The Fifth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31,  2015

Meg Vaughan
Georgia, USA

I have been costuming for 13 years, but 7 years ago I discovered my love of 16th century Italy and joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. There I am known as Lady Alessandra Giovanna Fioravanti. I am the mother of two wonderful children, the elder of which will be the recipient of the outfit made in this challenge Five year old Katie, or Bia as she is known in the SCA, made my heart sing when she asked me to make her a dress with a ruff and together we found a portrait that she fell in love with. Portrait of a Girl, Lavinia Fontana, 1580.

For the this challenge the layers I will be making are as follows: camicia, gibbone, sottana without bodies, veste, and colletto.

No work has begun at this time.

April Update

My Little-Bug has been growing like a weed, necessitating starting from the skin out for this costume. Thus, the first item I have made is the camicia. Actually, I have made two for her this month as she grows at the speed of light and the first was too small. I used a basic block pattern of squares and gores to make her a low necked camicia that should fit comfortably under her giubbone (doublet). The material is 100% linen and she calls it a "soft blanket dress". It is currently hemmed and a little big. I'm hopeful that this way it will still fit for at least a few months.

May Update

The colleto (partlet) and sottana senze imbusto (petticoat without bodice) are finished!

I cut out vaguely partlet shaped pieces and then draped them on Little-bug. They were joined at the shoulders and the sides and front hemmed. The bottom edges were made into a casing for a drawstring to tie under her arms. The ruffle was given a narrow hem, gathered and sewn into the collar. Finally, the collar was attached.

The skirt was a bit trickier as I had barely enough fabric. The gores on the sides ended up a little short, but its a functional skirt. The top edge is gathered over a string into a waistband. It fastens in the back with a tie through hand sewn eyelets. The hem has been faced with a strip of wool felt. This stiffens the edge, helps hold it out, and prevents the hem from flipping up when it hits the floor.

She's so excited about the dress it's been hard to get a good picture of her wearing it!

June Update

This month I worked on the doublet and I decided to do it all by hand. The outer shell is silk faced satin, linen cotton blend interlining with wool padding and a linen lining.

Before sewing the wool padding to the pink linen blend the seam allowances were trimmed. Each piece was based on , then pad stitched, The padded interlining was then basted to the outer silk and all the layers were sewn together at the shoulders and sides.

The collar was set, and the seams clipped. After pressing, the seams were stitched open using a prick stitch. At this point the lining was sewn in and buttonholes begun.

Each buttonhole was marked, then the layers basted together with pad stitches. After cutting open the holes with a chisel, I used blanket stitch around each opening, then used silk twist and buttonhole stitch to finish.

The buttons are half dome glass with a hand painted rose on each. While not exactly period, they are similar to enameled buttons that I was very excited to use these as they belonged to my great grandmother and Little-bug loves them.

The sleeves were set and openings were whipped closed. She was so excited shes been wearing it every chance she gets.


July Update

The Veste is complete! I am not sure what kind of fabric the pink its, but Little-Bug loves it. The lining is made from the reverse of the light pink. Silk organza was used in the puffs and linen/cotton blend for the interlining.

The main body of it is constructed exactly the same as the white doublet, so I shall not bore you with those details. The skirt panels were cut in the same manner as the underskirt, but since I had enough fabric the side gores are a better shape.

I didn't have enough fabric to do hanging sleeves like in the Fontana portrait, so I decided to use this as an opportunity to figure out how to make the baragoni shown in Alessandro Allori's portrait of Maria de Medici.

I started with a base for the sleeve taken from the top of the full sleeve of the white doublet. I stashed and spread the base shape to create panes and the silk poofs.

First I sewed up the seam on the silk puffs and the base. Hind sight being 20/20, if I do this type of baragoni again, I will construct it flat then sew up the seam. I marked a line where I wanted to tack down the silk puff.

The p uff was gathered at the top, bottom and a little down from the center, then sewn to the sleeve head. The panes were cut from the light pink, linen blend and then the dark pink. The dark pink lining was cut slightly bigger so it would show at the edges. The panes were positioned over the sleeve and basted along the center. At this point I wasn't sure if I was making a sleeve or a weird jelly fish!

I folded it at the basting line and sewed a tuck through all the layers. Again with the hind sight, next time I would have just made 2 sleeve bases and made this a seam.

After turning it back right side out, the tops and bottoms of the panes were basted down. The lining was inserted and a quick binding was done for the bottom edge. The whole thing was then sewn to the main gown. On to the skirt!

The top was shaped to fit the slight dip of the front of the bodice, then the edge turned over and pressed. I did a big running stitch ( as one would for cartridge pleats) to gather the top. The skirt was attached using a whip stitch on every pleat. It was hemmed and finally complete!

Final Update

(Scroll below for details)


It started as a dress of the 1580's but landed around 1570. Still, I am happy with the results. More importantly, Little-Bug Loves it; she thinks its a perfect dress for dancing!

Layer 1: Camicia

Layer 2: Doublet and Under-Skirt

Layer 3: Over-Dress

Layer 4: Accessory

1. Partlet

Things I learned doing this project
Sewing for growing children is harder than I thought it would be. Little-Bug grew 1.5 inches during the course of this project, so I'm glad it still fits enough to be worn. I am even more impressed with sixteenth century tailors' abilities in creating garments for children before they grew out of them! I was excited to try out hand sewn doublet construction and theories on the Maria de Medici baragoni (puffed sleeves).

Credits for work not my own:
Final Photography: Duffy James
Hat: Victora Ruhl Designs
Girdle Belt: Dragonpipes
More pictures and construction information can be found here: Alessandra's Closet