The Fourth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

June 1 to September 30,  2014

Mandy L'Estrelle
Western Australia

I have been playing with Italian renaissance costuming for about 4 years now, this will be my 4th IRCC. I will be making a camicia, a side laced sottana with detachable sleeves, an over gown in the style of an Alcega mongil trancado, and another layer I havenít worked out as yet but probably a partlet of lace.

June Update

I am working on a very shortened timeframe for this years IRCC. I need to get it all completed by the middle of August at the latest so I have been trying to get moving and get it done quickly.

I am making an outfit based on the portrait of Bianca Capello by Lavinia Fontana. My zimarra will feature a pleated loose back similar to a sketch that I found on the internet somewhere.

I have chosen a gold and aubergine damask and 2 silks in aubergine and light gold for this project from my fabric collection, as well as some trims, another goal I have set is trying to spend as little as possible on this outfit and to use as much as I can from my stash.

I started off by creating a pair of drawers from white linen using the Margo Anderson Italian renaissance underwear pattern. I have hand embroidered a simple pattern around the legs, a real achievement for me as I am a non-embroiderer due to hand issues. These are completed.

I then created a chemise from more of the white linen, it is based on the extant chemise shown on the ROV website. As I have made this before I used a previous pattern I had made. I have trimmed the neckline and cuffs with a thin white cotton lace. I will be creating buttons and loops for this piece shortly.

I have started creating a lace partlet from some precious cream lace that I have had stored up for way too long. I placed it around the neck of my dressmakers mannequin and trimmed out parts and pinned until it sat nicely with no puckers or folds, I am currently very carefully joining the pieces and will then line it with silk organza and bind the edges to give it strength and stability.

I have almost completed my sottana from the damask. The internal two layers of the bodice have been sewn into channels with boning inserted. The lining is gold silk. The skirt has been gathered and attached. I have this hanging at the moment to allow the skirt to settle before I stiffen the hem and turn it to the required length. I also need to do the lacing holes and cord.

I made use of an earlier short paned sleeve pattern by extending the pieces, and have cut the damask and gold silk lining, sewn them into the panes and have started hand sewing them into sleeves. The cuffs will feature some gold Venetian lace, and the sleeves will have beading on the panes where they are sewn together.


July Update

I have been working steadily trying to get this done as fast as possible without sacrificing quality of work.

The sottana is together however upon trying it on with the sleeves I am not happy with the straps so will be unpicking and shortening them so they sit a little better. The bodice has been stiffened with boning on the front of the bodice but I have not included any in the back for comforts sake. There is a small fold in the back of the bodice in these pictures but I am unsure if that was just my bad posture today with my back being sore so maybe in the future I may take off the back of the skirt and shorten the bodice an inch, it is so hard to fit things all by yourself! The bodice is lined with silk as are the sleeves. The hem has been stiffened using a layer of wool felt and cotton fabric.

The hand sewing, gathering and bead of the sleeves took about 4 days to complete and I am very happy with how the baragoni on this pair have turned out, they were very fiddly to do. I also added a cuff of cream Venetian lace to finish the sleeves. I have attached using hooks and eyes but will be adding ties for more secure attachment when I have finished making the cords and points.

The partlet is continuing on the lace is pieced into shape and lined with the silk organza it just waiting hand finishing.

August Update

This month I have been working steadily on my coat. The purple silk coat with its gold silk lining came together quite easily, and the underneath back panel worked really well.

The striped and slashed undersleeves took a long time, but I enjoyed using a chisel and mallet to cut all the slashes, and they worked really well to get all the cuts uniform in length. After the top layer was sewn to the lining and the gold trim attached I decided they needed a little something, so I added pearls to the trim.

Originally I had intended this to have large hanging sleeves similar to Alcegaís Mongil Trancado, however after I pinned these in place over the slashed undersleeves, I felt that it obscured the white sleeves too much, and as I have put a lot of work into the under sleeves, I redesigned and shorted the over sleeves similar to the green gown in this picture by Zuccari.

