Crazy Yet Glorious Preparation For My First Venice Carnivale

Fitting, preparing and realizing a dream…….

I know I go on about age and time passing by, but more recently I am trying to fulfill lifelong dreams – or as some would say, ticking items off the “bucket list.” One of these is attending Venice Carnivale. This all started last summer with a kind invitation from friends in Verona to join them at the famed Il Ballo Del Doge (Doge Ball.)

“Il Ballo del Doge is not a simple masquerade party: it is the “ball” par excellence, the most luxurious among the Venice Carnival events and one of the most prestigious parties in the world.” You can read more about it here.  ( Their quote, not mine – let’s see, remembering I’m from the ‘show me’ state after all! )

Of course, from a design perspective, Venice, costumes, 17th and 18th century architecture and decor – I needed no encouragement, and it is all there for the picking. 

I had originally planned on four dresses (2 more than what I needed, but….typical designer)  and set out to find suitable fabrics. Boy was I surprised to see the price tag on all those I selected – around $400 a yard! I knew I could do better, so revisited my old haunts on Seventh Ave, and secured some marvelous finds at closer to $6 a yard. These have been combined with gold lace from my previous fashion days (discovered down in my basement), and between a dressmaker in Manhattan, and a costume maker in Verona (I will spare you the exhausting logistical details of these gowns), I now have costumes, ready for the events I’ll be attending. 

The designing of costumes is a lot of fun, the amazing sources of inspiration from the 18th century is fantastic. Originally I was going the purist route for the dresses but carnivale is more than exaggerated, so I took liberties. I need to mention though that the design is only a thought, it is the craft of draping and sewing that is the real magic. I found a fabulous lady to bring my design to life, Maria Marizilli, and shall do a post when I return on this amazing perfectionist and artist – what a talent! I have yet to see my Italian costumer – the first fitting is this week in Verona.

A close up of the beading and details still in fitting stage

A detail of the sleeve

A close up of the detailed work of the lacing in the back

Me with the the masterful Maria looking at?? something

My mask for this gown – made in Italy,  and I added the beading and the ornate jeweled butterfly


The second fitting of the gown – still with pins

These are just a part of the accessories for the 18th c. ballgown. All handmade by Maria!


The divine Casanova mask from Venice that I gave to Simon for Valentine’s Day – just what every guy wants…..

Above : my little quickie video giving the spirit to my upcoming adventure.

I promise to provide you with a full update, and many photos upon my return, and will be posting on Instagram throughout!


P.S. Just two days before my departure I went to a ceremony honoring my mentor, Oscar de la Renta. For all that he represented – his talent, sense of beauty, his humanity and elegance…and as  an immigrant that realized the American Dream, USPS has created 11 beautiful stamps – one with a wonderful image of the man and 10 more featuring elements of his design. The event was emceed by Anderson Cooper and three of his very close friends spoke : former  New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Vogue Editor Anna Wintour  and Secretary Hillary Clinton. It was quite a gathering and I was happy to be present for his honor.

Secretary Hillary Clinton speaking with great fondness of the man who dressed her throughout her Washington political career

92 thoughts on “Crazy Yet Glorious Preparation For My First Venice Carnivale

  1. Just fabulous Carolyne…it is like a Cinderella fantasy. And the best part is you don’t have to leave by midnight or risk leaving your glass slipper! Happy travels.

    • Hi Adrian, Just arrived yesterday in Verona and cannot post others through instagram or in the next post the in about 12 days I hope to have the whole thing best carolyne

      • Oh dear Carolyne, you MUST leave a glass slipper behind…such a fun touch to this fabulous storybook event! You look absolutely beautiful and I can hardly wait to see pictures of your other dresses!!!!

  2. Carolyne,

    Fabric and lace blows me away. Can I please send a picture of your design and Maria’s work to my friend Sarah in Berlin who worked in theater costume design and studied textile preservation in England. I’ll credit the image properly. Kiss the façade of Santa Maria della Salute for me. You might freeze your fanny off at carnival. – Virginia Billeaud Anderson

  3. I embellish antique linens with vintage beads, laces, etc. so this post was right “up my alley”. There is nothing like vintage trims, laces and appliques.Your attention to detail is astounding as is your wonderful dressmaker. You have made this lovely ball gown come alive with the special trims and jewels.Wish I could be in your pocket to see all of the extraordinary events at Venice Carnivale. This has to be my favorite of your many special and deeply appreciated posts.

