Recreating Renaissance Fashion, Isabel de Requesens

I’m resuming progress on my Isabel costume! This is part one of making the chemise, which will be worn underneath this dress. Today I am going to be talking about how I made the collar, it’s easily the most detailed and complicated part so it’s worthy of it’s own post. My next post will talk about basic assembly, and I should have another video to share as well!

The shape of this collar is a cross between a U and a rectangle. I drew out the shape on poster board and traced it onto the beige linen I chose for this project. Then I used a quilting ruler to measure a half inch seam allowance all the way around.

The pieces were sewn right-sides-together, then turned rightside out so there was a finished edge all the way around.


I hand stitched around the edge to tack it down and give more of an old timey look. Then I began drawing out the pattern for the beading and embroidery.


Though I have some minor experience in beading I had never created something with a repeating pattern, nor had I ever embroidered patterns. So I knew this project would be a huge adventure – and maybe a huge mess too.

I happened to have beads that would work on hand, leftover from my bracelet making days and previous costumes.


I believe I used 4mm glass pearls, 8mm glass pearls, 3mm white plastic pearls, 3mm red beads, and 2mm gold and red beads. I piled them all on a beading mat to keep things organized.


The first step was sewing the centermost beads on. This is by far the easiest and most enjoyable part – after finishing this step I was lulled into a false sense of security that this would be easy.



Step two is sewing all the connect-y bits with gold thread. The beads give a good guide which makes this part easier, but the thread was constantly getting caught on beads, getting, tangled, or pulling things loose.


Then I went through and added gold seed beads. Six get added to each section, two extend down from the 4mm pearls at the top and bottom, and one gets added to each side of the center section. The goal here was just to add more gold because it looked a bit sparse!


Then it came time to add the red. This was by far the most difficult part, the thread had to be looped four times to have enough bulk and it seemed to always get caught on beads, tangle, and need to be clipped. It took me several minutes to stitch each one (unless the thread tangled, then it would take twice as long), which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize there are nearly ninety of them that have to be sewn!


I think in total I must have spent thirty hours beading this stupid thing. If I did it again I feel it would go much faster because now I have more experience with the process. I would probably do a much better job too – I did this thing one side at a time and the side I did last is much cleaner and more even then the first. Oops!



So that finishes off the collar, I added ties to it and a lining later on but that will be covered in the “basic assembly post”.

There there was another part of this costume that required more embroidery and beading, so I’ll go over that really quick too.

The cuffs on Isabel’s dress are tricky to see and end up looking “gold” from a distance, so I really didn’t have to bead these. But I thought it would be nice to have them match the neck piece.

I started by cutting small rectangles of linen, then marking out a half inch grid.


I sewed rectangles over the grid lines, then a cross in the middle that stretches from corner to corner.


Lastly I sewed some of my large 8mm pearls in the middle, and it was done!


Thanks for reading!


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Dewdrop Series, Photos

Today I have photos to share! Finally it was overcast enough to get pictures of one of my costumes! Unfortunately It’s still too warm out to consider photographing any of my other projects (long sleeves, high necks, yikes) but this is a step in the right direction.

This costume came out a little fancier then I had expected, so I think it looks a little out of place in the forest even though it was inspired by one. But i’m still very happy with the pictures, and i’m glad we got to take them while everything is super green and lovely! A big thanks goes out to my photographer-in-training of a father who took these pictures for me.

A per usual the dresses, cloak, and headpiece were made and worn by me. More information on how I made the costumes can be found here, and the headpiece is just dried red roses strung between glass pearls.

I had a few problems with my pocket hoops collapsing, and ants were traipsing all over me, but aside from that i’m really pleased with how this shoot went and the photos that came from it.

I hope you like them too!










Thanks for reading – er viewing!


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Dewdrop Series, Making Another Dress, Part Two

Here is the second, and final post in making this more modern dress for my Dewdrop series. I talk about my ideas and how I made the skirt in the previous post which can be read here.

As per usual I started by draping the pattern on my dress form. I’d hoped to alter a pattern for this bodice but realized part way through that draping it would just be easier.


When I removed it from the dress form it looked like this! I had to iron it out before making the pattern. I still plan to make a tutorial on this process but i’ve been too distracted by making things to sit down and write it.


The end pattern looked like this. For this project I wanted to try something new, so I didn’t add seam allowances to the neckline. The understructure of this bodice was cut without seam allowances at the neck or waist, then my top fabric was draped over the understructure. This meant their was less bulk and made everything look smoother.

