This month’s Historical Sew Monthly challenge was Tucks & Pleats. I figured this was a great time to put together a rough draft of a dress I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. Why a rough draft dress? This would be the first time I did a long bodice and only the second time I had done an open front dress. This is also the style of dress I want to do for this years Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge put on by Realm of Venus. I wanted to see if I could make the bodice and be happy with it before I signed up for the challenge.
Luckily, I really like the way the bodice looks and it is something that I can see myself wearing to events. There are several things I will have to change on the next dress – and I will have to redo the lacing rings on this dress – but I’m quite happy with the turn out. I do, however, look horrible in most pictures, and it was really windy out.
Anyway. Let’s get to the dress.
This is based off of a fresco by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo, c1565, in the Venetian Province of Vicenza.
One of the things I love about this fresco is that it shows pretty much every possible angle for dresses in one time period. In this one little detail, you can see a part of the back and the front/side of another one. Another details shows the full front and the full back and dresses with and without sleeves. I love this fresco.
The dresses I normally wear are about forty to sixty years earlier than this and they have the typical high waist of Venice. This drop waist intimidated me for years. I am not a ‘normal’ sized lady and I just didn’t know how the front would work. Would it ride up? Would it bend? Would it stab me in the leg when I sit down? I’m quite happy to say that it doesn’t ride up, it doesn’t really bend on me, and it doesn’t make sitting down difficult at all. I can even bend over in it!
The dress sits at an odd place, however, because I made it longer than I should have in the back. I keep feeling like I have to pull it down but it’s sitting right where it is supposed to. The front v stays in place for the most part. Next time, I think I might need to put another row of boning in the front to make sure it stays straight. However, part of the issue I have with the front comes from the way I put the lacing in. The eyes are an inch and a half apart and they are not attached all the way through the layers. Next time I will try a different method for the lacing in an effort to eliminate the gaping problem. The back has a single layer of canvas between the two layers. The front has one piece of canvas that goes throughout and then two more layers at the opening for additional support.
I went with cartridge pleating for this dress. From what I can make out from the fresco and other images from the time, it looks like tiny pleats. I used three rows of stitches with doubled thread. Once I had the pleats pulled together, I sewed it down to the bodice with a sewing machine. I should have hand sewed it, but I was tired of hand sewing at that moment.
The Challenge: #2 Tucks & Pleats
Material/Notions: Cotton/Linen blend, linen lining, duck canvas, eyes, plastic boning.
Pattern: Drape method pattern with the help of a friend.
How historically accurate is it? It looks historically accurate, but that’s about it. I used plastic boning and duck canvas to stiffen the front. I used eyes from a hook and eye set for the lacing holes. The cartridge pleats were done by hand as well as the hem. Everything else was machine sewn.
Hours to complete: The pleats took a night to put together and it probably took me as long to get the eyes sewn into place. Maybe 12 to 14 hours over the course of the past couple of months. I procrastinated on getting this done.
First worn: It hasn’t been worn out of the house yet.
Total cost: I bought the cotton/linen for this dress ages ago – at least three years ago – on sale for $6 a yard. The total with all the bits and pieces is probably about $30 – $40.