The Sixth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2016


Susan Malovrh
Wisconsin, USA

I have been sewing since I was young and enjoy making costumes, doll clothes, and quilting. This will be my fifth time in the Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge.

My Italian wardrobe is quite large enough so this year I am going to work on Ren wear for my grandchildren as we plan to take them to their first Renaissance Festival. I have tried several different women’s styles so this challenge I want to investigate male styles and construction. My current plans are to make a shirt, doublet and hose, cape, and hat for the boys. The girls will have a camicia, under-skirt, gown, and jewelry.

May Update

After pulling my fabrics from the stash and looking at art work to decide what to make, I started with the under layer.

My scraps of linen have somewhat dictated what style linen shirt or camicia to make. For the boys I tore a rectangle for the body and cut a T for the neckline. I also did rectangles for the sleeves and collar and a pair of squares for the underarm gussets. I machine stitched the main seams and then hand felled them. The gussets were sewn to the tops of the sleeves and then the sleeve seams. I ran a gathering thread along the top of the sleeve and then matched the shoulder center and stitched the sleeve gusset unit to the body. I sewed the front and back together below the gusset. I then narrowly hemmed the center front slit and reinforced the bottom with some button hole stitches. I ran a gathering thread around the neck opening and attached the collar strip to the shirt. I did a narrow rolled hem at the bottom and casings at the end of the sleeves. I originally planned to do cuffs but decided this would make it easier to roll up the sleeves if it is very hot.

I next did Leah’s as a sleeveless shift using a modern pattern. I simply machine stitched shoulder and side seams, hand felled them, and did a small rolled hem around the arm holes. I cut a square neckline but will wait to see how it fits under the dress before finishing it. I hope to find time to do some drawn thread work on it.

Ava’s camicia is from the instructions at Bella’s site. Again the dimensions are based on my fabric scraps and guess work. The gussets are set in and the side seams sewn. I am currently hemming the top edge. She will be visiting this weekend so I can pull the gathering stitches to fit her and then finish the neckline.

I’m really looking forward to starting on the fashion fabric this coming month and seeing the outfits take shape.

June Update

I've worked on four year old Jack’s doublet and venetians. I started with a modern shirt and pants pattern. For the doublet I added a rectangle for a standup collar, wedges for the peplums, and adapted the sleeves.

After looking at the pattern The Modern Maker, Mathew Gnagy has drafted, I took my pants front and back patterns and spread them for fullness, angled them a bit, and cut a slight curve on the top and bottom. They are made of a rust colored linen fabric. I cut a waist band and binding for the lower legs. Jack has been reluctant to try things on, and as I really want him to wear it to the event when it’s finished, I have not pushed too much. I decided to change to more modern styling and used elastic in the waist and cuffs. I simply machine sewed the center front and center back seams, then the inner leg seams, and hand felled them. I ran a gathering stitch along the top edge of the pants and machine sewed it to the waistband strip, folded over the waistband and slip stitched it on. I did a machine sewn casing in the leg bottoms and inserted elastic in the waist and leg casings. They are finished unless I decide to add pockets.

The doublet is being made from a piece of fabric I purchased more than ten years ago for his older brother and never got around to making. It is a cotton fabric printed with little monkeys. After sewing the shoulder and side seams of the doublet and checking it’s fit, I machine sewed a strip of linen to the center front pieces and hand stitched it to the inside as a facing. I machine sewed the collar to the neck edge and slip stitched the lined facing down. The diagonal strip of trim are machine sewn on.

I had hoped to make more progress at this point but it is gardening season here along with helping make horse garb for the SCA 50th year celebration.

July Update

I have continued on Jack’s doublet adding the trim along the front edges and around the collar. The linen facings were sewn to the sleeve caps and peplums and then attached to the body. I’m working on some thread wrapped wooden beads for buttons.

I got Leah’s dress cut out in a Florentine style. It is made from a thrift store curtain panel and lined with cotton. I machine sewed the lining to the front and back bodice pieces of fashion fabric and then box pleated the skirts to them. I left the original side seams of the skirt pieces and just whip stitched the edges together.

I’m making paned sleeves by cutting them into 2” strips and binding the edges and then sewing them onto a mock camicia sleeve as I want them detachable in case it’s really hot.

Ava's dress is also cut out of another thrift store curtain. I'm making a Venetian style for her.

August Update

Doing the IRCC is always an adventure. More time is spent in planning, researching, and thinking through possible techniques than in the actual construction. It's amazing watching the pile of supplies turn into something so special. I had to buy very little for this year's project. Everything came from my stash but a yard of linen and the red felt for Michael's hat.

For Ava's bodice I machine sewed the lining and fashion fabrics right side together after I'd sewn a ribbon down each of the lining center fronts at 1/2" intervals for the ladder lacing. I left the side seams open for turning and finished by sewing the side seams and adding trim around the neckline and front edge.

