The Second Annual

Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 15 to August 15,  2012

Kim Byrnes

Kim Byrnes
Western Australia

I'm an insane costumer who likes a challenge, just take a peek at my ongoing project!

Proposed outfit: Camicia, underdress, partlet and over-gown. I am leaning towards a gown in the style of the Eleanora of Toledo burial dress because I want to test drive the bodice pattern to use on the other Eleanora gown.

The dress I am working on is based on the Eleanora of Toledo burial dress and the 'Pisa' dress as illustrated in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. The shape of the dress is very similar to the black, white and gold Eleanor of Toledo gown that I have been working on for a while, and it seemed like a good opportunity to make a similar gown to test the fit and wear before I cut my other fabric. I'm working this project from the outside in because I want the camicia to sit very precisely along the neckline and also because I need to get someone to refit my standard bodice pattern to adjust the size and move the shoulders further out at the back of the arm.

After raiding my fabric and trim stash I discovered this beautiful blue and gold upholstery fabric which has been trimmed to create the hem detail. I am adding gold cord at the hem and edging the trim in a braid. The dress itself will be in a blue velveteen, which Spotlight just happened to have. I have cut and sewed the skirt and begun applying the trim by hand. There will probably be pearls added later.

The camicia will be made from a fine white fabric and edged in lace, which again was hidden in my stash. It may also receive some black-work along the neck edge.

The first weekend in June is always incredibly busy with our Pencampwr camping weekend, so I have been somewhat sidetracked with other projects. I have been busy working on my skirt, attaching trim and cord to the bottom edge and trim down the centre front. I was applying it by hand, but it was just taking way too long, so I cheated and used the sewing machine for the bulk of it, however am still finishing the hem by hand. I love the look of skirts with trains, but with a hem circumference of over 5m, they do tend to be time consuming. At the moment, the skirt is not sitting very well at all, but I expect a corded petticoat will help hold the skirts out properly.

I have refitted my bodice pattern with the help of a friend, as its just impossible to fit a side-back laced dress by ones self. So the bodice will be constructed next, finished off by hand then hand stitched to the skirt. The sleeves will follow afterwards.

As my machine is set up for embroidery at the moment, I will probably do all of the black-work for the chemise in the next few days as well.

I have prepared all of the black-work for the neckline of my chemise using a commercial pattern. The chemise has been cut and side and shoulder seams have been stitched up. I am currently gathering the neckline by hand. Next, the black-work and lace will be applied to the neckline, followed by the sleeves and cuffs. 

The top of the skirt has been lined with 100% wool felt, and the whole skirt has been lined with black calico to protect the train from damage. The bodice and lining has been cut and is waiting to be stitched together.

After that, just a simple case of putting it all together, adding some trim, making a corded petticoat, an underskirt and jewellery to finish it all off.

Final Update

As with many things in life, not everything went to plan over the life of the challenge, consequently many of the things I had planned did not quite make it to the final completion stage, almost, nearlyÖ.but no. But I guess this is better than last years attempt where I had to withdraw.

So where is everything at?

Underskirt: I have been working on a quilted underskirt, following the Elizabethan method of having decorative material on the front of the skirt and around the hem. It looks like it is going to hold the skirt out really nicely. But it still needs the hem finished off and some adjusting to the waistband.

Chemise: This should have been finished, but I forgot to take the lining I and pleated frill for the cuffs when I went sewing on Wednesday night, so it is just waiting for these to be finished.

I lost the beads I was going to use to finish a girdle, didnít get further than planning a partlet, so the accessory really didnít happen.

But the dress did get finished. I have used almost 10 m of blue velveteen for the dress. The bodice pattern fits rather nicely, even though the lacing I used was terrible to tighten. The skirt is perhaps an inch too long, so I will add a tuck in the skirt, which was quite common in the era. I am quite pleased with the drape and hang of the skirt and train. It is the first time I have padded a skirt waistband with felt, and I quite like the effect it gives. The sleeves, I often donít finish/make sleeves for my dresses, so I am reasonably pleased with these. I can see where they need to be laced further around the back of the arm, and they would look better with the right chemise being puffed out of the gaps, but they are OK. The trim worked quite well.

So aside from the numerous stabbed fingers, best laid plans gone astray and life just getting in the way, I had a ball and quite like my dress. Next year I am going to write up a project plan to keep everything on track.