I used a pen and ruler to measure seam allowances to my top fabric later on.


Then I made my mock up! I was pretty happy with it, though it was a bit large in the bust.

There were two visible problems here, the first is that it was riding up, and the second is the shape of the garment, but I wasn’t worried because they will both be fixed when I add boning later on.


 After making the pattern adjustments  I started cutting out the bodice fabrics, which was quite the task since it has four layers!

Like the last bodice I made from this series, it has a base of twill and cotton sateen, with linen lining and a damask front.


I drew out all the boning channels onto my sateen layer and pinned them to the twill.


 Each boning channel was sewn.


And then it was time for my least favorite step – cutting and tipping bones ;;

I used the same method from last time because it seemed to work really well. Each bone was cut with tin snips, then labeled with a letter that corresponds to a boning channel.


I used a dremel tool to soften any sharp edges, then tipped them with medical tape and dipped them in clear nail polish. I left them to dry overnight and by morning they were ready!

Though I still dislike this process I have to say i’m getting a lot better at it. It went much faster this time and the results are far better, if I keep improving maybe soon I won’t mind this step!


 I assembled the base layer and added all the boning. I had a mix up and ended up with two “T”s and two “L”s that were very different sizes, but luckily everything slipped in just fine and I didn’t have to many any changes!


I covered all the edges in linen bias tape to ensure the bones wouldn’t poke out.


I also took a minute to assemble the lining and top fabric.


The top fabric was stitched down by hand onto the base layer.


Although the shape is symmetrical (the “horns” are the same size) my seams don’t line up. One seam cuts through the tip, where as the other is nearly a half inch off. Luckily it isn’t noticeable when worn,  but it bothers me a lot!

After the base layer was attached to the top fabric I  sewed in the eyelets.


Then the waistband was sewn on by hand – I worked so hard to make sure this lines up perfectly, and it does! So that pleases me a lot. Not enough to make up for the sloppy seams, but it’s close.


The skirt was sewn on and the lining was sewn in, both by hand. Then the other edge of the waistband was sewn down and the whole thing actually resembled a dress! To make sure the waistband could handle the slight curve I didn’t add interfacing to it, this means it looks pretty floppy and bad when laid flat, but when worn and under tension it looks fine.

Here you can see how uneven the seams are, but you can also see how well the pattern lines up on the front panels.


 I sewed the final eyelets and tried it on! It’s a little more risque then I had expected but oh well, at least thanks to the boning it stays on really nicely. I like the shape it has, the conical-flat front bodice reminds me a lot of the first dress from this series, so that’s good!

 It’s far from my favorite thing i’ve made, but considering it has twenty hours of time and $20 of material in it, I think it was worth making.

I took pictures without a wig for once and of course my hair is a big mess, please ignore that.




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Dewdrop Series, Making Another Dress, Part One

A few weeks ago I finished up a dress and cloak which I named my “Dewdrop Series” because it was based off of the blossoms and greenery of spring. I ended up with two yards of leftover ivory damask, and a few yards of remaining velvet. My original plan was to use the remnants to make a fancy 18th century suit, but the damask proved to be far too delicate (and prone to fraying) to make into a jacket, so that wouldn’t work.

The fabric really needed to be used for a dress. After a bit of sketching I decided on a really simple design, so simple that I figured I would make it right away. I  mostly wanted to have it completed so it can be photographed along side the other pieces in this series, but I MIGHT have been procrastinating on all the other things I have in progress.


I wanted this dress to be more modern then the original but I still wanted it to be cohesive, simple, and a little unusual. I decided on a strange kind of “spiky” neckline, a visible waistband, and a skirt half the size of the original but pleated the same way. I originally wanted it to have a train too, but I only had two yards of fabric so that didn’t end up happening.


This post is going to focus on the skirt, next post will be about the bodice.

The skirt was one big rectangle, cut to be one hundred and twenty inches wide, which is the same width as this material – if the fabric was less wide there is no way I would have been able to make this dress with two yards of fabric.


I didn’t have any side seams to do, so I got straight to the pleating! Step one was cutting long strips of lightweight quilt batting. I learned a lot from making the first dress in this series, this time around I whip stitched the strips together so there was no added bulk at the seams.

