The Sixth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 14 to August 14,  2016


Tina Webster
Western Australia

Not fully sure of the period I want to make yet. This will be my second year entering. I'm still very much a novice in sewing. I'm hoping to do more hand sewing this time and possibly attempt some embrodery.

My layers: 1. Chemise 2. Overdress. May consist of skirt and blouse 3. Over jacket or vest.

Accessories: 1. Hat 2. Fan 3. Earrings 4. Belt

May Update

My inspiration for my out fit this year is Callisto Piazza's The Concert.


I have made a start on my chemise. It is made from white linen. I am not happy with the way it has turned out, so I am repicking it and restarting it again. I made a major mistake and forgot about the collar that has to be added to it. I am in the process of remaking the chemise to allow for that to be added. Being a novice I was getting a little ahead of myself thinking I was going about it the right way - boy was I wrong.



This is the material my dress will be made out of. It is an old recycled queen size quilt cover and pillowcases in black and silver. I am in the process of unpicking the quilt cover to make my dress/coat. It is taking me longer than I I thought due to it having black thread on a black background - I need very good light and hotel rooms don't always have that. I have also been unpicking the pillowcase - this will be used for sleeves.

June Update

I finished the other lighter-weight chemise - it will still be worn - but I was not happy with the chemise I had originally done as I had forgotten I wanted to put a collar on it and have it opening at the front. So I have redone it completely. This linen is heavier than the previous one. I was lucky enough to have bought it in a small shop in Sensa on Lake Maggori in Italy when I was on holiday there in 2015.

The chemise laid out before being assembled

Me wearing it: front opening without collar.

The collar being pinned in place and the start of the hand sewing.

The collar gathering was done by machine sewing three rows of wide stitches, then pulling in the stitches to create the gathered effect. It took me a couple of goes because I broke the thread twice.

The internal collar was hand sewed on to the gathered area. The outer side of the collar is where I will be doing my first attempt at embroidery.

This is the pattern on paper and the pattern copied on to my linen material to make the external collar. The ink will wash away according to the instructions.

The shows the start of my embroidery in the hoop.

I have also started planning for my earrings. The pictures below show the inspiration for the earrings (right), and the inspiration for last year's IRCC earrings (left). They will be across over of the 2 designs - I hope.

And these are the bits I will be using for my earrings.

July Update

This month I finished the earrings.

I also started on my feather fan. These are the fan materials before completion, black and white feathers and base holder in silver (left), and the inspiration portrait: Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), 1560, Portrait of Titian's daughter Lavinia. Dresden, (right).

I have finally finished my new chemise with the collar.

Embroidery on the collar - I hand sewed the collar on and gathered it.

Embroidery on the sleeve cuff - I hand sewed this together.

This is the over-dress which is being made from cotton backing of an old queen size quilt cover. I used this as I don't have much in the way of material and am very tight for money at the moment.

The bodice pattern laid out on black cotton material.

The bodice on the mannequin put together over my chemise.

The skirt before being sewn to the bodice.

And finally, this is the coat I will be making from the cotton material taken from the same recycled quilt cover for the under-dress. My inspiration for this is the painting by Titian: Portrait of a Lady 1555. Venetian version of the Turkish style.

August Update

This month has been a very busy month with extra working hours in my job, a car accident last week and the birth of my first grandchild. It seems there was not enough hours in the day, but I still managed to finish everything.

The dress as previously only needed to have the lacing rings sewn on the sides and sleeves. So this has been done. I decided to do the lacing so that only one rope was required on each side and could be easily pulled through by me as I have no one to help me dress.

Also done:
  • The ribbons were hand sewn onto both sleeves so they can be removed if I wish to.
  • Felt was put in the hem to help weigh it down as this was a light weight cotton.
  • I was advised that I needed to make an under-skirt as you could see through the dress, so I have made one of these to wear over the chemise but under the dress.

