The Third Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2013

Malinda Godwin
Arkansas, USA

Malinda Godwin

Twenty years in the SCA and attempting garb (including Italian and German) and other crafts and activities (including scribal and fighting). I love crafting and asking how did they do that?
Proposed four-layer outfit: Florence mid 1500's and the style of Eleonora di Toledo camicia, sottana, zimarra, and reta (snood).

Fifteen frog heads for the zimarra done so far. Cored, colored, and wrapped wooden beads strung and knotted on cord.

Things have been getting worked on in pieces, so nothing is finished yet, though work is being done. I currently have 21 frogs done for the zimarra plus some drafting and mock-ups based on Alcega.


I have also done a lucet cord and half of another for the sottana as well as started the bodice also based on Alcega.

I have done a mock-up for my camicia based on Janet Arnold’s Pattern’s of Fashion 4. page 115. but without a gusset as in the extant examples from the Museo del Tessuto. It also has the side gores though these are not clearly visible.

I have also done 2 mock-ups of drawers again based on Janet Arnold page 106.


I have been working on a set of breeches based on the ones on page 51 of Janet Arnold’s 'Patterns of Fashion'. They are now almost complete as only the button and button hole are lacking.


June/July Update

I have been working on several things. What has gotten finished is a pair of earring based on the Bronzino portrait of Eleonora and her son. Also done are one of the two necklaces in the portrait and a pendant for the other.

Mostly completed is my reta, which is an attempt to reproduce the style shown in the cameo. Because I could not find a pattern for this style I’m working on creating one. I started by copying the cameo image and enlarging it to approximately actual size and then reversing it and placing both sides on a model and then laying yarn on each side pinned in place at each pearl. By working the yarn from both sides together and crossing over the missing section in the middle. I was able to get a model that I considered acceptable. 


I then set up a grid and laid golden cord across it. After which I then tacked each join and attached a freshwater pearl. After finishing the main section I partially remove it from the grid and turned it some to manipulate the 2 decreases (half diamonds). After completing the main net work I then placed it on the model and have been attempting various edging techniques, so far I have not found one that I am satisfied with.


Final Update

Everything I’m wearing except the partlet was done after the start of the challenge.

Layer 1: breeches and camicia
Layer 2: crimson and gold sottana
Layer 3: crimson zimarra
Layer 4: reta, earrings, set of 2 necklaces, and half a pair of

Layer 1: breeches and camicia, based on extant examples.

Using a printed fabric to give the effect of the original black-work I made set of breeches based on the one on page 51 of Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4. These are fully lined and include a small handmade button. My camicia is out of muslin, though I originally planned to embroider it in linen this did not happen. It is based on Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4 and the extant examples in the Museo del Tessuto. It has a square neck and side gores.


Layer 2: crimson and gold sottana. 

This is based on the Bronzino portrait of Eleonora di Toledo and her son Giovanni c.1545 Galleria degli Uffizi. For designing the actual pattern, I used Alcega’s Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589 folio 60 (kirtle and low-cut bodice of cloth rash for a woman). I also used the layout design from “La Veste della Duchessa” based on the conservation work by Moira Brunori about the crimson velvet dress often referred to as the Pisa gown and originally thought to have belonged to Eleonora. Also used for more information was Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion and her description and measurement of Eleonora’s burial dress.

The bodice of this gown is stiffened in a manner similar to the doppia techniques of the day as discussed in Kat’s Purple Files, there is the outer layer of design fabric two layers of denim basically pad stitched instead of wool felt, a layer of canvas, and then and a cotton interior lining though without the typical decorative slashing, replaces the satin that would have been the copertura della doppia. You can see this at the very edge of the bodice just beyond the trim if look very closely both in my attempt and in the original portrait.

The sleeves are tied on at the shoulder and made of 4 panes that are then secured back together with decorative buttons. 

I could not find buttons I liked so I spent a great deal of time making my own. I did this by carving a soapstone mould and then making an impression using porcelain clay and trimming, they hardened I then painted with gold foil. There is a metal ring on the back by which they are attached. The design is one I created from studying the portrait. A center cone with six flower petals atop four conjoined heart like shapes above 8 little protrusions beyond and below the heart shapes. I was unable to decide the exact shape of the protrusions at this time and so merely went with little points. The buttons are approximately an inch or 22mm at their widest.


The dress is laced on both side backs using a cord that I made using the lucet technique. The skirt design is almost the same as the burial dress and there is a pintuck at the lower hem and the back of the skirt flows out in a train.


Layer 3: a crimson zimarra 

This is based on the Bronzino c.1550 in the Turin Galleria Sabauda that they say may be Eleonora di Toledo.

The actual cutting pattern was based on Alcega’s Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589 using the folio 47 Turkish morning gown of silk. This has a wider collar and different sleeves than the zimarra I made last year. It is lined and has a double row of trimming just like the portrait and the frogs are all handmade.

Layer 4: earrings, set of 2 necklaces, reta, and half a pair of pantoufles

Earrings and necklaces are on the Bronzino portrait of Eleonora di Toledo and her son Giovanni c.1545 Galleria degli Uffizi. The earrings are a hoop earring, with pearl drop and brass finial. The necklaces are pearlized glass beads strung alternating large and small, the pendant is a newer version of my design attempts and is raised and patterned oval painted with gold foil and gold and black enamel surrounding an acrylic jewel. It has a large pearl drop hanging from the bottom and is suspended from the necklace by three chain loops.


The reta is my own design, after many hours of trial and error. It is based on the many images of Eleonora, but mainly the cameo by Giovanni Antonio de’ Rossi Museo degli Argenti, which I used to determine the pattern of net and its spacing.  The net itself is composed of gold cord tacked with a freshwater pearl at each join and the edging is formed of the intertwined cords secured with a little of the gold thread that was used for the tacking stitches, improvements are planned as I’m not satisfied with the stiffness and edging at the bottom, but it is closer than anything else I’ve found to what the cameo depicts.

And finally, half of a pair of pantoufles, based on the ones in Jacopo Zucchi’s The Toilet of Bathsheba painted after 1573, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome and an extant pair in the Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy. With special thanks to Valerie Renfro who stated ‘These shoes were popular in both Florence & Venice and can be seen in both period art and extant examples. They are lower heeled than chopines’ and quoted ‘John Stubbes, in his Anatomy of Abuses (1583) describes them as being a finger or two inches or more from the ground, made of cork and covered in white leather, silk or velvet.

I chose not to try making the cork bases at this time though I do have the cork and leather, so I purchased a pair of ready-made shoes with a cork platform, as then forgot about finishing them till the last moment but as all hemlines were set with the height of the shoes taken into account. I covered the straps on one half of the pair in red velvet before the final deadline, so that at first glance they look like pantoufles.