit begins with a simple square-necked shift done in white linen. I chose to fit the smock sleeves a bit more closely than the Campi paintings show, simply for ease of wear. As a personal preference, I don’t particularly like poofy sleeves.

The smock is paired with a white linen partlet. The Campi paintings show the women wearing their partlets with a medium-sized ruff at the collar, and open at the neck. The ruff is box-pleated onto the collar, and ties with ribbons under the arms.

The next layer is a corded petticoat, also done in white linen with hemp cord pin-tucked every ½” about 1/3 of the way up the petticoat. The petticoat is cartridge pleated onto a waistband, and laces through eyelets on the sides. I find that this gives the skirt some body and fullness without being overbearing, and mimics the look of the women in Campi’s paintings.

The Dress: This dress was an exercise in fabric-stash management. I decided that I had MORE than enough linen in the house to make a full outfit, and worked fully out of stash fabrics.

The gown is constructed out of 5.3oz green linen. I chose linen for a number of reasons. It is sturdy, it washes well, and it holds up over time. We live in a geographic area that can get below freezing in the winter and blistering hot and humid in the summer, so I wanted a fabric that would breathe well and would be adaptable to a variety of weather conditions. As this is a working dress, I wanted to be sure that at the end of the day I could just toss it in the washer and not have to worry about it, as well.

The paintings show women wearing gowns with either front lacing or side-back lacing. Although aesthetically I prefer the side-back lacing, I chose to use front lacing for ease of wear. I used lacing rings in a spiral pattern, which achieved just the look I wanted. It is interlined with a layer of heavy linen, and lined in the same green linen as the dress.

The guards are black linen, cut on the bias and hand-stitched on. I chose to mimic the guard patterns from ‘The Kitchen’.

Although others have worn corded corsets or reinforced the bodice of the gown with hemp/cotton cording, I chose to only add a single row of hemp cording at the lacing points. The bodice does wrinkle under the bust, however the same horizontal wrinkles can be seen in the paintings as well. The wrinkles in the paintings make me think that the bodices on these working-class dresses were not heavily boned or reinforced, and I chose to mimic that in my gown as well. The bodice is snugly fit under the bust, which gives me ample bust support without boning. It’s amazingly comfortable, and I can do absolutely anything while I wear it!

The skirt is simply rectangular panels sewn together and cartridge pleated onto the bodice. It has a lovely flow when I walk without being overly bulky.

The Sleeves: All of the women in the Campi paintings show basic, straight sleeves that tie onto the bodice with plain cords or decorative ribbons. ‘The Fruit Seller’s gown shows her wearing the dress without sleeves, but with terribly festive ribbons tied on where the sleeves would attach. This is one of my favourite things about this ensemble – it’s so versatile!

I chose to make basic, straight sleeves in a pumpkin-colored heavy linen. They are single layer, and button at the wrist. Lacing rings in the bodice and sleeves give me the option of switching out the ties for colored ribbons if I choose. Currently, the sleeves lace on with black cotton cording tipped with gold-toned aglets. Although none of the Campi paintings show the use of any tips or aglets, I chose to use them to keep the ends of the lacings neat and tidy.

The Accessories: I made a basic linen coif, using the information published on the Elizabethan Costuming Website. On days that I don’t feel like messing with the coif, I wear a pumpkin-colored striped flat cap – which isn’t really Italian, but it looks nice and it doesn’t jump out as being utterly awful. ;)

The belt was made by my husband, and is simple leather with a brass buckle. For shoes, I typically wear either black leather ‘mary jane’ style shoes, or black leather turnshoes.

The white and red coral necklace is a SCA anachronism – this was a gift when I was inducted into Atlantia’s Order of the Coral Branch, an A&S Order. The red coral branches just look so pretty with the orange sleeves.

Conclusion: Overall, I am terribly happy with the way this outfit has pulled together. I’ve been working on it in bits and pieces for two years, and it’s lovely to see it transformed from “eh” to “oooh!”.  As always, there are bits that I would like to change and improve – but overall, I’m pleased. I have a few accessories on my project list – a pretty apron like ‘The Fruitseller’, and some patens to wear with the turnshoes. This is a comfortable, flattering style – and is one of my favourite wardrobe pieces.
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Flashgriffin Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2011  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Very lovely dress!

I have to ask though... you didn't mention your red belt in the description of your accessories. Are you a squire, or is it just a red belt?
silverstah Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you!

I am not a squire - the belt is more of an oxblood than the bright red used for squires, at least in Atlantia. The belt was a handmade gift from my husband, which I wear with pride. :)
Flashgriffin Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2011  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Ah, ok. I was curious. It's very nice!
Captain200 Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2010
Beautiful! I often wonder how they kept those long huge skirts clean from dragging along in the filthy streets? Ive been making huge flared jeans lately if you want to have a look in my gallery?
twoeightythreez Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011
Honestly, I don't think they did keep thier skirts clean back then...there was a reason perfumes were so popular back then :)
Captain200 Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2011
Yes I guess they just accepted their long skirts dragging along !!
Guardian-of-Memory Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2010
Brava, my dear! I have to say, I am *incredibly* impressed with your research and your attention to detail. The authenticity really shows. It feels like you made an outfit, not a costume. ^^

As a fine arts minor and a fan of historical *anything*, I appreciate how much work this took. You did an amazing job! (and your hubby too ^^)
silverstah Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you so much for your kind words! :)
silverstah Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2008  Professional Artisan Crafter
Aw, yay! It's nice to be recognized. ;) The woman in the photo is actually me. :) I'm not much of a photographer - I had to make my husband take these pictures of me so I had documentation of my clothing. ;)

QEI's wardrobe @ NCRF is absolutely stunning - the whole court does an amazing job. :)
mirmirstein Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2008
I infact know this woman personally; she works with the NCRF. As do I. You should go again soon; maybe get a lovely picture of the Queen Elizabeth's dress?
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