Fall Wedding #2: Italian Renaissance

This summer I was hired to create garments for two very different wedding parties. This group was something out of the ordinary for most bridal parties so of course I jumped on it.

The Wedding Party. Bride's Gown and Bridesmaid Gowns by HLB.

The Wedding Party. Bride’s Gown and Bridesmaid Gowns by HLB.

I built the bride’s c. 1490s gown from scratch, including pattern drafting. There didn’t seem to be much out there on the web for info regarding internal construction, but my general knowledge of costume history and underpinnings allowed me to design a functional garment. The style is a bodice that stops at the under bust. Since this was a modern interpretation and for ease of wear, I did not build a separate corset but boned the bodice and used stiff interfacing to achieve the desired look. The outer gown is rayon velvet (one of the hardest fabrics to photograph!) with a false (half) underskirt in black suiting fabric.

Italian Renaissance Bridal Gown by HLB.

Italian Renaissance Bridal Gown by HLB.

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Italian Renaissance Bridal Gown by HLB

My favourite part of this style of gown is the back. I love the look of the lacing and the back pleats, and how they are quite flattering on everyone.

Italian renaissance Bridal Gown: back view.

Italian Renaissance Bridal Gown: back view.

The bride wore a separate chemise underneath made from cotton that is washable.

Bride's Chemise

Bride’s Chemise

Bride's chemise sleeve detail.

Bride’s chemise sleeve detail.

The front of the bodice has a faux centre panel with metal buttons and silver trim.

Bride's gown: front detail.

Bride’s gown: front detail.

The sleeves are open on the outside seam and tacked with buttons. This design feature was inspired by Marguarite’s velvet gown in Ever After.

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Italian Renaissance Wedding Gown button tacked sleeve.

Still from Ever After (1998) Costume Design by Jenny Beavan

Still from Ever After (1998) Costume Design by Jenny Beavan

The sleeves are also laced on and are completely removable! The idea being that she could remove the sleeves and possibly her chemise at the reception to stay cool.

Bride's Gown with over sleeves removed.

Bride’s Gown with over sleeves removed.

Bride's dress back view (without over sleeves).

Bride’s Gown:Back View (without over sleeves).

Back lacing detail.

Back lacing detail.

This was one of the first projects that I got to use my new rubber stamp.

Custom tag.

Custom tag.

For the tag I stamped my logo onto muslin using screen printing ink and hand painted special embellishments. I am a sucker for details and like including things like this that are just for the wearer.

In addition to the bridal gown, I also designed and constructed 5 bridesmaid dresses including the ‘junior bridesmaid’ who was the bride’s 11 year old daughter. For these dresses, I tried to compliment the bride’s gown, choose less fussy/easy care fabrics (especially as these gowns will go on to a life as rentals) while keeping with the historical look. The bodices are made from faux dupioni silk with built in sleeve puffs to negate the need for separate chemises. The skirts are a grey heathered suiting that hangs nicely and does not wrinkle easily. Each of the 4 main bridesmaids has a slightly different trim pattern at the centre front, and the junior bridesmaid’s trim is the same silver braid as her mother’s dress.

Bridesmaid dress 1 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

Bridesmaid dress 1 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

Italian Renaissance Bridesmaid Gowns: Back View.

Italian Renaissance Bridesmaid Gowns: Back View.

Bridesmaid dress 2 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

Bridesmaid dress 2 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

All are laced in the back, with a modesty panel so that they can be adjustable to different bodies in the future.

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Bridesmaid Gown: Back Detail.

Bridesmaid dress 3 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

Bridesmaid dress 3 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

Bridesmaid dress 4 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

Bridesmaid dress 4 of 5 by Heather Lee Bea

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Shoulder extension detail.

Bridesmaid dress 5 of 5 (Junior Bridesmaid) by Heather Lee Bea

Bridesmaid dress 5 of 5 (Junior Bridesmaid) by Heather Lee Bea

The general design of all of the gowns was relatively straightforward, but there were lots of pieces and steps to complete each one. I’ve wanted to explore this style era for awhile and was glad to have the chance to build gowns like these. I’m taking a break from multiples though!

~ Heather

2 Responses to Fall Wedding #2: Italian Renaissance

  1. Abbey says:

    First of all, gorgeous work! How oh how did you make the bride’s sleeves (if you don’t mind sharing)? I have been searching for months to try to find some kind of instructions or a pattern or even a pattern that could be modified to make sleeves like those, and have had absolutely no luck. I am making an Italian Renaissance gown for a Renaissance Fair and have thus far drafted a pattern for the bodice and skirt. Any hints would be greatly appreciated!

    • Heather Lee Bea says:

      Hi Abbey,

      Thanks. Bride’s velvet sleeves pretty straightforward. It’s pretty much a standard wide shirt sleeve but with the underarm seam moved to the outside as the split (instead of a hump in the middle, there’s a dip along the top edge if that makes sense). I cut one of outer and one of lining and stitched them right sides together with a gap for turning then tacked the split at intervals and added decorative buttons.

      I found that there’s not a whole lot of info on the construction of Ren gowns so I had to make it up based on my knowledge of historical costume and educated guesses!

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