At the start of this week, Sarah dropped off my new Venetian courtesan gown. This is the “real” version, in the expensive silk damask, as opposed to the tourney version in cotton damask. I need to hem & trim the gown & make the sleeves. The first two tasks are pretty straightforward, but the sleeves had me stymied. I didn’t want to make the crazy double-slashed sleeves I made for the tourney gown. Those were fun, but too, I don’t know, silly or something for this gown. Besides, I didn’t want to make the exact same sleeve again.
I was really drawn to the lovely, if slightly overcomplicated, sleeves in this portrait from 1560 by Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto. The shape is the classic Venetian small puff on top, but it’s slashed with both straight and diagonal lines. I went back and forth on how to do this and thought it would work best if I bound the edges. That’d work beautifully with narrow silk ribbon, the kind used for ribbon embroidery.
I know just the place to get this stuff — CamCreations, where I’ve bought plenty for other (non-embroidery, usually binding) projects. I love that site and highly recommend them. However, I had this idea, uh, on Thursday and needed to finish the sleeves over the weekend, because I’m wearing the dress on June 2 at Valhalla Renaissance Faire! Ooops. No time to mail-order ribbon. I did a frantic search of local stores, but couldn’t find anything closer than an hour’s drive away — and I don’t drive, so realistically, that’s a half-day pubtrans trip. Hello, I need that time to sew! Sadly, I had to abandon this sleeve design.
Next, I decided to go with the classic Venetian sleeve design of a simple slashed puff on top of a straight sleeve. Rather like the classic Titian “girl in white” portrait. There are a ton of versions of this from the 1550s through the end of the 16th century. And it’s a small version of the giganto puff sleeves I made for the Medici gown, so I had a pattern already. I took that sleeve pattern, cut it down, mocked it up, and… hated it. It looked fussy and annoyed me. Not really sure why, but no matter how much I cut it down, it still looked too big. It wasn’t pretty, and I really wanted pretty sleeves for a pretty gown. Feh.
But y’know what? Venetians also did simple sleeves. Simple and loose sleeves. With a bit of decoration. Screw it. That’s what I’ll do. I took my trusty Elizabethan sleeve pattern from Hunnisett, made a muslin, pinned it to the gown, tried it on, it looked fine, and that was that. I’ll cut it out of the silk, line it, trim it, tie it on with little bows. End of the frickin’ story.
Some of my inspirations (images from Starlight Masquerade):
I especially love how baggy those sleeves look! No stuffed-sausage arms. Lots of loose fabric folds showing. Nice ‘n comfy. I’m totally going for that.