The Fifth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31,  2015

Courtney Whalen
North Carolina, USA

This is my second time entering the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge. Though I am not a novice at sewing, I still consider myself a novice to Italian Renaissance costuming as last year's entry was my one and only Italian Renaissance costume. For this year's challenge, I will be making an ensemble for my almost two year old son Henry. My inspiration is the young boy holding the sheet music from Giovanni Antonio Fasolo's fresco.

For my layers, I will make a shirt, slops, doublet, a cloak, and either a hat or pair of shoes as the accessory. I have no handwork started at this point. I am looking forward to another fun challenge!

April Update

I decided to start the month of April with some mock ups for the different garments. My son is pretty little, and I've never done any sort of menswear (boyswear?) before. I opted to use the pattern for the Gheeraerts boy's doublet in The Tudor Child because the sizing is for a 2 year old. This particular garment closes in the back. I wasn't sure if that's what I wanted to stick with, but I needed to at least get my sizing right. I pretty much eyeballed it and drew it onto my scrap fabric.

Once I got my mock up pieces sewn together, I tried it on my little model. He thought it was funny at first, but then refused to try on anything else for a picture. Toddlers are fun. I have a little more work to do on getting the fit right, and I do think I want to change it to a regular front-closing doublet.

My next endeavor was to try out some trunk hose. I am basing his on the pair c. 1615-1620 in the Museo Parmigianino in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3 on page 91. Obviously the scale is way off, since those are for an adult male. I took a pair of my son's shorts and used those to make a pattern for the trunk hose lining, making sure I gave room for his diaper and to grow a little. They look a little wonky, but I have my notes on them of what I need when I am ready to cut it out of my fabric.

Then I took my son's waist measurement, multiplied it by 2.5, and then used that as a guide for sizing on the trunk hose. I stitched it together and gathered it at the waist and leg opening. I was able to try it on him (he would not stand long enough for a picture) to make sure it was sufficiently poufy. I'm happy enough with the pattern, but I will need to add a waistband when I go to make the actual garment.

Next up, I decided to just go for working on an actual layer. I used the shirt pattern in The Tudor Child. I opted for the shirt with the frilled collar to match my inspiration fresco. I used linen for his shirt, and I love that he is so small that I can use a remnant piece without breaking the bank. I roll-hemmed each pattern piece by machine before sewing them together so the seams would be more finished on the inside. The frill on the collar is also roll-hemmed by machine but with black threads to look more like blackwork. I'm very pleased with how it has turned out.

I wanted to make the shirt a little more special, so I taught myself some basic blackwork embroidery. I started with his monogram at the bottom of the shirt. I know that's not period, but in the South we monogram everything. Then I was a little more adventurous and added a pattern down the front of the shirt. I used the Autumn Leaves embroidery pattern located here.

It's not perfect, but I like the look and how relaxing it is to embroider. I've got an 8 hour car trip coming up this weekend, so I can surely knock out some more blackwork embroidery.

May Update

I'm feeling somewhat more accomplished in May. I was able to make a lot more progress on my blackwork embroidery for the shirt. I need to finish the motif on the other side of the slit.

I also took a leap of faith and cut into my actual fabrics. It's always a nerve-wracking moment, but it seemed to work out okay. I started with the trunk hose. I was able to stitch it right up, and I already have the gathering stitches (by machine) in the legs and waist. Just for kicks, I tried them on myself before gathering, and they definitely fit me. I am pretty sure this will give enough pouf on my son once they are gathered to his waist size.

Next up was the doublet made from olive linen. The fashion fabric used on the trunk hose has a slight olive sheen to it, so this pairs nicely. Also, my son's eyes are dark green. I decided to change my mind from using the original pattern piece I made last month. Instead, I used a t-shirt of his to make a pattern from that.

The doublet is self lined. I decided not to add any sort of canvas inner layer. It's just a fun costume for my son, who isn't quite 2 yet. I didn't want him to be too hot or uncomfortable. Once I had the body of the doublet and lining stitched together, I added the collar. It's a bit long still, so I will need to chop some off the bottom to make sure it fits at his natural waist. I will also need to add a skirt to the bottom. I was able to find some buttons that mimic the thread-wrapped style used in this time period that will be used as the closure.

