The Third Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2013

Raquel Cameron
New South Wales, Australia

Raquel Cameron

Although I have been in the SCA almost 8 years, I came into the game with little to no sewing experience. These past twelve months I have begun properly researching, patterning and sewing my garb above a basic level. I have completed only one Venetian outfit from the skin out. I plan to make an embroidered chemise, a partlet, Venetian dress and either a giornea or zimarra with accessories of a fan and hairpiece.

My blog on this project -

I have wanted to make another full court set of garb (this will be my second attempt at Venetian/Italian garb), and this challenge was just what I needed to make me set the goal and aim to complete it within the timeframe. With my niece arriving four weeks early and my parents overseas, my first month has been put on hold somewhat. But I have decided on all my fabrics and pieces. I have cut most of the pieces ready to sew.


I have also completed an underskirt.  


Wow, a busy few weeks. With new bub and getting colds, kids school and sports etc etc I have hardly had time to sew or post my bits and pieces of progress. Today however, I did finish the hand sewing of my camicia (sans neckline and cuffs). It is made of natural washed linen and it feels lovely. I wish however that I had made the gussets bigger, but if it does feel uncomfortable I can always unpick these ones and insert bigger ones - not a lot of work, just fiddly and time that could have been spent elsewhere. My fabric for my partlet has arrived. It is lovely I chose a gold tissue organza.

I set myself the task of doing this challenge so that I would keep to the schedule and complete a full outfit in time - but mundane life as usual has impeded upon that. Hopefully I will be able to use this last month to make a monster effort at getting an outfit made that looks complete. It won't have everything I wanted, nor will it be spectacular, but it will be enough to wear at the upcoming Coronation we are hosting in July. That was my inspiration in completing this goal.

I have half done the black-work embroidery for the collar, but have not started the cuffs.

I did sew up the overdress but am not happy with the stiffness of it and so am looking at unpicking it and adding a softer fabric for the liner; also, taking about two inches of the sleeve edges as they sit too far over my shoulders. This will require me to add new gores that will now not match with the pattern pieces - but they tell me this is period in practice anyway.

Photo © Alex Tewes - 2013

June/July Update

With Midwinter fast approaching and the competition closing in on me I made a bold decision to toss the original dress plan and went with a less time consuming option. I made up the gown (completely hand sewn as I actually find this quicker now than machine sewing), using the original pieces but changed the embellishment pieces from ones that would have required hand seaming, and embroidery; to a pre-made braid. I then pearled and added minor embellishing and couched braided edge to the bodice to replicate the look desired.

The dress was worn at Midwinter with much success. The only changes I will need to make are the sleeve straps, which will require modification to have them sit on my shoulders. I have small sloping shoulders so this style as it was cut does not suit my structure. I will need to mess about and cut a back that suits me so that I may wear this dress without a coat over the top to hide my dropped shoulder straps.


The chemise black-work is almost complete and *fingers crossed*, it will be complete in time. My hair embellishments are begun, my parasol research is complete - now to put it all together.

Final Update

Layer 1 and 2: Camicia and Under-skirt
Finished camicia (the under-skirt was finished previously). I completed the embroidery and cut out a matching piece for backing. I blanket stitched the two pieces together with matching black silk. I then pinned the neckline into position and pinned it all into place. I then whip stitched the edging on. I used another ladies reproduction notes to copy a pattern and stitches from for the embroidery, but now I cannot access the link. It is completed on matching linen to the camicia in black and gold Gutermann machine/sewing silk. The stitch type is split stitch. I know, I know - not normally a stitch for black-work, but that is what the reproduction piece was done in. I will not be using split stitch again I please don't look too closely a it got very messy at the end in my utter frustration over it. I plan to redo the embroidery, make matching cuffs and reattach so that I can take the chemise out in public.

Although I never did get to do cuffs it is wearable as an Italian/Venetian camicia. I will one day finish it. I also have some Venetian lace that I may put on instead of embroidered cuffs, at another time.

Layer 2 Extra: Gown
What began as one dress became another. I had cut out the velvet green bodice and had the silk for the skirt put aside. Fabric from my stash that I paid $5 a meter for at local curtain store McElwaine's. All I had to do was redesign the embellishing to make the job quicker and easier to make sure that it was ready to wear at Coronation, and also fit within the guidelines of the competition. I chose a pre-made braid to hand sew onto the bodice fabric. To outline the neckline I couched with gold silk thread a thin line of Russian braid along the neckline and then further enhanced it with hand sewn pearls. I repeated the pearls along the braid edges for further embellishment.

The skirt was added by hand pleating and setting into the turned over edges of the bodice. I then sewed this all together in one go using the stab and stitch technique. The photos show the pleats to be all odds and ends but I assure you that they are even, there just seems to be lots of shadowing.

The sleeves were a challenge as I didn't have much fabric left to work with. I had cut sleeves out to make pieces that were linked by braid and other fabric pieces for my original design. So I managed to cut very simple sleeves using fabric I had left and then shaped them like bag sleeves as depicted in the paintings in my inspiration photos above. I tied them with yellow/gold ribbon and attached them at the top with a hand stitched patch of silk fabric.

Dress was now complete and ready for Coronation. After wearing it at Coronation I did discover an issue. I have no shoulders and so the dress kept sliding off. I need to 'v' the back of the dress and hopefully that will correct the issue.

Layer 3: Over-dress
I have completed the overdress now. I used my Venetian/Turkish pattern to cut the fabric, extending it further in the front, taking some off the shoulders and adding gores to the sides. I sewed the outer layer and then cut a complete under layer to match. These were sewn together leaving the hems free. These were turned and sewn under. I had a piece of faux fur that I wanted to use. Although I couldn't find any paintings having fur on their out garments I felt that if a Baroness is hosting the King and Queen not once, but twice in less than three months, she may be in a position to use that left over bit of fur to embellish her garb. After all she obviously has enough wealth and station in the Kingdom (*tongue in cheek*). As this is meant to be worn open and un-belted I closed the front with a burgundy frog closure.

Layer 4: Travel coronet, ribbon-taped hair piece, sash
Of course I never did get to make all the pretties. But I did complete a travel coronet that is embroidered and hand embellished with pearls and embroidery. This is on a velvet band that can be pinned over the edge of a coif, or used as a band for a veil. My coronet is pewter so it is not travel safe. I also made a ribbon taped hair piece. It is an old hair piece that I have attached to a comb, it has been wrapped in muslin cotton and sewn in place. I then wrapped black ribbon around the hair piece and sewed that into place.
The final accessory I made is a silk belt or sash. It is hand sewn and beaded on the ends. I pieced together scraps of fabric to make the length piece.


I really wish I had time to go out and take really nice photos of the finished ensemble, but I didn’t, so you are all getting photos taken 3 hours before closing of the comp. One day I promise to ‘pretty up’, put on all my accessories and go out into the sunlight, and take some lovely shots that truly show the ensemble as it should be showcased.