The Fifth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31,  2015

Lauren Pettine
Colorado, USA

I am a novice both to sewing and especially to Italian Renaissance. I have never made an Italian Renaissance outfit before - this will be my first. I had some instruction as a kid, but my first projects by myself really happened after March 2013, when I received a Bernina as a graduation present. I mostly have made outfits for Renaissance Faire and CosPlays, but I've been poring over historical techniques and outfits and I really think I'm ready for the challenge!

I plan to make a brown and gold outfit, consisting of a camicia and underskirt, 1580's Venetian style ladder laced gown, a zimarra, and then a fan, new partlet, girdle, and saccoccia.

I do not have any extensive handwork - any embroidery/other will be done within the challenge!

April Update

I decided, since I wanted to do a boned sottana, that I needed to start with the gown and go out of order. This is my layer 2!

I went ahead and started by machine sewing the inner bodice out of cotton duck, and boning the bodice with plastic zipties from Home Depot. I figured since this foundation wouldn't be seen, it wouldn't need to be hand sewn. I used a pattern I had previously drafted for a cosplay that seems to fit well and give the correct conical shape I've seen in the reproductions here. It is a three piece pattern in duck, as I need all the pieces to follow the grain to limit stretch.

This worked just fine, so I then covered the bodice in the fashion fabric, which is a poly/cotton sateen. I did this in one piece, as to avoid the seams, and since the grain didn't matter as much on this piece. I whip stitched around the edges to lock it down, and left the straps undone for now, as the underarm usually my greatest source of discomfort in similar garb.

I then took 3 60" pieces and handsewed them together with the grain going down instead of across, as I saw somewhere this was more accurate, and then cartridge pleated the top edge. The top edge was slightly bulked with an extra layer of the fashion fabric so the cartridge pleats would look slightly more full.

Then my camera died where my motivation didn't, and I sewed the pleated skirt to the edge of the bodice. I then lined the bodice with extra cotton, and installed twenty lacing rings along the inner front. I prefer to use lacing rings inside as it makes it easier to lace internally - as the bodice tightens, the lacing rings grip the cord and keep it taut, ensuring the perfect V shape down the front!

Next up - sleeves and my camicia!

May Update

I managed to get both my sleeves and my camicia done as I had said, despite the fact my little family was just expanded to include a four month old puppy this month. The camicia is just the pattern given on the Realm of Venus site, sewn with the same proportions given and gathered at the neck with a large piece of bias tape. All machine done, nothing special there!

The sleeves were a lot more fun to make. I really fell in love with the sleeves in the portrait by Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto), c 1570s (?): Portrait of a Lady, in their simplicity but with the fun tabs, and figured out that fun tabbing action by using a tube for the tabs, sewing those into a seam between the sleeve slits and the sleeve itself, and covering that seam with bias tape. I opted to use ties to hold the sleeve onto the bodice just for ease of not making buttons and to match my inspiration. All of the sleeves were hand sewn except for the initial bag lining of the bottom of the sleeves and the tubes for the tabs so it took a while.

However, the really fun part is that my parents took a trip to Italy and stopped by Venice and picked me up 6 yards of lace (and a beautiful mask that is definitely too late to be relevant but will get some great use at the local renaissance faire) that I was just thrilled to get to use for this, and so I have tea stained some of the lace for the cuffs.

After that last picture was taken I hemmed the camicia sleeves and hem by hand and finished the bias tape on the bodice.

Next for me is a zimarra and maybe a veil!

June Update

Well, I didn't get as much done as I wanted, and started a bunch of procrastination projects instead for a short break from sewing this. I didn't finish my zimarra, but I did make good progress I think!

I made the pattern for my zimarra, and bought new fabric that I thought matched better for the lining. The pattern essentially followed the Juan Alcega pattern that Morgan Donner used last year for her zimarra (which I really admired and asked her about before looking into mine), but I chose to do sleeves paned with sleeve puffs, which I based close to this image.

I have not ironed it yet, so the bag lining makes it look super poofy, but it should look beautiful once ironed together. Shown below is the peachskin I want to use for the sleeve puffs, the finished panes, and the beads to decorate the places where they all meet. I chose peachskin over organza or chiffon because I wanted it slightly more opaque.