I also didn’t mark the lines on these like I did the first time around. The ink was prone to rubbing off, and it was terrifying touching white fabric with blue hands! I’m also pretty good at eyeing it, so I decided to be brave and trust myself.


Then I sewed these on by hand with a really large basting/running stitch. The first time around I used my machine and it sped up the fraying process which I did not want!

The only lines I marked were for the large box pleat in the front.


Then I hemmed the whole thing using the same method I use in most of my dresses.


Doesn’t that look pretty? Slash that, it’s not supposed to look pretty, it’s supposed to look invisible. 


Then the pleating began! This went so much faster then my first dress, I think it took one sixth of the time or something crazy like that. Even a bit of practice makes such a different when using new techniques.


You may also note I didn’t add bias tape, so it’s fraying a lot. I did this on purpose because last time I ended up with a ton of extra bulk at the waist due to sewing on bias tape BEFORE my cartridge pleats. This time I did it afterwards and the end result is much nicer looking and more practical too.


And  that was pretty much it when it comes to the skirt. Aside from a back seam (which can’t be done until it’s attached to the bodice) it was finished!


Thanks for reading!


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Recreating Renaissance Fashion, Isabel de Requesens

Here is part two of my velvet Isabel de Requesens dress! Today i’ll talk about the skirt and sleeves.

In addition to sharing photos and information I also have a short video about this costume!

I did my best to press “record” whenever I sat down to work on this costume, and though I didn’t manage to capture every step I ended up with a few hours of footage.  I edited it down, sped it up, and paired it with music.

The whole thing was easier then I had expected, and it’s something I would like to do again in the future. I’d like to film tutorials and stuff as well, but I think this is a good place to start considering my inexperience with filming and editing. I’m a bit out of my element here, so any comments or feedback would be very much appreciated!

If you are reading this in an email, here is the direct link where you can watch it! Otherwise it can be played below.

Onwards with the post!

The skirt was pretty easy, as usual with these things it’s just made from rectangles. I used three pieces of 40″ wide fabric cut to be around 58″ inches in length. The length was cut with a four inch hem and one inch seam allowance in mind.


They were sewn together the way you would expect, then hemmed with a cross stitch. I’ve pretty much completely switched over to this stitch when it comes to hemming, it’s a little slower but the end result looks so much nicer then a whip stitch.



Then I went ahead and cartridge pleated the top, cartridge pleating velvet is honestly one of my favorite things. It’s so easy, satisfying, and the end result looks so sharp and pretty, even if you don’t measure beforehand.


Once that was done I did a little dress form test and everything looked pretty even and good!


I pinned the skirt to the bodice, then sewed them together.

DSC_7512After the skirt and bodice were attached I began focusing on the sleeves. These were hard since I didn’t want them to be so ridiculous that they were eating my hands, out of proportion to the skirt, and taking over the whole costume. I ended up making them about forty inches wide, and i’m pretty happy with that decision.


Each sleeve was hemmed. I didn’t mind the raw edge since these were lined later on.

DSC_7465Then It came time for the bias tape, which was, by far, the most annoying part of this dress. I made it from lining material and organza, the same combo used to create piping on the bodice.


Below you see my second attempt at sewing it on. My first attempt was done with 1/4″ stitching and the velvet completely disintegrated  during the pinning process. I ended up trimming the edge before trying again with a half inch stitch.


The trim was folded over to create a quarter inch of visible gold.

DSC_7490Then it was all sewn into place with a blanket stitch. After that was done I added the lining, I don’t have any pictures of this process since it was done late in the afternoon and I couldn’t get a decent photo.


I tacked the bias tape together every four and a half inches. This is where the buttons will go.DSC_7504

Then the buttons were sewn on. I opted for regular gold dome buttons since my attempts to paint them with the black design shown in my reference photo didn’t go well at all.


The tops of each sleeve were gathered down with cartridge pleats. In the end the tops of each sleeve were only twelve inches!


They were sewn onto the bodice and it was pretty much done! It still needs a back seem but you can get a good idea of how it looks from the pictures below. Unfortunately due to the nature of this bodice and the off-the-shoulders style it looks really poopy on my dress form.

I took a few mirror and webcam shots of it worn, and that’s as good as it gets for the time being.


Photo on 7-8-14 at 4.11 PM #3

Photo on 7-8-14 at 4.11 PM

As you can see the neckline is kind of, uh, daring. Luckily the finished costume includes a higher neckline, thanks to a fancy collar which will be part of the chemise.

