The Second Annual

Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 15 to August 15,  2012

Hallie Larsen

Hallie Larsen
Arizona, USA

I am very much a novice overall and in particular Italian Renaissance, really just getting into sewing. Iíve always been a crafter and designed garb and costumes, but others would sew for me.

My Blog:

My outfit is inspired by the painting by Peter de Kempeneer (c1530) called Portrait of a Woman.

My layers:

1. camicia--white linen with hopefully embroidery
2. petticoat/underskirt--linen
3. dress--taffeta with gold braid trim
4. partlet--silk gauze with gimp trim

I had to work this weekend, but I did manage to cut four yards for the skirt and sewed the seam (backstitchóall of this will be hand-sewn as my machine is under about a foot of dust. I didnít want to destroy what seems to be a burgeoning ecosystem). Besides there is something soothing and friendly about hand-sewing. Now I need to decide on the gathering. I had contemplated trying cartridge pleats, but after some research, it sounds like knife and box pleats were favored during this period. I have enough of a natural bum roll to keep the skirt nice and full!

The fabric is beautiful, the color very rich. Butóas a taffetaóit is very slippery, all those yards sliding around as I tried to work on the seam. I used a cotton thread that was similar in color to the fabric, waxed by running the thread through my beeswax. That stuff smells so nice! Iím even using a brass needle that I found through a sutler in the UK who specializes in historic repros.

Layer 4: Partlet
In the portrait, the partlet appears to be one of the more simple types, similar to a scarf, placed around the neck and tucked into the front of the neckline. The inner edge is trimmed with a gold gimp. The fabric is very sheer, white, with gold stripes about two inches apart. A bit of extra fabric from the partlet spills over the dressí shoulders.

I have some very fine silk gauze with metallic stripes. The stripes are less than an inch apart, but it still has the feel of the partlet fabric in the portrait. I also have gold gimp, cotton from an older collection, which will do nicely. The fabric is only a 1/3 of a yard, so I may not be able to get the exact way the stripes run in the painting, but they should look right from the front, and since we canít see the back, the issue is moot.

I used waxed cotton thread to trim the partlet and roll the hem. The fineness of the fabric is a bit scary! While very soft, the silk has a bit of tooth, nice as it stays in place.

It looks good, but I wonít know if it works until I finish the dress.


It seems from the research that underskirts werenít used as much by the Italians during the early 16th century as their northern counterparts, probably due to the climate. But they were still used. I am tied between using linen or silk for the underskirt, both of which I have in my stash. It wonít show, at least not much, but I might want to use it when it would show. The linen is turquoise and the silk is a shiny gold. The former would sort of blend whereas the latter would go with the trim. Both would be cool, but the linen would probably hold up better.

Ok, after a lot of debate, Iíve cut the beautiful gold silk from my stash. I have been saving that material for so long it was tough to cut into it! I allowed 4 yards for the skirt. There is a decorative edging that I would like to preserve so I will need to be careful cutting the waistband.

This material is a fraying mess! I cut off one edge and set aside for the waistband. I sewed the ends together for the skirt seam, double it over to control the fraying.

I left about 6Ē at the top for a closure, rolling the edges with a hem stitch. I think I will do a box pleat to attach to the waistband, but I need to hang it first.

Didnít get a lot done this week with work and in-laws visiting from the U.K. But I did get started on my camicia. The camicia in the inspiration painting is only evident at neckline and wrists. It is obviously square-necked to match the dress, with either white work embroidery or lace. Iíll be working on the trim later. For the body of the camicia, I took inspiration from the images of extant camicie on Bellaís website, particularly plate 218.

So far, Iíve cut all my pieces from my lovely natural white 100% linen and roll hemmed many of the edges with white Egyptian cotton thread. Iíve just started to inset the hand-made (not by me!) cotton Cluny lace. This weekend will be old movies and insetting lace!


Worked on the overskirt today after hanging it forever. Hubby helped me level the skirt (as instructed in the Tudor Tailor) last night and I cut away the excess. Good thing there was no one to take a picture of the process!

After some math, I started to create my box pleats, using matching upholstery thread for strength.

Amazingly, they came out just perfectly. I think that the length of the skirt is not as long as I prefer, but I need to walk around without worrying too much about the hem.

Attaching the skirt to the waistband was easier than I thought it would be. I still need to find the brass hooks, but I am pleased even before I can iron the skirt to look nice!

Catching up! I finished the earrings for my outfit. I needed a bunch of real pearls so I bought inexpensive freshwater pearl earrings and ďharvestedĒ the pearlsówhich already had pendant settings.

Using gold plated jump rings, I attached the pearls to the previously made chandeliers. I then finished with the gold ring for the ears. I need to tighten up some of the silver wire, but I am pretty pleased with them.

Iíve also finished my petticoat/underskirt, except for waistband hooks (on order). I used softened box pleats to attach the skirt to the waistband. Hubby once again helped level the skirt. I had to do so at the top as there is a decorative hem already. It is a bit shorter than I like, but that will help the pretty silk to survive the dust.


I broke the sleeves down into upper and lower pieces, cutting them out separately. I made the straight lower sections by making tapered cylinders with rolled seams. The upper puffy sections I cut in an ogee shape, a yard long.

I created knife pleats along both longer sides, fitting them to the wider part of the lower sleeve, attaching them at the pleats. I will do the same at the top of the shoulder.

For the sleeves, I used both a running stitch with cotton thread, upholstery weight for stress points and all-purpose at the other points.

Over all, Iím pretty pleased with the sleeves! I made them loose to accommodate the camicia that I will wear underneath. Iím getting very close to using up the teal taffeta. Yikes!

Final Update

Almost finished, but just didnít quite make it! I threw everything on just to get pictures before hubby went to bed. First, the camicia, all together, but no lace or embroidery along the neck as planned. The petticoat is all finished. The dress needs to be pressed and I wanted to add a gold trim, particularly at the wrists, but pretty pleased with the overall look. The partlet is also finished but didnít make it into the picture. Iíll try tomorrow, but you can see the finished partlet in a picture from before. The hubby (aka cameraman) gave up on me.

Everything is hand-sewn, much of it back-stitched, some hem, whip, and straight stitches. I didnít line anything except for the bodice. Based on 1530s style, there isnít any boning in the bodice, just stiffened with the liningówhich is the same material.