The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Western Australia


My name's Mandy L’Estrelle, I’m from Perth, Western Australia and I’m a confirmed IRCC addict. It’s been six years now and I haven’t been able to give up the habit yet so here goes for a sevemth year. I love sewing Italian garb and each year I try to extend my knowledge and skills and also to encourage others to do the same.

My outfit this year is undecided. I am leaning towards working class day wear, BUT I may swing more towards do a peacock inspired 1560s Florentine outfit. As per previous years I am also hoping to use as much from my fabric stash and buy as little as possible for the project.

The Complete Outfit

Layers 1 and 2: Camicia and Underskirt

Camicia: Simple cotton drawstring design with lace around the neckline and sleeves. I have made this design many times and find it comfortable and easy to adjust. Completed entirely in the first month of the competition.

Underskirt: A pleated design with felt stiffened hem and tucks around the bottom portion or help it kick out of the way while walking. Entirely completed in the first month of the competition.

[Please Note: Mandy has not submitted side or back views of these two layers. That would normally mean that she does not qualify for points for these two layers. I am, however, allowing her the points as the submission deadline coincided with a pack-up and move internationally. I think it's amazing that she managed to complete her outfit whilst organising and packing!]

Layer 3: Gown plus extras - Ascension Day Apron and Jerkin

A blue-green shot silk open fronted Venetian styled gown, featuring a reversible front panel so that the gown may be dressed for both day wear, with the white gathered panel or for more formal court wear with the embroidered peacock design. The sleeves are detachable, and also feather embroidered peacocks on the cuffs and lovely golden aglets on the ties.

Day version 1

Day Version 2

Ascension day apron: Fun apron made with lightweight voile fabric and featuring hand made woollen bows. This is styled to wear when the outfit is in day mode. This was entirely completed in the second month of the competition.

Short jerkin: I love this short jerkin style cost, it is fun and so very comfortable, adding just a little warmth for the cooler spring days. It teams fantastically with the apron. Completed in month 3.

Court Version:

Layer 4 Accessories:

1. and 2.: Two coifs, one featuring a lace insert on just plain cotton. Both completed first month.

3. Jewellery consisting of a necklace and earrings, completed first month.

4. Partlet: A cotton partlet featuring two layers of tightly gathered cotton with gold lace edging, it ties together in the front on a fitted body.

I always enjoy participating in this challenge and am really proud I managed to finish it again this year. I look forward to wearing my peacocks out to an event sometime soon. Thank you Bella for all your time and effort for this wonderful challenge and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to give it a go if it runs again in the future.

Final Update

This last month I have had a total of two sewing days so they were very busy!

I managed to finish off the sleeves, then pulled them apart again to add the ruffs.

I also made the second side to my double sided front piece. I used the same fabric as my chemise and gathered it using my pleater and then hand sewed it to the reverse side of my front panel. The front panel is held into the dress with two ties either side which also help to take some to the strain from the front lacing.

The other thing I did was cut out and make the partlet with double layer falling ruff, all the fabric and lace came from my stash so I was really happy with that.

Partlet pieces

Partlet front being trimmed down

Partlet completed

Partlet back

Ruffle being modelled by my sewing supervisor Miss Charlotte

Third Update

This month has again been very busy so I have been trying to steal a few hours here and there to sew.

I did manage to get the lacing rings sewn into the front edges of the bodice and inserted the double ladder lacing, I unfortunately managed to pack my stash of lacing rings into a moving box somewhere so the front placket does not have its attachments yet.

The sleeves for the gown are almost completed, I just need to sew the tops and add the ties.

The short jerkin shown in the Lady with a Squirrel portrait was the main focus for me this month. I cut it out of some nice blue fabric that toned well with the blue/green of the gown and it is lined with a gold damask. I based the pattern for this on a Tudor short coat I had made previously, however I had to redraft the pattern as yet, I packed all my patterns in a moving box already!

I really have to get this challenge completed in the next two weeks as we are set to move right when the final check in is due!

Second Update

This month has seen very little sewing due to mundane issues. I would have much preferred to be sewing than painting and packing boxes but it was not to be. I managed to steal a few hours on a couple of days though and have created my apron. I have been wanting to make an Ascension Day apron for quite sometime, and the fact that one of my inspiration portraits, The Lady with the Squirrel, shows one prompted me to start.

I couldn’t find any sort of pattern for this apron so I just created it as I went along. I cut out nine strips of fabric and a waistband. Hemmed all the pieces and then sewed them together for just a few inches at the top, and gathered them onto the waistband.

The fun item of this style of apron are the little decorations that hold the panels together. I had thought to make little rosettes as others have done in previous versions of the apron, but my hands were not playing to game, so on looking at more pictures of the apron I thought that the picture of a Villager from Padua, showed more like bows on her apron. So I have simply used some red wool to make bows on my apron.

I really like the look, it’s fun!

Hopefully I will keep finding small amounts of time to sew whilst life takes it toll. I really want to complete this outfit!

