The Third Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2013

Susan Malovrh
Wisconsin, USA

Susan Malovrh

I've been sewing since I was a girl. I do quilting, doll clothes, and costumes. I hope to learn some new skills with joining the IRCC 3 by having a deadline to accomplish something and also learning from the other talented members of this group.

I plan to make a pair of drawers with black work, an under-dress, loose gown, and Venetian neck ruff or partlet. 

I started with the linen drawers by drafting a pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 4. I sewed a mock up in the striped fabric and found out I needed a couple more inches on the top edge and the wedges need to be larger. 

I was then tempted away from that project to start on my loose gown from the beautiful chocolate brown fabric I found at a thrift store. I cut it out similar to the one in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3, page 123. I love the period method of not having to match the pattern and was able to cut the gore upside down and insert it giving me a fuller gown. I hand felled the gore seams and am now ready to pleat the back. I'm searching for some fabric to match that I can make the sleeve other wise it will just have caps. It will have a small standing collar also.

As month two ends on the challenge, I have started the black-work on my drawers using the Holbein stitch and worked on a mock-up of the partlet. I plan to add a few more inches to the ruffle for more fullness. I love all the gold worked on the partlet in the portrait but it looks like it would be uncomfortable to wear with the type of gold cording I can find so I'm going to try embroidering the design in a chain stitch instead. 

I need to finish the gown to determine the bottom edge as I want to connect it and make it all in one piece to slip over my head. Some of the readings I've done on this suggest that it was a neck treatment on a camicia instead of a partlet but in this picture you also see a strip of fancy white work that I interpret as a simple square necked camicia.

June/July Update

Month three has been spent stitching black-work. Being new to black-work I thought I chose a simple pattern, but it is taking me much longer than I expected. I am a little over half way done and though my stitching is far from perfect, it is improving.

I have also been trying to figure out how the braids are made on the baragoni. It's too bad Allori didn't paint more of the sleeves. The linen arrived this month to line my gown as I didn't think my fabric had enough body. My challenge will be squeezing the gown out of the limited yardage of my thrift store find.

Final Update

Wow. So much to do and so little time to do it describes this year's challenge project for me. I spent so much time on hand work details that I barely finished the outfit on time. I still want to add some 'bling' as I like to sparkle at the Ren Faire. 

I made: 

  • a pair of drawers with black-work (Layer 1)
  • a split front Florentine style doublet gown with braided baragoni (Layer 2)
  • a loose gown (Layer 3)
  • a peacock feather fan, a necklace and girdle, (all complete), and a partlet (incomplete). (Layer 4) 

After 3 mock ups of the drawers I finally cut and sewed them. I find the modern cut of the pants crotch to have a much nicer fit than this method from Pattern Of Fashion 4 but wanted to give it a try. Maybe it's an issue of me being a larger woman and the original was for a man that had a lot to do with the poor fit. I sewed in the crotch triangles and then did the center front and back seams, the crotch seam, and made a casing along the top in which I inserted elastic instead of a drawstring. The bottom edge is on the salvage so I didn't hem them. The black-work was a great learning experience and took me most of 2 months to complete.

The gown fabric was another thrift store find of about 3 yards of blue and 2 of a coordinating green. It has a little shimmer to it though it's a fairly course weave with slubs. I used Simplicity pattern 3782 so did it more modern than historical. I cut the bodice front of the pattern open from shoulder to center-front and made seams to accommodate the trim work. I sewed in a metallic loop trim and then gold cording. It is bulkier than I like but gave me the portrait look. The bodice is lightly boned with sew in plastic boning and lined in linen. The skirt is also lined in linen to give it more body. I used hook and eye tape as recommended in the pattern but due to it gapping I had to sew the center-front shut for the photo shoot. While this is a period practice I don't care to take the time for it each time I wear the dress so I'm trying to figure out a way of lacing it without messing up the center-front trim. The green under skirt hasn't been made yet. I just tucked the fabric in my waistband for the photo shoot.


The sleeves are lined in cotton and sewn into the arm openings. The braided baragoni are tacked on over the top. They were made of strips of fabric edged with a smaller version of the gold cord used on the dress and linen tubes filled with quilt batting and braided together. I puzzled over their construction for months and experimented with various styles before coming across instructions on multi strand braiding. I still need to add the crystal buttons which caught my eye in the original picture. 


I love the back view of the loose gown. The pleats turned out very well despite much indecision and experimentation on the spacing. I sewed them on the straight upper edge of the fabric and then cut the neckline. There are 3 more pleats under the arms. I interlined the yoke with black linen and lined it with brown. There is a small standing collar and sleeve caps. I roll hemmed the bottom and front edges and sewed the trim on in one continuous line from the bottom to around the collar and back down.

For accessories, I found two long necklaces in pretty peacock colors for the girdle. 
The necklace was completed by adding a cross piece, medallion, pearl drops, and a plastic jewel to a string of pearls. 

The fan was made by wrapping a wooden spoon with some gold trim. I cut 2 circles from interfacing and sewed 3/4 away around so it would slip over the spoon. I hot glued the peacock feathers to the interfacing on both sides and added a metal disk like I used in the necklace to the center and glued it all onto the spoon.

The partlet is still a work in progress. I learned needle tatting and make a gold loopy edge for the ruffle. It took longer to sew it to the linen band than to tat. I hope to get the gold-work on the partlet background done over the next few day. Ren season starts this weekend so I'll be wearing my new gown soon.