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.

The Complete Outfit

Items completed:

Drawers, Camicia, Underskirt, Gown, Pockets, Necklace

I am pleased that I was able to stay with the challenge the entire time. I did a decent job of staying on track timing wise. I did let things get away from me a little bit this last month.

Hand sewing: Embroidery on the camicia and drawers. On the camicia, all but the long seams are done by hand.  On the underskirt, the pleats and waistband are done by hand.  The gown has hand sewing in the pleats, bodice finishing, and sleeves. It is also hand hemmed.

Layer 1: Camicia, Complete

Layer 1 Extra: Drawers, Complete

Layer 2: Underskirt, Complete

Layer 3: Gown, Complete

Layer 4 Accessories: Two Pockets and a Necklace (All Complete)

Final Update


Down to the wire now. I attached lacing rings to the sleeves and laced the sleeves on.

For the hem of the dress, I decided to do a stiffened hem. I had some dark purple cotton velveteen that was just enough for the hem. The inside of the velveteen is machine hemmed as it will be on the underside of the dress. I attached a four-inch strip of the velveteen to the bottom of the dress, folded it under to allow half an inch to show on the right side of the dress, and whip stitched it to the dress lining. Hopefully this will make it less likely that I will step on the gown.

I purchased some red agate beads to string for the necklace. I alternated them with small gold glass beads that I already had and added a ring and bar closure.

I also hemmed the red underskirt by machine as I did not think I would have time to do it by hand. I am excited to put it all together for photos.

Third Update


I don’t feel like I have been as productive this month due to some other challenges I have been working on. I have cut out some new sleeves and linings. This will be a change in direction for the gown based more on dresses pictured in the frescoes of Domenico Ghirlandaio. I lined the sleeves and whip-stitched the seam. Then I discovered that I had made two left sleeves. I really have an issue with sleeves. It seems as though I am always sewing them on backwards. Same old story, I guess. I have taken apart one of the sleeves to reverse the fabrics and make it into a right sleeve. After sewing the lining, I turned the sleeve and whip-stitched the seam together. Yea! I have both a left and a right sleeve. I still need to attach the sleeves.

I have also made another pocket. This one is a blue-green color lined with cotton. I like the shape of this one much better as the fabric was not quite as stiff as the other one.

I have also finished a pair of drawers using some of the leftover bleached linen from the camicia. I based my pattern from my most comfy pair of pajama bottoms, so it is completely modern design.

There was just enough of the embroidery to go around the bottom hem.

Second Update


For the petticoat, I have used a red linen that I had in my stash. I cut two panels of the fabric for the skirt and a long strip for a waistband. Next I pleated the fabric onto the waistband and sewed it down. Then I realized I had the seam of the skirt on the outside facing part of the waistband. The pleats being so pretty, I decided to just rip out the seam and redo the seam the opposite way. I used hook and eye closures for the waistband.

I have put the sleeves on hold for the moment, and have decided to line the skirt of the purple dress. I think the weight of the skirt would pull the fabric apart at the seam. For the lining of the skirt, I am using a lightweight greenish grey linen that I had in my stash. It is not likely to show, so I am not too worried about it clashing. I cut two panels of the dress fabric and sewed them together, also the lining fabric. Then I sewed them together along the top edge. I then pleated the skirt to a waistband and sewed the waistband into the top part of the gown. I started tacking down the top fabric to the skirt and realized that the edge of pleats was making a ridge on the outside of the bodice. So… off came the skirt. I then sewed it completely on the inside of all layers of the bodice instead of sandwiched between the lining and the outer. This gave more layers between the top fabric and the pleated edge. When I whip stitched the top fabric down this time, it looked much better.

I have decided to use lacing rings for the bodice. I took some toggle clasps and snipped off the tiny loop to make a decorative ring. These were then sewn to the bodice. I also made a couple of yards of lucet cord for the lacing.

The other item I have done this month is the pocket. I totally forgot to take pictures until I was almost finished with it. It is almost completely machine sewn. I used a gold color linen for the lining and a synthetic brocade for the outer fabric.

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.