The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Gerdiene Crocker
Hawaii, USA

I have made theatrical costumes for twenty years as well as various outfits for Renaissance fairs in the USA. This is my first Italian Renaissance ensemble, which makes me a novice and first time participant in this challenge. My four year old daughter loves to dress up and encourages me to make things and wants to help, although my sewing time is often interrupted for snacks and play time. I live in Hawaii.

I will be making a simple camicia and partlet with purchased lace. I will make a sottana and overdress with split skirt. My goal is 1570's Florence.

The Completed Outfit


Layer 1: Camicia (Incomplete)

A camicia of white linen/cotton with machine embroidery in dark brown.. As I did not submit a required image on time, this will not count as complete. Incomplete/Attempted.

Layer 2: Sottana, plus level 1 extra item: Partlet

A sottana of olive-tan wool with burgundy lining. Entirely hand sewn, with pad stitched bodice and hand sewn eyelets. Sleeves of champagne colored silk with applied dark rust colored trim. Sewn by hand. The sleeves attach with three finger-loop cords each in pink cotton. Worn with a partlet of white cotton with synthetic lace (layer 1 extra).. The partlet is entirely hand sewn. Front closure of simple crochet cord in light pink cotton. Hand starched and set ruff.

Layer 3: Gown

A gown of dark rust colored polyester. The fabric was purchased with all over machine embroidery in antique gold. Sewn mostly by machine, with hand sewn finishing. The front edges were finished with champagne silk binding that was then slashed. The cap sleeves are attached.

Layer 4, Accessories: Girdle, Fan, and Cap

1. A girdle of burgundy velvet with pearls and jewels. The jewels were assembled with super glue and sewn onto the velvet backing along with the plastic pearl beads.

2. A paper fan on bamboo base. This last minute addition is a "looks good from far" item. Based on a image I have been unable to trace, it has the same general shape and decoration.

3. A crochet cap of ivory and gold yarn with plastic pearl beads. To wear, I make two braids in my hair with long cotton tapes. Using the tape ends I secure the braids over the top of my head. My shoulder length hair doesn't quite criss-cross at the top. The cap is then placed over the braids and catching any hair scraggles.

This is my first time doing the challenge and doing an Italian style. I am so glad I did. It was challenging, pushed me out of my comfort zone to try new things like a starched ruff and pad stitching, and forced me to actually finish things. I loved reading everyone's progress and process.



First Update

While I usually do one layer at a time, the time schedule for this challenge means I have to work on several layers parts at once. I can do hand stitching during breaks at work, for example, which means I'll have more time to sit behind my machine at home. As of this update, no single item is complete, but lots of things are started. Here is what's been happening.

1. The camicia has been cut and partially sewn using my machine. I'm doing machine embroidery on the sleeves, neck line, and perhaps body before sewing the final seams. Embroidery is not my thing, so I'll let the machine handle that part, especially since it will be entirely covered up.

2. The sottana is a huge question mark for me. I'm doing a pad-stitched interlining for the first time and am not planning on using any boning. I won't know if it will work for me until I finish the stitching, attach it to the bodice and try it on. The pad-stitching is nearly finished. It has been a loooooong process. I'm sewing the entire sottana by hand. I have sewn the skirt and skirt lining seams, as well as prepped the hem.

3. The veste will feature a high cut-on collar. I have drafted the pattern over my lightest boned stays and done a mock-up, which looked good. I flat-lined the final fashion fabric pieces and basted them. I don't know if it will fit over the sottana, luckily I have lots of the fashion fabric should I need to back to the drawing board.

4. The sleeves are almost finished! The are also completely hand sewn. Applied soutache on light gold silk. They are unlined and I won't make a final decision on lining until more comes together.

5. The parlet has been cut and the (synthetic) lace applied to a band. This piece is also sewn by hand.

6. Accessories: I have started making some jewels for the girdle.

All in all, a very different process for me, as I usually build skin-out and don't try to do multiple parts at once. It's been a lot of fun though, and I am very excited to try my pad-stitched bodice in May. I expect it to be ready for fitting next week.

Second Update

As the spouse of a university intructor the end of the semester is also the end of sanity. But I made progress on my project anyway. For this month I focussed on three items: camicia (chemise), sottana (kirtle), and partlet.

The Camicia

Status: near completion.

I had not really started this yet in April, and its the foudation of my entire ensemble. I based the pattern off of the smock generator at the Elizabethan Costuming page. Because my linen/cotton blend was 60 inches wide, I decided to cut on the gores rather than sewing them. This is not historically accurate, but makes sense for my time frame and materials.

I machine stitched this for speed and durability. I'm not an embroidery person, so my machine did that work as well. Even with the machine doing the embroidery I was so frustrated with the process! This embroidery thing is just not for me. I am in awe of those that work entire smocks, caps, and sleeves. I didn't mark the neckline until I had more of the kirtle done. I used bias strips to face the neck line and machine emboidered it.

I still have to hem the sleeves and I may do more embroidery on the hem and bodice area.

The Sottana

Status: far enough to do a fitting, lots of finishing left to do.

I finished the pad stitching on the bodice and am very satisfied with the results. I put on lacing strips for an inital fitting over an a-historical chemise. I had issues with major buckling under the bust and not a good overall shape. However, when I tried it over the camicia I am making for this project, I was amazed at how much better the shape and support was. I added the fashion fabric, a lovely olive tan wool, to the pad stitched interlining.

After a month of tiny pad stitches, my whip stitching of the fashion fabric is neither neat nor tiny. The results looked good on the dummy. I did not yet finish the eyelets, but I couldn't resist trying it on. I will need to shorten the back about 3/4 of an inch to make it sit correctly on my waist and even out the lacing.

I still have to attach the skirt, redo the back bottom hem, finish the eyelets, attach shoulder straps at front, attach lining, and perhaps add trims.

The Partlet

Status: pieces

The partlet is cut and partially sewn. The ruff piece has been prepared and the lace attached. I am not sure yet what tools I will use to set the ruff. The partlet still needs a lot of work.

Third Update


Good progress, and I am beginning to see how it will all come together. This month I returned to my inspirational portrait to guide my sewing: an unknown family by unknown artist in Museo Nacional del Prado. I just love this family portrait. There is something about the woman's expression I identify with, and her figure is not unlike my own. I am not looking to re-create this gown, but to draw inspiration of form and style.

The Sottana

Status: near completion

Eyelets are the one form of embroidery I enjoy doing, but 28 eyelets later and I am very glad its done. Each eyelet is bound with 3-ply embroidery thread that is a good color match for the wool. I made them small, they are not a decorative feature, just functional.

All that work of pad stitching the bodice is now invisible. This month I attached the skirt to the bodice. After decided where to place the deep slits in the skirt for the openings, I sewed the skirt and skirt lining together to have a finished edge to work with. I used knife pleats on the front sides, leaving the very front flat. On the small back waist I used a cartridge pleat.

I still have to attach the shoulder straps somehow. I don't favor permanent attachment, as it is much easier to get into by myself if the straps are undone.

I also still have to add a final lining to the bodice inside. This is a low priority task, since it doesn't much affect the garment at this stage.

The Gown

Status: partially sewn

I used a different pair of stays to make my doublet style bodice, knowing I may have to redo the whole piece upon completing the sottana. I ended up pretty lucky: I had enough extra seam allowance to make the adjustments. I needed a bit more room all around, especially at the waist.

The back was also about an inch too long, just like the original sottana back piece. The doublet bodice is approaching completion, but there are lots of finishing tasks to do: sew down lining and finish bottom edge, decide how to apply upper sleeves, figure out a front closure, snip the piped edge.

The gown skirt is basically a very large rectangle, with a little shaping at the center fronts to follow the bodice point. I will not be lining the skirt. The fabric is a 100% polyester and quite stiff. At some point I will redo this gown in a period fabric, if I find a the perfect fabric sale. I added a strip of wool at the top to give the cartridge pleats extra body. The picture shows the skirt pleated at 1 inch and pinned to bodice. Although I like the overall shape, the pleats were too deep. The final pleats are 3/4 inch.

I used the sleeves I finished earlier to pattern the upper sleeves. I played around with the shape and additional features. I have all the upper sleeve pieces cut, but not sewn yet. Yikes, its a lot of pieces. Still deciding if I want these attached to the bodice, or finished separately and tied on along with the under sleeves.

The Cap

Status: done

I decided to crochet a snood-like cap. Crochet is not historically accurate, but the cap is simple, functional, and pretty. This was the first time adding beads to a crochet project, and it was easier than I had previously thought. I used a base pattern I found heavily modified. And modified some more, and then some more. I ended up making and remaking this three times before getting a shape and size I liked. I will create more head/hair accessories. I'm calling this one done.



Final Update

(Bella: please note that Gerdiene 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.)

It's the final day as I'm writing this report. I had to rush a few final things, but I finished! That alone is quite the accomplishment.

The Girdle

Status: Finished

I started gluing the jewels back in the beginning of the challenge. This month I made the girdle backing and sewed the jewels on. The backing is a maroon velvet of unknown fiber content with a rust colored cotton lining. Since I'm not great with jewelry findings, I opted to sew the jewels and pearls in place. The girdle closes with a hook and bar. I really like how this turned out. Though my individual materials were not heavy, the finished girdle (see final photo) is quite weighty and has a great three dimensional quality.

The Chemise, Sotanna, and Gown

Status: Finished. (Note: I did not receive an image of the finished camicia, and I have not yet heard back from Gerdiene, so unfortunately I have to count the camicia as incomplete).

Finishing the main clothing items consisted of lots of finishing details like hemming, binding, and sewing on closures. For the gown opening and collar, I did a slashed facing. I had originally planned to do the entire hem this way as well, but did not have enough of the silk.

The Fan

Status: Finished

I did not start this till this month, so I guess it doesn't count, but I wanted to share. (Bella, it does certainly count as a finished accessory, just not in the monthly completion bonus points). I found an inexpensive bamboo fan, which I covered with paper and cut to my desired shape. I added decorations of paper, trim, and little poofs.

The Sleeves

Status: Finished

I used bias strips to bind the top and bottom edges. I also added some (synthetic) lace at the wrist. The lace is the same as on the partlet. Finally, I made fingerloop braids to attach the sleeves to the sotanna.

The Partlet

Status: Finished

This was by far the most difficult piece I made during this whole challenge. I hand sewed the whole thing which I think gave a much better overall result than I would have gotten with machine stitching. This is the first time I made a ruff that needs starching. I was really intimidated, but I did it! I used two tablespoons of starch to one cup of water and heated it, stirring constantly, until I had a nice jelly. I spread the starch onto the ruff and squeezed the excess. I then had a heavy floppy mess. Because my house was so humid, I ended up using my iron to first press the ruff flat as much as possible and setting the starch. I then went back with a curling iron to make neat, rounded ruffles.


A sneak peek at how it will all come together.