I am finally back from Carnevale, and I am recovering from some flu, so I thought writing a bit about one of my latest costumes would have been a nice way to spend my time.
The first gown I’ve worn in Venice this year is the pink courtesan dress.
I have seen some amazing work in the last years by Daze of Laur who has made some lovely venetian gowns. Also some works by a group of ladies all portraying venetian ladies, whose name now does not come to my mind right now, but that I’ll be glad to add, as soon as I find it again.
I wanted to make one of these gowns, but not just something from a random painting on pinterest, I wanted something linked to the territory I was born and raised in. I can not give more than others have done in making the dress flawless, but I can express my love for a country I live everyday, and highlight something that’s not easily available to tourism.
So I came across this fresco, while listening to a friend’s conference about his latest book ( Hestia by Giovanni Spitale ) in the most beautiful Libreria Palazzo Roberti. It’s a bookshop located in a palace from the XVII century, with traditional architecture typical of the Republic of Venice. It’s one of the most beautiful bookshops in Italy, and when I was a teenager I spent quite some time in it, as it was not far from my high school.
The first floor has some frescos made from a painter in Tiepolo’s style. So what is represented is venetian end of the 1500 fashion, as intended by painters of the 18th century, so there are some things off from what an original dress would have looked like. But I tried to combine both.
I have had some help by Meg/Alessandra from Tied to history on the pattern, based on the work by The Modern Maker.
This is the original fresco:
And here are some paintings and prints showing the fashion of the time.
As you can see not all bodices had the front lacing, and the neckline is very low, scooped downwords instead than having an upward curve as fashion in other places of Europe and Italy. As you can see, even the Doge’s wife, and very young girls had this type of low neckline, it was not a thing of courtesans, it was just the fashion. I rarely wear low necklines in my everyday life, but comprominsing the resemblance for fear of lifting some eyebrows is simply riddiculous. I have been asked why did I make such a low neckline, and the reason is that in the painting it’s that low. Deal with it. As for the velvet gown. “Add two inches, you whore” I’ve been told (not in these terms, but you can get the meaning of a comment even if the second part is not written sometimes). But it would not be that dress. If the original is low, mine will be too. I will not sexualize my Foreign Residence Amidala gown lowering the neckline or showing the legs, nor make naked versions of Disney princesses just because I want to show off some skin. But I want the dress to be right and if you’re not ok with it, it’s not my problem.
I have worn mine without the inner shift the first time, as in the fresco, but I have made some parts that can give a more appropriate look.
I also have planned the gown with two skirts: a short one, made from a silk saree, to walk with more common shoes, and a long one, to be gathered when not needed, and left down when using the chopines I didn’t have time to complete for the Carnevale.
I am not a huge fan of these hairdos, with the two horns, but the more classic-looking hairdo is something anyone can pull off, and it’s a bit less recognisable. I hoped for a less red and more copper toned wig, but gingers and coppers are not common among commercial wigs.
Many think all of italians are dark haired. This is mostly true, dark hair are more common, but in my area lighter colors are not unusual. Even if it seems that venetian women used to sunbathe their hair in the rooftops of their palaces, soaked in urine to lighten the color, I doubt that they started from a very dark color to achieve in such bland way the strawberry blond color we can see in paintings and frescos. Especially with all the paintings with blue eyed subjects. Blue eyes are still more common around Venice than in the mainland, even nowadays. They used to obtain the copper-ish color with henna. Remembering how my dark ash blond hair used to look just after using henna, I said myself the wig could do for a “just did my roots” kind of thing. However, I’ll gladly update to a less dark and full color.
I chose a nice silk shantung that changes from white to pink.
I admit I wasn’t very prone to make it all correct with padstitching and handsewing this time, so I heavily boned the bodice. But I have handsewn with silk thread all the visible seams.
I made the unfortunate ruff- that I’d like to remake- soaking cotton lace in sugar and water.