The Third Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2013

Helen Lyon
Wellington, New Zealand

Helen Lyon

Hi, my name is Helen Lyon and I am from Wellington, New Zealand. While I would like to describe myself as a ‘novice’ sewer, I cannot say that I am, as I have been sewing clothing for re-enactment purposes for my husband – Peter, and myself for about 15 or so years. I can be vest described as an ‘intermediate’ sewer. However, the outfit that I plan to make – a man’s outfit – will be my first attempt at making anything resembling an Italian Renaissance outfit – I am definitely a novice/beginner in this field. It was suggested to me only less than a week before the start of this competition that I should have a go and enter - so here I am.  :-)

I have chosen to make a Man’s ensemble consisting of: a shirt and possibly hose; doublet and breeches; cloak; accessories – hat and pouch of some sort (yet to be decided on).

As I stated above, I only found out about this competition less than a week ago, my outfit will most probably be plain and not have much in the way of ‘embellishments’. Only time will tell what the final outfit will look like – as I currently have no idea myself! So let the journey into Italian Renaissance Clothing begin!!

I have been involved in re-enactment in New Zealand since 1994-1995, firstly with a metal-weapons group based in Wellington, a jousting group and more recently (last 6 years or so) with the local SCA group – Shire of Darton in the Kingdom of Lochac.

I do not have confidence in my own sewing abilities, although I have managed to mostly finish a few outfits (mostly 14th Century) for both my husband Peter and myself. These have comprised of very plain dresses and tunics with a chemise or shirt. Entering this challenge is going to challenge me in so many ways – with hopefully at the end I will have completed an outfit for Peter (I have been promising to make him something for years!) and enhanced my own confidence in my sewing abilities.

While researching, I found this lovely portrait which I have decided to try and base the outfit on. It's the portrait of Federigo Gonzaga, c. 1525-1528, by Titian.

The patterns that I will be using are from the “Period Patterns – Italian Renaissance” for the shirt; and Margo Anderson’s patterns for the doublet and slops. For the cloak I am looking at using a “Reconstructing History” pattern. My decision for using the above commercial patterns is as I have never made an Italian Renaissance outfit and I do not have confidence in drafting a pattern without having some reference patterns for assistance.

This is made from white linen. It is mostly completed: machine sewed main seams, hand-sewn inside seams down, pinned collar and cuffs into place, pinned hem. Still to do: hand-sew collar, cuffs and hem. May need to make cuff ruffs at a later time.


Main Fabric – dark blue/black wool, lined with navy blue panes. Underlay - red cotton with a salmon silk lining. The panes will be trimmed with a metallic trim on the edges. I have cut out the pieces, lined and interlined panes, and am currently hand-sewing trim onto panes before assembly.


Cut out fabric pieces from the same wool as the slops.

Made first draft pattern, and sewed calico sample, but it's too small. I need to make alterations for second pattern draft, which will have to wait until shirt and slops are completed.

May/June Update

I have decided to make the ties by making cord using a Lucet – this is the first time I have tried to make any ties by this method. I am using “Bamboo Cotton” as the material – being natural fibres which are strong and the cord made is a reasonable thickness.


The reason why I have not gone with using commercially made cord – I wanted to try and hand-make something. Also the commercial cord that I have, although even texture is a bit thick and bulky. I chose not to use ribbon as a previous shirt that I made, using ribbon, the ties always work their way loose and undo themselves. Hubby finds this frustrating!!


Are now sewn together and stuffed. Still to make lacing points and the laces.


This has also been made.


Still to make: lacing tie points. Deciding on whether to make a second codpiece in the red linen, so that hubby has a choice of which one to wear.

Pattern is drafted, pieces are cut and being assembled. 


I am deviating from the sewing instructions that I have in that there will be no buttons or hooks and eyes to secure the doublet closed. Instead, I will be inserting a “false” facing onto the lining on which fabric ties will be secured to. My reason for doing this is that on close inspection of the portrait it appears that the doublet is tied together under the front ‘facings’ and over the shirt, as well as being tied at the waist with a long bow. It is not clear if the ‘jacket’ has a tight fitting doublet underneath, or is an all-in-one piece. 

