IRCC 8

The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge


April 1 to July 31, 2018


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Ellen LeGros
Louisiana, USA

I am a high school English teacher by day and an SCA garb sewist by night. It is mostly in the last three years, however, that I have begun to truly gain confidence in my sewing skills. In the SCA, I play Celtic, Roman, and Viking, with only one venture into Italian Renaissance, so I am definitely an Italian Renaissance novice costumer.

I recently purchased Margo Anderson's Italian Renaissance patterns, and will use this pattern set to make a 1540 Florentine outfit. I plan to make a square neck camicia as the underwear layer. An underskirt in a gold/tan silk. A sottana in red cotton velveteen with velvet trim. A gold and pearl hair net and braided hair piece. Should I feel ambitious, I may make a partlet, under pants and girdle.


First Update


This month began with Easter vacation from school, and I literally spent 10-12 hours a day working on my entry. I am moving a little slower that I would like because of school: essays, mandated testing and graduation are all piling up. I had a vacation at the beginning of the month and school ends the 3rd week of May, after which I will have 2 months of free time to finish.


Outer layer: Dress

I used Margo Anderson’s Italian Renaissance pattern to create two drafts of a bodice for a 1540’s dress. I even managed to create two that fit pretty well, completely lined, interlined and with handmade lacing holes.

However, I was not happy. They simply did not look right on my body, and both gaped oddly at the neckline. Worried, I measured how much scarlet cotton velveteen I had left, and decided that if I was frugal, I had enough fabric to draft and create a second bodice.

For the new bodice, I went back to the portraits I was using for inspiration and decided that the two red velvet dresses that I was most in love with were actually from the 1560’s and the shape of the bodice was different than the bodice I had drafted.

 



Using the new portraits, I redesigned the bodice.  I moved the straps over so they were not only narrower, but on the very edge of my shoulder point. I then widened and lengthened the bodice dip in the front so it more closely matched the portraits.  I decided at this point to attempt to create a bodice that closely mimics the Zucchi painting, and went with a straight neckline.

To create the bodice, I took my measurements and traced the lines for each size, then did my best to connect them so they followed the lines of the portrait.  I am a size 12 in the narrowness of the shoulders, an 18 in the bust, and a 20 in the waist, but my back of neck to waist measurement is a size 8, so this took several attempts! 



Once I had the desired fit, I traced my sloper onto tracing paper, and created a pattern with and without seam allowances. I then used this to create a bodice of an underdress.

I cut out the interlining from heavy cotton duck, the lining from tan linen, and using Warm & Natural cotton batting and Pellon 70 Ultra Firm Sew-in Interfacing, I padded the entire thing, sewing channels about ½ inch apart. I used the interfacing as a modern substitute for glue stiffened linen, which is likely what would have been used at the time.

I then traced out the pattern on a gold floral silk that I plan to use for the petticoat. I folded the seam allowance over the edge of the bodice and whip stitched it in place.



I then put lacing strips on, to test the fit, and realized that it was not as tight as it was. Over the course of the month, as I worked on the bodice on and off, I had also lost 15 pounds. I used the bodice to give me the neckline I needed for the camicia, and decided to save the final dress construction until the end of the competition to ensure it would fit correctly.

Underwear: Camicia

I used two extant museum pieces (1, and 2) to draft the pattern for my camicia out of a handkerchief weight white linen. It is basically a T-tunic with gores and puffy sleeves. I added a four-inch underarm godet because I have very broad shoulders and did not wish it to pinch.

I then turned under all the edges and narrow hemmed each piece. I whip stitched each piece together, except for the sleeves and cuffs, and cut a small neck hole. I tried on the camicia with the bodice pinned in place over it, and traced the neckline with a fabric pencil. I cut out the neckline and narrow hemmed it using a whipstitch. I added a store bought white Venise lace to the neckline, but am not sure that I care for the effect.




In the meantime, I created an embroidery pattern for the sleeve cuffs and neckline. I zoomed in on the portrait and tried to re-create a pattern that came close to that visible over the neckline. I drew it out on tracing paper. I have a glass topped desk that I use as a light board.



I also plan to embroider four lines of embroidery down each sleeve, based on the neckline pattern.


The embroidery on the dress looks very similar, if not the same, as the pattern on the camicia, so this image is the bodice embroidery. I have a 100 yard roll of gold cord that I will couch onto the bodice. I will then embroidery the rest with cotton or silk thread, depending on what I have more of in my stash.

I will be embroidering the camicia this month, cutting out and cording the underskirt (petticoat), and trying to teach myself to knit. As it is, I crochet, but I found a knitting pattern for Eleanor of Toledo’s silk stockings on Ravelry that I may attempt if all goes well. And there you have it- April’s update in a nutshell.


 

Second Update


This has been a super busy month for me, with final exams and graduation. I feel like I got very little done.

Partlet

I have completed a partlet that looks very similar to the one in my inspiration portrait. It is silk organza and hand sewn. I’m not thrilled at the shoulder, and plan to make another one this week with a more fitted pattern.






