The Sixth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2016


Hallie Larsen
Arizona, USA

Historically inspired clothing can be useful in my job as a national park ranger. I came to sewing only a few years ago and still don’t feel very talented at it, however, I feel that I can make a decent piece of clothing now. I’ve made garb for multiple time periods as I’m part of various reenactment groups.

My proposed four-layer outfit is:
Layer 1: Camicia of white linen with embroidery
Layer 2: A brocade under-skirt
Layer 3: Green satiny over-dress
Layer 4: Hat, linen partlet

My Inspiration: Bartolomeo Veneto’s Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress, 1530.

May Update

This month has been taken up with a lot of overtime at work! At least have some things going.


Based on the sleeves seen in the inspiration portrait, I made the camicia of white handkerchief linen with blackwork embroidery of lines with Xs and French knots with blanket stitch on the edge of the cuffs. For the rest of the camicia, I used some of the later extant examples, noting the insertion stitches on the body and continued my sleeve patterns around the seams and gores. For the neckline I made a narrow band as seen in a few of the 1530s - give or take a decade - portraits with the camicia exposed, to which I knife pleated the body and part of the sleeves. Thread was matching or black, cotton. Most of the stitches including running, running backstitch, French knots, blanket, and whipstitch. I haven’t finished, but you get the idea!


I finished the beading of the black pearl and gold bead necklace. In the portrait, the necklace is obviously very long, spilling into and back out of the bodice. I’m not using a clasp as it will be long enough to fit over the head easily. I used silk cord, dyed freshwater pearls, black and gold glass foci (I don’t like them, so will be replacing), and gold plated beads.


I’ve found pretty much everything I need in my stash, thank goodness! My only thought is on the gold linen for my partlet as the fabric in my stash was bought for another project. I’ll have to buy more if I use it now. I have a silky lining material in an olive green that I’ll start cutting for the dress. I’ve just cut the pink brocade for the petticoat.

June Update

For my petticoat (under-skirt), I used an old pink and gold silk brocade sari for the material. This is Oso in the stash.

It was tough deciding what side to use—not to mention just cutting into the fabric!—so I attempted to make it reversible by making flat felled seams and the waistband was the same on both sides.

After sewing the length of the sari together I created box pleats at the top, finishing with a hooked waistband cut from the end of the material.

I used matching cotton thread, using running, running back, and whip stitches. Love this under-skirt so much I may use it now and again as an overskirt!

I am continuing to add blackwork to the camicia. I am also cutting out the partlet and drawing on the embroidery patterns. I have a feeling this will take the longest of all the projects. I also started on the over-gown skirt, but just cutting it out.

Didn’t have as much time for the project, but for a fun reason as I was on vacation for my birthday!

July Update

Besides the cats stealing spools of thread that had to be replaced, I was able to work on the over-dress and partlet this month.


I finished the olive green satiny overdress skirt except for the waistband. I hemmed the bottom and used the top to get the correct length for me. I created the large tuck at the top as shown in the original portrait by Veneto, then incorporated the tuck into mid-sized box pleats. I left an opening which will correspond with the side lacing of the bodice. I love this fabric except for the loosened fibres. It is silky, light weight, and the perfect color, but it is probably not natural is origin. I used a matching cotton thread for running and back stitch, French knot, and whip stitch. The waist is secured with a brass hook and eye—although the waistband still needs to be attached to the skirt. Still to do: bodice with lacing eyelets and sleeves.


Made the main part of the partlet in mustard handkerchief weight linen. I was going to use a more sheer material, but love to work with linen and this was a similar color to the partlet in the portrait. Also, as I am embroidering it with cotton floss, I find linen best for that. I drew out the components of the embroidery design from the painting, tried several ways—including playing the with the illustrations online—to transfer the pattern to the linen, ended up creating a paper stencil through which I drew directly on the fabric. I’ve started on the “artichoke” using Holbein, satin stitches, and French knots. Still to do: finish the embroidery and put on ties for the partlet.

The major item still to make is the balzo. This last month will be busy!

August Update

The time just ran out! I spent too much time in embroidering the camicia and partlet, not giving myself time enough to finish the puff and slash on the sleeves. I’ll just have to do that later. Still I’m pleased with what I did finish.

