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wardrobe5SmallIt has been a dream of mine to go to Venetian Carnival in costume, and finally I have that opportunity at the end of this month.  I have spent all of my free time during the last year preparing for this ‘bucket list’ trip. The clothing at Venetian Carnival balls is traditionally 18th century inspired. For this event I have been making all of the garments that my boyfriend and I will wear. At the time of writing I have four gowns, including all appropriate undergarments, outerwear (cloaks, mitts, etc.) and accessories. He, of course, will have the appropriate male garments. I only wish the due date for this contest was after my event, as I will have much better photos at that time! 

My entry is one of the dresses that I will be wearing as inspired by a favorite painting of mine: Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’.  I chose The Swing as my inspiration because it is a sensual painting that is in the spirit of Carnival: a woman is pushed on a swing by her husband, while her lover hides in the bushes watching her.  

I have learned so much throughout this journey and hope that you enjoy seeing the work that I have completed.  The three challenges that I found to be the biggest obstacles were time, fit, and remaking shoes.  In regards to time, while a year is a great amount of time for a project, I found that the scope of the project grew as I progressed.  In regards to fit, I unfortunately did not have anyone who could help me mark hems, check armscyes or fit bodices. I found my dressmaking form to be invaluable during this time. Finally, recovering of shoes, and having them look GOOD, was a very daunting task. As the shoes are in the forefront of this image, I knew that they had to be the perfect pair of romantic mules. I am quite pleased with how the shoes for this gown turned out, and even happier they will be ‘seen’ due to the higher hemline of the skirt.  


Costume pieces from the skin out


  • Chemise: 100% hand sewn, french seamed cotton chemise. 
  • Stockings, purchased
  • Garters: the border of a vintage sari with goldwork embroidery is hand sewn to grosgrain ribbon. The garters tie on in back and are clean finished on the reverse. I love how you can see her garter in the image and wanted to give a secret bit of color to an otherwise almost monochromatic costume
  • Stays: My stays are boned with cane and made of an unbleached cotton twill. The boning channels are sewn by machine, but all of the eyelets are worked by hand. 
  • Rump: I based the shape of the rump on a famous 18th century caricature. It gives just enough shape without looking like a 19th century bustle.
  • Quilted Silk Petticoat: The quilted petticoat is gathered at the waist to a silk waistband. I bought the silk ready-embroidered and -quilted and backed in in unbleached muslin.
  • Robe Anglaise: This is made of two silks: a solid and a textured stripe dupioni. The skirt is hemmed to a walking length and I have added flounces of hand-pinked trim all along the edge. The pinking was done with a pinking iron. The skirt is slit on both sides to allow me entry to my pockets (not shown). The bodice closes center front with hooks and eyes. I love how the pleats match up on the robe. There is ruffled hand pinked trim all around the neckline and the sleeves. The lace inset the sleeves is antique handmade lace and is incredibly beautiful in person. I added tapes inside to gather up the skirt en retrousseé. Both skirt and gown are lined in a pink cotton. Inside, stitching is done by machine due to timing, but all visible stitching is done by hand, including hand gathering trims and hemming. 
  • Parasol:  I found this vintage parasol at a estate sale and while it is not quite the perfect size, I think it works for the costume. I added hand punched trim and gold vintage tassels to the edges.
  • Neckerchief:  My neckerchief is completely hand sewn and based on a period shape with a slit in the back to make it fit better. It is made of Swiss lawn and edged in handmade tatting that I bought.
  • Miniature Portrait: Perhaps one of the most ‘fun’ little projects I got to make. The portrait is printed and painted with modge podge to give it texture. I bought the setting online and set my own rhinestones into it.  Then I added a pin bail and silk bow. Voilà! My new historical boyfriend. He’s quite the looker, if I do say so myself.
  • Shoes: These were by far the biggest challenge, but turned out to be my favorite part of the costume. They are a re-covered modern shoe. I found the shoe on an auction site, tore it apart, stripped it, recut the shape and built it back up. The Louis heels are covered in the softest pale cream colored leather. The front is covered in silk dupioni and trimmed with the perfect matching braid, gathered trim and silk covered buttons. All trims are sewn on as opposed to glued.

Check out Lauren's blog for more ~ See Instagram for more photos, including updates direct from Venice this week as Lauren enjoys Carnivale!


Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi
Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi
Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi Lauren Rossi





Love those shoes! shocked And that underwear... You will look great at that Venetian Carnival. I would love to see that costume together with the right hair style too. I suppose that will come up on your blog?
WOW. Lovely work all-around; the color and shapes and just...everything is very beautiful. Great job on the trim! Love the tiny portrait :D and the shoes are fabulous! I'd love to see it with a period hairstyle, as well :)
Thank you very much for the kind words on my work- as you know they make the effort all worthwhile

Unfortunately due to time and my "real job" I wasn't able to take these photos done up properly! But...

YES! I will be posting probably more pictures than anyone wants to see with all period hairstyles and accoutrements starting next Tuesday! I arrived in Venice for carnival today and have 4 gowns I will be wearing throughout the week to the many festivities

If you use Instagram - please add me. Virtuouscourtes an. It is much easier for me to update there than my blog while I am here. I also have detail shots of that costumes that I was unable to highlight in 10 photos.

Many thanks


Sorry. Error in name (this Is harder to do from my phone!).

Instagram : virtuouscourtes an

Also there is a direct link in original post


I love your gown, its trim and your accessories smile I've just started making one and have started a sewalong on facebook - your dress is being added to my links page immediately.
Last edited on 24.02.2014 10:16 by Rachel Midgley
What a stunning gown!! The striped silk is just gorgeous and so perfect for this period.

I think what really makes this dress special is all the details; the pinked trim, beautiful lace, miniature portrait, accessories - they all come together to create a fantastic costume that I'm sure will be the envy of many of your fellow carnival goers!

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