Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reticella reticence

I've been staring at vintage lace all day trying to make myself cut into it. I bought a table runner with some staining and broken brides with the intention of upcycling it and now I'm having second thoughts. I know that the linen is only from the 1930-50's but cutting into something someone spent so much time making is rather agonizing. I was actually disappointed that it was in better shape than the auction described.

I also have about 6 yards of edging that is going to be soaked and sunned to see if it will approach white again. Then I can agonize over whether it will be part of the camicia, the apron, or if I have enough for the ruff. And I can feel guilty about plans to cut it too.

But, back to my table runner. The plan for it is to turn it into a stomacher (for lack of a better word.) In looking at several of the open front Venetian gowns, there is something going on in the V that looks either like lace or embroidery. It is especially evident in this Montemezzano.

There's no denying that that is a lace overlay covering either a red undergarment, possibly a stomach band, or a red insert. There are several others that are not as visibly lace but certainly have the same look.  Veronese's "Lady with a Heron" and the super yummy seashell ultimate extreme dress, Veronese's "Woman Holding Gloves," both have something that sure looks lacey-ish. While these don't have the falling ruff and shoulder ruffs I want for my dress, there are some woodcuts that seem to have something other than plain white camicia happening in the open front, so I'm hoping I'm not mixing up decades too much.

The other plan for the table runner is to make some cuffs. This is probably my Russian persona showing, but the thought of just taking lace on to the bottom of the sleeves, as I've seen many recreations of dresses do, has never set well with me. Cuffs and collars are ornate, removable, interchangable and very much separate in my world. Therefore, I was beyond thrilled when I came across this pair of 16th century Italian lace cuffs at the Met. (Thanks to Ashan Ekins and her Pinterest board.)

In looking at a variety of portraits, many of the straight sleeves for the open front gowns have buttons along the lower arm. I rather like the idea of delicate buttons on sleeves and on lace cuffs. We'll see how they go and if they're more bother than they are worth. I'm certainly going to be doing buttonhole stitches for the next little while as a fix brides, create new edges for old lace, and make little button loops. Should be fun.

Just to prove that I actually have gotten a few things done, here's a look at my new necklace. It's just a strung selection of goldtone beads and a rather interesting blue jasper with gold veining. Many of the open front Venetian gowns have 2 or three graduated necklaces. There is the ever present pearl choker, sometimes a medium one and then a longer one with a large pendant either free hanging or pinned to the open lacing (or closed bodice depending.) The majority are either pearls or gold chain, but there were a couple of woodcuts and a few paintings that seem to show something other than that. This is sort of loosely based on Moroni's Portrait of Isotta Brembati.   Hers has the colored stones and rice shaped gold. I had the seashelly flourishes that I substituted for plain rounds. The pendant isn't as large as I would have preferred, but it matched. I've got some silk ribbon I'm going to use for bows on some earrings and I am considering making a little bow brooch for use to pin the necklace onto the bodice like Isotta's.


  1. If you can't bear to cut it, check this out:

  2. Very nice. I think I've talked myself into chopping it up. Just have to get the cuffs sized correctly and make sure my stomacher is going to be the right size. Did the mockup of my stays so I can draft the bodice and determine how open I want it.

  3. Just because I can be kinda evil at times I have to mention that my first idea for your lace piece was to cut the center piece out of the outer frame, use the frame for the neckline of a camicia, and the rest for the lace panel on the bodice, cuffs, etc....

    It's so close to perfect already!

  4. Oh, and about the cutting, I share your distress every time I consider doing such a thing but if my only options are to cut it or to put it back in the dark somewhere I just keep telling myself "it was made to be used. It *wants* to be seen. Don't just lock it up in a box to die a slow, dank, musty death! Let it LIVE!"

    And then I sometimes wrap it back up to wait for the "perfect" project.



    I support you!

  5. I've considered using the outer bit for the camicia as well and depending on how much work it takes to fix the brides on the edges, it probably will end up there. I want to make sure to use as much of the lace as possible.