Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Renaissance Dialectic History Presentation

 About 30 minutes before our company was due to arrive, I encountered a major mishap in attempting to put on my Elizabethan gown.  Because I did not use grommets to facilitate in the lacing of the gown, I found it absolutely impossible to thread the lacing through the tiny holes while wearing it, though I could manage with it off. But how to put it on while the lacing was threaded through the holes?  My husband attempted to help me. 

To save time, I told my husband that the lacing works like our shoes:  pull out the lacing enough to slip the foot through, but not so much to have to redo all the lacing.  So we did that with the bodice.  He tried to slip it over my head but I got stuck!  I started to suffocate!  Feeling a bit panicked I insisted he completely unlace it.  He did. 
Relieved at breathing air, I put the gown on.  Now all he had to do was relace it.  We were back to square one. Because there were no grommets, the lacing did not fit through the itty bitty holes.  Sigh.  I told him to go down to the pantry where I keep my sewing box.  Hours later it seemed, after my extended family arrived, and I had redone what I could of my messed up hair, my husband returned.  He works extremely methodically, precisely, patiently...and s-l-o-w-l-y.  I told him to get the tapestry needles out.  Now he couldn't get the lacing through the big eyes of the tapestry needles. But, he had a plan! He got his lighter that he uses to burn off spare threads from his military uniforms and proceeded to burn off the edges of the lacing.  Panic in my heart ensued again!  I've heard ladies of this era catching fire!  If my gown catches fire, how will I ever get out of it?  Oh that's right, Stop! Drop! Roll!  That is, if I can move that quickly!  Well, long story short, my husband wasn't able to lace the needles even with the edges burned.  I sent him down for packing tape to wrap around the ends to keep them from fraying.  In the meantime, a l-o-n-g meantime, I snipped off the burnt ends, because the heat melted the lacing and caused it to bump out, preventing it from ever fitting into the eye of the needle.  By the time he returned, I had managed to thread one of the needles, while reaching around the side.  Remember, I am wearing the dress while I am doing this.  Sheesh!  The things a queen has to do to get dressed!  No wonder the queen was apt to send people to the tower! 

My husband eventually got the other needle threaded with the other side of the lacing and laced me up, only to get the sides uneven.  I explained to him I could not be a lopsided queen.   He told me I was getting a bit "queenie" in my attitude!  I had to bite my tongue before I told him he should try standing around for an hour attempting to get dressed.

Finally, I was laced up, a bit rumpled in hair style and spirit, but it was time to get the show on the road!  

Here are some of the books that we read for the last several weeks. Studying the Renaissance Era is full of lots of information!

Here are the children's major projects for the unit (which I kept simple due to the holidays and numerous contests they competed in).  Here are their Nature Journals and term papers on Leonardo da Vinci.

The queen and her royal subjects. (Everyone had a say in their costume fabrics and trims for their characters.)

The food!  The children and I decided it would be a lot of fun to get creative with the food.  Since we studied about exploration of the New World, and Queen Elizabeth had tried to establish colonies in the New World, why not let her taste some of the food from the New World?  We realized some of this may not be accurate.  But in our research, exactly on what day were the Europeans brave enough to eat the tomato?  We just decided to have fun with this. 

I remained seated while everyone helped themselves. (In this costume it is extremely difficult to navigate in the kitchen.) My husband brought me a sample of everything.  I waited to eat until everyone had their food and was seated and eating...and still alive!  My dad asked where my food taster was.  I told him that my royal subjects were my taste testers.  Since no one had keeled over, I figured it was safe to sample the food!  He got a good laugh over that! 

When I was presented with the food, I sort of stuck my nose up at it and asked, "What is this?  I've never seen food like this before."  My son answered, "My queen, this is a sample of food found in the New World.  Your kitchen staff has devised new recipes with these new foods."  I'd then ask questions about each item and the children would take turns telling me what it was and where it came from.

Then we talked about Leonardo da Vinci, based on their research on him.  Since he used to keep Nature Journals, they shared what they had been doing with theirs.

All of their pictures are of various angles of the back yard.  They shared how they learned more about detail by careful observation.  They also experimented with different artistic techniques such as perspective and light and shadow, just as the Renaissance artists did.

Then dd shared the artistic techniques Raphael used in "The School of Athens."  This helped us to understand the painting better.

Then ds shared how Titian used color in "The Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin".

After that, we talked about the Reformation and ended by singing, "A Mighty Fortress is our God" by Martin Luther.

