I have to admit something – I have been suffering from a lack of interest in working on this project. There have been many outfits to be made for the 18th Century French picnic coming up, as well as fabric that has arrived to be made into Victorian style outfits for Convergence and I have had a bad case of C.A.D.D. about it all. Once I saw that someone else was actively working on Eleonora (and doing a BEAUTIFUL job of it!) I didn’t feel such an intense rush to finish the gown. Add to that some rather challenging health issues the last several months and I thought seriously about abandoning the project.
Luckily the Wench Posse are nothing if not excellent cheerleaders, and they convinced me to take a little time off and then come back to the project. I did so and am now feeling more motivated to work on it. A big issue was the transfer of the design. I thought I had a design that was going to work and even had sent it over to Kinko’s, but after the lovely Jenna gave it a once-over, it was determined that the image would not be clear enough when blown up. This was a huge issue for me as I am NOT a graphic artist and was not sure how I was going to be able to blow up the image and transfer it.
I saw on Mode Historique that there were napkins and other items being sold at the Pulp Fashion exhibit in CA, which features the Eleonora gown made from paper. Margo has the towels, but said the pattern is not very distinct on them. I have a call in to the museum to see if I can get some of the napkins, which look to be very clear in terms of pattern. If that does not work I have pictures of the designs in Moda a Firenze and I am going to barter with Jenna to draw the designs for me in exchange for some sewing work. Either way it is taking longer than I had hoped, but there is always the underwear and other items to be worked on!
Then in the middle of all of this indecision, several WP members decided we would go to the Chippewa Valley Renaissance Festival (along with members of the Jr. WP) this past weekend. We thought it would be fun to be fancier than normal, so the farthingales came out and we whipped up a new outfit for the Cheap Chick. Spammaggie fell in love with my burple gown (named as such due to it’s color being somewhere between blue and purple) and now it lives with her. Which put me at a bit of a disadvantage due to my rapidly dwindling wardrobe. I could wear my blue silk courtesan with the beaded sleeves again (only it’s 3rd wearing), or I could make something new.
As I had very recently worn the blue courtesan, I decided I needed something new (go figure), but wasn’t overly inspired by anything. Plus, it was the 11th hour and I needed something fast and simple. After thinking it over I decided that a test run of the Eleonora gown was in order. I have had some pretty blue brocade fabric sitting in my closet for over a year that I have been planning on making into something Italian, so it was pressed into service.
Here is the front view of the bodice fitting:
I have a tiny looking waist, but that is all an illusion, as I am squatting for some reason.
Here is the back:
The shoulder and back fit was excellent, although I was worried over the length and the bend of the fabric over my corset in front.
The bodice was finished with no boning and only one layer of lining. I trimmed it in a twisted black piping for some contrast. The skirt panels were assembled separately, pleated and basted, and then sewn onto the bottom of the finished gown. Then they were sewn at the sides and hemmed. Large modesty panels are sewn into the sides that cover the grommets and the side back openings. The hem was shortened in the back due to lack of fabric, and then turned and hemmed. We went with grommets for ease of lacing and due to time constraints.
I copied MamaRox and made a coif for the back of my head that is one layer of netting, one layer of gold silk lattice, and gathered onto a band of gold silk dupioni. I sewed pearls onto all the intersections, and a plastic comb at the bottom to insert into my bun, and two wig clips at the top to attach into the hair up top. This system of clips worked really well. I am going to sew a trim or more beads along the stitch line of the dupioni band.
Front of the finished gown:
The hem of the front was about perfect. I literally just had to turn up the bottom edge and stitch. The bodice fit well over the corset, except for the obvious difference at the top between the neckline of the bodice and the top of the corset. The shoulder straps stayed perfectly on my shoulders. The whole bodice was just very comfortable. There looks to be a pucker along the bottom line of the bodice, but it is actually the bend of the fabric over the corset, and the shine of the brocade. In person there was no pucker.