Photo on 7-8-14 at 4.16 PM

So that’s that! Still lots to do on this costume, but the most major part of it is complete.

Just as a warning, I’m not in a big rush to finish the chemise and make the hat. I have to wait a month for the wig to arrive, so I might switch things up and work on a different project for a bit.

I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading.




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Recreating Renaissance Fashion, Isabel de Requesens

A few things I would like to state before moving forward with this post: I have searched all over and keep getting conflicting information about this painting. What I do know for certain is that it was painted by Raphael and Gulio Romano in 1518. From what I can make out the painting was originally titled as Joanna of Aragon or Je’anne de Aragon, which is still the most frequently used title in English.

Italian and French sites state the painting is of Doña Isabel de Requesens, wife of Ramón de Cardona and the official title seems to be “Portrait of Isabella Requesens, Vice-Queen of Naples” (I know citing wikipedia isn’t the most professional way of doing things, but it has more information then any other site i’ve come across).

I’m still not entirely sure which is correct, if you have more information i’ll happily change the title!

I also want to mention that I will be changing a few things. My fabric colors were based off of this version of the painting, a restored “high key” version. My gold and reds are much brighter and lighter the shades in the original, but at the same time i’ve chosen an aged off white linen for the chemise, simply to avoid the “candy cane effect” of pairing white with bright red.

Speaking of the chemise – I have chosen to remove a few details to make the garment more versatile with other projects. There may be other minor changes as well. I want to accurately bring this painting to life but I really don’t want to end up with a garment I dislike, so it will be a delicate balance!

Now that all that has all been said!

I discovered this painting back in December when I was browsing and fell in love. It’s from my favorite time period, it’s red, it has super huge sleeves and a hat. It also requires a large amount of embroidery, which made the project easier to justify (even though it kind of looks a lot like things I’ve made in the past).

If you are unfamiliar with the painting, this is it.

This first post is going to be about making the dress, then later on i’ll post about the chemise. This was an odd project since the chemise collar needed to be made before I could create the dress, but the dress needed to be finished before the chemise was made.

The collar was key in drafting this garment, since it provided the basic neckline shape.

I used cotton as usual to drape my pattern, this was slightly tricky since I wanted a three piece pattern, but with a lot of stretching and pinning I managed. I didn’t trim away the excess fabric since I was terrified of cutting the collar by mistake.




 When it was removed from the dress form, it looked like this.


I turned that into a paper pattern, which had to be altered a bit because it was large in the bust.


 I cut my pattern out from velvet and lining material, and marked out all the boning channels.



Then I began folding strips of velvet and pinning them in place to serve as boning channels. Looking back on it I should have used a canvas or twill to support the boning, but my priority at this point was keeping the garment really lightweight.



Then they all got sewn down and boning was inserted.

These probably won’t be practical long term but oh my gosh this garment is so comfy because you feel the fluffy velvet instead of the bones again your skin.

DSC_7453I set this aside for a bit and began work on the outer bodice. After the shoulder seams were sewn together my next step was making and attaching piping.

I wanted the gold on this costume to be a really specific shade, in the 16th century there wasn’t really gold fabric (aside from brocades or embroidery). It was either pale yellow or almost orange, in this case it looks like a deep mustard color which I wasn’t fond of at all. So I opted for a pale yellow.

I used a layer of my lining fabric and organza to get this effect. I also pre-wrapped my cord in flannel to avoid the rope texture showing through.


After the piping was made I very carefully stitched around the bodice neckline to create a finished edge I repeated this process on the bodice hem and arm holes as well.


Then the piping was pinned in place and sewed on by hand.



The next step was pinning in the lining. This went really, really badly. It was too big, it had stretched, it was too long…it was just a mess. I finally got it pinned so it fit but the end result looked horrible. I ended up just going with it, but i’m really unhappy with how the interior of this costume looks.


After that was done I embroidered eyelets in and tried it on for the first time! It was at this point I realized where my mock up had a fair amount of stretch, velvet does not. It had nearly four inches of skin showing in the back!


I ended up adding a “modesty panel” in the back, but it was more like an extra panel since the skirt was sewed on to the panel as well.


Once those were added I tried it on again and everything was good. It’s not as pretty as I would have liked it to be, and the interior is a bit of a mess. But i’m really happy with how the outside looks, so I can’t complain too much!