Next we talked about Shakespeare.  DS recited from King Richard II.  

DD, who was dressed as Portia, gave the famous "Quality of Mercy" speech from Merchant of Venice.  

 Then ds shared who he was dressed up as.  He was D'Artagnon from "The Three Musketeers." (He insisted on being a ruffle-less D'Artagnon but I insisted that it was extremely French and quite period!) 

He then taught us what he had learned about fencing! "En garde!"

 The lunge...

Even Slipper Kitty got into the act. 

"Pussy cat, Pussy cat,

Where have you been?"

"I've been to London

 to visit the Queen."

"Pussy cat, Pussy cat,

What did you there?"

"I frightened a little mouse

under her chair."

As Slipper walked under my chair I caught her up for a picture!



  1. fantastic!!! I love that unit. You guys did a fabulous job! I love the costumes.



  2. Wonderful! Bravo! What fun! Im so glad your royal subjects were watching out for you and sampled the food first! God save the queen... *Ü*

    Thank you for sharing! I cant wait till unit 3 now! oh and you crazy? Never....


    Koinonia Academy

  3. Wow! That was an impressive lesson!

    Congrats on pulling it off.



  4. I'm impressed and inspired. My daughter just might go for something like this. But hopefully the costuming would go a little better. ; 0 I'm assuming you did the sewing? Right? It looks excellent!

  5. I just made the last anonymous comment and intended to say who I am. Sorry.

    Elizabeth Joy


  6. Your costumes are fantastic!!! Way to go :) That is one heck of a unit wind up. Your children will never forget it :)

    Blessings to you,


  7. WOW!!! What a presentation! I LOVE the costumes and the food and all that you did-very impressive! Did you make those costumes??

    GREAT job to the children and to you! Holly

  8. How in the world do you ever get all that done? You must be so thoroughly organized. I almost fell off my seat reading about you dressing room antics. Husbands are so helpful. : ) Your costumes are beautiful and you son is so dashing. He looks like he would be a natural D'Artagnon. Fantastic job. Can't wait to see what you'll be doing for your Colonial studies.

  9. Wow! You guys really go all out! The costumes are really beautiful. What a great way to top off a unit!

  10. I'm near speechless!

    Awesome costumes. Terrific food ideas. Wonderful observation of the art and times.


    Loved the pictures and your story!

  11. Fabulous pictures Laurie!! This looks like it was a huge success and so much fun! Yay for you all!! (you make a very lovely queen! But where was your crown?)



  12. That looks like a very fun unit, indeed! I am sorry about your near-death experience....even though it made me laugh!

  13. Your unit celebration was a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation to share in the fun. Wonderful and well done in spite of the difficultes aforehand! One never would have known what transpired backstage if you had not revealed it to us all.

  14. Great ideas! I'm going to bookmark your site so I can "borrow" some ideas for our history group's unit celebrations. Your costumes are inspirational!

  15. Thank you for your encouraging words, Alane! I'm glad you can get ideas here!

  16. I am so inspired by your unit celebrations! My kids and I try to dress up and do things similar, but I am at a loss for the Renaissance costumes. I do not sew and can't seem to find anything affordable. Any suggestions on how to simplify and still do something that is accurate?

  17. Do you sew? There are lots of costumes in modern pattern books in the costume section. You can also check e-bay...there are costumers for hire there. I've had friends who have gone that route. I'd even do a google search for them. Also you can check thrift stores and resale stores. A few years ago modern day dresses were cut with the same lines as a Renaissance type gown. Boys, like mine, can play Robin Hood or a knight and those costumes are easily found on the internet. There are lots of costume shops on the internet too. For the most historically accurate look, there are patterns available. To keep things simple, I look at lots of photos (google Renaissance images) and get an idea for the lines in the gowns and boy stuff. Then I start looking around for those same lines for our stuff if I'm not sewing.

    Update-I was thinking Medieval when I read Renaissance. This era was my most difficult to do. It
    took a lot of time but I sewed the costumes myselves. I wrote about
    the process I go through to sew my own costumes here or to find items,
    like my son's musketeer shirt in a ladie's store here...
    Again, you can find a seamstress to sew for you. I know some moms who do that. The ones I know of have gone through Ebay or done google searches.
    I sew 99% of all our costumes, so I'm not much help on alternatives.

  18. You are my heroine!!!! I would love to have studied history with such a master! Just brilliant (and courageous with what you had to endure to set it all up!)