Completed dress without sleeves

After wearing the black overdress, it was pointed out to me that the skirt part was a little see-through. So a lovely friend suggested it would be a good idea to make an underskirt. This would also help hold the overdress out and make it look a little fuller. So I took her advice and made this as another layer of my garb.

I was told red was often used back then and liked the idea of the colour. It is made from red broadcloth. I was told that linen was often used for this, but I already had this material as I was considering using it as part of my coat, but decided not to.

It has been machine sewed on the seams and the outside waist band, but hand sewn hem and inner waistband. The gathering was done using curtain tape. I also put red felt on the inside hem to give it a bit of weight and also help with the kick factor. Still trying to get used to wearing a dress.

The red material before cutting

Skirt with waist band pinned

Skirt over chemise

The fan was made from white, black, blood red and grey feathers, a wooden dowel, black ribbon, black tassel and jewelled recycled brooch.

The wooden dowel was covered with black ribbon and the tassel was hung from the bottom. These were then glued to the back of the brooch using spirit gum. Spirit gum was a natural based glue derived from sap of trees that was boiled down and mixed with lanolin. Due to the smell of this original product I used a modern day version of it. The feathers were arranged and individually glued into the brooch.

Fan making materials

Fan base and tassel

Finished fan

The hat I chose to make is a smaller version on the one on the painting I used for my chemise. This is the first time I have ever tried to make something like this so it was interesting to see how it turned out.

I used the same black cotton that my dress was made out of. The stuffing is modern cushion stuffing. I machined sewed the main seam and ran the black ribbon through the centre of it first to help give it strength. Once the stuffing was in it was hand sewed closed.

Hat pattern on material

Hat sewn and being stuffed

Hat sewn and ribbons

I decided to bling up the hat by hand sewing a sliver and black brocade braid in a spiral pattern. Small long pearls were hand sew onto the larger silver ovals, I did this to match in with my earrings.

The hat is designed to tie at the back of the head. I have great difficulty keeping anything in my hair so was advised to put some velvet ribbon on the base of the hat that sits on the hair to help reduce it sliding.

I also made a black organza veil that can be attached to the back, but is removable. The reason for separating the organza is so it can be removed and snoods can be worn or just the hat. I used organza as I liked the sheer look it gave. I made it long so it could also be draped across the face as well. I have a beautiful silver and black snood that was made for be my Mistress Luidwina from the Canton of Dragon's Bay, which will be in the final pictures to show different ideas for wearing this hat.

Hat with black and silver braid

Hat with braid and bag of pearls

Hat on mannequin

The coat sleeves were made from the same quilt cover as the skirt and jacket. The black material was to be the lining. I machined sewed the major seams but hand sewed the sleeves in position.

Sleeves before sewing

Partially sewn coat on dummy

Me wearing coat before hemming

The sleeves are attached at the sides and only partially sewn at the stop and base. This gives the sleeves an opening. I hand sewed a black frog on to hold it closed and for decoration at the bottom and hung a black tassel from it, and hand sewed the black piping on to give it a more finished look. The black piping was also sewn completely around the edges of the coat as well to give it a finished look. Three frogs were also sewn on the front to help open and close the coat.

Close up finished sleeve

Close up of frogs and piping

Finished front of coat

I decided to make sashes for my belts as it is not something I have made before.

Sash 1 - is the same material that I made the coat from with black fringing added to the ends. This can be worn over the dress.
Sash 2 - is a nylon shiny material in red with red fringing added to the ends. This can be worn with the coat or dress.

I used straight pieces of material and machined sewed the edges together leaving a hole in the middle of one seam. Prior to sewing - I pinned in the fringe. Once sewn then turned back the right way and hand sewed the hole closed. I then ran a edging seam along the edges on the right side to give it a more finished look.

