Laura (lauralorien) wrote in unlockd_closet,

Elizabethan-mess dress

Sorry for slightly spamming my f-list today but I have time today to update *wheee*

Original Portrait

A little while ago I had the stupid idea of making the dress from the portrait of Queen Elizabeth ~ The Pelican Portrait, the research of which can be seen here.

It soon became obvious that I could possibly make it, but it would mean me having to remortgage the house and probably admitting myself into a sanitorium by the end of it. Still, it was a nice idea while it lasted. I haven't given up entirely on the dress though, it would just mean me designing a dress which was loosely based on the Pelican dress.

I've kept most of the major elements of the dress only cutting costs by using a different fabric and leaving out the jewels and the most of embroidery. When I decided on using dupioni silk rather than velvet the colour changed also from crimson to a grey/blue. The hanging sleeves are still very much there though ~ Hurrah!

Basically it's a very stripped down version of the gown in the original portrait. I'm going to use this 54" dupioni silk in a shade called Robins Egg which is about £10 a yard. The scan of the design is much more sky blue than in reality and I was worried that I'd have to dye some white silk to achieve the right colour but thankfully this silk is the exact colour I was after (even though the picture on the site is a bit fuzzy).

Unfortunately I may have to dye a jacquard fabric for the forepart although I'm really tempted to just have a whole skirt and forgo the forepart altogether. I'd like to keep the dress as simple as possible and am worried that the forepart overcomplicates the effect.

The hanging sleeves are of the same silk as the dress but lined in a slightly darker in tone satin on the underside. I wanted to use a William Morris style knotwork design on the hanging sleeves on the silk side. Although the design should be embroidered which would be lovely, a lot of time and money would be saved if the design is painted on using a stencil, gutta and silk paints. I did something similar at college and Ninya Mikhalia used this method on a petticoat ~ here and the effect is quite impressive. The knotwork will be in a slightly darker shade to silk so hopefully it'll be quite subtle.

The images below show the knotwork design and how it links together in repetition.


I'm going to use a fine white cotton lawn for the partlet and separate sleeves. I might do a little whitework on the cuffs of the sleeves and the standing collar of the partlet to which a small ruff is attached. White cotton is to be pulled through the slashed areas (neckline, sleeve heads) and also to make a square necked smock (just seen on neckline).

I think that just about covers it. I'm going to start by making a new corset and farthingale I need to do more research into corsets for the period *drags Janet Arnold books out*. I also have a few reference pictures that I'd like to upload so I'll be scanning those in soon.


Cotton lawn descriptio and price from

Cotton lawn is a fabulously fine, sheer cotton fabric with a tight plain weave and a graceful drape. The finish may be soft or crisp. Not as stiff as cotton organdy. Lawn gets its name from Laon, France where it was first manufactured. Used to make baby clothes, lingerie, semi-fitted blouses and dresses. Sews easily, creases well.
Care: Machine wash, and dry.
Colors: White and prints.
Price: Cotton lawn: 45" wide, $13.95 - $20.00 per yard


Queen Eiizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd by Janet Arnold

Patterns for Women's Dress 1500-1800 by Jean Hunnisett

Tags: design, elizabethan
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