Last month, I had ordered some faux pearls and eye pins, but due to a mix-up with Amazon, I ended up not receiving them with Prime and got my order refunded. This was fine - I figured I'd get around to it and not having it around would ensure that I worked harder on the sewing portions before having an "easy" July by doing just accessories. Then, this month, it showed up, and I hated the original lining fabric I had picked for my zimarra so I didn't even want to touch it, so I just worked on a ton of jewelry.

I made a girdle and two necklaces to layer, and when I talked about what I was doing to one of my sewing friends, she offered me a marten to use as a zibellino. I was just absolutely thrilled to accept and had a ton of gold and white faux pearls and had a great time. I selected Aspen charms because, while not historically accurate, I really enjoy the idea of a Colorado Della Rovere sort of use as the main place I will wear this is our local renaissance faire.

I also finished hemming my veil, but have not yet fastened it to the comb I plan to use.

To do next: Finish my zimarra sleeves and decorate with bias tape, make a saccocia and fan, and polish off anything else that I have time for! So ready to finish off everything and be able to wear it!

July Update

Basically this was just a busy, bad month for sewing. The sleeves of my zimarra took way longer than expected because of heavily fraying peachskin. They all had to be tacked down internally by hand taking many more hours than expected. However, it is all done!

I have chosen not to decorate my zimarra with trim yet as I fell in love with the idea of a neapolitan ice cream color scheme a few weeks ago, and will wait for some pink jacquard trim or fabric bias tape to finish this off eventually. To compensate, I did make a few more pearl necklaces to make it look less mono-chromatic. For now, it's not completely inaccurate to be so plain, so I am not that worried.

I did, however, get the outfit finished! The sleeves are just gorgeous and I adore how they look - the extra hours spent on it were well worth it. They're a little tight because of the added love from the peachskin, but it feels like a hug and fits just fine over the other layers.

I also got my saccocia finished! Another terrible mistake that cost me time. I used the zimarra taffeta for it which went fine I do have an excessive amount of costume satin that is hot pink and lined my saccocia in that. And promptly hated the brown and the pink together and thought it looked... improper. So I added the seafoam bias tape in the pattern of this image. Looked much better! Added a tie, and voila! A pretty, soft feeling saccocia!

Last thing was the fan. This was completely historically inaccurately made as I had not a lot of time left, and was losing motivation on this project, so instead of a trip to the store for wood for the handle, I decided to use a thermoplastic I already had and know that I like. This will also make it far less breakable than wood. I painted it gold (another thing I had on hand and was too busy to get a different color). I then glued many of my feathery stash all over it and added some pearls. I know it's black, but it is what I had on hand!

I did get to wear the gown, veil, and jewelry for the trip to the local Renaissance faire before the zimarra was completed.

Final Update

(Scroll below for details)


I finished all four layers - my camicia, the sottana gown in gold/yellow, the zimarra over-gown, and a feather fan, girdle, zibellino, two pearl necklaces, a saccocia, and a veil attached to a comb for ease of putting in my hair.

I did skip the partlet in my original plan as I got a little concerned about the different styles and shapes, and decided that was a project that needed more research. However, by replacing that with a veil and adding a zibellino, I came out with 4-5 accessories either way.

Layer 1: Camicia

The camicia is made using the pattern on your website with the underarm gussets and done with a bias tape on the neckline.

Layer 2: Sottana

The sottana is done with a boned bodice, front laced with lacing rings up the front, back point and v front. The sleeves are slashed at the top with tabs around the bottom.

Layer 3: Zimarra

The zimarra was the most fun - a bag lined body with a collar, and sleeves that were slashed with sleeve puffs in between and then lined, and a gold bead at each junction for a layered effect.

Layer 4: Accessories

1. Saccocia

The saccocia was lined, then decorated with bias tape, then tied to a sash to wear.


2. Veil

The veil was machine hemmed and then attached by hand to a faux pearl and gold comb for ease of wear.

3. Feather Fan

The feather fan was done with materials from my stash.

4. Zibellino Harness

The zibellino harness, girdle, and jewelry were all done with eyepins and faux pearls.