The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Amie Sparrow
Virginia, USA

I’ve been sewing for decades but I’ve only been into serious historic costuming for about 15 years. I’ve never tried to make an Italian garment before. My area of expertise is early 16th century German, which is completely different.

My outfit is going to be based on a Francesco Salviati portrait in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. dated 1555.

The undergarment will be a camicia from handkerchief weight linen. The pink silk taffeta gamurra will be very similar to Elanora di Toledo’s burial dress. The zimarra will be olive green cross woven silk taffeta. The accessories will be a jeweled hairnet, a necklace, a pair of earrings and a gold chain with a pendant.


First Update

I have designed my first necklace to match the one in the inspiration portrait and it's ready to string together.

I am currently working on finishing the necklace, creating a pair of earrings, as well as making a corset and patterning my zimarra.

Second Update

I have finished the necklace and earrings.

I first strung the necklace on silk only to find that the gold beads have very sharp edges. I dropped the necklace on the floor and it shattered. Therefore, I restrung it on plastic coated thin wire, the kind used for modern jewelry. The gold beads and the clasps are a vermeil. The black beads are "black stone" according to the bead store.

These earrings are made from fresh water pearls. The headpins are made from a base metal. The hoops are 14K gold. The earrings are made with current techniques using flat nose and round nose pliers. The earrings in the portrait are done by master-level goldsmiths which I am not, LOL! However, pearl earrings are acceptable substitutes.

I have also been making buttons. I've changed my mind about the button colors: I decided to try to recreate the painting as best I could so I'm making brown buttons from scratch.

These two photos show front and side views of the toile I made for my zimarra. I took inspiration from Juan Alcega’s famous tailoring book from 1589. I edited a commercial pattern for an Elizabethan loose gown as a basis. You can see the piecing at the bottom side of the zimarra. The cuffs and collar are still needed. I have never made a zimarra before so this is completely new territory.

I cut out the brown silk fashion fabric for the outer shell. I also pinned and sewed the fronts and back together.

I have been having a heck of a time patterning the collar which I finally completed two days ago, the pattern, not the finished collar. Since I have never made this type of collar before, it was a challenge. This shows the green silk/poly test zimarra with the white fake fur collar.