This coat is almost finished I just need to complete the hemming and add fastenings to the front and internal back panel.
The trim was a hard choice but I finally decided on a narrow gold and a purple embroidered trim.

The sottana is all finished and has been worn already to a feast, where it brought many positive remarks. I did find it was a very warm gown to wear and as I now believe it will be too warm to wear the sottana and the purple over-gown except on the very chilliest of evenings, I have planned a second sottana in a gold brocade to go with the purple over gown.

I have not worked on my partlet any further but hope to get it completed very soon. I am also planning a very lightweight chemise to wear with the warm sottana. I have also started work on a muff to use with this outfit made with some fur and the off-cuts of the sottana, and also some jewellery.

September/Final Update

So another IRCC has come to an end, I am very proud to be able to say I have completed all four of them so far! I was a lot more organised this year and worked quite steadily thought the items and finished a little early. I could have gone ahead and made more pieces but I had other projects needing my attention as well, so I got them finished up instead.

I made a nice pair of linen drawers with hand done embroidery around the cuffs, they fit nicely and are quite comfortable. A linen chemise with a square neckline with cotton lace around the neck and the cuffs. This is a nice fit too but a little warm so it will be a winter item I think. I am planning on a another chemise for this outfit that is a light weight muslin so that I can wear the sottana in warmer months.

A lace partlet. This was a real trial piece for me, It was difficult to cut and piece the lace to sit nicely around the neckline, I also lined the lace with silk organza which added to the difficulty regarding the hemming of the organza along the edge of the lace. I hand hemmed it but then it was not sitting nicely so I had to resort to a little fabric glue to get them to play nicely together. I am quite happy with the look of this partlet but there are some improvements I can make next time.

The sottana with paned sleeves. The gown has come out really well, the fit is great after I shortened the straps and fiddled a little with the back length. The sleeves took a long time to hand sew and bead all the panes together, and to get the rolls at the sleeve tops to sit the way I wanted them to. The sleeves are detachable by hooks but I feel I will change these to ties to make them more stable. I have worn this gown to two events already and have had many favourable comments both times.



The coat. Wow what a mammoth project this turned out to be! I started by making the white under sleeves. The silk was slashed using chisels and hammer, and then it was sewn onto a white linen lining. The braiding was added and then pearl trims added to the gold trim. The cuff features slashed binding I made myself for the first time. These sleeves are also removable so that I may use them with other coats to be made in the future.


The purple silk was a pleasure to sew. I opted for a fitted doublet style front with a loose coat pleated back, with hidden under panels to keep it all sitting firmly. The sleeves to the coat changed from longer Spanish style sleeves to the shorter ones with the gold frog closure features as I felt the longer sleeves detracted from the white undersleeves too much. The gold closures do not open as the pieces were recycled from a trim I had previously used which I had cut these pieces off, they gave just the look I was after. 

The front edges of the gown are bound with hand made slashed gold silk bias tape. I am so in love with how this makes the piece look so well finished! I can see this being used in many of my future pieces. All the seam work in the gown has been French seamed to help stop the inevitable fraying that silk does, and the front of the bodice is fully lined in the gold silk. The trims were a difficult choice but I am glad I went with the purple and the thin gold. Over all I am thrilled with the coat. I wore to an event already and many people gave wonderfully positive remarks on the finish and overall look of the whole outfit.


I have also made a necklace featuring a lovely golden smiley face given to me by a lovely friend, to remind me to never lose my smile. it features purple and gold beads.

My veil is purple lightweight chiffon that I have sewn onto some small gold combs to keep it in my hair as pins donít seem to work for me.

I am so happy with the completed outfit and will be wearing it proudly at many occasions to come. Thank you Bella for continuing to run this amazing challenge, over the past four years I have learnt so much and improved in both my skills and confidence. I look forward to trying to complete it again in the future.