The Fourth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

June 1 to September 30,  2014

Alisha Wade
Hawaii, USA

I'm a military wife, and mother to four lovely girls. My grandmother taught me to sew clothing, while I was pregnant with my second daughter, about twelve years ago. I enjoy costuming, mostly fantasy, and am brand new to the SCA and historic recreation. I'm both nervous and excited about this challenge. I've made a few basic T-tunics, but this will be my first Italian renaissance outfit. I hope to make myself, at least, a camicia, dress, over-gown, and head covering.

June Update

I heard about this challenge maybe two weeks before it began, and signed up at the last moment. I spent the first couple of weeks attempting to draft my own pattern and making mock-ups. I finally decided I will need more practice with drafting and fitting, before making my own pattern. I did purchase a historical pattern, but I didn't feel I could make it work right now.

We had an SCA event this month, though, and I wanted to have something new to wear (it's my second event). I decided to use a modern style pattern for the bodice of the dress. The main fabric is a linen/cotton blend, and I used white cotton muslin for the lining. It's light and comfortable for here in warm humid Hawaii. I get the high waist I want, but it has a modern cut I'm used to. I sewed ribbons in for lacing on the sides, but plan to hand sew eyelets later.


While I was deciding on a pattern, I realized I had some clear faceted beads, that resembled the necklace worn in Portrait of a Young Woman by Sebastiano Mainardi. I used double strands of thread and some blue round glass beads to bring it together. I'd like to add a pendant, but I haven't decided what or how yet.


July Update

This month was very busy, especially with our family vacation, and I got much less done than I had hoped. I wanted to add some embellishment to my chemise as shown in many of the extant pieces, for example this blouse in the Metropolitan Museum. I tried my hand at embroidery, but decided I will need more experience with the art before using it on my clothing.

I had no knowledge of lace making, but stumbled on information for tatting. I found the website, and decided to teach myself to tat. I managed to make several small flowers and plan to tat more to place around the neck of my chemise.

I did manage to get all the pieces cut out and sewn together for my chemise. I need to finish the neckline, and add the tatting. I also need to shorten the length a little, and finish the sleeves.

August Update

It's hard to believe August is already over. I thought the geometric design of the chemise/camicia would be simple enough, and I already had the body pieced together. This month, I hand stitched gathers into the neckline, and then realized I needed to make some changes. First I needed larger sleeves, so I ungathered the neckline, slit open the top of the sleeve, and stitched in a width of fabric to enlarge it.

After I had re-gathered the entire neckline again, I realized the sleeves were attached too high to the body to be comfortable for me. I undid all the gathering again, and ripped the seams at the sleeves and down the side. I re-attached the sleeves and re-gathered the neckline, but my stitches were too large.

It took me three more times to get the neckline gathers the right length, and stabilize them. I still want to add the tatting to the neckline, and make closures for the sleeves, but it is now wearable. It is made of the same linen/cotton blend as the brown dress.

September/Final Update

At the beginning of this month I hadn't chosen either a pattern or fabric for my over-gown. I stole moments throughout the challenge to search for that "just right" fabric, but to no avail. The month was half over, before I found a pattern I could use,  with adjustments, for a bodice that fit comfortably. It wasn't until then that I finally decided I should just use some corduroy fabric I already had in my stash (I know it's not period, but it looks nice!).


I made the bodice using a double layer of the corduroy, and found some jewelry findings to use as lacing rings. I used plastic zip ties as "boning" at the front opening edge. The skirt is pieced together from simple gore sections with the front two panels lined with the brown linen.

This month I also attached the tatted flowers to my camicia. I didn't have enough to go all the way around the neckline, so it is only across the front, and up over the shoulders.

I was down to the last few hours of sewing time, and I still wanted something to cover my head! I had already cut and hemmed a veil, but it just didn't seem like it fit with the outfit. The simple caul I put together certainly isn't perfect, but I think it works with rest of my outfit much better than the veil.




Although I see plenty of imperfections, and things I could improve on, I think I am pleased with my efforts and accomplishments during this challenge. I look forward to next year (and learning more between now and then).