The Seventh Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

March 1 to June 30,  2017



Queensland, Australia


My name is Zacharlija Standish and I come from Queensland in Australia. Since finding the SCA in late 2013 I have avidly tried creating renaissance Italian dress. I've been following the IRCC since then and have finally plucked up the courage to enter.

I have recently fallen in love with the doublet dresses of Florence from the late 16th century. The outfit I am planning is inspired by a 1565 portrait by Santi di Tito, 'A Young Woman'. The proposed layers are:
Layer 1- camicia
Layer 2- underdress
Layer 3- doublet style dress
Layer 4- hat & snood or veil, a pocket, a partlet and sleeves.
I am also hoping to create a pair of gloves and drawers to go with the outfit, although time may prove my enemy here.

The Complete Outfit

Layer 1: Drawers

Slashed red satin, with black ribbon trim and white cotton lining. My own pattern and design based on period sources. Hand sewn trim and tacked down the inner seams and band. This is now a favoured item in my wardrobe and very comfy to wear, although maybe a few tweaks to the pattern to get it to sit perfect. The slashes seem to have stayed in really good shape despite getting worn a few times.

Layer 2 Extra: Underskirt

Red cotton drill with commercial trim. Drafted out to suit the fabric I had available while trying to maximise usage and cut down on time. Added in the last month when I changed my planned overdress from red silk to the gold brocade, I wanted a lighter, better suited under layer. And completely forgot to take photos of it and the over dress together.

Layer 2: Underdress

Silver silk with cotton calico interlining and drill lining. An old, go to bodice pattern and simple shaped skirt panels gathered, hemmed, and sewn on by hand. Not quite what I aimed for but comfortable and light which were some of the main considerations. In future I think I’ll wear it with a corset as the bodice is softening up far more than anticipated. Black velveteen sleeves with calico interlining and drill lining. Margo Anderson sleeve pattern, next time I’ll use a smaller size though. I fought in these and love them, plus the simplicity suits my personal taste. Eye and ribbon attachment method.

Layer 3: Doublet Overdress

Gold poly blend brocade with brown twist cording and fishtail trim. Calico interlining, cotton drill lining and guard. Majority of seams and hems, as well as all trim sewn on by hand. My own doublet pattern that I’ve slowly been improving on, skirts are simple rectangles gathered onto a band and sewn on. Despite being so different to what I had originally wanted and no longer fitting quite right, I’m really happy and adore this piece.

Layer 4 Accessories: Pocket, Muff, Hat

Pocket: Natural linen lined with red cotton, silk embroidery. My own pattern and design. Embroidery done by hand, as well as the fixed parts at opening and back. Tie fully hand stitched as well.

Muff: Black velveteen with red satin guards and rabbit fur lining. A rectangle with buttons and loops for closing. Guards were put on by machine, rest was hand sewn.

Hat: Red mystery (cotton?) fabric with felt brim interlining and FEATHERS! My own pattern based off a Tudor Tailor pattern. It looked great when first made but got a little battered and flattened at various events. Next hat I will change how I do the crown and maybe try to tinker this one into a better shape later.

Unfinished Items:

Chemise: The embroidered sleeves didn’t get finished as they would have taken too long to complete. The plain chemise didn’t get finished either because I hate unpicking and ran out of time at the end.

Fan: Was lovely until the end when the screws to secure the two pieces split the wood. I can’t think of any way to fix it so I’ll recover the feathers and try again some other day.

Partlet: Not the one worn in the photos. The one I was in the process of making was all together, I just ran out of time to hand finish the seams and hem.

Final Update

June was my big month in terms of sewing, I knew I had some time spare towards the end and could get a lot done. I was still sewing until the last day though!

First off I finished the black sleeves, machine stitching one part of the bias down and then hand finishing it. I laid out the trim I originally planned to use on it and decided against it. Despite not being true to the inspiration portraits, I personally preferred them to be plain. A simple eyelet to the sleevehead and they were put into the finished pile.