First Update

This year I had decided not to enter the IRCC as there is just so much other stuff going on in my life, but as the deadline grew closer I found I just could not resist the urge to nominate, so here I am again. However, I need to get the whole project done as quickly as I can without relinquishing the quality standards I expect of myself. I am trying to get it done in under 3 months but we’ll just have to see how that goes really.

This year I have selected two portraits by Francesco Montemezzano. The first is Portrait of a lady and the second Portrait of a lady with a Squirrel. Both portraits date approximately between 1575 and 1580, and the style of the sottana and chemise are very similar, however the differences between them show one as high court wear and the other as more daytime wear. I really like the idea of being able to take one sottana and chemise set, and dress them in two ways depending on the rest of the accessories and pieces worn with them. So my idea is to do just this. One basic chemise and one basic sottana, and then interchangeable pieces and accessories to make them into two very different looks.

The second inspiration for this outfit is the peacock. Without going into horrible details, a number of years ago I went through a not nice time in the SCA and a person said some unkind words to me that included the phrase “just a preening peacock.” Now I was upset at that, but I have worked through it and realised that peacocks are beautiful colours and I have formulated the idea of a peacock gown for about 3 years now.

A while ago I bought some gorgeous blue green shot dupion silk and a small piece of blue dupion that toned in with it. This year they are to be the main materials of the sottana. I have also decided to include embroideries of peacocks as decoration on it, and as my hands are difficult at the best of times, I have employed my fantastic embroidery machine to do these to save my hands for the necessary hand sewing parts and not inflict extra pain on myself.

The first layer I have completed for my outfit is a very simple chemise, or camicia. I selected some lightweight cotton fabric and cotton lace from my stash. The design I used is from this page. It’s a very simple four piece design, one that I have used many times before. I used cotton tape to insert drawstrings around the neck and wrists.

I decided to also make a simple pleated underskirt for this outfit. The green fabric was again selected from my fabric stash. I am not entirely sure of its composition but from burn testing it, I think it is most likely a cotton/rayon blend.

I simply cut a length three times my waist and pleated this onto a waist band. The hem has two horizontal tucks to help keep it out from under my feet and also a padded skirt guard to give it weight and protect it.

I decided I needed some simple head coverings to wear underneath a hat that I will make at a later date. I browsed through a lot of pictures and websites and came across a reference to the St Brigittas caps. It stated that they may have been worn as late as the 16th century, and the style seemed quite easy to make, and one that may actually stay put on my very slippery head. I took my inspiration from a number of sites but made some minor changes to suit my needs.

I ended up making two, one with a lace insert and one without. I used plain white cotton and some lace, all again from my stash. I have left the ties loose and not made them into a loop as per the patterns as I felt the need to be able to tie it as tight or loosely as I needed depending on how my hair is done underneath, of course the ties are way too long but this will allow me to trim them up as needed.

I am really happy with both of the cuffia have turned out, they seem quite comfortable, and I think they will do the job quite well.

The outfit will need its own set of jewellery, so I raided my beading stash and found some blue, green and gold beads to make something simple. I made a very quick necklace and some simple drop earrings. I really like how they turned out.

I chose some beautiful green/blue shot Dupioni silk from my fabric collection, I have hoarded it long enough, it needs to become the Peacock Gown now.

I began by using a bodice pattern I have from other gowns, I altered it become the open fronted Venetian style, I cut this out in cotton for the lining, 2 layers of denim for the internal structure, and the silk for the external layer.
The denim layers were sewn together to form pockets for the frontal boning I use when making this style of gown. I have used large cable ties for the bones, carefully melting each end of these so they are not left sharp and then cut through the fabric. Once the boning is in the bodice I have sewn both ends of the pockets shut so no boning can escape. I have also sewn a layer of felt wool over the area where the boning is so that these do not show through to the silk layer and gives a lumpy appearance. the wool smoothed the look really well.

I have to admit, I hate gathering, especially silk, and had thought about doing pleats instead but the portraits definitely show gathering. Sigh. They I had a sewing epiphany! I own a smocking pleater which does the cutest teeny tiny gathering. So I tried a small offcut through that machine and was really happy with how fast it was, and the resulting gathers! So I ran the whole skirt through it! Wow such nice gathers and oh so easy! No torturing my hands at all!

I have attached the skirt and am up to hand sewing the internal lining down and finishing around the arm holes. The edges of the bodice again feature slashed binding, I think I am addicted.

I have also started on the first of two placards, for want of a better term, that will be the front panels of this gown. This first one features a toning blue silk with a machine embroidered gold peacock. Like the bodice the placard is make of the four layers, with cable tie boning and the wool felt to hide the ridges.

I wish my hands were able to do the embroidery but they can’t so I scoured the internet to find a nice peacock and a nice swirl position under to make the whole design more of a suitable shape for the front. I have also, while all the embroidery attachments were on my machine, found a set of nice peacocks for the sleeve cuffs, and stitched them out in the same gold thread.


I have spent quite some time selected trims for the gown bodice and after many tries have finally settled on the ones I will use, but you will get to see them next month.