The Fifth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31,  2015

Tina Webster
Western Australia

I’m a very novice sewer, full stop. I've never entered any clothing to A&S competitions, and am a novice to Italian Renaissance as I have never attempted this style before. It's not what I normally wear.
Outfit will be early period, circa 1480 – 1500:
Layer 1: Shift
Layer 2: Under dress with detachable sleeves
Layer 3: Overdress without sleeves.
Layer 4: Earrings, belt/sash, capelet, necklace

I’m not doing any extensive handwork like embroidery, etc., as I’m just starting to learn to do these things.

April Update

This is a picture of my chemise on the mannequin. It’s made with light weight fine weave muslin, but I have not finished it as yet - the neck has to be sewn and gathered.

I’m also in the process of making from scratch a pair of silver wire earrings with 3 pearl tears hanging off it. I’m going to be away with my family on holidays sailing the high seas until mid May, but I will be working on finishing the chemise and earrings when I get back. I will also start on ny blue linen over-gown and a necklace to match the earrings.


May Update

I have started to attempt to hand sew the laced edging to the neckline of my chemise. This is taking me alot longer than I thought. Once this is in place, then I can put the ribbon through to draw in the neckline.

I have also made a pair of earrings - these are bent wire with three drop pearls. I used white plastic instead of real pearls as they are expensive and the plastic is a modern, cheaper alternative. These are my interpretation of a pair of earrings in a painting I have seen. (ca. 1550 Lady by Peter de Kempeneer, Städel Museum Frankfurt Germany).

June Update

I have finally finished hand sewing the lace edging on my chemise. This took a lot longer than I expected it to. So I can now say that my chemise is finally finished. Yay!

The next item I have started is my over dress, based on this painting. This will be of dark blue linen, and will be laced at the front. Due to shoulder injuries and no partner, side and back lacing is impossible for me to attempt.

I used calico as my template for the bodice. The dark pink material is a medium weight canvas for the internal lining for the bodice.

The rather fuzzy picture - (my apologies but my 10 year old camera has decided to finally die). is the start of a pearl and diamond necklace, strung on silk lines. I actually didn't use real pearls, silk and glass - way to expensive for me - So I used modern substitutes - white glass beads and clear crystals strung on clear jewellery strands. When completed this necklace will meet in the front with the same pattern centre piece as the earrings. I based this as an accessory to them.

My hat is completed and based on my interpretation of the painting below: Vecellio, Tiziano - Ritratto di giovane donna, c.1536. It is smaller than in the picture. The hat pin is pearls and diamond encrusted (really white glass beads and crystals) adorned with an assortment of black and blue feathers (not sure what type of birds).


Next and final item to start is my outer coat. Stay tuned for that one.

July Update

I have finished sewing my blue dress and sleeves. I sewed the lacing rings on the inside of the bodice, so it would look neater and lace down the front. I hand sewed the hem up and put black felt in it to help add a bit of weight to it. I was told it will also help to push the skirt forward so I don't trip on it. The material used for my sleeves was from the overdress and the gold and white stripped material was from a recycled quilt cover. They are reversible. I hand sewed the sleeve top ends where the ribbons are attached. I also put three lacing rings on the shoulder straps to hang my sleeves from. They are held in place by blue silk ribbons.


I also finished my over-dress (as per previous paintings). It is made from the same recycled quilt cover as the sleeves. It is gold silk with peacock feathers on one side and gold and white strips on the other. I made it reversible. It is open sided. A belt will hold the coat in place.

I'm finishing the belt and necklace this week. Unfortunately, I'm on the road with work again this week and will not have access to the internet till I get home.

July Update, Part 2

I have finished the belt. It is made from three silver buckles with strands of glass blue beads to connect them. The blue rope at the ends is to tie the belt at the back. The buckles were recycled from an old leather braided belt from years ago. The glass beads were given to me from a friend in Italy. Couldn't have thought of a more appropriate use than this challenge.

Final Update

(Scroll below for details)


Layer 1: Chemise

This was made from light weight fine weave muslin. The pattern was from a developed from a calico pattern. I machined sewed the main seams and sleeves and all the material edges to stop fraying. The lacing around the sleeves and neckline, I hand sewed on. The white ribbon was threaded through the lacing on the sleeves and neckline.

I’m very happy with the way my chemise turned out. I like the light weight material as It means I can wear this item in our hot Western Australian summers very comfortably. It is not to long that it will drag on the ground. It is easily washable by hand or machine and very quick to dry. Making it ideal for long term events or travelling. What could I improve on – definitely my hand sewing. This needs to be neater and more consistent size stitching. That, I know will come with the more I sew. I would like to try making a heavier material weight chemise next. I would also like to do some embroidery on it.

Layer 2: Under-dress

The blue linen was great to work with but was also difficult. I made the bodice first – it was drawn on to calico as a pattern base before the linen was cut out. This was also done with the bodice lining and skirt. I machined sewed the bodice edges except the internal arm holes and the outside where the bodice joins the skirt. I hand sewed the internal arm holes and the bodice inside where it joins the skirt. I lined the bodice with pink canvas, then put two plastic ties in the front opening to which I hand sewed the lacing rings. This helped strengthen the bodice and reduce tearing the rings out when lacing up.

The skirt was machined sewed on the edges and the main seams. It was also machined sewed to the front edging of the bodice. I hand sewed the inside of the skirt to the bodice. I also used curtain heading tape to pull the skirt in. This was machine sewed on, then the strings were pulled to bring the pleats in to the skirt. The hem had acrylic felt sewn machine sewn into the base to help weight it done and proved a kick point so I don’t trip on it. I made it slightly shorter for this reason as well. I did hand sew the hem up after this.

The sleeves were made from the same blue linen of the under dress and the gold and white striped material of the outer coat. This allows the sleeves to be reversed. I machined sewed the centre seam and the cuff of the sleeves, then turned right side and place

Layer 3: Reversible Over-dress

This was made from a recycled queen size quilt cover and pillow cases. I had to unpick the quilt completely before it could be used. The pattern was drawn on calico, then transferred to the material. The sleeves for the underdress were also made from the white and gold stripped material. I machined sewed the edges of the gold material as this material fraided very badly. This was to stop this. All of the seams were also sewn by machine, except the hems at the front and back. These were hand sewn once I turned the coat the right way.

I really enjoyed making this outer coat. I did make it a little short at the front. I don’t normally wear dresses for SCA, except at balls or feasts. I wanted to be able to wear this at normal SCA events so I don’t trip. I also think my measurements were probably not the most accurate and that may have done this as well.

Layer 4: Accessories

1. Hat

This was made from pre bought feathers and a plastic felt covered hat. The brooch was a belt buckle with pearls and diamantes’ indented. I hand sewed everything on to this hat.


2. Jewellery Set

Earrings: I used silver wire and plastic pearl drops, these were hand bent using pliers.

Necklace: this was made from plastic pearls, sterling silver wires. I added a watch from an old brooch given to me by my mother-in-law. (I need a watch at SCA events as I’m the Chirurgeon). I bent the wire with a piece of wooden dowel and pliers, then threaded them through the beads.


3. Belt

Silver buckle and blue glass beads. Made from a recycled leather belt and beads a friend bought me in Italy. The thread is a fine plastic beading line – it is flexible and very hard to break.


So what did I learn from this challenge?

1. I really enjoyed being challenged to make garb from scratch – the pattern to the finish product.
2. Making garb from a period and style I would not normally wear.
3. Learning to use my sewing machine a little better.
4. Learning to hand sew a little better.
5. Learning about and using different types of materials and new terminology - warp etc – which is still kind of an alien language to me.
6. Learning to make things I have never down before – belts, necklace etc.
7. Learning to ask other people for advice, instead of just going it alone and stuffing up.
8. Using modern materials as a substitute to what may have been used at the time.
9. Whilst being on the road – I was able to do some of my items. Kept me occupied at night in hotel rooms.

What lessons have I taken away from this challenge?

1. I definately need to learn to measure better.
2. Keep practicing my hand and machine sewing.
3. I have started to look at the garb that people wear differently now – not just how it looks, but understanding better how much work it can be and the effort that they make.
4. I can actually make things myself.
5. I want to learn more about different materials and how you can tell the difference between them.
6. Need to learn to use my computer better.
7. That being able to sit down and put something together actually made me feel as if I can actually do and achieve something now. My biggest problem is since my ex and I separated and I was diagnosed with PTSD, I have felt pretty useless, that I can’t do anything. This has made me determined to make more garb and accessories.
8. I have learnt the basics of making a simple hat – yes all premade – I just put together – but I really want to have a go at making a real hat like that one from scratch.

What I didn’t enjoy about the challenge

1. It really wasn’t the challenge itsself but the time. Working full time and being on FIFO/DIDO (Fly in/Fly out, Drive in/drive out) meant I usually only had weekends at home. This is usually taken up with home maintenance of a very old and large home and property.
2. This meant I was limited to how much of the items I could take with me due to weight limits etc.
3. Being on the road also meant that I did not always have access to the internet or mobile phone (Typical in bush areas). When you did it was not always reliable. This made it very difficult to always get my entries in. Attachments would show as leaving my end but poor Bella would get the write up but not always the attachments. Which, I know became very frustrating on both our ends.
4. The four month time period for me was the hardest part – that was due to work, a family holiday and a death in the family and me suffering severe depression and PTSD all happening during this four month period.

Would I do this challenge again?

Yes I would. I hope that Bella runs it next year. Regardless – it has made me more determined to enter more items in not just our local A&S but the Kingdom of Lochac ones as well. I guess now, I’m a glutton for punishment.

I really would like to thank Bella for running this challenged and all her hard work. I also really want to thank Mandy for encouraging our household to enter and her continuing mentoring and especially for putting up with my endless questions and the rest of the household for the encouragement as well – Anne and Celeste.