Due to winter making its presence felt here I decided I simply had to make a muff. So using a rabbit fur I had to hand and some of the velvet and satin scraps I quickly shaped one out and started stitching it together. Sewing fur is still a new skill for me, but I think I did okay. It certainly holds together well. The buttons are just plain black beads I had in my stash, sewn on with a contrast floss and the buttonholes are the same floss looped and blanket stitched over.

The main piece for me was the doublet overdress. Once again my friend helped refit my go-to pattern. It turned out to be so different from the last fitting that I couldn't bring myself to cut it out in the red silk as I had originally planned. I cant replace that fabric and it holds sentimental value to me, so it got traded for a gold brocade I had spare.

The layers are the brocade for outer, calico for interlining and drill for lining. I also picked out a brown twist cording trim that seemed similar to some I'd seen in portraits, and a thin fishtail trim. The twist cord ended up forcing me to hand stitch it into and close the seams I wanted it on. I tried to get the layers to fit through the machine, but wasted a few hours by trying. I back stitched the thin trim down by hand as well.

The skirt length was salvaged off another dress I had from the same fabric, I unpicked the bodice layers off the band, changed the gathers, modified the front to sit to the doublet and sewed it down. The machine did the bulk, but I had to hand stitch the lining on, redo the front point and twist cord to get it to sit right. Would have been so much easier to make a whole new skirt.

(Please note: because neither pre-cutting of garment pieces nor the use of a pre-made skirt is allowed under the rules, this item will be counted as an Incomplete item)

I created little shoulder puffs from scraps and tacked them into place, then added hook and eye tape to most of the front opening, then single hook and eyes to the top part of the opening and for the sleeves to attach to.

During the doublet construction I had to break regularly to rest my hands from so much unaccustomed hand sewing. One of the small things I decided to try and get done was a partlet. A bit of cotton, a few quick stitches on the machine and it was mostly finished. Then I realized I put the collar on wrong and had to pull it off and sew it on again. Unfortunately it didn't get finished because of this, but it's almost ready to wear.

Again, while stitching the doublet I realised that the silver and black combination I'd picked for the under dress layer wasn't going to work very well with the gold and brown overdress. So in another break I rummaged through the stash and found enough red velvet and drill for another set of sleeves. Keeping these plain and simple like the black again, sewn on the machine and bias finished top, eyelet at the sleevehead for easy attachment. I pinned it down against the incomplete doublet and it looked so nice I decided to make another under dress layer out of the rest of the red drill. (picture 9 &10)

So in another break I cut out a basic underskirt, whipped the panels together on the machine and pleated it down to a band. It's not a full dress like I would have liked, but gives another under dress option to the silver silk that doesn't quite look right. In a fit of mad inspiration I found a small bit of trim and added it over the visible hem at the front.

The last piece I attempted to create for this was a feather fan. An old wooden serving spoon cut up, some black paint, a bit of silver floss, a few feathers stitched down to felt and glued for good was all going beautifully until the last moment, when the screws I decided to use to help hold the heavy feather bulk in, split the wood. I might be able to salvage it, but this piece ended up in the unfinished box as well.

Third Update

Not as productive a month as I was hoping. Work on the embroidered sleeves of the chemise I had planned were taking far longer then I expected due to several reasons. I'd hoped to get them both finished this month, but I've yet to finish off the first properly. So that's been put into time out.

Instead I chose to make a plain chemise, similar style to the one I had planned, but without the embroideries and such. But of course, that would be too easy and I stuffed up when sewing it together. I forgot to add the side panels and it's ended up being too small around the hips. I didn't have the heart to unpick it, so I'll slash up the front and back and add the panels there instead next month. I kind of forgot to take pictures of this process too, so there's only the one of me just about to sit down and sew it all up. Oh the optimism I felt at this stage!

I have finished the silver dress! After being plagued with misfortunes, I bullied the dratted eyelets into working, bound them in grey silk to look better, and then hand stitched the not quite seven metre long rolled hem. Have I mentioned I hate hand stitching?...