  4. Absolutely gorgeous, Carolyne! There is no doubt…You will be the “Belle ” of the ball!

  5. Thank you for sharing something so elegant and unique!! I love the first photo; so stunning!!

    • Miss Duchess when do we get to see you just back from a few days in Charleston no aspen this year first time –in at least 20 years ! xox principesa

  6. Living vicariously – how on earth did you transport that gown, plus 3 more? Looking forward to all the details.

    • I purchased a couple of those hard cased suitcases and had Maria pack them professionally to avoid any damage….and thankfully, it worked! cr

  7. Oh, that dress is divine! I am wondering how on earth you are packing all this to get it over there?? The way they throw luggage around during travel nowadays has me curious as to your method. Also- what a marvelous find, your little costume couturier Maria! She is a jewel herself! Buon Viaggio! Divertiti!

    • Thank you Junie. You are right about the throwing around luggage, so this time I purchased some hard-case suitcases and had Maria pack them professionally. Thankfully, they arrived in one piece! cr

  8. Absolutely stunning. I look forward to the follow up post with details on the other dresses – the embellishment is just perfection.
    What a wonderful honour for Oscar de la Renta too. His designs and sense of style in all aspects of his life were impeccable, and the legacy he’s left by way of his company will hopefully continue for many generations to come

  9. How beautiful Carolyne. Omgosh, you said it was a dream and you weren’t kidding. Can’t wait to see what Simon is wearing. How fun. Enjoy yourself and document as much as you can for us to see okay. We can live vicariously through your photos. God bless you my dear and have a ball. Literally! xoxo

  10. Dear Carolyne,

    How glorious, I am so envious I could …………..!
    Now I know why you have been absent from posting. Too busy doing all these glamorous and exciting things. Good on you and thank you for sharing so we can enjoy them as well.
    Can’t wait to see more.

    Lots of love,
    Marie. 🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭

  11. How FUN!!!! I love your zest for life. By the way, you look spectacular, and I am sure that there are many women who love some insight into your health and beauty secrets for looking so absolutely fab —

  12. I was in Venice last week to attend Amour Forum, an event to discover the most romantic hotels in the world! We made masks for our masquerade ball!

    You will have so much fun! Cannot wait to see the pictures.

    P.S. On Instagram I asked, which city is more romantic Venice or Paris? I call it a tie. What do you think?

    • They are so different in my mind.. Paris the most beautiful and Venice the most romantic would be my vote. cr

    • Thank you. I purchased a couple of those indestructible, hard case suitcases, and had Maria pack them professionally to avoid any damage, cr

  13. How absolutely beautiful, you, your gown and those earrings! Can’t wait for your future posts showcasing your adventures.

  14. What an exquisite ball gown…I know you will have a fabulous time. Look forward to your further reports and pictures from Venice. Goodness I just realized it has been 54 years since I visited Venice, how time flies.

  15. How wonderful that life is gifting you the realization of such special items in your bucket list!!
    Your taste, as always, exquisite and befitting of the ocassion. Plus, your figure is amazing…that is why everything fits so well!!!
    You are a source of beauty and inspiration!!
    Keep us posted and, most of all: enjoy!!!

    • Many thanks Maria, and yes, I am very grateful to have these opportunities – and to have an audience to share the story with, cr

  16. I was thinking the same thing about the deets-architect Mies Van Der Rohe.
    The stamps honoring Oscar de la Renta is a wonderful idea.. Terribly sad too..that he’s gone…and in this brutal day and age he could possibly be deported for no reason.
    Have a wonderful time at Carneval The Fortuny museo is always worth a visit…

  17. Part 2: New book “Venetian Chic” by Francesca Possati. Foreword by Jeremy Irons. After reading your fabulous post, and responding, I noticed the above new book This is indeed a “Venice Week” Thanks for the post.

