The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Hallie Larsen
Arizona, USA

Making costumes of all sorts has become a hobby of mine. I am not even close to being the seamstress as some of these ladies (and gentlemen) in this challenge, but feeling more confident in my abilities. I particularly love the sumptuous Italian Renaissance clothing and accessories as, in real life, I wear the gray and green of a ranger uniform.

My outfit will be comprised of the following:
Layer 1: a linen camicia and/or farthingale
Layer 2: a cotton petticoat
Layer 3: a silky over-dress/gown
Layer 4: hat and ruff/collar

First Update

Plan Update

I need to change my plans for IRCC 2018. The event that needed my first outfit is cancelled so I am going with a totally different idea. So here is the new plan:

This year I am exploring the early 16th century, inspired by portraits from around 1515-1525, particularly by Titian and Bacchiacca. While orange, red, and gold are obviously popular, I’m going mainly blue—which I found in some portraits—with touches of a deeper red. So my pieces are:

Layer 1: camicia in white cotton lawn
Layer 2: red silk petticoat/underskirt
Layer 3: blue silk dress with reversible sleeves in blue and red
Layer 4: mantello, scuffia, sash and jewelry

Main inspirations for the entire outfit:
Two by Francesco Ubertini (Bacchiacca): c 1520: The Preaching of St John the Baptist (detail) and Young Lady Holding a Cat
Tiziano Vecellio: Titian’s 1511: Portrait of a Woman Known as La Schiavona
I looked at many others, particularly Titian, for details of each layer.

Layer 1: Camicia in white cotton lawn

I had some of my materials already in my stash. I made the camicia from three yards of lovely white cotton lawn (2.4 oz) and matching cotton thread. The camicie from this period are big and floaty, little showing once fully dressed except at the armsyce. Titian painted quite a few women in partial undress so that we can see the flowing airy camicie of the time, including Flora and Woman with a Mirror. You can see the full body and sleeves as well as the wide neckline with tight pleats. The sleeves are loose and wide including the wrists, some of which—in paintings—are rolled up or falling back. The neckline is rounded with little decoration except for a ruffle caused by the tiny pleating. While I’m not sure of the period length, I decided to keep mine pretty short anyway for coolness and ease.

I began by cutting the fabric into three pieces, one each for front, back, the third split into the sleeves. With the little bit left I cut two square underarm gores. I finished all the edges with a small hem, fixed with small running stitches to prevent fraying. I sewed the body and sleeves together to form a circle for the neckline. I sewed the square gores in the intersection of the underarm as I finished the sleeves and body.

To make the tiny pleats I marked quarter inch holes with a fabric awl in three rows along the top of the back, front, and sleeves. I used cardboard under the fabric.

After waxing the thread to be sure it would easily slide through the tiny holes, I ran three rows of aligned running stitches along the neckline in sections, leaving long tails for each row of thread.

After finishing the three rows in each section, I used the tails to pull the fabric into neat tiny pleats all around the circle, pulling the rounded, wide neckline together. I adjusted the pleats to create the exact width I wanted before securing the tails with French knots. A short ruffle formed along the edge as seen in many period portraits.

Layer 1 is finished. It turned out very comfortable and floaty. It is also quite sheer so I am going to have to wear something underneath in final photos!

I worked on a few other things in different layers, too.

Second Update

Layer 2: red silk petticoat/underskirt

Main inspiration: Francesco Ubertini (Bacchiacca), c 1520: The Preaching of St John the Baptist (detail) You can see the underskirt peeking out from under the dress of the woman on the left as she bunches her overskirt up in her arms. Hers appears to be a pleated blue skirt with gold decorations along the hem. Mine will be garnet red as my main dress is blue. You can also see underskirts in the Andrea del Sarto fresco, Birth of the Virgin, in the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation, Florence (1514).

The material for the petticoat/underskirt came from my stash: four yards garnet red silk with gold embroidery, matching cotton thread, and hook and eye. I cut the material into panels, hemmed all the raw edges by rolling the fabric and securing with a running stitch. I sewed the panels together with a running back stitch.

I wanted to keep the gold embroidery at top and bottom but the it was wider than needed. I created a tuck along the bottom of the skirt folding the fabric and sewing with a running back stitch. I finished the waist with box pleats, attached the waist band and hook and eye.

Layer 2 is finished. I think it turned out beautifully! I like the length as it clears the ground well. The tuck also gives some weight to the skirt. While the silk is nice and light, it also has enough body from the embroidery that it will help give structure to the overdress. I also worked a little on some of my other layers.