Sleeves, because I never can have just one project on my workbench. Instead of fixing the chemise, I decided to see if I could get a pair of sleeves done by the end of the month. Not quite, but I've almost finished putting together a lovely pair of black velvet sleeves that may just hold up to fighting in as well (SCA rapier). I've interlined them with calico and lined with drill, hopefully enough to pass the tests and be comfortable enough to fight in. All that is left to do on them is bind the top with bias binding and stitch down a bit of trim along the long hems.

Second Update

This was a slow month for progress, had various plans and trips take up most of the time. I did manage to make a start on the chemise, starting on the sleeves which will have simple embroidered motifs scattered over, similar to shirts and chemises in museums. I've half finished one sleeve, the hardest part was marking the placement of the pattern.

I tried to get the silk under dress finished, finished the hand sewing and was nearly finished with the eyelets before the tool broke. I thought about finishing the rest off without the modern eyelet base, then decided it wasn't something I was comfortable with. I will get a new punch and finish the dress off next month.

With all the delays I still managed to get the pocket finished. The trim and embroidered griffin stitched well, I was happily sewing it up on the machine and started getting this horrible feeling that I'd stuffed it up. Check pattern, pieces, method, its all there and okay...then I discovered that I'd stitched an opening into the back as well. Then part of the opening seam pulled. I'd made it too small.

I left it in the disgrace pile for a few days, trying to think of how to fix both problems. In the end I settled for carefully sewing the back together, which has left a bit of an unsightly 'scar', but isn't as bad as I feared. The seam I fixed by doing a small pattern around. Carefully stitched the rip, then went over it in a simple pattern with silk floss in double running stitch. Turned out much better than I'd hoped and had the added benefit of securing the entire opening edge. I've wiggled and worried at the seam and its hasn't budged at all. The tie is simply a bit of bias tape folded and whipped down.

First Update

I decided to start off with the drawers, they conveniently fit with a local competition and let me tinker around with slashing, which I'd never done before.

Limiting myself to what I had in my fabric stash already I settled on a fancy pair in dark red satin with a cotton lining. I first drafted out a pattern from studying extant sets and working from several patterns I had. I then cut out the satin and decided on a slash pattern I had seen in an illustration. I used a craft knife blade and made the slashes. I've left them unsealed as a bit of an experiment to see how badly the fabric frays. I'm thinking the satin might make a nice set of sleeves for this outfit instead of the velveteen I'd originally planned.

I stitched the ribbon trim on the sides by hand, put it together as much as I could on the machine, then finished sewing down the waistband and leg hems by hand. Punched modern eyelets in then went over them with silk floss.

Added a shoelace tie and voila! Done in 10 days.

I then moved onto several of the smaller pieces I knew I could do or would take time. I simultaneously started the hat and pocket, stitching plastic jewels onto a strip of bias for the hat band and sewing down the trim for the pocket. The pocket hasn't progressed as far as I'd like yet, the trim isn't quite secured but will be finished in the next month. Then I can start work on the embroidery for it.

The hat I have finished. I stitched down the jewels, then tinkered with a hat pattern in the Tudor Tailor book until I was happy with it. Its a bit bigger than the ones I've seen in portraits, but I prefer the added sun protection. Again I used the machine, then finished off the inner brim by hand, threading the stiffened felt in the brim towards the end. Two feather pins were put together using the plumes, aglets and a glue bath. The band was sewn on by hand while the glue set and then the aglets were sewn down as well.

I nearly finished the under dress by the end of the month. With the help of a good friend I refitted my go-to bodice pattern and gave it a test run on a few other dresses. For this I used a silver silk I've been hoarding for a special project, with calico and drill for interfacing and lining. Its not as stiff a bodice as it should be, however I preferred a lightweight dress for summer to one with added layers or boning.

The bodice was sewn up, the skirts put together and gathered. Pleating was considered, then dismissed in favour of speed and ease. (I had tried pleating it three times, it just did NOT want to co-operate.) Half the skirt is hand sewn down, with just the front piece to go on. Once that is finished, I'll put the eyelets on and hem it.