Sposa Dantiscana, Take II

It’s been a couple of years since my last go at this dress, and I’ve learned a fair bit about late-period costume since then, and I’m starting to ease my way back into the SCA, and what better way to do that than by starting a giant, ambitious costuming project right before leaving for war?

So. This is my Pinterest board where I have been gathering visual notes. I see two different things going on in most of the illustrations and reconstructions, and the Sposa Dantiscana dress is somewhere between the two, and I’m not sure what I’m actually looking at, what the artist understood or intended, or what the original historical garment the drawing is based on looked like, but by golly, I’m going to give it a shot.

The Trachtenbuch illustration and the Wiegel illustration are both showing what’s pretty clearly four layers: a chemise and gown, both of fairly unremarkable early-16th-c cut; an apron; an opashen/overgown. That’s also what’s going on in the three modern reconstruction photographs. Now the opashen as such is a pretty distinctly Russian garment (although overgowns were of course worn all over Europe), but the last of the three reconstructions is described as Polish, and based on Trachtenbuch.

The pair of Danziger matron illustrations at the end are interesting, because they both, from two different sources, very clearly show a chemise and an apron and between them a simple gown – no overgown, but those opashen-style sleeves, near floor-length with an oval hole cut at the elbow to put the arm through (as opposed to the long-slit or fully open oversleeves we see in Western European dresses of the same era and later). The neckline on both of these illustrations is quite similar to a lot of both period illustrations and modern interpretations of kampfrau/working class German of the period, which fits with with a fairly western locale.

Then there’s the Sposa Dantiscana illustration. At a first glance it looks like the other Danziger illustrations, but clearly has both fitted sleeves and opashen-style oversleeves. The first time I tried making this dress, I interpreted this as a fitted-sleeve gown under a short, fitted, doublet-like coat with opashen-style sleeves. But now I think this is wrong, partly because I have not found anything else that is even slightly similar to that, and partly because the distribution of layers on the body just doesn’t work; it’s not a functional garment.

Instead, I’m working on two theories. The first is that the costume should include a full opashen, body and sleeves, but the illustrator has for whatever reason eliminated it.It’s an interesting idea on paper but not particularly useful.

The second is that the gown has two layers of sleeves, possibly both sewn in, possibly one or both pinned or laced in. This is not unknown; the Katharina zur Lippe gown (Nuremburg and a almost hundred years later, so I’m being very careful to draw equivalencies, nevertheless) has sewn-in undersleeves that may have been cut from another garment.

So for the sake of versatility, my current approach to this gown is:

  • chemise
  • creme satin sleeveless gown with a boat-shaped neckline and attached laces
  • creme satin undersleeves with lacing points
  • creme satin and black silk oversleeves with matching lacing points
  • black silk opashen with attached laces
  • creme silk apron with black embroidered decoration

So the gown can be worn alone with one or both set of sleeves, with the undersleeves and sleeveless opashen, or with the undersleeves and the opashen with oversleeves laced in.

I’m not at all sure this is the most garment-history-authentic approach, but it’s the approach that hits all the points for illustration-based reconstruction, and I think it will be both comfortable and gorgeous. The question of whether a Lithuanian woman would have worn any of this at that time is another one altogether, but illustrations of Lithuanian elite noble women of any period are damned few and far between, and Poland and Lithuania were one political unit at this time, so Polish dress is still persona-appropriate, and it’s distinctive enough not to be mistaken for Russian.

I’m telling myself that I have no deadline for this project, that it’s purely for fun and as time permits, but in the back of my head I’m thinking it might be nice to wear to Coronation in November.





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