The Renaissance Winter Princess, Part 1

Bodice and Sleeves

This dress actually started with me planning to a Red Queen outfit, as I am ever so slightly obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. However, after searching the fabric store high and low, there was no good Red Queen fabric to be found that wasn’t a shiny or reminiscent of ketchup. So, after a moment of frustration, I decided it was time for a plan change, and my mother and I brainstormed for a while, until finally the idea of dresses based on the seasons that were based on royal and noble dresses from history became our focus. And, when we found a beautiful white brocade, it was decided that winter definitely had to go first.

After purchasing various trims and fabrics, we headed home, and I promptly spread out on the floor, surrounded myself with history books – the kind filled with portraits – fabrics, trims, and (of course) an internet connection. After scouring these, and spending a lot of time staring at the fabric I had and picturing if I had enough, the Renaissance Winter Princess was born (which, before I continue, is renaissance inspired, and definitely not completely accurate. Or even a bit accurate. As a period that spanned 3 centuries, there were lots of ideas and styles to pull from, and this dress will likely end up a mix of many, with some outside influences as well).


I modified a bodice pattern I had, and began by sewing together the bodice pieces with a lot of extra room in the front panel and two back panels. The front needed this extra fabric so it could later be cut open, hemmed, and turned into a corset front, while the back needed it so I would be able to create a heavy hem for a zip to go on. Because of this extra room in the pieces, it started out looking like an ugly sack.


The bodice pieces was sewn together (there were 7) and after it was done, I made the lining in the same way. Then, it was time to start on the boning. This was something I had never done before, and so I was very nervous to even cut the boning from its roll, in case I messed up. However, I did, and then pinned the casings and removed the bonings to flatten under books for the night (a very high-tech way to do it).


The next morning, I sewed on all the little chambers, and boiled the boning in hot water and flattened it for another five minutes, to get it as straight as possible. It was then sewn up as one end, and rounded at the other. Next, I sewed the lining to the to the outside bodice, and did the heavy hem. I then sewed the lining and bodice together at the bottom and sleeves, but left the raw edges out – the ones on the armholes would be hidden when it came to the sleeves, and the ones of the bottom when I attached the skirt. This way, they still retained their shape and length, but it would prevent some fraying until they were attached.

After the lining was attached, I basted the back together to imitate how tight it would be when the zip was put in, so I could fit it properly at the front. I then marked a line, and cut the front open down the middle.


I then pinned and fitted this while wearing it, to get the size right. I let it be a little tight, so that the corset would give a good shape.


Next, came putting in all the eyelets. Although this wasn’t difficult, there were a lot of them, and after getting only halfway through one side, my hand was already killing me. I had made the hem at the front quite thick so the eyelets would be sturdy, but it also made piercing them a lot more difficult.


However, after about an hour and half, it was done, and time to fit it. I threaded it with cord, but didn’t pull it as tightly as I will when it is actually worn, since the back was still just basted with cheap thread, and I didn’t want to risk tearing it but pulling the corset properly. Instead, I did it just tightly enough that I could see  if it fit, which if why it is a little bumped and bunched in the photo.


Then, I trimmed the cord, burning the ends to seal them and covering them in nail polish. After that, it was time for the sleeves!

These sleeves were painfully boring and annoying. Each pane was hand-cut, interfaced, and then the edges sewn. This was done while marathoning the Tudors on Netflix, to stop me going completely nuts. However, they turned out well, and after gathering  them down by hand, I felt pretty good about them (although I feel like if I ever do them again, they’ll be a lot nicer).


Next came the long part of the sleeves. Little did I know at the time, but these would become the bane of my existence very quickly. I first started with a design of a 4-puff sleeve, and drafted out the pattern. My mock up looked fine, so I cut out one sleeve from the real fabric (still a little hesitant, which was possibly a premonition of what was to come), and began sewing.

And then I tried it on, and almost screamed. For a reason I’m still not completely sure of (since my mock-up worked fine and well), the sleeve was too tight, too short, not gathered enough, and wouldn’t sit right. At this point, I threw it into the trash and gave up for the night, without taking any photos.

The next day, I came back to it, after spending half the night redesigning the sleeves in my head. Frustrated, I redrafted the pattern, and made a mock up, which turned out well. Next came the real thing.


Luckily, these sleeves turned out ok. I didn’t love them (and still don’t), but they work, and I think when it comes time to apply trims, sparkles, and rhinestones, they’ll end up looking pretty good. I handsewed them onto the puffs, managing not to injure myself too badly. For some of the especially thick sections, I used pliers to pull the needle through.


I then fumbled around with pinning the sleeves onto the bodice, trying to get them perfect. They looked pretty good just lying there, though, so I was happy!


After sewing them both on, I made a few final adjustments and got ready to try the whole thing on. I actually ran out of the right color thread just after finishing the sleeves, so I was not going to be able to make any adjustments until I could go get more. Grabbing the corset cord, I did up the front (which looks a little big in the photos, excuse that, it’s because the back is loose and my basting that’s holding it together until I put the zip in is coming undone).


Excusing the weird face, I don’t think they look too shabby! They definitely aren’t my favorite sleeve, and they are nothing like I originally planned, but they work, and I think when I decorate them they’ll look better. My final order of trims just shipped out, so hopefully they’ll be here soon! There’s still the skirt, headdress, and all the details and etc to do, but I’m just glad the Evil Sleeves are done. I spent far too much time on them for my liking, and although I’m still not loving them, I am at the point where I don’t really have the drive to fix them. Maybe one day, when we don’t hate each other.



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