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

The Completed Outfit


This has been another good learning experience. As usual I’ve loved looking at everyone’s progress. I’ve tried a couple of new things like embroidering the top of my tassels. I’ve tried to do a different decade every challenge since I started. This year I attempted a dress inspired by portraits from around 1510-1520.

Layer 1: Camicia

I made the camicia in white cotton lawn, a nice light and period selection. That being said, I think I prefer real linen. Still, this fabric was very soft after I washed it, a nice layer for next to the skin. I did make it a shorter version to save on fabric and coolness. Based on the portraits, I left the wrists wide open. I used matching cotton thread, stitches included running, running back, and whip with French knots. I used cartridge pleating to get the tiny little pleats around the neckline in front and back, with less tight pleats on the shoulders. I used an awl and a ruler to create the holes evenly for drawing the thread. (Sorry for the pants, but I needed a little modesty!)



Layer 2: Petticoat/Underskirt

I used red silk fabric with gold embroidery for the petticoat, a material available in our region during this period. I used matching cotton thread, stitches included running, running back, and whip with French knots. The skirt is gathered to the waist (a cotton grosgrain) in box pleats, giving a nice puff to the fabric. The closure is hook and eye. As the portraits reveal the pretty petticoats deliberately, I will do the same, showing off the embroidery that was already on the edge of the fabric.



Layer 3: Over-Dress

I used a similar gold embroidered silk for the overdress, this time in cobalt blue (the red for the reversible sleeves, too). I used matching cotton thread, stitches included running, running back, buttonhole, satin, and whip with French knots. The skirt is gathered to the waist (a cotton grosgrain) in box pleats, giving a nice puff to the fabric. The closure is hook and eye. On the side of the bodice and waist of the skirt I created eyelets for lacing, using spiral lacing on the bodice. I also used a narrow cotton grosgrain ribbon on the front and back of the bottom of the bodice and waist of the skirt to attach them. I also made thread covered buttons for the shoulders of the bodice to attach the sleeves. The sleeves are reversible, full and wide, attached to the dress at the shoulders with a plaited loop of cotton floss. I used a black silk satin ribbon for my sash, ends sewn to tassels I made from and embroidered with cotton floss. The darn wind kept blowing and hiding my beautiful sash!



Layer 4: Accessories: Mantello, Scuffia, Sash, Jewelry

I used a very airy gold-embroidered cotton for the mantello and scuffia. Using a matching cotton thread, I used stitches included running, running back, buttonhole and whip with French knots. The hairclip on the scuffia is brass. For the jewelry I used silk beading thread, glass beads in Siam red and cobalt blue, natural white freshwater pearls, brass and gold (albeit plated on brass) beads and clasp. I had one logistical problem with my jewelry, my pirate cat Opal stole the bracelet and tucked it into her treasure cave. Naughty girl!




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.


Third Update

I made four things for my accessories in Layer 4: a necklace, bracelet, mantello, and scuffia. While I concentrated on them this month, I’d been working on them here and there since the beginning of the challenge.


The necklace is based on Bacchiacca’s painting of a Young Lady holding a Cat. In the painting, the necklace is very short—hugging the neck—which I don’t find comfortable, but I did make the necklace to the hollow of the throat. I also replaced the bicone yellow beads with 8mm cobalt blue and Siam red. Using a double #4 silk cord, I strung the 10mm natural freshwater pearls and glass beads using the traditional Japanese style knotting with small gold beads in between. I love this technique as it looks finished and it makes sure you don’t lose everything if the thread breaks. The clasp is gold plate.


The bracelet is more loosely inspired by the painting, with 10mm natural freshwater pearls and cobalt glass beads of several shapes and sizes. I’m strung them on #4 silk cord, long enough to double on the wrist like the painting.


Many portraits from this period show ladies wearing mantelli or mantles. This large scarf was simply a rectangle of fabric, sheer or not, simple or figured. I decided to make mine out of a chiffon with gold embroidered stripes, using the same fabric for the scuffia, too.


The scuffia is a half oval bag inspired by the one in Titian’s La Schiavona, 1510 (which also shows a mantello as above). This fabric frays terribly so I am using a very small rolled hem secured with a tiny running stitch. I hemmed all the edges before sewing up the sides, with a hemispherical bottom to achieve the look from multiple period portraits.

The barrette to secure the scuffia to the hair is inspired by the oval one in Giovanni Bellini’s Naked Young Woman in Front of the Mirror although I kept mine antique brass to go with the gold stripes of the fabric. As my fabric was delicate I made two button-hole like openings to slip the underpart of the clap through and catch the hair underneath. I used a buttonhole stitch along the edges of the holes to prevent fraying, hidden when the barrette is secure.

Layer 4 (Accessories) is finished.



Final Update

(Bella: please note that Hallie 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.)


I made my layer three dress with blue silk with reversible sleeves in blue and red, including the sash. Main inspirations: Francesco Ubertini (Bacchiacca), c 1520: The Preaching of St John the Baptist (detail) and the Andrea del Sarto fresco, Birth of the Virgin, in the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation, Florence (1514) mentioned before.


Using five yards of the blue silk, I pieced the skirt together with box pleating at the top (running back stitch). I used the fabrics own gold embroidery for the top and bottom of the skirt. I used grosgrain for the waistband and hook and eye for the closure. I sewed on grosgrain ribbons on front and back and two eyelets on the sides to attach the bodice.


Using a wooden bead and cotton embroidery floss, I made covered buttons using the raised spine style with six spines. It is created by weaving the floss around the bead, encircling the spines as you pass beneath. I left tails on the button to sew onto the shoulders of the bodice.


I used an old shirt of mine to create a pattern. Pinning the blue silk to the pattern, I cut out a front and a separate back. I hemmed both pieces and attached at the shoulder using running and running back stitches. I wanted the gold embroidery of the fabric around the front neckline so carefully pieced it together with the shoulders. I sewed on the thread covered buttons I made to the shoulders for attaching the sleeves.

Using cotton embroidery floss, I created rows of eyelets on the sides of both front and back pieces, aligned to spiral lace together. I used an awl to open up a hole, encircling it with running stitches before using both buttonhole and satin stitches to encircle them. As I didn’t cut the fabric, these are strong eyelets. I used cotton floss for the spiral lacing. I attached the bodice to the skirt with sewn on grosgrain ribbons on front and back and continued the side lacing throuogh eyelets.

Wish I weren’t so “fluffy”! I don’t have as nice a figure for this type of bodice as some of my beautiful co-entrants.


I measured out the length of my arms, cut out rectangles for the very full sleeves, bag-lined them (running stitch with matching thread) so I can use the red or blue inside or out. I used a whip stitch to join the sleeves on both sides, particularly fun at the gold brocade.

I braided little loops and sewed them between the colors at the shoulder, to attach to the buttons on the shoulders of the bodice. On the portraits that seems to be the place where they are attached (similar to pinned sleeves), allowing a large amount of the camicia to show and lots of freedom of movement.


I used silk ribbon for the sash, long enough to have plenty hanging down with the terminal tassels. I made the tassels from cotton embroidery floss with a decorative grosgrain ribbon top embroidered with white cotton embroidery floss. I took a while deciding how to emulate the zig zags in the painting, whether it was a decorative knot, embroidery, or a bead/beading. I finally settled on embroidery.

Layer 3 is finished!