The Third Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2013

Mandy L'Estrelle
Western Australia

Mandy L'Estrelle

I have been sewing for many years and started sewing Italian Renaissance garb about 3 years ago. This will be my third IRCC.

Due to an extremely emotional time lately I have been very lax in starting my entry for this years IRCC, however in the past few days I have managed to completely overhaul my plans, settle on a design inspiration, choose which fabric from my stash to use and get a small start.

I am planning on an outfit based upon a plate in Cesare Veccellioís Habiti Antichi et Moderni. It is his Roman Woman of Artisan and Plebeian Rank.

The description from the plate says: "the clothing here is very different from that of noble and rich woman. These wives of artisans wear garments of coloured cloth, floor-length with low-necked bodices, horizontally trimmed in silk and belted with a gold chain. They adorn their necks with strands of coral and other jewels and the very white ruffles of their camicia. They wear curls on their foreheads and a silk veil, which they pin to their hair and let fall to the ground, tying its points to their gold belts".

I have chosen a fabric that is a very deep navy colour with light gold plaited trim, and a wide navy and gold braid to fish the hemline of the skirt, as is indicated in the plate from Vecellio. I have some navy organza for the veil.

The sleeves show some braid work and slashing so I will be attempting this for the first time. I have done some research and have found the use of a chisel may be the best option for these and will be experimenting with these as soon as I make a trip to the hardware store.

My camicia will be made from some fabric that has a dark blue embroidery to it, and to minimize the number of layers I need to wear so this outfit will be more often used in Perth's warm climate I am going to try to incorporate the ruffled neckline of the partlet onto the camicia instead. I also hope to make a roped underskirt and some jewellery.

I am also planning a Turkish coat from a dark blue brocade that will be able to be worn over this gown.

Well itís been a very emotional and hectic month in May with a major event that took up a lot of time and energy, but now that is over I am again focusing on my IRCC entry.

I have been to assemble the sleeves, with the black velvet ribbon and gold trim sewn on, next they will be slashed diagonally between the trims. I am going to use a chisel as it is similar to the tool that would have been used in the 16th century according to the 'Tudor Tailor'.

I have also re started my chemise. I was unhappy with how my first one was sitting due to the softness of the fabric. So I have redrafted the pattern and re-cut from a cotton/linen blend and the result is much better. The ruffles for the neckline and cuff have their lace attached.


I am also beginning the planning stage for the corded underskirt and the top layer, fabrics are chosen and I just need to get them started! I need to get a move on if I am to get all the layers done in time.

June/July Update

I have been working away slowly on my pieces, but was interrupted by a nasty flu. I have reworked the camicia, and itís almost completed - just needs fastenings on the wrist bands. I am very happy with how this turned out, and I have given it a test wear to an event and it was very comfortable.

The bodice now has all its trim on, this was a very interesting thing to accomplish as although the trim does not seem to be directional at all, it definitely wants only to be sewn on in one direction!


The sleeves have progressed and are taking a lot longer than I thought they would. I have slashed them, and made the small puffy top sleeves, next job is to finish off the cuffs and join the sleeves to the bodice. I have decided that as these sleeves are quite heavy they will not be removable and I think tying them or hooking them on they would pull too much and become uncomfortable.

I have cut the skirt for the gown and that will be attached shortly. The roped underskirt and coat are still as yet unstarted and I am starting to get concerned that I may not finish in time! But I shall endeavour to get them cut out this week which will motivate me to get them done!

The coat I am currently rethinking as I donít believe that a Turkish style will sit nicely over the gowns sleeves, so the coat may need to become sleeveless or have open hanging sleeves.

Final Update

I am so pleased that I managed to complete this challenge again, given all the other events that have taken up so much of my time and energies this year. I feel I have learnt so much over the past 3 challenges and my sewing skills have improved immensely.

Layer 1: I created a camicia/chemise out of cotton linen blend with a ruffled high neckline and ruffles at the cuffs. It was based on an extant pattern and is very comfortable.

Layer 2:  I have also created a red satin underskirt and gown. The underskirt has been cartridge pleated onto a waistband, the hem has been stiffened with a layer of felt and cotton (to stop things sticking to the felt!) and I have added a tuck above the felt layer, which seems to help the skirt stay out of my way when walking. This piece was intended as only a prototype for future underskirts.

The gown was made using a silk blend fabric which in itself was a real challenge as it rolled mercilessly every time it was cut, however it slashed beautifully. The bodice was made quite stiff and it has proven to be very comfortable. The sleeves took the longest with all the trims and slashing and the two layers, but I really like the way you get glimpses of the white chemise when the arms are bent or moved. The skirt was worrying when first attached as it was so light, but once the thick trim and the braid were added to them hemline it now sits quite well. The small train could have been bigger, however due to my consort's habit of tripping over my train on other dresses I decided to make this one only very small. I have used lacing rings for the first time on this gown as the bodice was so thick, it was difficult to get eyelets through and I am really impressed with how the rings have worked out. They make lacing the dress myself much easier.


Layer 3: The loose coat I am in love with and I can see many others being made in this style. I adapted a high necked bodice pattern for the lining and t went together quite quickly. I love the contrast between the brocaded jacket and the plain gown. Originally the jacket was not to be trimmed, but at the last day I decided it required black velvet ribbon and a blue/gold cord to finish it off properly. The should wings I have made somewhat smaller than in the Patterns Of Fashion book as they would have encumbered the sleeves of the gown.

Layer 4: Accessories
  • I made a simple navy blue organza veil, which I find needs something to help it stay put better on my head as the veil pins struggled to keep it in place even for the photos, but I am very pleased with its length and the way it really completes the outfit.
  • I have also made a necklace from freshwater pearls, gold spacers and navy blue beads.
  • My paternoster is in remembrance of my late Mum who was a catholic and always wanted to visit Rome, I thought it appropriate for this Roman outfit.
  • The belt as described in Vecellio, is of gold chain and I have added blue and gold beaded tassels to its ends.


Once again I am very happy with how this entire out has turned out and I will be very proud when I get an opportunity to show it off. I look forward to next years challenge!