The Sixth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2016


Sandi Dreer
Texas, USA

I'm a novice to Italian Renaissance costuming. I grew up sewing but when my girls (now 22 & 25) started their interest into cosplay, that allowed me to freshen up my sewing skills. For the past decade, I have made numerous anime costumes but I prefer historic costuming for myself. Thus far, I have made a medieval gown, featuring burnout on silk velvet; several Victorian outfits (mainly bustle era), and Edwardian outfits. I blog here.

My proposed outfit will be for either my 22 or 25-year-old. I'll be starting with the underpinnings and stays before beginning on the outer garments.

May Update

Since we are still new to the Renaissance, my daughter Kayle needs everything from the skin out. I began with the camicia. I based it on the camicia tutorial that Bella has posted here.

I used cotton from my stash as the materials. I chose to deviate from the period fabric loom widths and went with modern loom widths of 44" wide. The neckband is a flat neckband, as are the cuffs on the sleeves.

The camicia was made with serged edges and the only handwork is on the neckband and cuffs.

June Update

Soon after the camicia was complete, I began working on a ribbon coif for Kayle's hair. We were inspired by La Bella Principessa, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

So far, everything I've made has come out of my stash. I had some white trim that I'm sewing together. Once it's all together, I plan on adding colored stones at each intersection. There will also be ribbon wrapped around the length of her hair.

The cotton/poly damask for the bodice and underskirt also came from my stash. They began their life in my sewing space as curtains I rescued from Goodwill. I knew I would be cutting it very close to get both a skirt and a bodice out of it, but I made sure the skirt width was 120 inches.

This was my first attempt at cartridge pleating and I was very pleased with the results although I do wish I had been able to use more fabric for a fuller skirt.

The underskirt is now complete. The bodice or gamurra has been cut out but still needs to be put together.

I received more inspiration this past weekend at a costuming retreat when one of my friends brought her copy of Moda a Firenze 1540-1580: Lo Stile Di Eleonora Di Toledo e la Sua Influenza for me to drool over.

Still to come - finishing the net coif, finishing the bodice, the overdress with sleeves, a partlet, and some accessories.

July Update

The past thirty days has been a busy time for me - work, school & home pulled me in too many directions. I've also been battling the "I don't wannas".

This month I concentrated on the over-gown or giornea. My daughter wanted this made of a blue velvet but funds didn't allow it to be made so I turned to my stash. I have a roll of poly silk that I thought would complement the gold damask. The only thing I purchased was trim that she wanted to go down the front.

The overgown is open on the sides, per my daughter's wishes and when her partlet is complete, it'll pop out the top of the overgown. Also still to be made are the sleeves and finishing the fitting on the bodice.

Since this will be worn in warm Texas weather, I made the decision to not line it and instead made bias tape of the same fabric & finished all the edges off with it.

The fasteners are still being debated on - I'm not sure that I like the hook I have pinned on it or if I need to make something.

August Update

The past 30 days have been very full! I was able to wrap up the bodice and sleeves for my daughter's outfit. I'm not too sure about the sleeves. I think they still need some embellishment but, frankly, I ran out of time. I have some small red glass beads (or even pearl beads) that may find their home on them. I'm also not pleased with how they ended up. I would have liked to have had more fabric to use, but I was down to small scraps of the brocade. Curtains, remember?

And finally, to the accessories! I decided that every young lady would have had a coral necklace, and I couldn't let my own young lady go without. I purchased the dyed red coral from Fire Mountain Gems, along with some silk thread, and hand-knotted each bead. That and a clasp, and it was finished!

The ribbon coif was finally finished! This piece took much more time than I anticipated and I was regretting my choice of ribbon less than halfway through. The edges of the coif are bound with a satin ribbon. And each intersection of ribbon is topped with a gold painted bead. The ribbon will be wound around my daughter's hair, just as in our inspiration portrait.

The Finished Outfit

Layer 1: The Camicia

The underwear layer is made up of a camicia that was made using the tutorial Bella has on this site. I was able to use stash materials to make the camicia for my daughter, Kayle. It is made from cotton and was made using the machine. There is still a petticoat in the works - I found a great bedskirt that has the same colours as the giornea. The camicia was made mostly with machine sewing but the neckline was sewn by hand. The cuffs also have lacing rings to close them.

Layer 2: The Bodice and Skirt

The skirt, bodice and sleeves were all made from thrifted curtains. The skirt was made with cartridge pleating and this was the first time I have used that technique. The bodice is laced with the ladder technique. The sleeves attach to the bodice with lacing rings. It was my first time to use lacing rings and I loved how the garment looked with them. My daughter is a bit difficult to fit, so the next bodice will take from what I learned with this bodice. If using thrifted curtains for future projects, I now know that more than two curtains is needed. The cartridge pleating was done by hand, as were the hems.

Layer 3: The Over-Gown

The giornea was made with stash materials: a polyester silk. It is unlined but the seams are bound in self-bias tape. I was initially afraid that the trim would look too ecclesiastical, but it looks fine and the pattern matched almost perfectly down the front. I may add some beads to set the trim off even more, but that's a project for a later date. My daughter & I decided against adding a fastener when we added the necklace. While the giornea was put together by machine, all the self-bias tape was sewn down by hand.

Layer 4: Accessories

I had initially meant to do a partlet and while it is still on the list, the furthest I had gotten was purchasing the fabric. I still intend to make a saccocia before we go to Ren Faire this fall.

Coral Necklace
The coral beads are dyed coral beads that I purchased. They are strung on silk thread, with knots in between each bead. It closes with a toggle clasp.

Ribbon Coif
This project took the greatest amount of time of all other projects combined. Using an ecru braided trim, each intersection is hand-knotted. After all the knotting was complete, the edging was added and finally, the gold-painted beads were sewn onto each intersection. When the project was still on the positioning board, the curved needle was a must! The lengths of ribbon were sewn onto the edging. Later, wig clips were added to keep the coif in place on her hair.

As a complete novice to the Italian Renaissance, completing this challenge actually provided me with a lot of insight, gave me the opportunity to try new techniques, and I have a huge sense of accomplishment that I was able to complete everything in time. The challenge did provide me with the chance to see some fantastic handwork done by my fellow entrants. There are a couple of items that I plan on adding later this year to my daughter's outfit, mainly a partlet and a saccocia. Future challenges will include a greater amount of handwork.