Thanks for reading!


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Progress Report: July 2014

Today I’m posting something a little different.

I had a very productive week.I made a bodice, a skirt, hemmed a skirt, sewed on seven yards of trim, added boning to a bodice, made two mock ups, drafted two patterns, and so on…

It was successful, but the success was spread out over a half dozen projects so I don’t have enough content for a single “The Making of” post. I used to work on several projects simultaneously with great success, but this week I learned it’s a method that no longer works for me. I like being focused on a single costume, things get done so much faster, my studio stays cleaner, and at the end of a week I not only feel like I accomplished something, but I have visual proof too.

I’ve decided to pack a few of these projects away for the time being, and focus on finishing them one at a time, because right now i’m really overwhelmed.

Even though these projects are going to be set aside for a few weeks, I have every intention of finishing them all. So I thought I would create a post about whats in my workroom, with a few teaser pictures of projects to come, as well as some photos of things I’ve finished but didn’t document well enough to blog about.

Depending on how well this goes, I may do something similar monthly or bi-monthly with teasers, sketches, recent purchases, and life updates all crammed into one.

The project i’ve had going on for the longest is a set of stays. I started these over six weeks ago and got them over 50% done, but haven’t managed to finish them off. They have all the bones in place, bound edges, and eyelets, but none of the pieces are together just yet.



Once I get the stays finished off (which at this rate, won’t be happening anytime soon) I’d like to being work on a Robe a L’anglaise. I already have the bodice drafted and the underskirt cut out, so technically this is in progress, but I need to buy some ribbon and organza before I can properly get to work.


Sticking to the 18th century theme, a project I recently finished is a set of pocket hoops to go with my Dewdrop Series dress. These were more challenging then I had expected but I really love the end result! I drafted the pattern myself but referenced Norah Waughs “Corsets and Crinolines” book to get an idea of the shapes.

These were made from cotton with hooping wire to keep the shape.

(Pardon the messy studio)


Another thing I finished was a hat and eyepatch! These were made to go with my Pretty Pirate costume. I started on these last October, but the weather became too cold to photograph the costume, so I lost the drive to actually finish it until now.

The hat is made from felt weight interfacing, covered in a cream brocade, with a satin faced lining. The edges are bound in ivory linen and the whole thing is decorated with feathers and a chiffon applique.

DSC_7347The eyepatch is made from heavy interfacing as well, and covered in the same fabrics.

Photo on 6-29-14 at 3.28 PM #2

My most challenging work in progress, and the one i’ve chosen to focus on for the time being is re creating the painting Joanna of Aragon by Raphael I’m making a few changes to improve it’s appearance in real life, like using off white materials and lighter gold tones to give the appearance of age. But for the most part i’m trying to make it recognizable.

I’ve gotten quite a lot done, including the most difficult aspect – the very detailed, hand beaded and embroidered collar!



A project that I will definitely be packing away is this tulle and lace wedding gown idea. I actually began drafting this pattern a few weeks ago, but set it aside when I was asked to design the dress collection. I’ve worked on it a bit throughout the last week, including cutting out the bodice and getting half the boning channels done.

There is still just a ton to do, and it will take so much space to make that I think this is best left alone until I have a cleaner workroom!


The lace was actually sent to me as a gift and I really, really, adore it. Whenever I Get around to making this it will be the real focus of the dress.


A few days ago I began work on a companion piece to my Dewdrop dress. I wanted to make a similar, more modern design from my left over fabric. It would have a lot of similar traits to the original, but be much sleeker in cut and style. So far all i’ve done is draft the pattern – and i’m not sure if it will ever move beyond that.


My last W.I.P is an empire waisted Regency gown. It’s made from bridal satin and chiffon, with gold lace and ivory pearls to create details. It’s a much less elaborate version of something I would like to make in the future, I guess you could say it’s a practice piece, though I think the end result will be pretty lovely!

So far everything is drafted and the skirt is sewn, hemmed, and decorated with the trim.


Now for a future project – which I shouldn’t even be thinking about with all I have in progress. Michaels was having a 40% off sale and I bought 40some sprigs of flowers, which is around 200 blossoms in total! I want to add these to the hem of a dress, and make a corseted bodice from tulle and organza. I’m honestly not sure it’s possible, but I would really like to try.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 1.46.10 PM

So that’s that! Lot’s of stuff in the works.

Thanks for reading!


Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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