Friday, November 1, 2013

"Bronzino" Italian Renaissance Gown -- Finished!

After months of toiling away and late evenings madly sewing eyelets (1 am on the night before I planned on wearing the dress...last minute sewing is the only kind of sewing), this dress--officially dubbed the "Bronzino Gown"--is finally finished! I think I like this dress more than my Chemise a la Reine: the color, the shape, the decoration, I'm so in love. Finishing this dress was a personal victory. Pour la victoire!

The hem is whip-stitched by hand. A muslin hem guard was also whip-stitched by hand, a total of 12 yds of handsewing!
The dress was worn with my Italian Renaissance Camicia, Improved 18th Century Petticoat, and Embroidered 18th Century Pockets. The Italian Ren version of pockets, a Saccoccia, is pretty similar to the 18th c. version anyway. The red scarf was bought from a streetside vendor in NYC. I'm also wearing gold earrings with blue glass bead drops, a vintage ring, a gold filigree ball necklace from Portugal (part of my Portuguese folkloric dancing costume), and a girdle. The girdle is cobbled sloppily together from 2 flea market necklaces: a very long chain and pearl necklace, looped up, with a chain tassel removed from another chain necklace.

The lower sleeves are my favorite part of the whole dress. They took several weekends to make; just the piping took an entire day! The piping is made from a silvery-champagne fabric that my aunt gave me a year ago. The outer fabric, a gorgeous silver-green damask, was a gift from her as well--remnants from an upholstery project almost a decade ago. The mother-of-pearl-ish (plastic) buttons are vintage (1980s) from a sweater my mom had. The beige ribbon loops are made from those ribbons sewed into clothes to hold them onto hangers. The lower sleeves were completely free!

The neckline trim is made with metallic gold lace sewn over a strip of the silvery-champagne poly satin. A few pearls are sewn on as well; historically accurate or not, I loved the depth and luster of the pearls. The dress fastens in the center back with 40 handmade eyelets

I'm wearing a soft cup, wireless bra just for some "definition"--the clear straps are showing here.
I honestly did not notice those wrinkles in the back while I was making this /: It's difficult to fit a back-lacing garment on yourself! In fact, I think the wrinkles aren't as noticeable in person--at least the ones in front--and show up more prominently on camera.

I realized that though the dress isn't as perfect as I'd like, I don't love it any less. I had to realize that in the end, this project was a historical costume, and not a faithful recreation.  For one thing, most of the materials are synthetic (though they were selected because they didn't look synthetic). Secondly, this was my first try at a garment from this period, and there is much more that I have yet to learn. I learned new skills--cartridge pleating, sewing eyelets, making piping--that contribute to both the historical accuracy of the gown and to its glam-factor.

4.5 yds of blue poly satin ($3/yd) --  $13.50
1 yd of green damask for bodice interlining -- stash
1 yd of green heavyweight linen? for bodice lining -- $1
Muslin for hem guard -- stash
Silver poly satin -- gift
Silver green poly damask -- gift
Plastic mother-of-pearl buttons -- stash
Pearls -- $2 for 100
Gold metallic lace -- $5
Various threads -- $4
Yarn for piping -- stash
Pink ribbon -- gift (wrapped around a birthday present!)

Total: $25.50


  1. Dear Gabriela,

    WOW!!! Just, WOW. Your dress is PERFECT! All of that hand-sewing, especially those eyelets, and delicate details! You look like you've stepped out of a painting (and for only 25 dollars, that's insane). What a great color scheme with the blue, gold and red - you look absolutely GORGEOUS! Keep inspiring us

    Best wishes,
    Anneliese :)

    1. Aww, thank you so much! Your warm sentiments really mean a lot to me! I wore the dress to my university for a few days, and no one even commented on the color scheme--I'm so psyched that you like it!

  2. Dear Gabriela, this gown is more than wonderful! I love Italian renaissance dresses, but the people very rarely sew it. I don't know why: they are really gorgeous! :)

    1. Thank you so much! I'm already making sketches for a more "common" Florentine gown, a la Campi Fishmonger! I think I've caught Italian ren fever!

  3. You look stunning Gabriela! I love the way you keep growing as a seamstress, piping scares me, but you totally tackled that! The dress turned out beautiful and it looks perfect on you! :)

    1. Thank you! The piping was pretty time consuming--making it, applying it--but I have no one to teach me new skills, unless I take them on myself! Thank you so much for recognizing all my effort (:

  4. Congrats! This era is one of my fave styles to wear and gaze longingly at. :-P I can tell how many hours upon hours you put into this! (Oh gods cartridge pleating ick!)

    One thing I want to comment on, however, is the comment of wearing a bra for definition. That was not what the aesthetic was generally going for, and the corsets (or pair of bodies) of the day worked on flattening the front overall. Granted, it's not like you're overendowed in that area or spilling out of your dress or some other mishap, but just something to consider in the next time you wear this beautiful gown. Because my Renaissance corset has been missing for a while, I usually just wind up wearing a tube top or tight fitting tank top to help hold things in (I'm also not overendowed).

    Because this is the internet and it is often difficult to tell tone via text, I'd like to emphasize that I'm not trying to criticize your work in any way, merely trying to help with more accuracy for next time.

    But congrats on the finish again! And have fun at your event!

    1. I know that wearing a bra is inaccurate. I was worried though that trekking across campus and up and down stairs would cause a lot of jiggling and shaking out of place for my girls, regardless of how tight my bodice was. I found on the interwebs a painting of a woman by Kempeneer (sp?) with a bodice that hugged her breasts. Overall, wearing the bra with this outfit actually hurt a bit by the end of the day, and I think next time I will try your suggestion of a tight tube top! Thanks!

  5. Beautiful work! That color of blue is just the perfect shade, too!

  6. Hello Gabriela! I would like to award you the Liebster Award! You are so very inspirational! For more information, please look here: