The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Indiana, USA

My name is Connie Houck from Indiana, USA. I have been sewing since I was a little girl playing with my dolls. This will be my first ever attempt at Italian Renaissance clothing as well as my first attempt to document the process of creating an outfit. My proposed outfit is inspired by Portrait of a Lady, Bergamo, Italy, attributed to Bernardino Licinio, 1520s?

I am planning on a camicia, petticoat, and gown. The accessories I am planning are a hat, a pocket, necklace, and a belt or sash. If I have time I will also make drawers.

I have begun embroidery for the trim on the camicia.


First Update

January: Planning

The inspiration for my outfit is from Portrait of a Lady, Bergamo, Italy, attributed to Bernardino Licinio, 1520s. I particularly like the gold embroidery on the chemise, the large poufy sleeves, and the front closing bodice.

I have previously purchased some linen brocade with a small blue and pink pattern. The fabric appears purplish grey overall. I fell in love with the fabric and have been wanting to use it for something fancy. I also have some red linen that I will use for the petticoat. I ordered some lightweight bleached linen for the camicia.

I like the look of the embroidery on the camicia, so I have sketched out a pattern with a similar feel. I have some gold colored cotton floss that has the right look.


After sketching the pattern, I traced it onto my lightweight linen using disappearing marker. I used two strands of the gold colored cotton floss in stem stitch to do the embroidery.

I have finished a yard and a half of the embroidered trim.


I started first on the gown, because I love the fabric and can’t wait to get started. The bodice I made following directions from Italian Renaissance Gown Construction by Mistress Leona Khadine d'Este and Mistress Enid d'Auliere. Using measurements, I created my pattern for the bodice using some fairly stiff yellow cotton that I had on hand. After testing the fit, I shortened the pattern and added a little more to the inner side of the shoulder straps. Although I like the wide neckline, I hate feeling like it is sliding off my shoulder.

I cut out the new pattern in some cotton canvas and a natural linen for the bodice lining. After sewing it together and fitting, I couldn’t figure out how I would then attach the top fabric. So, I took it back apart and used the canvas to flat line the bodice pieces, then sewed the bodice and lining right sides together and turned it. I am pretty happy with the way it looks. Although the dress in the portrait does not seem to use them, I am considering using lacing rings to close the bodice.

For the sleeves, I started with Period Patterns no. 41. I do not want the lower sleeve to lace though, so I will make it just large enough to go over my hand. This is a picture of the test sleeve out of cotton sheeting before cutting the linen. The cotton sleeve turned out pretty nice, so next I cut it out of the linen. After cutting the sleeve top and lower sleeve, I decided it would need a lining. The linen is quite fine and I am pretty sure it would not hold up on its own. I flat lined the lower sleeve. The upper sleeve I decided to gather first then sew it to a fitted liner sleeve.

Once I assembled the two sleeve parts the lining from the upper sleeve was turned under and tacked down to the lower sleeve by hand. I do not like the fit of the sleeve. I am thinking I will need to redo the lining to make it the same as the outer sleeve. I think I will also make it to a lace on sleeve, so I will have the option of having another set of sleeves for this dress.

For the camicia, I planned a rectangle and triangle construction pattern that I have previously used for chemises and tunic dresses. I considered doing a smocked camicia, but decided against it as I do not like having a lot of extra fabric bunched up under my gown.

I cut out the camicia pieces and started on the neckline first as I prefer to finish that while it is still flat. I had not considered how the flat strip of embroidery that I made would go around a square necked camicia.


More embroidery… I cut out a piece of linen for a facing and did more embroidery on the facing. I can use the flat strip for the drawers, and maybe the sleeves.

The facing for the neckline is sewn on by machine. I then hemmed the outer edge of the facing by hand and tacked it down with a running stitch from the inside. I am quite happy with the look, although I am sure it was not done this way in period. All of the long seams of the gown are seamed by machine. I did the flat felling of the seams by hand. I am also finished it off with a rolled hem by hand.

The camicia is complete.