I was also able to work on drafting the sleeves for the doublet. Again, I used The Tudor Child as my guide.

I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me, but at least I feel like I've got somewhat of a plan. This month I was able to shop for the rest of my supplies for the other layers and trims. Unfortunately at the end of May I hit a road block. We decided to put our house on the market to sell, so my usual sewing time got devoted to cleaning and organizing. I am hopeful that I will still manage to get enough accomplished in June despite house showings and having all 3 of my kids at home for the summer. Fingers crossed!

June Update

I didn't get as much finished this month as I would have liked. Seems to be a theme for me this challenge. I am happy to report that two of my layers are complete though.

After a bit of a creative block (overwhelmed with trying to sell my house), I decided to just jump into the outer layer I had planned. My inspiration was the Semi-Circular Cloak c.1580-1600 in Patterns of Fasion (p.96 #23). I used black wool and opted to have it self-lined as I didn't have enough of the olive linen left. I measured how long I wanted it, tied a ribbon to chalk, and marked the wool in a quarter circle. I tried to make an educated guess on the neck hole by using some of Henry's ready-made shirts as a guide.

I found a fun brownish velvet and braid trim with rhinestones on it. I know it's not really period with the rhinestones, but it gives it some flair. I used a drapery tassel cut in half for the cords.

The completed cloak modeled by Henry and his loyal servant, Cocoa.

I was able to do a little more work to the trunkhose that I started last month. I used a linen blend fabric that I had in my stash as the lining. These were the pattern pieces I had drafted at the beginning of the challenge.

The lining completed, along with the trunkhose and waistband.

I machine stitched the gathering threads on both the waist and legs to save time, put the lining inside the trunkhose, and then gathered them up to fit the waistband. At the time, I just have to do the leg casings and codpiece.

Finally I am finished with the blackwork on the linen shirt!! It shouldn't have taken me so long, but I just did a little here and there.

I have to do some serious sewing to get everything that I want to accomplish done in the next month.

July Update

First of all, I can't believe I actually completed enough layers. Between house showings, new house renovations, and work obligations, I had pretty much zero sewing time... until the very last day. So I busted my butt and finished the last details and the last layer.

Work on the doublet continued from last month. I had to shorten the waist to fit better, and then I added a self-lined skirt to finish it off. I had considered doing sleeves, but I ran out of the olive linen (and time too). I added hook and eye closure to the front.

Next up was finishing the trunk hose. I stitched on the leg casings. I also worked up a small codpiece that attaches with hooks and eyes. I hope it's not too flashy for a 2 year old!

Finally I decided to attempt my first ever pair of shoes for my 4th layer! They are made of faux-leather because 2 year olds grow too quickly to make a nice pair in real leather. I based my pattern from this website.

I traced out his feet as best as I could. Little boys are constantly in motion. I made a trial shoe first that had to be re-worked a few times. Once I felt okay with it, I went ahead and cut out the pieces I needed, and just stitched them together (by machine). I did have to trim down the heel piece a bit after he tried them on.

This challenge was very fun, and I enjoyed making something special for my little boy!

Final Update

(Scroll below for details)

Layer 1: Shirt

The underwear layer is a shirt made from linen that was machine sewn. I did the blackwork embroidery by hand along the front of the shirt.

Layer 2: Doublet and Trunkhose

This layer is an olive linen doublet that is self-lined and machine sewn. It has a hook and eye closure. The trunk hose are made of a fashion fabric and lined with a linen blend, all machine sewn. There is a small cod-piece at the front that closes with a hook and eye.

Layer 3: Cloak

This is a black wool cloak based on one found in Patterns of Fashion. It is edged with a velvet and rhinestone trim, and it has an upholstery tassel closure. The cloak is machine sewn.

Layer 4: Accessories

1. Shoes

The shoes made from brown faux leather. The shape of the shoes are similar to those found in many Renaissance portraits. They are machine sewn. The brown tights seen in the complete outfit and the artistic picture are tights that we already had (and belonged to his older sisters).

This IRCC has been an interesting challenge for me. Sewing on such a small scale, but still trying to account for growth during the challenge made things interesting. Overall, I enjoyed it and love how the whole look turned out.