Camicia

I have been working on the embroidery, though honestly, I’ve unpicked as much as I’ve embroidered. I tried metallic embroidery thread and it shredded horribly and did not look right. I then bought a very pretty gold thread, but it is too narrow. I ended up using a gold crochet thread, couched down with the pretty gold thread. The neckline is about 1/3 done. I’m working on the sleeves.








Underskirt

I’ve been working on a mock-up of an underskirt, with a stiffened hem. I plan to complete the mock-up, which is 90% done, and the actual underskirt this month.












Third Update


Underwear

I have not given up on my camicia, but the embroidery is being a bit uncooperative. For the underwear layer, I hand sewed a pair of linen drawers and embroidered them with cotton embroidery thread as practice. I used Margo Anderson’s pattern, and hand finished the edges. It did not turn out as nice as the last one, but I was babysitting a twelve- and one-year old kids, so I may have been a tad distracted.






I used the same embroidery pattern that I drew out for the camicia, drew it onto water soluble paper, cut and pinned in place. I outlined the entire pattern in gold thread, then filled in the flowers with red. I washed the drawers when I was done, but am not thrilled that the paper did not dissolve completely, forcing me to use pins to pick out clumps of paper. I found that the gold was too light and hard to see, so I ended up couching gold cord over the outline, and it was better. My husband told me I looked like Mrs. Klaus and that it was adorable. I decided to add a pop of color with navy embroidery thread, and now they are very patriotic. Oh well! I may line the back if I have time as I hate the messy ends of the embroidery. For now, though, I am done.









I also cut out a second camicia from cotton voile that I plan to cut the neckline for and trim with lace once the dress is complete, just in case I do not finish the embroidery on the one I started originally. I have some delicate cotton crochet lace that I bought in a natural color and then painstakingly bleached white.



Farthingale and Under-skirt

I made a roped farthingale using Margo Anderson’s pattern. I used a heavy canvas weight linen, 1/8” cotton drawstring and twill tape for the waist. If I were to do it again, instead of tripling the rope in the channels, I would use 3/8” clothesline or rope instead. I sewed the channels closed, leaving an opening. I staggered the openings so there were no odd bulges. I then measured each channel, tripled the cord and threaded it through using a safety pin.






I didn’t seem to flare enough, so I added a few more rows to the bottom. After starchin it isn’t bad, but it does not stand out as much as I would like. I measured my waist, and cut out twill tape, pinned it closed around my waist and pulled the skirt under the waistband. I marked the top of the skirt at the line and trimmed the excess fabric. I then sandwiched the skirt between two pieces of twill tape, sewed around all the edges and added a hook and eye.



I did not care for how the green underskirt looked after cording it, so I cut off the trim and hem, took out the rope, pressed it, the red-hemmed it with twill tape and cord. For now, this will go over the roped farthingale as an underskirt.




Accessories

I went a little crazy on the accessories, but once I had the supplies and tools out, it was quick.

Hairpiece

I wanted to match the portrait, so I needed fake braids as my hair is short, pearl headbands and a veil. I may try to make the metal headband as well, but if I do not have time, I think the final product turned out pretty well. I bought two hanks of hair online for $5.99 each and combined them. I braided the hair and sewed it onto a circlet form I found in the bridal section. It is two wires, with a mesh middle and covered in white cloth. It blends nicely with the sheer ribbon I used to disguise the stitches and mimic the hair taping. Once I sewed the braid on and wrapped it in ribbon, I attached metal combs to the wire piece.







To create the pearl head band, I created a string of pearls that almost wraps around my head and ends in two necklace loops so I can hairpin it in place. I then went back and threaded another piece of stringing wire through the head band and created two loops of pearls on the sides. There was lots of trying on and a few mishaps involving a fifty-pearl pick up. When the loops looked satisfactory, I took the tails and created the triangle front and ended the wire with a circle clasp.




To create the pendant, I took a button from my stash, clipped the loop off the back, and used jewelry cement to attach it to a filigree finding from my stash. I trimmed the finding to be smaller than the button, but left the top and bottom loop. I added a jump ring and a pearl drop and attached it to the ring on the front of the pear head piece.




Lastly, I pulled a yard of white silk chiffon I had in my stash, hand hemmed the cut edges, left the selvage and will pin it to the top of the head piece. I think it looks pretty close to the portrait.










Jewelry

In the portrait, the lady wears a pearl necklace with a jeweled pendant. I bought a jeweled pin for a couple dollars on Etsy and cut the pin off the back. I added a pearl drop to the bottom, a jump ring to the top, and added it to the simple pearl necklace I created. I think the necklace is a smidge too long, so I make remake it shorter.






The lady’s earrings are a simple gold wire with a pearl. Easy enough to use small gold earring loops, attach a pearl and voila.