I took the skirt panels and hand sewed then together leaving the original side hems of the curtains and then used a piece of fleece fabric to help plump up my cartridge pleats along the top edge and hand stitched them to the bodice. The upper sleeves have 3 strips of trim machine stitched on and then were gathered to the lower sleeve along with an upper lining piece and the top edge was bound so they could be tied on.

Ava's sleeves

The completed dress

The sleeves for Leah's gown were cut in strips and then the edges bound with the blue suede like fabric. They were then sewn together every 3 inches and a pearl added where they met. They were backed with white linen to look like a long sleeve chemise is being worn and then the top and bottom were bound in the blue. Gold loops are being added to attach then to the pearl buttons on the gown. The hem of Leah's gown is padded with a strip of felted wool and covered with the blue suede like fabric and a piece of trim is sewn over the top the neatly finish it. I sewed eyelets down the sides and closed the gown with blue ribbons.

The girl's underskirts are made from a rectangle of fabric machine stitched down the back with elastic in a casing at the waist and the hems are padded with a layer of felt.

Michael's doublet based on one in the Medieval Tailor's Assistant by Sarah Thursfield. I sewed the shoulder seams and side seams, attatched the collar, folded over the center front seam and started sewing the endless eyelets down the center front. I used black bias tape around the arm holes. The sleeves are made very different than modern ones. The seam is on the outer arm and the puffed sleever is sewn over the sleeve instead of being sew just onto the lower sleeve. I lined the sleeves with black linen and they are open below the elbow to allow the shirt to puff through. Their are ribbons along the top to tie them onto the doublet.

I had planned to make joined hosen for Michael but didn't have enough fabric so they are made modern style simply machine sewn center front and back seams and then the inner leg seams with a casing at the waist with elastic.

The most fun item in this project was Jack's cloak. I cut a half circle from wool and another from cotton fabric and a rectangle for the collar. I machine sewed the half circles right sides together and then turned them out. Since I didn't want the wool fabric next to his neck, I attached the cotton side up after sewing them right sides together and turning. I machine sewed trim around it and attached a cloak clasp.

I also finished his doublet by adding the sleeves. After pondering the different ways to close the buttons I opted to have them only decorative and sewed snaps down the front for easy on and off closing for a small impatient boy.

The boys hats were cut about he same even though they are different styles. I used a pizza pan to cut the circle and a rectangle the measurement of their heads. The band side seam was sewn together and then the circle gathered onto it. Jack's is made from rust colored linen and Michael's is red felt.

I have wanted to try making this giornea every since seeing it on page 152 in The Medieval Tailor's Assistant by Sarah Thursfield. The pleatwork shown on page 155 really intrigued me. I used a light weight wool and did not line it. In my first attempt I put in twice as many pleats and sewed horizontally. It was pretty much a lumpy mess and I reworked it with better- though still not great results. I then added fur all around it leaving the sides open tabard like. It will be worn with a belt.

The Finished Outfits

Layer 1: The Shirts and Shifts/Camicie

Layer one consisted of linen shirts for the boys and linen camicie for the girls. I ended up doing short sleeves for both of the girls in case of hot weather. I didn't find time to do the drawn thread work I had planned for Leah's neckline. I machine stitched on some lace to finish it instead.

Layer 2: Under-Skirts, Doublet and Hose, and Doublet and Venetians

Layer 2 for the girls were simple elastic waist underskirts with padded hems. Jack got a doublet and venetians while Michael got a doublet (ziponi) and particolored hose which were inspired by the gondoliers in Vittore Capaccio's The Miracle of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto. Jack's doublet and venetians are later period and I have to admit I just kind of made it up as I went along.

Layer 3: Gowns, Cloak, Giornea

Layer 3 were gowns for the girls with detachable sleeves. Leah's is a Florentine style and Ava's is Venetian. Jack's got a half circle cape which was my quick and fun piece. Michael's giornea was the highlight of this project for me. It was amazing how rich it became when the fur was added.

Layer 4: Accessories

I completed hats for the boys. Ava's necklace was strung but incomplete as I didn't get the clasps attached by the deadline. The partlet I started for Leah's is also in incomplete accessory. I planned to couch the gold cord with an attachment on my sewing machine but the silk chiffon shifted and I ended up with a mess to unpick. Hand sewing is working very well and I am adding the pearls as I go.

Other incomplete items were Ava's gown as I still needed to attach the lacing rings for the sleeves, Leah's gown I needed to finish the side lacing eyelets and Michael's doublet needed more eyelets. Jack was the only one I completed all four of the layers.

Layer 1: 2 shirts and 2 camicie
Layer 2: 2 under-skirts, 2 doublets (one incomplete), a pair of venetians and a pair of hosen
Layer 3: a cape, a giornea, and 2 gowns (both incomplete)
Layer 4: 2 hats, a necklace (incomplete), and a partlet (incomplete)

Thank you Bella for giving me this opportunity to study past fashions and try to recreate them. I always seem to need a deadline to create the things I'm dreaming of.