Back in March, I made a true to life mockup of the Eleonora di Toledo bodice, from Patterns of Fashion. This reconstruction was for multiple reasons: I wanted to see exactly how the dress was made, how the skirts were pleated, and all the little details that you need to experience to see how it works. Also, I had noticed in the past that my measurements are pretty close to Eleonora’s and I was curious if it would fit me. And it did!
di Toledo Bodice Front
di Toledo Bodice Back
di Toledo Right Side
di Toledo Left Side
It’s not perfect, but at least I could put it on! My next step was to scale up the pattern for the skirt and construct it. I was particularly interested to see how the top of the skirt worked, ie the pleats and the angled waistline.
This thing was insanely long! Eleonora was definitely an inch or two taller than me, and/or was wearing heeled shoes. The train would still have been REALLY long.
I then took the skirt back off to make the modifications to the bodice. There were a million of them, starting with the center front. It was too long for my body, so lowered the neckline and took a couple different test shots to determine where I wanted to shorten the waistline to.
I went with the middle option,;then it was on to narrowing the shoulder straps and solving the issue with the gap in the back. I redid the bodice a couple of times, adding another layer of muslin over the previous layers as each change required a new test cut.
Gap in back
Final mockup back
Final front mockup
Now that I had a bodice, I traced the pattern onto graph paper and began work on the skirt. I had the Eleonora di Toledo skirt pattern, but I wanted to cartridge pleat my skirt as seen in the “Red Pisa Gown”. The di Toledo skirt is designed for knife pleats, not cartridge pleats, but the best indication of the layout of the Pisa gown that I could get a hold of was from Katerina da Brescia’s article regarding Costume Colloquium held in Florence, Italy in 2008.
Red Pisa Dress Layout
I spent many an hour on the kitchen floor surrounded by pattern pieces on grid paper, markers and rulers before I finally figured out how to make everything work. It mostly involved guess work and shuffling pattern pieces around. I cut some the mockup skirt, cartridge pleated it to the bodice and thus had a finished mockup and custom pattern. I still had to make corrections to the pattern when I used the pattern later on.
Success! A custom pattern based on Eleonora di Toledo’s burial gown and the extant Pisa gown.