The side of the gown:
I look a little conerned,there. Again the bodice bottom looks to be puckered, and it isn’t. It is the curve at the bottom of the bodice. You can see how nicely the skirting drapes from the front to the slight train in back.
The back of the gown:
I have to tell you how much I LOVE this. The drape in back is gorgeous. There are not a lot of pleats on that back piece, but because of the design of the skirt it pleats and drapes so beautifully. The side back seams look great and the whole thing fits like a glove. You can again see where the corset ends and the bodice begins, but otherwise it is smooth. I also did not line the skirt, so it was originally very close fitting to the body. I made a drawstring petticoat out of 4.5 yards of linen, which gave it the volume on the bottom.
Things I need to finish: Paned sleeves. Possible band of velvet or trim along the hem.
Changes I want to make: It is obvious that my traditional Elizabethan corset is just not going to work for this. I assumed that with the punch needlework and a canvas interlining that the bodice would hold up well and not curve over the corset, but I don’t think that is the case. I am going to have to make a separate kind of corset to go underneath this. And I think it is going to have to be similar to the velvet corset that was buried with Eleonora. I will likely add some boning to it to make it a bit stiffer, but I think cutting that corset along the dimensions of the bodice are going to make the difference in shaping.
I will need to modify the camicia I am making for this to include the facing/shelf bra that I have in the camicia I am wearing in the photos. This will help stabilize my bust and keep it from “sinking” in the corset.
I also think that I might need to lower the bodice an inch or so (mainly towards the front) due to my being long-waisted. I think what looks like a pucker is the bodice bending onto the corset, which then has a bend several inches below it (where my natural waist is) and gives the illusion of the pucker. I also think it would make more sense to have it slightly longer to have a bit more space for the design on the pattern.
The bodice is clearly exaggerated in length on the Bronzino portrait:
(Bronzino, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.)
The bodice is made a bit longer on the Italian recreation version as well:
(King Studio, Italy.)
Margo based her pattern design that I am wearing on the burial garments of Eleonora, as drawn by Janet Arnold. Consequently we can see the obvious difference between what was reality for Eleonora, and what shows up in the portraiture of the time. It also leads me to believe that even though Eleonora was shorter than me, she also looks to be far shorter-waisted than the portraiture shows, even with the waistline of the fashion of the time.
(Burial garment of Eleonora di Toledo, Florence, Italy.)
I am planning on finishing the sleeves and corset underneath by August so I can wear it to MNRF. I might do the Beret sleeve for this gown to see how it looks in person.
Either way, Margo’s patterning was great. There were no fittings (really) needed, and it went together beautifully. A very simple and easy pattern that resulted in a lovely looking gown.
As for Chippewa, we had a lovely time.
Princess wore what El Jefe calls “The Royal Bathrobe.” This is the second Elizabethan I had ever made:
Spammaggie in the Burple Gown. (She had never really worn her farthingale before, so we are going to adjust the hoops.) She also bought a truly fabulous tiny hat that matched her gown perfectly.
The Cheap Chick had a new doublet (from Margo’s Elizabethan Ladies pattern), and a pleated skirt.
The Jr. Posse had a lovely time, particularly after they were given fake leather mustaches.
And last but not least, El Jefe has recently returned from India, where he purchased me 40 metres of silk. 31 metres were in 4 colors of taffeta (dark red, gold, violet and bright teal). The other 9 metres were a brocade fabric that El Jefe found at a store that was specifically recommended to him due to their outstanding brocades. They had an armed guard and all the fabric had gold thread in it. The fabric is usually used for wedding wear or formal wear. Personally, I think it is lovely.
It is not really any particular pattern, although at first I thought it was tiny little elephants.
I believe this is considered Cloth of Gold. From what El Jefe told me of the manufacture of the fabric and seeing the fabric up close, I believe that it is. It is also incredibly heavy and it kind of glows. I have NO idea what I am going to do with it due to the unusual pattern, but it will sit in my fabric closet in it’s own box until I have a plan. I will probably take it out and pet it periodically. Any thoughts on what to do with it? I have 9 metres or 9.8 yards….