I had several other portraits on my Pinterest board and was rather taken with a pair of earrings that had a ribbon bow. I took the same earring wires, bent them into the correct shape and sewed a tiny red bow to them. I made little drops from red jasper and pearls, and they can be switched out on a whim. To go with these earrings, I made a necklace of red jasper as well.






While the lady in the portrait has a gold bracelet of some kind, I decided to make two pearl bracelets instead. Her rings are beautiful, but I found a cheap ring that is a lapis cabochon in a plain gold band. It’ll do, I believe.






Girdle

The girdle in the portrait looks like jeweled findings linked with spiral twisted wire. My husband, who does metal work and casting, said the twisted wire ideas I have will not work, but he can show me some chain mail weave that may come close. In the meantime, I found 30 findings for cheap and bought lapis lazuli, garnet and moonstone cabochons. I used jewelry cement and made 10 of each color, and they are ready to be linked.










Partlet

I was not pleased with the fit of my partlet at the shoulder, so I pinned the excess fabric at the shoulder back, cut it, them seamed it together at an angle. The fit is much smoother. I used satin ribbon to bind the hems and white cord as a drawstring to tie it in place.







I have not started the dress, but I have now completed the underwear (partlet), underskirt/roped skirt, and accessories portions. Now, the hard part- cutting into my fancy fabric!


Final Update


(Bella: please note that Ellen has provided me with all the required in-process shots. Due to this being a busy time for me with study and assignments, I have saved time by not using all of them in this update, but will of course be using them for evaluation purposes.)


This month I completed a corset and a dress.

After much thought and examination of my inspiration painting, I decided to draft a sleeveless pair of bodies using the Elizabethan Costume website. I made it without straps to cut down on bulk at the shoulders. Once I drafted the pattern, I cut it out in white denim from my stash and extra firm interfacing. I then padded it with 2 layers of cotton batting and machine sewed boning channels. I used heavy duty plastic zip ties to bone it and melted and shaped the ends to eliminate sharp edges. I then cut out my silk pretty fabric and basted the entire thing together. I made several yards of continuous bias from the silk and bias bound the whole thing by hand. I added hand made eyelets and was pleased with the results.









I then tried on the test bodice and was most happy with the new fit. I cut out my red velveteen and red linen lining and used the test piece as interlining. I sewed all three layers together using the construction notes in Margo Anderson’s Italian pattern, including making red silk continuous bias binding to finish the entire thing. The internal seams were machined, but all visible seams are hand done. Unsure quite how to do the facing in the portrait, I chose to do clipped and frayed silk binding for the neckline, though now that I did the sleeve tabs, I have an idea and will probably go back and redo it at some point. Once I fit the bodice the final time, I hand made eyelets to spiral lace the bodice.











I then discovered that I was a tad short of material for the skirt, so after much matching, I improvised a bit. I cut three panels the width of the material (44”) and 46” long (my waist to floor plus an inch or two).

I took one of the panels and cut the two gores as per the pattern, and was only shy about seven inches total in the two other panels combined. I sewed the skirt gores to front and back, then the side back seams, leaving about nine inches open. I clean finished all the seams by hand, including the side back opening.

I used cotton batting and red linen, cut in strips and basted to the waist, as a facing to add some support to the gathers at the top. I then zig zagged a string and gathered the skirt to the bodice bottom. I whip stitched the skirt to the bodice by hand.

I used the same cotton batting at the bottom to create a padded hem and cut bias tape out of a blouse piece of a sari that I had in my stash. I sewed the facing on the machine, then turned and hand hemmed the facing to the inside of the skirt, leaving about 1/4 inch of padding and facing to show at the hem.



I didn't get my trim until very late (July 30th), so I had to hand sew the trim to the bodice. I love the trim, but think it needs more white. I may eventually sew pearls or white accents to the trim.





For the sleeves I modified a pattern for a puff sleeve base to create the short sleeve, and used the one piece sleeve pattern from Margo’s pattern. I lined both with red linen, turned them and blind stitched them closed. I sewed metal buttons to the sleeves and made a thread loop to hook over the buttons. I then cut a strip of material about 5 inches long, and hemmed both ends under 1/2 inch. I folded it, right sides together, and traced 2 inch half circles. I sewed around them, clipped, turned and pressed. I then used a thin gold crochet yarn to make decorative stitches around each scallop. I whip stitched the scallops onto the sleeves and attached them to the dress with metal buttons and thread loops. After trying it on, I suspect the white puffs of camicia at the shoulder may be false, but will have to see after I wear it, how uncomfortable a bunch of material is at the arms.










While done, I’m never really ever done with anything. For instance...

*I haven’t found the perfect floral shaped bead to put on the scallops, so I’ll keep looking and add them when I find something.

*I may attach the long sleeves to the dress permanently and create false puffs under the half sleeves if I wear it and think it would look better.

*I may change the neck facing to look more like the portrait.

*I’ll probably create another farthingale using plastic tubing (I created one with hoop steel but wasn’t happy with the look).

*I’ll also probably create a different underskirt, to have some variety. Overall, though, I would say that I am DONE with the dress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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