After finishing the embroidery on the partlet, I added mustard cording to tie it on, including a decorative cord for the front that I made on my home-made mini lucet.


I made the dress bodice by stitching it together and turning it inside out, adding the canvas interlining, and stitching the bottom to the skirt waistband. I handstitched the eyelets on both sides using an olive cotton floss, blanket and satin stitch. Like the dress in the painting, I didn’t use any trim. The baragoni sleeves were the same width as the fabric, pleated onto the shoulder straps and the lower sleeve, creating a large puff.

Dress bodice front

Dress bodice lacing eyelet

Dress lower sleeves

Dress Baragoni

The balzo is loosely based on the inspiration portrait. Instead of what appears to be a blond hairpiece beneath, I used the same linen as the partlet, sewing on a net of grosgrain black ribbon.The body of the balzo was made of a graduated tube of canvas stuffed with Churro* roving and covered with the same mustard linen as the partlet. After sewing the canvas into a crescent shape, I turned it inside out, stuffed it, and whip stitched the last small opening shut. I knife pleated the linen to fit the round base. Using a running stitch, I sewed on a net of grosgrain black ribbon. I made a cockade like the one in the painting for the middle front of the balzo from the same ribbon and a gold grosgrain ribbon of the same width.

The ouch in the center (in the final pics) is a bronze pendant with a green stone sewn on with cotton thread to the white satin ribbon and cockade. I sewed a comb on the inside to attach to my hair.

*Churro sheep are the ones that are raised locally by the Navajo people. The Navajo-Churro descended from the Spanish Churra sheep brought to the American Southwest in 16th century during the Spanish Conquest. I used it purposefully as I figured that it was closest to the type of wool used for stuffing in our time period.

The Finished Outfit

Layer 1: The Camicia

The camicia was made from white handkerchief-weight linen based on extant examples and clues of it in the inspiration portrait. The sleeves are full which I find the most comfortable and cool, with diamond shaped gores beneath the arm. The body is gathered in knife pleats to the square neckline. I embroidered the sleeves based on the pattern peeks in the portrait, Holbein stitch with French knots in between small Xs. I used matching and black cotton thread, back, running, blanket, and whip stitches as well as French knots.

The partlet was created from handkerchief-weight mustard gold linen, constructed with matching cotton thread with running, back, and whip stitches. The design was based on the inspiration portrait although I made it of less sheer material for my own personal privacy. The embroidery was based on the portrait, but with less lines of designs for my beginner’s abilities. The floral design is a combination of traditional pomegranates and artichokes. I used rust cotton floss, Holbein, line, split, and satin stitches with French knots. I haven’t done much embroidery in the past, but want to try more now. With some practice it might look ok! The sides are tied with matching cording with a more decorative one in the front I made on my handmade lucet.

Layer 2: The Under-Skirt/Petticoat

The under-skirt or petticoat was made of a repurposed silk sari in magenta/fuchsia and gold, using matching thread, mainly back and running stitches. I created box pleats for the top, attaching it to a waistband with hook and eye closure. I liked both sides so used welded seams and attached the waistband in such a way that I can wear it on either side.

Layer 3: The Gown

The gown is made of light weight olive taffeta with matching cotton thread, running and back stitch with French knots. The material was a bit of a nightmare being slippery and tending towards fraying and shedding threads that were full of static. The skirt has box pleats with the large tuck near the top like in the inspiration portrait. The split in the skirt corresponds with the side openings of the bodice that have handstitched eyelets in matching cotton floss. The bodice self-lined. I must admit I wished that it was better fitting in the back as it poofed in an odd way. Like the dress in the painting, I didn’t use any trim. The very large baragoni top sleeves are ruched on the inside to create the shape and attached to the lower sleeves.

I learned new skills including ruching and embroidery this time. I hope to get better at the second as I was sort of pleased with what I did accomplish. Overall I like the outfit although wish it fit just a bit better on the back of the bodice. I really like how the baragoni sleeves and skirt turned out. The skirt flounces nicely while walking. I love the site where we took most of the photos, but it is the rainy season and it poured! We finally had a moment and took the photos in the garden, but I was splashed several times. Still, I made this to wear and so I did!

Layer 4: Accessories

1. Hat

2. Necklace

3. Partlet (Incomplete - a photo of the finished item was not sent by the August deadline).