The Finished Outfit

This is the second IRCC that I have entered, having entered last year. I am very new to any type of sewing. Prior to the IRCC last year - I actually bought my first sewing machine and couldn't even work out how to turn it on or use it. Quick lessons by the head of my household got me going. This is only the second Italian garb I have ever made. I do not normally wear this type of garb. I usually wear pants - usually Ottoman, Persian etc.

This second challenge as a novice in all areas was interesting. I learnt to do many new things.

I had to learn how to measure, transfer this to a base pattern. Then the material like the coat - I was very limited as to how the pattern could sit.

I made a hat and veil for the first time. Hand sewing organza is not that easy. Let alone hand sewing the ribbon and pearls in place.

I made a sash for the first time - I decided to make 2 for different effect.

Tried embroidery for the first time. Wish I had actually done the sleeves first and the collar last. Instead of the collar first. As my last cuff I thought turned out really well. so practise does improve.

Made a fan for the first time. Fiddly but I think it turned out ok.

So why did I decide to enter again? I really enjoyed the challenge last year and developed many new skills that I was able to use this time. e.g more hand sewing, earring making etc. Also the research into looking into the different time eras is enjoyable. I have so many new pieces of garb and jewellery I want to make now. I pushed myself a little further this time with making different types of accessories and learning even more new skills - e.g embroidery. I spread the making of the items over the whole 4 months by doing smaller items like earrings etc early. I found this time was just as enjoyable a challenge and I now have another new complete set of garb.

Would I enter next year? Yes, I believe I will. I hope to do a more complex design next time and learn even more new skills. I encourage anyone to give this an attempt.

Layer 1: The Camicia

The underwear layer is made up of a camicia. This was made from a base pattern which was measured and drawn in calico and then fitted. I used off white linen to make the camicia. The sides were machined sewed but the sleeves were hand sewed in place. The collar and cuffs were machined sewed in place and machined the drawstrings to make the pleats. A separate layer of backing linen was hand sewn into the inside collar and cuffs to give the inside a more finished and neater look. A piece of white ribbon was hand sewn under each of the collar and cuff layers to enable them to be tied closed if desired. The outer panel for the collar and cuff was where I attempted my first ever embroidery. This was then hand sewn in place on the outer area of the collar and cuffs.

Layer 2: The Dress

This was made from a hand drawn base pattern in calico. The dress and sleeves were made from a recycled black queen size cotton quilt cover, as per previous descriptions. I actually found this material was slightly see through in back lighting. It also caught around the feet and acted as a trip hazard - so I sewed black acrylic felt to the hem. It also hung very flat - It did help a little but when worn with the under skirt it was easier to walk and made the skirt section look fuller. The material was also dreadful for attracting fur, thread etc.

The side lacing was a new one for me. The bodice holds the breast area in very nicely and a modern day bra is not required when wearing this. Yay. This style was again something I had not down before.

Extra Item: Under-Skirt.

This was an extra I had decided to do after advice of the dress being a little see through. It is made from red broadcloth. A single piece which I wrapped around and machined sewed the one seam. The waist area I sewed on curtain taping to pull in and make the pleats. The waist band was made from a single piece of the broad cloth and machined sewed to the underskirt, then hand sewed on the worn side to hold in place. I decided to use hook and eyes on the waist band in alternative lengths - this would allow me adjust the width of the skirt if necessary. The hem had acrylic felt added to the inside to help weigh it down and allow for the kick out with the feet and help with the wicking effect in wet weather.

Layer 3 - Coat

This was also a hand drawn base pattern in calico. The coat is made from the other side of the queen size quilt cover the dress was made from. I machine sewed the major side and back seams. The sleeves were sewn in place with the opening slit. Frogs were added to close the front with hook and eyes to assist in keeping the coat closed. The sleeves also had frogs and tassels hand sewn on. I hand sewed black piping around the edges of the sleeves and the complete coat to give it a more finished look. I have been told this is called couching.

Layer 4: Accessories

1. Hat

2. Veil

3. Two sashes

4. Fan

Extra: Earrings