Golden Seamstress Challenge, April 2017

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In February, a local SCA group hosted an event called the Golden Seamstress Challenge. The challenge was to create a full outfit, skin to shell, in about 20 hours. I had a crazy idea and recruited other seamstresses enter this … Continue reading

15th Century Florentine Gamurra & Cioppa (Part 2)

(Continued from part 1)

The skirt was made of all the remaining fabric. I took the 5 yard long rectangle of fabric and cartridge pleated it into place. I love cartridge pleating. It’s so soothing. When I cartridge pleat, I simply fold over the top by a couple of inches and pleat the doubled fabric. The hem was hem-stitched and then I had a dress! Well, a dress with one sleeve.

Picture taken night before deput event

Picture taken night before deput event

But at this point, I was able to make sure the cioppa bodice fit over the gamurra. It did. I then had to decide how to attach the cioppa skirt to the bodice. This had been bugging me for a while as the blue skirt in “Resurrection of the Boy” does not look, to me, like cartridge pleating, knife pleating or box pleating, the types of pleating known to be in use at the time. To my eye, the folds of the skirt and shadows looked like rolled pleats, which isn’t one of the three types mentioned above.

resurrection of the boy

I could not find any mention of rolled pleats in use during the late 15th century, or even the beginning of the 15th century. I have no idea when rolled pleats were first used, but there are many images that look quite similar to the appearance of rolled pleats.

Portrait of a Man and a Woman at a Casement, Filippo Lippi, 1440.

Portrait of a Man and a Woman at a Casement, Filippo Lippi, 1440.

I decided to try rolled pleats and see if they looked like the painting. My goal was to recreate the appearance of a painting, and I did my best to achieve that goal, even if I had to cheat to get the proper look.

The skirt of the cioppa was again the remainder of the fabric, approximately 6 yards. I had sewed the skirt together with a French seam, doubled over the top, stitched in a felt strip for extra padding, repeated for the lining, then put it aside for several months until I reached this point. I didn’t want to attached the skirt of the cioppa until I had done so with the gamurra, in case it didn’t hang properly.

I began by using a BBQ fork (large 2 tined metal fork) to roll pleat the fabric. This is how it works: you slide the fabric between the two tines and twist. One turn will achieve a knife pleat, multiple turns will achieve a rolled pleat.

The pleats were way too big and using way too little material. I unstitched the felt strip and got a better result. After attaching the whole of the skirt, I decided that the pleats looked too big, not like the portrait, so I took it all apart. I tried repleating with the fork, but finally I decided to try a pair of pliers laying about nearby. This was harder to do, as it didn’t have nice straight sides like the fork did, but I was able to carefully create rolled pleats by turning the pliers 3 times in the front and 4 times in the back.

I then stitched the pleats to the bodice, sewing through the part of the pleat closest to the bodice with DMC perle cotton, then through the entire pleat to hold it in place permanently. This was much closer to the painting than the first try, however the pleats were opening up in the front. So I threaded more perle cotton and ran a permanent thread discreetly through the rolls about 4 inches from the top to keep them in place.

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Now I had two dresses both needing a sleeve or two. I used the same basic pattern as the gamurra sleeve and just barely eked out the two sleeves from some scrap from the cioppa.  I had to widen the wrist to be able to scrunch the sleeve above my elbow, similar to the inspiration painting.

Once the sleeves were finished I had to hem all 6 yards of fabric. My mom marked the hem while I was wearing camicia, gamurra and cioppa, leaving a train in the back. I hemstitched both the lining and the shell fabric seperately, to allow the lining to act similarly to a petticoat.

As a break from sewing the hem, I finished the gamurra sleeve. Finally, around 2 AM the night before St Eligius, I stopped sewing. Note that I did not say “finished sewing”. Nope, the last yard or so was finished in the morning, on the way to the event, like any good project is meant to be finished. :)

While I was feverishly sewing, my boyfriend kindly beaded my belt for me, my final piece in the puzzle. The belt was made from stretch bracelets, taken apart and restrung on wire. I chose these because of the triangular shape, which appeared to be similar to the triangular “reflections” in the girl’s belt in my inspiration piece.

The belt turned out a little big, and the cioppa adjusted my posture to a proper position that I am wholly unused to, but the dress fit great and looked wonderful. Everything was finished in time for St Eligius and I received nice feedback during the event.

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Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Ysemay Sterling

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Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Ysemay Sterling

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Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Bifrost Studios

 

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Brown, David Alan. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra De’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women;. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, & Fine Clothing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.

Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981. Print.