I may be totally wrong in my interpretation of the portrait, but this is an experiment for me, and a good learning experience. Plus hubby will wear it no matter if it is not ‘technically’ correct!

June/July Update

Shirt: No further progress made.
Slops: No further progress made with this either.
Still making the ties – these are progressing rather slowly, but have found using a crochet hook to ‘catch’ the cotton is quicker and saves the fingernails!

This month, all work has been on making the doublet which is now almost completed. Same fabric as the slops – dark blue wool with a red linen lining.



The band around the inside of the waist is stiffened with fusible interlining, and the holes are hand-sewn using a strong thread.


Still to compete the ties for the sleeves and attachment points onto the inside of the shoulders.

The fabric has been purchased – a dark blue wool with the front lining being a red. Drafted the pattern into Peter’s size (added 10 inches to length) and made a mock-up in calico. Discovered the pattern I was working with is confusing, the mock-up did not fit property. I unstitched it and re-pinned it which on the dressmakers dummy. About to re-sew the calico version, alter the pattern accordingly then time to cut the actual wool fabric. Depending on how much fabric is left will help decide on what accessories I make.

The final month is going to be interesting – we are re-painting the ceilings and rooms, so the house is going to be in turmoil, and I don’t know how much access I will get to the sewing machine etc for 2-3 weeks!!

Final Update

My entry for this competition consists of the following for a man’s ensemble:
Layer 1: Shirt
Layer 2: Slops, Codpiece and Doublet 
Layer 3: Capoto/Cloak, and
Layer 4: Soft Cap.

I based by patterns from the following sources:
- “Period Patterns – Italian Renaissance” for the shirt; 
- Margo Anderson’s patterns for the Doublet, Slops and Soft Cap. 
- “Reconstructing History” pattern for the Capoto 
My decision for using the above commercial patterns is that I have never made an Italian Renaissance outfit and I do not have any confidence in drafting a pattern without using some form of reference patterns for assistance. 

This is made from White Linen and is very plain with no embroidery, decoration or ruffs. The ties for securing the neck and sleeves are hand-made using a Lucet and the material I used is White “Bamboo/cotton”.


This is made from dark blue wool which has been lined with navy blue cotton fabric, the underlay of the panes is red cotton and the lining is a salmon silk. The panes are trimmed with a metallic trim on the edges which have been hand-sewn into place. 


The lacing points were originally going to be hand-sewn eyelets, however as the first 2 (shown in the centre back) did not work well, I used brass rings instead. Although this may not be historically accurate, the Slops will never been washed or placed in a dryer, so rust will not become an issue.


Made from the same wool as the slops. Secured to the front of the slops by two hand-made fabric buttons which have been sewn on to the slops, and secured through hand-made buttonholes on the side of the codpiece.

Same fabric as the slops – dark blue wool with a red linen lining. The band around the inside of the waist is stiffened with fusible interlining, and the holes are hand-sewn using a strong thread. The front ties are made of the wool fabric and sewn onto a “false” facing inside the doublet. The sleeves are separate sleeves which are secured by three ties sewn into the top of the sleeve head on the inside of the lining and secured to the doublet by being tied through brass rings. Under the arms is kept loose and unsecured.


The fabric is dark blue wool with the front lining and sleeve lining being red wool. The wool almost appears felted but it is not. It is however a medium / heavy weight wool. The sleeves have been sewn closed, however, there is an “opening” mid-way down the sleeve for the arm to protrude out of if the wearer so desires. The capoto has no trim. I had planned on trimming the edges with a gold braid, however as I did not have time to complete this I chose to submit the garment as being plain and undecorated. Decoration will be applied at a later time when I am not so time-restricted, as this will be a large task with lots of hand-sewing involved.



Soft Cap
The Soft Cap has been entirely hand-sewn and is made from the same wool as the lining of the capoto. The trim is the same pattern as used on the slops, but in red and has three peacock feathers as additional decoration. This now completes my entry in this year’s IRCC3 competition. While I am not completely happy with all aspects of the outfit, I am happy that I have given this competition a try and have achieved the outcome that I set out for at the beginning – namely that hubby will have a new, spiffy outfit!