The Third Annual
Renaissance Costuming Challenge
April 14 to August 14, 2013
I have been playing in the SCA for just under 3 years now, and sewing for about 2 and a half of that –
it took some time but now I can’t seem to stop! I tend more towards hand-sewing, but that’s mainly because I have a bad habit of killing sewing machines...
I have recently began to lean towards the late 15thC and really want to start exploring the style – the IIRC seems a good excuse to stop my procrastination! My planned outfit will
be in the style of the clothing worn the tomb effigy of Beatrice d’Este.
It will consist of camicia, a dark red velvet gamurra, a
giornea in the Florentine style, and either a zibellino or beaded
reta. I can't quite seem to decide, but suspect it will come down to which I am happiest
| While I was originally going to make the dress for the local large camping event for my local SCA group,
I have realised that it's not going to happen. Instead, I am making it out of a deep navy velveteen I managed to score at Rowany Festival this year and will hopefully be wearing it to the Bal d'Anaela later this year.
For my layers, I have planed to make a
chemise (in a more period pattern than my current one), a gamurra after Beatrice d'Este's burial dress, a loose
giornea, and accessories, hopefully including a reta,
'flea-fur' and flag fan - especially the later as I have been procrastinating about making one for some time
The first few weeks have been spent gathering materials and very slowly constructing the
gamurra as this is likely to be the most time-consuming piece. I have come to the realisation that between this, the feast I am
'autocrating' (running) in July, and Real Life, the other layers will probably need to be at least partially machined.
I have decided to make the giornea out of a cream poly-cotton brocade and am tossing up lining it with some pretty purple habutai
(a pain to cut), black wool, or some deep red shot cotton-silk blend fabric which has a lovely stiffness to it.
Once I have the gamurra basically constructed I will be able to start work on the other layers as the
appliquéd gold-work will make it a lot less portable.
The last couple of weeks in May were spent mostly on other things! However, I did manage to get the main part of the chemise
constructed, patterned and made a mock-up of my giornea,
and the gamurra’s skirt is now one piece!
However, mundane events this week now mean I cannot afford to buy 120+meters of gold cording to couch down on the Gamurra and have led to a re-think of the outer layers. Basically, I now need to make something much
simpler. I am taking ‘The Betrothal’ and ‘St Justina of
Padua’ as reference points for the gamurra/giornea.
I will be making beaded trim to go around the edge of each garments neckline. If I can finish that properly in time, I will check to see if I have enough gold cord left over from my test-piece to cross-hatch the sleeves for the
The camicia will be pleated with a plain band holding
the pleats in place. I have pinned them for the photo to show what I’m trying to do.
I haven’t gotten much progress this month as I have been focusing on learning to delegate the hard way for my first feast – however, I have managed to complete the bodice of my
gamurra and am now ready to attach the skirt. I have also drafted the sleeves pattern and am ready to test it on the lining fabric. I have sourced the materials to make a flag fan and flea-fur...but can’t make up my mind about what else to create for the fourth layer! Either way it will certainly be a last minute rush to complete it all.
As I left pretty much everything to the last minute this month
has been a busy one! I managed to get everything done with 6
and a bit hours to spare and spent the remaining time cleaning
up the massive pile of Stuff which had accumulated next to my
chair over the time.
The first week was spent concentrating on the gamurra
(and rescuing it from my Jack Russel terrier) after which I
spent a couple of days trying to find the pattern I had
drafted for the giornea before giving up and re-doing
it. I then quickly made the sash while I spent some time
trying to figure out how to make the sleeve.
The sash was made from
two very failed sleeves left over from a previous project which were pieced together into a tube and machine sewn. I then made a couple of tassels for the ends to pretty it up a little
Getting the seam to run
along the back of my arm stumped me for a while until I
eventually stumbled over the Curious Frau’s Blog who
suggested using a piece of string to get the curve – I took
the idea and cheated slightly by pulling an old sleeve apart
and using it to mark the length and the high/low part of the
curve rather than measuring it. I then used the string to
figure out where those points should be and ended up getting
it pretty close the first time. I then made my mock up out of
the lining and marked it at the high & low points of my
elbow (where the joint sat against the sleeve when my arm was
straight and bent) – and hello, presto! A sleeve was made!
