The Fourth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

June 1 to September 30,  2014

Maridith V. Feher
Arizona, USA

I started sewing clothes for my dolls eighteen years ago, which has grown into a love of historical costuming. Now I research sixteenth century clothing from around Europe and endeavor to reproduce approximations of the clothing. I am an the editor of, a member of, a panellist/model for Phoenix Comic Con 2014, and a card carrying member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I plan to dream big, and see what I can accomplish in the time allotted. I will make a smocked linen camicia, corded or quilted petticoat, gold silk gown, partlet with gold couching. I hope to complete a pair of hose, slippers, coral or pearl jewelry, silk veil, flag fan, and silk parasol as well. 

June Update

So far I have completed my muff and have started making gold cording to couch onto my new partlet. My muff is based on the ones described by Cesare Vecellio in Habiti Antichi et Moderni. The top fabric is a rich upholstery remnant and it is lined in faux lynx. Because of the endangered status of the lynx I choose to use a high end synthetic. The two long seams are machine sewn and all of the button loops, buttons, and closing were done by hand. 


The gold buttons were made by hand using jewelry headpin and gold plated beads. I dug through my beading kit and made an identical button in silver to show the process I went through for my gold buttons. How to make the buttons:  


Place large bead on decorative head pin.

With pliers twist the pin to make a loop.

 Wrap remaining wire around base of loop and trim off any excess wire. 

 The finished button.

The other pieces I have been working on are some of my jewelry and the bodice for my gown. 

The necklaces and bracelets are simple coral and gold beads on beading wire. I made my own hooks using brass wire, but do not have any progress shots (it took both hands).

My gown is made of a golden brown silk lined in yellow linen and a linen canvas interlining. The neckline was done on a machine, but all of the other edges were turned under and sewn by hand.


Next week I will have pics of the velvet ribbons being sewing down and some hand sewn eyelets.

July Update

I have spent the last several weeks making time to apply black velvet ribbons to my gown's bodice as decoration. Strips of velvet were applied by hand using a hemming stitch on each side of the ribbon. A small amount of gold silk was left exposed between these ribbons to add contrast. This simple embellishment would have been popular in Florence.


My eyelets were inspired by Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. Her examination of Elenora di Toledo's funeral dress showed corrosion stains around the eyelets. Arnold explains mental rings were used to reinforce the eyelets on gowns. I worked my eyelets by hand using an awl to spread the weave. When the holes were not large enough to match the metal rings I used knitting needles to spread them further. Finally I stitched around the open eyelets and rings using embroidery floss. This gown has 28 eyelets on the side back seams. 

My other major accomplishment for the last several weeks has been working on my partlet inspired by those of Elenora di Toledo. I braided the gold thread using a lucet. I started work on my partlet with 10 yards of gold braid and will soon find out if that was enough. The ground fabric is white, silk chiffon. I have never used this in garment construction before and found it very slinky. My machine did not like working with the chiffon so I did all of my stitching by hand. To mark the grid pattern for my gold-work I basted a one and a half inch grid into the silk with red thread. As I finish couching the gold braid into place, the red threads are snipped and removed from the partlet. Each intersection will have a 8mm freshwater pearl sewn on top when I finish the couching. Ties were made of cotton lucet cording.


August Update

The focus of my efforts this month has been assembling my second layer. Originally I was going to do a quilted petticoat. After some thought I decided to just pad my hems with with felt. The skirt is made with a brown silk.


For the embellishment I decided on using sari trim and bobbin lace to decorate the skirt just above the hem.


The rest of my free time was spent cutting the skirt of my gown to reproduce Elenora's funeral dress and then cartridge pleating the skirt to my bodice by hand. Once this was completed I started padding my hem inside the gown's lining. At this moment I am finishing my hem and planing out how I wish to embellish my camicia.


September/Final Update

One of the most time consuming parts of my final month was finishing the gold work partlet I started earlier in the competition. Silk chiffon does not readily take the structure that metal thread provides, but it eventually did work. A 7mm fresh water pearl is sew down on the the intersection of each gold diamond. I did not cover the entire partlet with metal thread. I saved time and money by only couching portions that would be seen. the original 10 yards of gold lucet cording was not enough for the whole partlet. I had to pause for an evening and make an additional 2 yards for edging the partlet. 


After finishing my gown hem by hand I realized I still needed sleeves for this dress. I opted to try pinking on my sleeves. My original plan was to use metal chisels and a rubber mallet to pink my silk, but several attempts proved that these were too dull. Rather than give up on my dream of pinked sleeves to go with my dress I found an craft knife and cut three-quarter-inch slits every half inch at one and a half inch intervals up my sleeves. I was worried the hours of work and measuring would appear flat, but this sleeve treatment is at its best when viewed on a three denominational model. The gold silk was lined in black linen to heighten the visibility of the slashing. Each sleeve is attached to the bodice with a loop which goes around a "jeweled" button.


Back in July I made myself a new apprentice belt with the intention of having it be part of this project. This month I finished adding a few segments and have worn the belt in my final photos.

I chose the end the competition where so many others started it, my underwear. The simple square neckline inspired me to create details in the stitching. Each piece of the linen camicia was hemmed by hand. Assembly stitches were done by hand using black silk and a detached button joining stitch I found in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 4. My neckline and cuffs were edged in groups of three button hold stitches to add flair. My original plans to smock my cuffs were laid aside for now due to time.