Monday, August 31, 2009

Blast from the Past

Back in 2005 or so, I made an Italian Renaissance gown as a costume for a live-action role playing game I was going to be in that was set in early 16th century Venice. Though I hadn't seriously looked into costume of that era before, since I was assigned a courtesan character, I wanted the costume to look appropriately glamorous. So I put in a fair amount of effort into its construction. Although the game was set in the Venice of the 1510s and my costume was more reminiscent of Florence in the 1490s, it was a successful costume just because few other players wore anything quite so elaborate.

After the game, it occurred to me that, with some changes of sleeve, the simple gamurra I had made would pass at least casual inspection for the 1520s and the 1530s/1540s as well. So I made up some extra sleeves designed to be laced into the bodice, and a few other accessories, and submitted the result to Bella Lucia de Verona's Italian Showcase. Pictures of the dress with the various sleeves are also included with this post. No, the gown didn't win any awards, but I was pleased with it all the same.

After the Italian Showcase display in 2007, I realized that, with a lace partlet and a bead girdle, the dress would do well for the 1560s also. I eventually made the girdle (picture above!), but got bogged down in sewing together narrow pieces of lace to make the partlet, and largely abandoned the project.

While I was planning to make the girdle and partlet, I also bought tan velvet and orange silk, so that I could make a giornea to wear with the original, Florentine version of the gown. I was afraid, however, to try to make a giornea without a pattern. Rather than risk mauling my lovely velvet into a cross between an overdress and a poncho, I let the whole idea languish. Until today.

Today, I learned that Reconstructing History is about to publish a giornea pattern. Yes, the pattern is $30, and that's a lot to spend on a whim, just to complete a costume that I have no place to wear right now. For that matter, I'm not even sure that the gamurra will still fit me...But the big roll of velvet in my closet is tempting me. I'd really hate to see it go to waste. What do you think? Should I go for it? And if I do, should I make the fitted version or the loose version?

EDIT: I showed this post to my husband (who took all the photographs of me in the various versions of the gown) and he said, rather wistfully, "Do I get a photography credit?" Yes, I think he should. So here it is: Photography by Tigger. (That's my pet name for him.)


  1. It is gorgeous and you look marvelous in it. I would definitly go for it! My personal preference would be the fitted version. I still have to prjoects in mind which I have no "use" for as well, a 1490 early tudor transitional gown and a so called Burgundian. I might be able to wear the Burgundian someday, but the Tudor gown probably not. Still I really want to have it. ;-)

  2. Thanks!

    Reconstructing History's pattern won't actually be shipping until near the end of this month, so I'll have to wait a bit anyway. I'll probably do it eventually, though. I understand what you mean wanting a Tudor gown even though you have no place to wear it. I'd love to be able to wear the full 1490s Florentine look, sometime, somewhere! And that means making a giornea.

    I'm not sure that the fitted variety will look well on me, since the velvet is so thick, and I kind of like the idea of an open-sided non-fitted giornea where the lining will show as I move. But I'll keep your vote for the fitted version in mind!