Renaissance Lady


Let me tell you, this costume was a long time coming. I started on it a year or two ago, and chickened out just before I got to the zipper. So it sat and sat in the basement until we finally made that commitment to go to the ren fair, and I sewed my little fingers off making costume after costume.

I call it my fantasy renaissance dress. The pattern is pretty good, actually (Simplicity 8735), but the fabrics I’m using are incredibly synthetic. Piecing it together from my stash felt a bit like a work of art. I had enough light blue textured fabric for the front panel and the sleeves, enough sheer purple fabric for the overdress and what I’ve been calling the “gauntlets”, enough white fabric for the underdress minus the front panel (well, except for a little missing chunk), and enough dark blue sheer fabric for the modesty panel and the “gauntlets”.

I don’t really remember assembling the bodice or the skirt, it’s been so long. I do think I was surprised how well that portion went. I definitely remember the silver fleur-de-lis ribbon I grabbed from my stash to line the waistline and the edges of the overskirt crinkled like mad. Leaving it on my dress form for months on end actually helped it flatten a bit, but it still pulls up some. I went wild at JoAnn buying extra ribbon and lace for the bodice, which admittedly looks very nice. I hand sewed it on during a D&D session. And then it sat.

I got it out again this summer and finished gathering the sleeves. I repeated the USB cable trick to shove elastic through the gather. And then, terrified it wouldn’t fit, I sewed in the zipper. Wrong. Twice. Once I got the zipper in right-way round so that it could, you know, zip…it fit! Sort of. The bodice kept falling off my shoulders, I found a shortcut – put a dart in the neckline above each shoulder blade. I think I took 4 inches off! I hemmed the underdress and overdress (cheating, by machine) both a bit shorter than I’d intended but the ankle-length result turned out to be a perfect choice for the ren fair, what with all the mud. And I made one set of reversible oversleeves and set their grommets (tricky with that flimsy fabric!). Pre-lacing them was a mistake, as one shoulder then didn’t want to sit right, but one came untied partway through the day and I tucked all of them away.

Of course, a dress does not itself an outfit make! I grabbed brown velvet slippers at the costume shop, wore a necklace that had been my grandmother’s, and approximated a cap, ferroniere, and Italian style hair wrap out of a yarmulke and ribbon. Cheating, I know. I also carried a bag my aunt and uncle bought for me in southeast Asia that color coordinated nicely. I’d like to build an actual cap, add a dangling “jewel” to the ferroniere (or actually buy a real one), tie down the wrap tighter so it doesn’t come undone, and use the bit of brocaded silk in my stash to make a new handbag for future outings. Plus, like Irene, it could use a couple of petticoats.

Once again, we were invited to participate in the costume contest, but with better shoes (and extra arch support tucked inside!) we wandered far and wide for food, vendors, and entertainment. All in all, a lovely day, even if my outfit was a century out-of-date and several hundred miles south. Frankly, I prefer this profile to the wide skirts and stiff bodices of the Elizabethan court.