Fall 2011

I’d been reading about curved-front opening/seam bodices for a bit, but it wasn’t until recently that it all finally clicked and made sense to me. I dropped everything to work on a curved & corded bodice of my own. This is the result! A dress of coral linen with yellow wool sleeves, in the style of the mid-late 16th century Italian working class famously depicted by Pietro Ronzelli, Vincenzo Campi, and Cesare Vecellio. I’m delighted to say that this ensemble placed fourth in Fabrics-store.com‘s 2011 Hallowe’en Costume Contest!

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The key to this style’s lovely silhouette comes from the construction of the bodice with a curved—rather than straight—center front (either an opening or a seam):

Instead of:

That built-in curve allows the bodice to fit snugly below the bustline and smoothly over the bust, and the addition of hemp cord for boning gives terrific, soft, and somewhat flexible support. And it’s cute.

That constitutes the gown’s working parts; the rest is just decoration! I had four yards of the coral linen in my stash; the skirt was whatever was left over after cutting the bodice, cartridge pleated to the finished bottom edge. I played around with various configurations for the guards. Initially I had planned to use the brown linen scraps from my Botticelli dress, but the linen was too slippery and squidgy to make good bias tape. (It will be fine to bind something with, but rubbish for applied stripes.) I ended up going with black cotton twill tape—the instant I laid it on the bodice, it was obvious why this is the classic look. It just works.

Unfortunately, I ran out of twill tape before I could guard the skirt. The sleeves were whipped up before a chilly morning out of the last remnants of yellow wool from my caraco. They’re just pinned in place, but my manservant found it challenging to get the pins secure and unobtrusive, so before it gets too much colder this fall, I need to decide on a permanent attachment method.

This is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite thing I’ve made. I love everything about it, from the color to the fit to the full frothy swishy skirts to the comfort of the curved/corded bodice to its awesome versatility. It can go from historically accurate country wife to fun, flirty fairwear with just a change of accessories.

Happily, as of Fall 2012, I have gotten the guards on the skirt! Again, I had other plans, but decided I liked a single band of 1″ twill tape best.

Oh! I lied. There is one thing about the dress I don’t like. Overly inspired by one of the Ronzelli paintings, I made the back neckline too wide and low, and the straps slip off my shoulders. I need to go in and fix that somehow (probably around the same time that I fix the sleeves and pigs grow wings!).


Look at that swish!


At KCRF in 2013 with cast member (and fellow RF.com member) Christina, in an overdose of peasant adorableness.