The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Wisconsin, USA


I have been sewing for many years and am not new to Italian Renaissance costuming. I play in the SCA, as a Venetian woman ranging from 1480ish to 1560ish. I am also tempted to go a bit earlier, but that would be out of the scope of this competition. I am looking forward to finishing this year!

I plan to make the outfit worn by the donor in Lorenzo Lotto’s Christ Taking Leave of His Mother, dated 1521 (see below).

Third Update

During May I finished the red bodice, and hemmed the camicia with a simple rolled hem.

The first of the eyelets I made.

All the completed eyelets, laced up with spiral lacing.

The finished bodice over the camicia.

For the sleeves, I wanted something similar to the camicia sleeves. They are slightly fuller to accomodate the camicia sleeves underneath, and are sewn shut instead of lacing. I used box pleats for the lower arm, and sewed them down, since the “open” pleats would likely drive me nuts when wearing it.

This is the beginning of the pleating process. The line indicates how far up the pleats will be tacked down.

All pinned, awaiting tacking. I did tiny rolled hems all around, except the sleeve heads which were just the selvedge, and I left that alone.

Sewing down the pleats at the wrist.

Tacking in progress… some are finished completely, some are still “open."

This is how widely the pleats flare when only tacked halfway, and which would make me insane if I had to wear them that way.

All tacked, no more flaring!

Once the pleats were tacked down, I sewed up the arm seam. I left the left arm slightly open to be able to open the bodice adequately when dressing but closed the right sleeve completely. One of my goals is to be able to dress myself with little to no assistance. I folded the selvedge under and pleated that edge to the bodice in order to fit.

The sleeves are a bit weighty and make the top of the shoulders sag a bit on my mannequin.

Finished right sleeve held up to show the fullness.

Front view.

I will be starting the blue overdress bodice next, with plans to make it of a slightly shorter length - to help fit the full skirts for both the red underdress and the overdress (if that makes sense).

After I make the blue bodice, I will move on to the sleeves for the overdress, and then put the skirts on both dresses. I also have plans for a belt, but have not started that at all, nor the snood-like head covering.

Second Update

I finished the sleeves and side seams of the camicia, and still have the hem to finish. I’m playing with the idea of fancy hemstitching of some sort, but since I’m still debating it, have done nothing with it yet. All of it has been hand sewn at this point.

I wanted the sleeves to be gathered at the lower arm, so I matched the pleats on the neckline, and did the same topstitching treatment because I liked the look of the black cross-stitches. This leaves the top part full enough that I have free movement, and didn’t have to mess with the neckline for construction, but not full enough to feel awful under closer sleeves. The planned sleeves for the undergown will be modelled similarly.

I still have not managed to re-locate the portrait I based that idea on - my inspiration portrait only shows the cuff line of the undergown peeking out from the huge blue sleeves.

To gather the lower arm portion, I made pleats held together with cross stitches. I have no idea if this is a period idea or not, but it seemed simpler and a bit more attractive than gathering the pleats to strips along the back (my original and scrapped idea).

I made eyelets to lace the lower arm portion closed. This way, I can open the sleeves and roll them up if necessary for working, or be “fully dressed” with them laced shut.

The undergown is a wine-colored linen. I made the bodice as a self-lined garment, and since I have little need of a lot of support, left out the canvas interlining I had originally thought I would add. So far it seems to be working fine.

Next will be eyelets to lace the sides together, and sleeves (my nemesis). The plan is to have fuller sleeves similar to the camicia sleeves, probaby partially set into the bodice. This will depend on how much range of motion I have with a fully set-in sleeve. An alternative is to have a gusset at the armpit side, but I would prefer not to have that. Once the sleeves are done, the skirt will be simple panels pleated to the bodice. The hemline will be reinforced with a felt strip at the hem to help hold it away from my feet.

I am still plotting the over-gown, particularly the sleeves - the bodice will be much like this one with a higher neckline and possibly a slightly higher waist, and the skirt will be pleated like the undergown. I am also still working out plans for a belt, which I am thinking of card weaving, and figuring out how to construct the hairnet.

First Update

Shown here are the fabrics for the entire project, bottom to top layers, so the natural linen is the camicia, the red linen is the underdress, white is the oversleeve lining, the blue sateen is for the overdress, and the blue canvas will be lining for either the under or overdress (I have not decided which yet).

I did not get pictures of the fabric laid out for cutting. Forgot and I overthought it before finally cutting into the fabric, but did NOT think about photographing it laying on the floor. But did remember some progress shots of the rolled hem… I did this on the neckline edge and other raw edges, but not for the hemline at the bottom.

Once all pieces were hemmed, I stitched the arm rectangles to the body rectangles, then pleated the neckline using box pleats (some of them wound up being stacked box pleats in order to make the neckline the right size). After sewing the top of the neckline down, I used simple embroidery stitches to tack the pleats down for about an inch.

This gives me something close to what I see in this portrait, which seems to be the same as the undergarment peeking out from under the patron’s dress in the Christ Taking Leave of His Mother inspiration picture.

This is the neckline finished so far:

Next steps are to add underarm gussets, sew up the side seams, pleat the sleeves, and do the hem. Then on to the underdress!