16th Century Florentine Gown

July 20, 2013 at 10:25 am (16th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Wow, this project actually has me adding a new category for the 16th century…. I guess its fitting that after such a long hiatus I would need to expand my projects into a later time period!

In planning for this summer, I found myself in a pretty good place for garb this year, and I really didn’t need to construct a lot of new items to get through this year.  I did want, though, a few items that can be quickly put on and would be relatively cool in weight for some of the hotter days.  And I’ve been wanting to branch out into a new style.  So, I decided I’d go with a later style, and purchased this pattern from Reconstructing History for a Florentine Gown.  While I’ve never used a pattern from them before, their reputation is exceptional, and this seemed like the perfect option since I was looking to dabble a bit in this style, but not stray too much in time and resources from the 14th century.

I will upload pictures in August, but I constructed three of these gowns.  They were relatively simple to put together.  The pattern covers a wide range of sizes, and I ended up tweaking it a little to get a hybrid pattern that seemed to best fit my measurements.  What fascinated me about these gowns was the research surrounding how to achieve the right look to the bodice.  Period pieces clearly show a smooth and supported bust, and there seems to be several predominant theories as to how to achieve that look. 

Let me be perfectly clear, here… I have done absolutely NO primary research on this, and I am relying on a few hours worth of looking into research by people much more educated on this topic than I am.  If you are looking to learn more about these dresses, please find those who know a lot more than I do on this subject.  Honestly, these are likely the only gowns of this style I will make, as I really wanted them for one specific wardrobe niche, and I didn’t have the time to thoroughly research at this point in time.  I wanted an overview of what was out there to know I was keeping my gowns reasonably correct, because what is the point of starting with a great pattern if you are then going to just do it wrong?  Bottom line:  I’m not at all certain I’ve gotten these right, but I’m pretty certain I haven’t gotten them blatantly wrong.

What I found indicated that the look of the bodice could be achieved through a combination of wearing foundation garments (which seem to be simpler versions of the gowns themselves, and may or may not have been designed to be more supportive?), as well as having many layers to the bodice itself (lining, interfacing, and an outer layer).  Since I was trying to make something like and cool and simple for Pennsic using linen, I decided I would strive to create what could potentially be considered a type of simple foundation garment for a more complete ensemble.  I wanted the right look for the bodice, as maybe I will someday use this as an underlayer, but I had no plans to embellish these gowns or even necessarily give them sleeves, and so they likely would not have been an outer layer.  At least I don’t think so.

I cut the bodice out of linen, and lined it in linen as well.  I modified the pattern a bit to try and achieve the correct look.  Since I relied heavily on how I make fitted dresses supportive through tweaking the seams right below the bust, I’m honestly not sure if I did this correctly or not.  It was a lot more difficult to adjust to side back seams as the only places you could really adjust, and ultimately I ended up “cheating” a bit by making the lining layer a little more supportive than the outer layer.  This resulted in the look I wanted for the bust, but also the smooth look of the overall gown, as the out layer was not as tight.  I have no idea if this is even remotely plausible for the period construction of this dress (Have I said that I am not entirely sure what I’m doing??)  but it seemed reasonable to me based on what I know about gown construction.

The bodice is front laced, and will have hand sewn eyelets, and I gather pleated the skirt.

Overall, I am happy with how these turned out as a first endeavor, and I know that if I do ever create another of these gowns I will definitely allow more time for research, as I found the discussion behind how the bodice appearance is achieved fascinating and I really wish I had more time to devote to making sure that I understood the options  and had done the construction correctly.

Updated with Pictures! :)

Pattern Pieces



Modifications to the Pattern (I raised the shoulder seam and took the sides in, then curved the side seams on the lining)

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This achieved a slightly fitted look (Sorry for the bad pics)

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Final Dresses… The green ended up the least fitted, the pink and blue are more fitted and have fuller skirts. 

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