I then went back to the giornea,
cutting it and the bodice lining out. I attached the shoulders
together bother the neckline and then the side-seams and
whip-stitching the arm-holes together. I then put the skirt
together (I love my sewing machine – it laughed in the face
of velveteen!) and knife pleated it before attaching it to the
bodice. I then added the trim and went to work on my 3
The soccoccia was another fairly quick item to make – I used one I made last year as a template for the
size. I used a couple of scraps of the silk left over from the sleeves and a small piece of blue velvet ribbon to make this item. It is hand sewn and I have used a pretty piece of cording for the tie as in portraits where the
saccoccia are visible, the ties often are not. This suggests to me they are either pinned on or tied using a thin cord. As I intend to use mine for items such as my phone or camera, I have used some tasselled doll-house cord found in
I had wanted to make a zebellino for my fourth item, but couldn’t figure out how to do it out of faux-fur in the time I had left as the ones I was referencing did not have the masks that were used later on.
Instead I made an amethyst and glass-pearl
necklace. This was the first necklace I have ever made and is one of the many firsts I achieved in this project! It’s assembled from a string of glass pearls and one of amethyst from my stash onto some thick embroidery thread and seems to work quite well.
And then I was done!
Layer 1: Camicia
This ended up being the item that gave me the most trouble, conceptually. I had wanted to try and create one with the pleats above the band but couldn’t get it to work the way I wanted it to and ended up in a pile while I did the other layers. In the end, I just pleated the
camicia into the band using some bias tape from my stash and some green tape for around the wrists. The long seams are machined on this, but the rest is hand sewn.
I am happy enough with most of this – but I think I may need to raise the back by an inch or two as I would like to use this one for winter events.
Layer 2: Gamurra
with detachable sleeves
So this layer ended up completely different to how I’d
imagined it back in May! Due to time and finances, I had to
forgo re-making the Beatrice d’Este burial gown completely
(though that one is still on my wish-list ) Instead, I
have used some pretty silk I tripped over at the markets as
trim and for sleeves.
The dress is made from a
dark blue cotton velveteen and hand sewn apart from where the
skirt has been joined onto the bodice as my hands were not up
to sewing through that many layers! Back stitching was used on
the skirt seams as it’s my favourite and I tend to put my
feet through them otherwise – the hem is quite wide for the
same reason. The front of the neckline has been beaded with
small faux pearls and gold-coloured seed beads. The bodice has
been lined with a layer each of felt and canvas to help shape
it as well as the lining and is tightened with small lacing
rings. The 4.5m skirt has been box-pleated onto the bodice and
is slightly longer at the back to help with the drape and
I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
The sleeves on this were
a lot of fun to figure out! These were attached to the dress
with small strings tied through rings attached to the bodice.
The only thing which I would change about these are the
strings as the blasted things keep sliding undone.
Layer 2 extra: Under-skirt
I also made an underskirt
out of some silk gifted to me for my birthday because I wanted
a new one to match the outfit.
Layer 3: Giornea
The giornea is made from a deep maroon cotton velveteen
and is very warm! I did the entire dress in two days, so the
long seams on the skirt and where it is joined onto the bodice
are machined on this one, but the rest was hand sewn while
watching Star Trek. It has the same trim around the neckline
as the gamurra but was beaded the entire way around. I
feel the trim helps tie the two layers together, and there are
several examples of this in the artwork of the time (i.e. St
Justina of Padua by Bartolomeo Montagna 1490’s & The
Betrothal, 1490). The dress is closed with a piece of plaited
trim like in The Betrothal and seems to work surprisingly
I wish I had enough
knowledge of leather working to make a belt for this one, as I
think that would lift the whole outfit. This layer has turned
out pretty much as I had imagined and I am very happy with the
way it has turned out.
Layer 4: Accessories
- Beaded Necklace
- Flag Fan
Overall, I am really
happy with the way this outfit has turned out. There are a few
little things I wish I could have changed (the ties on the
sleeves and the camicia neckline) but I think that it
all works really well together once on and I have learned so
much! Going forwards, I would like to learn finger braiding to
replace the sleeve ties and I will probably pull the camicia
apart in order to raise the back of it slightly. I have
learned to modify my toiles, how to make buckram, how
to make a simple string of beads and managed to use a saw
while emerging with all body parts still attached. Also, I
have learned how to deal with my innate
break-all-the-technology talents! I would have liked to have
made the zebbelino but may do that next year instead.
Should this competition
be held again next year, I would choose a more achievable
outfit (in terms of both time and money) to start with and
also break the competition up into smaller goals as I think a
lot of my troubles were caused by leaving so very much to the
last minute. I think I would also choose fabrics more
practical for the West Australian climate – velveteen is
beautiful, but not made for a desert-state’s weather,
unfortunately. I am happy at how little I actually needed to
buy for this project in the end – the piece of silk I used
for trim cost me $4 at the markets and was pretty much the
only thing I used that wasn’t from my stash.