The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Oklahoma, USA


I started sewing over 20 years ago and fell in love with historical costume along the way. I am an the author of, and a card carrying member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I am planning on making a new camicia, Venetian gown, zimarra, and zibellino. I may add other items as time allows.

The Complete Outfit

Layer 1: Pair of Bodies, Complete

This corset was inspired by Elenora di Toledo's burrial stays and Elizabeth I of England's effigy corset. The corset is two layers of linen canvas covered and bound with silk. To stiffen the pair of bodies I used corset reeds I imported from England a few years ago. The channels of the corset were done on my sewing machine for sake of time, but the binding, assembly and finishing were completed by hand. Since I drafted this pattern back in April I have lost weight and the pair of bodies is now too large. After the competition is over I will be scaling them down a few inches at the waist. This was the most time consuming part of my outfit for IRCC this year.

Layer 1, Extra: Camicia, Complete

My Camicia was completely hand sewn using linen thread and fabric. First each piece of the garment was hemmed and then I stitched store purchased lace in period appropriate patterns into my seams as dainty inserts. The sleeves were left wide so as the summer heat takes off here in Oklahoma I can roll them up if necessary. The cut was inspired by the extant piece from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass.

Layer 2: Venetian Ladder-Laced Gown, Complete

My Venetian ladder laced gown was half hand sewn. The bodice was interlined with linen canvas pad stitched to a inner lining. The bodice pieces were finished individually by hand and sewn together. There were synthetic whale bone pieces stitched into the interlining along the opening. The ladder lacing was creating by stitching a linen tape down at regular intervals by hand. The long seams were stitched on the machine. My skirt was then attached by hand using cartridge pleats. The hem was a bit short I finished my hem with a band of silk and padded it with wool felt. The skirt is lined with a lightweight linen. My sleeve caps are finished by hand with a mixture of tabs and a spiral. There was not enough of the brocade for a matching set of sleeves so I made fitted sleeves of white silk and stitched rows of store purchased braid by hand. After applying the trim I slashed the silk in layers. The sleeves were assembled by machine and hemmed by hand.

Layer 3: Zimmara, Complete

My Zimmara is was assembled by machine and my seams and hem were finished by hand. The two layers of braid, which match that on my fitted sleeves, was applied by hand. I tried pinning the braid in place before stitching, but the braids were crooked. I restitched the braids by hand and without pins. My buttons were embroidered wooden beads using silk and DMC gold thread. Some buttons were also stitched to the sleeves to decoratively keep the slit on the Turkish style sleeves closed.

Layer 4 Accessories: Shoes, Complete and Ziballino, Complete

These shoes are my first attempt at leather work and were made as simple turn shoes. The vamps of my shoes have 2 rows of slashing. The shoes were completely sewn by hand using a saddle stitch and a glove maker's needle.

There was only a small amount of hand stitching for the ziballino. I again used my glove making needle to secure the metal findings around my vintage mink's paws and head. The leash chain has a necklace clasp on the wrist loop so it can also be worn as a belt and carried. The vintage glass eyes were replaced with more period appropriate semi-precious stones.

Final Update

My gown was constructed out of a cotton brocade from one of my shopping trips to Dallas last year. The pattern and size of the motif closely resembles period design. My bodice was interlined with a stiff linen canvas pad stitched to muslin. To keep my seams slim the canvas was cut without seam allowance. My patterns were transferred to clear shower curtains to i could match patterns & center motifs with ease. My sleeve caps were designed out of scraps of my brocade. The ladder lacing has been achieved by back stitching a linen tape into the bodice lining at regular intervals.

The skirt is lined in linen and cartridge pleated onto the bodice. To add volume to the skirt and make up for a few missing inches at my hem I added a guard of pale gold silk and padded it with wool felt.

There was not enough remaining damask to make fitted detachable sleeves so I made a pair in another common design. These were cut from white silk and had this metallic braid applied by hand. The silk was also slashed before being lined in white linen.

My ziballino is based on a few period examples where the head was not replaced by a cast or crystal head. Some are seen in portraits with jeweled bridles & leashes. Mine was made with a recycled mink from a vintage stole. It was missing two limbs so I attached two from one of the other minks using careful stitches and a small needle. The glass eyes were replaced with hematite beads to give a lifelike shine. The leash and paw pieces were made using jewelry findings and sewn to the mink for security. This leash can be worn as a bracelet & draped around the neck or as a belt and carried in hand.

My zimmara is made from cotton velvet. It was so thick that after constructing the garment I chose to only line the collar and sleeves with silk. The sleeve style is based on the many Turkish inspired gowns which were popular in Venice, when they were not at war with the Turks. The pattern was actually found in a Alcega's Tailor's Book. The gown and is tripped with bands of gold and white braid and held closed with embroidered button I made by hand with silk and metal threat around a wooden bead core.

Third Update

May has been an extremely busy month for my family so I did not complete as much of my sewing as I had hoped. My focus was on completing my new pair of bodies (corset). The three pieces of this garment were bound and finished individually with silk bias I made from left over lining fabric. These pieces were then whip stitched together to create a finished garment. The pair of bodies is closed up the front with hooks as seen on Elenora di Toledo funerary pair.

My other pieces have been patterned and construction will start this week!

Second Update

April has been a very busy month. Now that the new dog is starting to settle I was able to focus on more of my sewing. Within the first week I finished the camicia and sent in the completed photos prior to the update being posted.

This month I have continued working on foundation garments. I am a bit more voluptuous than when I participated last. This has lead to my pair of bodies not fitting correctly, and there is only so much you can widen the lacing. Out of necessity I am working on a bonus layer of underwear!

This pair of bodies is made of linen canvas covered and bound with silk. The pattern is a shortened version of Elizabeth I of England's effigy bodies. The channels are filled with reed I had previously ordered from the UK. I chose reed because it is inexpensive, light weight, and is documented within the 16th century. In most accounts I have read they are called bents or rushes.This pair of bodies will have hand worked eyelets down the front, but they will not be completed by this month's deadline.

The element I completed this month without fail is an accessory. I have been needing new shoes for over a year, and this competition spurred me to action. The uppers are made from a very soft goats leather and the bottoms a very thick piece of cow hide I found in a leather scrap bin.

The original shoe I set out for was based article 29.158.894 from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and some of the Italian men's shoes I can see in portraits. As my first piece of leather work I am very happy with the ease I was able to make some simple turn style shoes. I think I would make a mock up of the pattern in felt first next time so I can feel how much wider the toe is than it was intended. Each shoe has 6 slashes over the vamp for decoration.

First Update

My first month of the competition has been spent researching a different camicia structure. My interpretation and pattern is based on the example from the Boston Museum of Art which Janet Arnold details in Patterns of Fashion 4. These shoulder pieces were a fascinating detail for me. To construct it I used 3.5 oz linen, hand sewing thread, and beeswax. I hand hemmed the individual pieces. The next step is to assemble by hand using lace inserts.

Here is the camicia, which was completed post-deadline: