The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Arizona, USA


I am a ranger for the national park service, giving public programs and creating displays and publications. I enjoy photography, hiking, playing with my cats, and delving into recreating historic outfits. I am no longer a novice, but not exactly a seamstress. I’ve made several Italian Renaissance outfits as well as ones from other time periods and cultures.

My inspiration comes from several portraits of Bianca Capello by Alessandro Allori and Scipione Pulzone: this, this, and this one.

Layer 1 Underwear: A white partlet with lace collar and drawers in linen with embroidery. I may also make a lace trimmed linen camicia or reuse/remake one from the past.
Layer 2 Underdress with slashed sleeves with lace cuffs and decorative front.
Layer 3: Overdress with open front, attached open sleeves with small baragoni.
Layer 4: Accessories: pearl earrings and necklaces, hair jewels with net veil, and metal girdle.

The Complete Outfit

Layer 1: Drawers plus Layer 4 Accessory: Partlet

Drawers in handkerchief-weight white linen and white venise lace;
Partlet in handkerchief-weight white linen and two types of white venise lace.

Layer 2: Under-dress

Wine taffeta and gold, black, and burgundy silk brocade, sleeves tied at the top of the shoulder and slashed with black gimp trim. Wrists are finished with white venise lace matching that on the collar of the partlet.

Layer 3: Overdress

Wine cotton damask/jacquard trimmed in black gimp. Collar can be worn up and pinned or down. Shoulders have small stuffed baragoni with freshwater pearl buttons to secure false sleeves.

Layer 4: Accessories

1. Partlet (above)
2. Veil
3. Necklaces and Earrings
4. Pearl Hair Accessory

Final Update

Finished Layer 2: Underdress

The wine red taffeta skirt is full with more box pleats in the back where I have a train than in the front. I attached the skirt to a waist band with copper hook and eye. Using a more expensive piece of silk brocade in the front as trim, I’ve left the skirt separate from the bodice which hangs lower than the waist band. The train can easily be pinned up in back if not wanted to drag on the ground. I used cotton thread that matched the material including wine, burgundy, and black. Stitches used include running, running backstitch, whip, welded, and French knots.

The bodice turned out to be bigger than me, which is a good thing for my ego but not for fitting. After covering the metal eyelets with cotton floss, I used a black cotton cording for the lacing. I used just a little bit of reeding in the front of the bodice for structure and support. I layered the point in front, whip stitching the various layers together to give it body and weight, carefully following the color of the edge with similar color in thread.

Bodice front point

Whip-stitching the brocade front together

I liked doing the slashing on the sleeves of the bodice. I used a simple box pattern with slashes about an inch long, based on several portraits that are contemporary with my inspiration paintings. This fabric is a nightmare for fraying so I’ll be using an animal protein based glue to set the pattern. I do like the outcome, almost a basket weave pattern. There are not meant to be puffs from beneath. Also based on the portraiture, I am adding a few lines of black cotton gimp as trim, horrible stuff that keeps coming apart, too. To keep the profile of the shoulder low to fit nicely under my overdress/coat (which has baragoni), I didn’t do much in the way of embellishing the shoulder of the underdress. You can also see this in some of the period artwork. I added lace on the wrists to match the lace on the partlet.

I’ve finished the underdress, Layer 2, so all layers are finished! I will breakdown the layers for the final write up.

Third Update

May was busy with training for work and some travel, but I worked on Layers 1, 2, and 4. After trying out a few things, I changed original plans to something that pleases me more.

Layer 1 is complete! It consists of drawers and partlet. I have too many camicie at this point! Both are made of light weight linen with venise lace trim. I hand sewed both pieces with matching cotton thread using running, running back, whip, and hem stitches, French knots, and welded seams.

Partlet pieces sewn together

Partlet tie

The partlet is based on the inspiration portraits, paintings of partlets hanging out to dry, and other period art. The front consists of two pieces with the front of the falling collar, the back is one piece with the rest of the collar. All the pieces are sewed together at shoulder and collar while I made small ties from cotton floss that I braided and sewed on to join in front and on the sides. The venise lace covers the interior and along the edge (attached by whip stitch) of the collar to be reveals when the collar falls. If the collar is tied up, the edging shows.

The drawers are based on the extant pieces with venise lace leg bottoms. I created a pocket waistband and threaded a white cotton cord through to pull the waist closed on one side. Part of the lace covers the fabric to resemble whitework with points hanging past the bottom of the fabric.



I also worked on Layer 2: the underdress, particularly the skirt. I’ll save that for June’s writeup!

Second Update

This month hasn’t been as productive as last. I worked mainly on Layer 4 accessories, finished my pearl necklaces, velo, earrings, and pearls for the hair. I’ve decided to put the girdle on the back burner as I think one of my furkids has taken it into their secret treasure cave.

The pearl necklaces are natural freshwater pearls hand-knotted using a modified Japanese technique on silk cording. As they are long, there was no clasp needed.

The hair piece was made of natural freshwater pearls in two sizes, strung on gold plated beading wire which I attached to metal combs. After stringing half the smaller sizes, I slipped on the large focal pearl, and finished the beading, using the ends of the wire to twist around the base of the metal combs. I then twisted the focal pearl with some of the smaller to create a loop at the center of the piece.

The earrings are gold plated rings with freshwater pearls attached with head pins twisted to create loops to connect to the loop at the bottom of the rings. They match the large pearl at the center of the hair piece.

The finished items:

I made the velo (veil) from a silver mesh fabric similar to ones seen in several portraits of Bianca Capello. It is stiff enough to have body. I hemmed, pleated, and attached it to a metal comb.

First Update

Most of my items are being created from materials from my stash: always satisfying. While I did work on a few things, I concentrated on Layer 3, my loose overgown/dress.

My inspiration mostly comes from the period portraits of Bianca Cappello, particularly those painted by Alessandro Allori. I also explored contemporary portraits and photos of extant pieces. One of the most provocative resources was Juan Alcega’s tailoring book from 1589. I used his "Gown of cloth for a woman" (“Ropa de paño para mugar”) for cutting out my gown pieces. I used a lot of references as well as being inspired by various interpretations by my sewing peers.

The fabric was a wine red cotton damask jacquard, sewn with matching cotton thread. I used whip, running, hem, and back stitches, and French knots, all hand-sewn. I trimmed the gown in black cotton gimp braid, hand-sewn using matching cotton thread in a running stitch. As the fabric is relatively heavy, I didn’t line, but trimmed the interior to make it more attractive, such as around the collar which can be won up or down.

Layer 3: Loose Overgown Finished!

The gown is finished. It is loose and open in the front with small baragoni where the top of the “faux” sleeves are attached with black cotton floss and freshwater pearls. I can actually use the sleeves—which looks pretty neat with the trim and open front—if desired.



The pearl necklace is long enough to go over the head so continuous with no clasp. I love this process which I found initially harder than adding a clasp. I used a modified traditional Japanese hand-knotting technique. I used freshwater peals with interesting shapes (our Renaissance Italians often liked the baroque shaped pearls) on a #4 silk cord. I finished one necklace, but plan more as part of Layer 4.