The Fourth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

June 1 to September 30,  2014

Tracy Bossinger
Wisconsin, USA

I have been sewing for most of my life (off and on), but do not consider myself an advanced seamstress. This will be my second Italian Renaissance costume (the first being from a mainstream company pattern), and the first attempted historically correct one.

My proposed outfit is a 1530's Bronzino mash-up, mostly based on the portrait "Lady in Green", but also but also with a bit of Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of a Lady, c. 1533, consisting of a camicia, green over-dress, an under-dress (color as yet undetermined), and accessories (planning a belt of some sort, a zibellino, and balzo).

June Update

So far I have cut the camicia pieces, based on information found at this page, but I am changing the construction a tad because I don't feel the Germans were doing quite the same thing as the Italian look I'm after. I have (mostly) made a straight collar to which the body/sleeves of the camicia will be attached as in a "normal" high-necked chemise (if that makes sense), except pleated instead of gathered. If it doesn't make sense, I can try to explain better, and will try to take progress photos as I go. I have also embroidered cuff pieces and the collar.

This is what the embroidery pattern was supposed to be, before I decided the floral thing wasn't working for me.

So I started sketching over the design and came up with this...

...which I changed to this...


...and ended up as this once embroidered.

The inner collar design was taken from the Lady in Green portrait, though I did the spacing too closely. Might try it again on a future project with wider spacing.

The collar sections are pinned together, and waiting to be sewn together. I may do some buttonhole stitch trim along the top edge, but haven't decided. I decided not to add a ruffle at the top like the green portrait, since I'm not a frilly type, and the red portrait hasn't got one, either.

Cuff embroidery, one front and one back (design taken from an online model book from... 16something, I think... will have to go back and look for the link, and used on a previous chemise cuff of mine).

I may re-hem them (depending on length when added to the sleeve) and possibly do some black buttonhole embroidery on the edge of these as well, but again, not decided on that.

This is my belt inspiration portrait. These are the belt and zibellino supplies before beginning.

Beads I made from cording, along with the amber ones I knew for sure I wanted on the belt.

Other beads I hadn't decided on whether to use or not.

Frank with his newly attached prettier tail.

The minks were my grandmother's, and attached to each other as a stole. I had difficulty deciding which one to use (all their faces are adorable), but eventually picked one. He already had an alligator clip as a jaw, which would make it easy to attach him to my belt when I get tired of carrying him in hand, though I did toy with the idea of a ring or s-hook in the mouth or sewn to one (maybe for another project - I do still have 2 more to play with). He also had the cutest little feet, but the tail that had come off of the center one was nicer, so I swapped them out (hence his nickname of "Frank," hee hee). Because they had the heads attached, and because I didn't want to try my hand at sculpting, I decided to go with a "muzzle" style thing as in this inspiration picture.

No progress pictures, I'm afraid, but here's Frank all done up:


And then I strung together the beads for the belt, laying on the green velvet that will become the gown eventually.


July Update

This month was a slow one for me, mostly involving rethinking and plotting. I did begin hand sewing the skirt panels for my dress (still in progress and no photos - too boring). I also finished assembling the camicia, so I do have some progress photos for that.

This is the continuous lap placket I did on the neckline opening. Not 100% happy with it, and might fix it later.

Pleats pinned up for sewing - why I did this I have NO idea... should have just "pinned" it with thread instead, but here we are.

Cuff sewn on and rehemmed - looks much better than it did before rehemming. 

Collars attached.

And "worn" by my dress form.

Collar back and pleats.

Whole camicia.

Another view.

All of this was done by hand. I did run and fell seams throughout, except on the collar, which was pretty much whip stitched. I still haven't decided if I'm going to do a black edging on the cuffs and collar (or just the collar), and may leave that until the other layers are done before I decide.

August Update

Still at it, though little pretty to look at so far. Some steps I missed taking progress shots of, but here is what I did shoot.

Bodice backs and fronts in mock-up/lining fabric (beige), outer fabric (green) and interlining (blue). 

Upper sleeve fabric cut, and the sleeve base just visible at the top (shiny green fabric in upper left).

Sleeve mock-up pinned to sleeve base to check size and look approximation. I'm already getting sick of pleats!!

Sleeve trim pieces cut out but not folded, set on the sleeve to make sure I got the length right.

Neckline trim pinned in place to check length, and others starting thru the bias tape folder. I didn't actually cut the black velvet trim on the bias - the black velvet was left over from another project and there were not many long pieces, and I figured with it being relatively straight pieces, it wasn't absolutely necessary for it to be on bias.

Another shot of the same.

Trim sewn down on inner neckline and first layer around the neckline.

All three bands of trim applied.

Three bands of trim on each sleeve, sewn down.

Actual upper sleeves pinned to sleeve base. Still sick of pleats!!

Different angle showing fullness of sleeve and part of the lower sleeve.

Lower sleeve done in black velvet, tacked to sleeve base.

I had debated whether to slash the lower sleeves and the innermost trim edge (I'm not crazy about the look, but thought it might be a fun thing to try), but decided not to when my living room floor was filled with little black balls of fuzz from the velvet shedding. I decided I didn't want to leave a fuzz trail everywhere I go, so the slashing is out for this fabric.

I have the sleeves and linings sewn to the bodice (no photos of that all done or in progress - sorry... I was fighting with the lining to get the sleeves done and no spare hands! And then I was rushing to get the rest of the lining in, hoping to finish the dress by this weekend - not happening), and the skirt is pleated to the bodice and in the process of being sewn down - will try to get pics of that before it's done to send with the last update, but may not be able to. Still having fun, though I am calling this the Never-ending Green Dress of Doom!

September/Final Update

I finally finished the Green Dress of Doom! I made a petticoat (three panels of poly taffeta gathered to a waistband)...


...then, in celebration of finishing all the sewing  - and despite not even beginning the balzo I had in mind... bummer - I made two pairs of earrings with cultured freshwater pearls, malachite and glass beads.


On the whole, I'm pleased with how this turned out. I left a slight train at the back hem (only enough to drag the ground). The gown fastens at the side back (just visible on the right side in the photos from the back). 

I will have to adjust the shoulders (or just not move a lot)... they fall much lower than I originally anticipated. I adapted Margo Anderson's pattern (Elizabethan) for the bodice, and thought it would sit higher up than this one does (my Elizabethan does, but I think it's because I lowered the back neckline for this one). It is not actually in danger of slipping off as it appears to be, but sits quite snugly on my upper arm. 

In future, I will also have to draft my own sleeve patterns (or lengthen ones I use or adapt), because these came out shorter than I need them to be. I think I also cut two right lower sleeves by accident, but once it's worn it isn't as noticeable as when it's on the mannequin.