  18. How exciting! Your attention to detail is astounding and you’re beautiful in this gown. I can’t imagine how otherworldly this experience will be. We’ll look forward to hearing all about it. Brenda

  19. Just shows your talents as a designer are still there – does real talent ever go away?

    Simply beautiful! Enjoy yourself!

  20. Exquisite! You will be the Belle of the Ball! Thank you for sharing this journey in time. Enjoy the Magic!

  21. You are living one of my bucket list dreams. I have always wanted to go and photograph CARNIVALE. Have a wonderful time

  22. How exciting for you! This is truly a tick off the bucket list. Let’s talk about your gown – the fabric, the exquisite details and the fit – perfection. This is going to be a magical night.

  23. YOU LOOK STUNNING!I am THRILLED for your adventure……….what a DREAM come true!Please have a coffee for me whilst you take it ALL IN!
    As for stamps of OSCAR…………I will BUY them ALL in my little POST OFFICE!Headed that way today………….
    He was a GORGEOUS MAN from what I could see……….and you knew that first hand!

  24. What fun! You missed your era. You look stunning in all these photos. Can’t wait to see your success there in Venice.

  25. Enjoy this spectacular event! You will look terrific,as ever!
    Enjoy also the “Angel” flying over St Mark’s Square – each year a young woman is selected to ” fly”, with the aid of almost invisible wires, down from the heights of the tower, towards the ground.

  26. Carolyne – You are simply stunning. Hope your time there is everything you want it to be. I have a feeling that’s not in question. Wow !

  27. Hi Carolyne,
    Wish you have a wonderful trip and a happy carnivale experience. Eager to seeing more about it.
    No doubt you will be the most beautiful and successful Cinderella of the event.
    All the best.

    • Thank you Isabelle – I imagine there will be many, younger, beautiful Cinderellas, but it certainly won’t stop me enjoying it! cr

  28. Wonderful event that you will be part of in a very “hands-on” way, Carolyne! Loved that you obtained the $6.00 fabric. Treated appropriately no one could ever know;-) That’s what talent and a good eye can accomplish!! Can’t wait to hear all about the party and the people.

  29. You look exquisite. You are ageless. What is your secret? Also, the design is beyond gorgeous. Please post more photos of the whole trip. I would love to see the details of the event through your eyes. I am so happy for you!

    • Thank you Alexandra – I think it’s a very kind camera! I shall definitely post more about the ball when I return, cr

  30. The masks are the items for which the Carnival is well known. There is no historical reference for their use, but they began to be used when the wealthy members of society, known today as the 1%, and clergy began to attend the ball and had to hire their faces from other attendees, or face shame. I, too, loved Oscar de la Renta, a legal (minor detail for many) immigrant that made many women look much more feminine than they were. He learned to understand us from his good friend Cristobal, whose dresses are also as fresh today and when he and Mr. de la Renta made them. Enjoy the Carnival and, above all, those beautiful illusion masks.

  31. Thank you as always for sharing or giving credit to the artists you work with! Maria is a phenomenal dressmaker. I have read of artists on your blog that I would have not known about any other way. And this includes all of the ‘artists’ that work with you at your home, Weatherstone, I think it shows a generous heart.
    Have a wonderful time at Carnivale!

    • Thank you Betty – I will do anything I can to keep many of these art forms alive, and just love sharing other artist’s work and inspiration, cr

  32. Exquisite! I love seeing the details up close, and the work in progress.
    I hope someone as cultured as you also can dance–it’s the best way to enjoy a ball.

  33. Gorgeous dress! Reminds me of Sophia Magdalena of Denmark’s wedding dress which I saw in Stockholm.
    I have to ask which brand of suitcases you used as I’m in the market for a new set.

    • Hi Scarlett, thank you very much. The suitcases were a generic, hard case – there are so many of them around these days, cr

  34. Carolyne, I took out your book AT HOME today to lift my spirits on a cold winter afternoon. Then I thought to myself, “I’ll bet she has a website!” (Yes, I am a bit behind in some ways….) Lo and behold, here you are, and I am a new subscriber. Wish I had thought of this years ago! You have the most exquisite taste, and looking at your gorgeous designs makes me so very happy. Thank you!

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