The Third Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2013

Holly Taylor
South Australia

Holly Taylor

I am in the SCA and love pretty garb. I have a passion for sixteenth century garb, with Italian and English garb being my favourites. Although I don't particularly like sewing, I see it as a means to an end to obtain the type of garb I love. Hand embroidery is a hobby that I really enjoy, although my efforts in that area are often hampered by health issues and problems with my hands. Persevering with sewing has meant that I have learnt a lot through my mistakes, and although I am not particularly confident about what I make, I do feel that my work is improving. Challenging myself to compete against such talented artisans is daunting, but a great motivator to try hard and stick at it.

I will be updating my progress on my blog.

In the first couple of weeks of the challenge, I was finishing off other projects that had gone over-deadline, and then I was away from home, so I am off to a slow start. I have been working on a hand-sewn partlet decorated with lace, and also experimenting with patterning. I have completed the first of my accessories: a pearl and gold girdle.

This has been a difficult month for me, with recurrent illness and the death of a close family member. I certainly didn't get anywhere near what I expected done, let alone what I would have liked to get done. 

My first project this month was to attempt an 'easy' version of a lace partlet similar to the ones that are so common in portraits of Bianca Cappello, one of my sixteenth century style icons. I purchased commercially produced cotton lace of an appropriate size to fit my partlet collar piece. The partlet is cut from cotton fabric. In period, it would probably be made of linen, but financial restraints meant that cotton was the only option available to me.

The body of the partlet has been made up, but it has not yet been entirely hemmed. The lace was tacked to the partlet collar and sewn down around the edges. The lace did not sit neatly on the collar piece, so I have ended up having to sew around all the little holes and bars with tiny stitches. My plan of a 'fast and easy' alternative to needle lace really hasn't worked out to be very fast and easy! I continue to work at securing the collar lace.

My respiratory problems continue, and I quickly realised during my last event that I need a dress that can be worn comfortably with no corset. So, off on a tangent again! I have been working on an early sixteenth century, short-waisted tourney dress prototype that has a lightly boned bodice and can be worn with a bra. I am not confident about how that will look when complete. 

My 'main' dress, a pointed bodice Italian that can be worn with a corset has been drafted and cut out. I'll admit that I have hit a bump with the boning. The necessary bones had to be ordered, and with everything else that has been going on, my motivation has flagged a little this month.

June/July Update

In the last few weeks I have again been distracted by other projects that needed urgent attention, and so my IRCC 3 progress has been, well, hardly any progress at all! I bought some fabric for an underskirt, but it turned out to be faulty and have a dye-bleed problem, so that has to be returned to the shop and I will need to find an alternative. Very disappointing!

I did manage to get a pair of sleeves (almost) finished. I hand sewed the trim, but ran out of time to add the piccadil strip along the wrist edge. I will definitely add the strips on at a later date because I like the way they look, but I needed to wear the sleeves to an event.

The lace partlet also has not progressed very far. Anchoring the commercial lace has turned out to be far more time consuming than I thought and it is taking a long time.

Final Update

Well, this final month of the Challenge flew past! I didn't manage to complete much, but I am pleased with what I have achieved.

  • I have a partially sewn chemise. (Layer 1, incomplete)
  • I have a red silk underskirt completed. (Layer 2, complete)
  • I have a new adapted gown pattern, sleeves, and a gown cut out ready to sew. (Layer 3, incomplete)
  • I have a new adapted coat pattern, and a coat partially sewn. (Layer 3 extra, incomplete)
  • I have a lovely new feather fan. (Layer 4, complete)
  • I have a pearl and gold girdle. (Layer 4, complete)
  • I have a set of large pockets mostly finished. (Layer 4, incomplete)
  • I have a partlet almost complete. (Layer 4, incomplete)

This is much more than I would normally achieve in a year, and more than I thought I could achieve, so I am very happy with my progress. Best of all, I have really enjoyed learning from and being inspired by the other participants in the Challenge. My confidence has improved and I feel very motivated.