The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Kathleen Zanardo
New South Wales, Australia

My name is Kathleen Zanardo and I live in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. After admiring the IRCC for a couple of years I've now decided to enter my own Italian Renaissance outfit. I have been sewing clothes since I was young but this will be my first-ever attempt at this type of sewing, so I am entering as a novice.

I have pored over paintings by Italian Renaissance artists and been inspired to create an outfit of a Florentine noblewoman of 1500 - 1525.

My layers will be:
- Camicia with redwork embroidery - Underskirt - Dress with detachable sleeves - Apron

The accessories will be:
- Partlet - Headscarf with embroidery and fringing

My camicia, dress, partlet and apron will be based on Sanzio Raffaello's "La Muta" (1507) and a wrapped headscarf based on Giuliano Bugiardini's "Portrait of a Young Woman"(1525).

First Update

I got off to a hasty start this month as I was only at home for two weeks before heading overseas on a holiday. My plan was to be busy on the sewing machine while I could, and then take hand sewing away with me.


The first layer to be started was my camicia. I chose a lightweight white cotton lawn. Although many camicie were made from linen I feel that it is appropriate to use cotton as it was very common in Italy in the 16th century where it had been manufactured since the Middle Ages.

I wanted to sew the camicia based on the period loom width of 28" (71cm). As my lawn was 52" (142cm) in width I firstly cut it in half along its length to reproduce the original narrow width used in the 16th century. Then I cut a front and a back piece each 71 x 100cm, four side panels each 36 x 100cm, two sleeves 71 x 80cm, and two gussets 23 x 23cm.

I proceeded to sew up the pieces. Firstly I sewed the side panels onto the front and back pieces. Then I attached the gussets and sleeves at the edges of the body pieces. I then flat-felled all the seams.

The Raffaello painting shows the detailed handwork on the camicia. To begin the decoration I sewed a border of redwork blanket stitch along the edge of the neckline. Historically blackwork embroidery was the most common choice for the embellishment of a camicia. However redwork was also popular and I have chosen this colour as I feel it will be a lovely complement to the colours in my dress. The embroidery thread is Semco in a deep rust red colour.

The camicia is partially completed.


Although no underskirt is seen in the Raffaello painting 'La Muta' I wanted to include one as it is an appropriate addition to a woman's ensemble of the early 1500s. To give the correct silhouette to an Italian Renaissance dress, an underskirt was worn underneath. The underskirt had a conical shape which was reinforced by the addition of canes or hemp cord.

The fabric I chose was a mid-weight cotton blend in a dark teal colour. The cord is a 6mm pure cotton sash cord.

Firstly I cut two pieces of the fabric into tapered forms which fitted at the waist and were 100cm at the lower edge. Extra length was added to allow for the cord channels that would be sewn in later. After sewing up the side seams I drew horizontal lines onto the fabric. I pinned the cord into channels and sewed them closed.

After finishing the hem and waist band it was time to make a side opening with a few eyelets and a cord. I made four eyelet holes, two on each side of the waist band. Then I used embroidery thread and hand sewed the eyelet holes with blanket stitch. The dark blue cord is purchased.

The underskirt is complete.


The Raffaello painting shows a delicate sheer partlet with a hint of decoration along the neck edge.

The fabric I chose was a white chiffon. I drafted a pattern by draping scrap fabric around my shoulders and, with a family member’s help, drew onto it to work out the best pattern.

Once the partlet was cut out I sewed the edges with a hand-rolled hem. Four white ribbons were sewn to the underarm points. Lastly I decorated the neck edge with hand-sewn braid edging stitch using a white embroidery thread. This stitch creates a row of small loops, each secured with a knot.

The partlet is complete.

Second Update



My headscarf is based exactly on the one seen in the painting "Portrait of a Young Woman" by Giuliano Bugiardini. Embroidery embellishes each end of headscarf and it is finished with fringing.

I chose a white cotton muslin and a golden tan embroidery thread for this accessory. I cut the muslin to 220 x 50cm and machine hemmed the scarf on all four sides.

I calculated the proportions of the embroidered design by comparing it to the proportions of the woman's face. Once this was established I drafted the design onto graph paper and then traced it onto the muslin with a water soluble maker pen.

I attached a temporary piece of calico to each end of the headscarf to make it easier to place in an embroidery hoop. I embroidered the design using back stitch.

The fringing was attached one strand at a time (which involved threading the needle every time!). After attaching the fringing I trimmed it to an even line.

The headscarf is complete. The finished headscarf is placed with one end above my forehead, then it is wrapped around my head twice, and one end hangs down the left side.



A small portion of a white apron can be seen in Sanzio Raffaello's "La Muta" (below, right) and appears to have a red waist tie. Although I have never seen this colour combination, I chose to make the apron this way to be authentic to the painting.

I chose a heavy-weight white cotton fabric which I cut to 85 x 100 cm. The two sides and the lower hem are turned over twice, pressed and machine sewn. The top edge of the apron is gathered and attached to the waist tie. The waist band colour I used is dark blue.


Upper-class women of the 16th century often wore aprons to showcase their hand-sewn needlework. Amongst this class of women aprons were not intended for practical household work. In this vein I chose to decorate the two bottom corners of the apron with cutwork. I drew up a simple geometric design of a square and two triangles, and then traced the designs onto the apron's lower corners.

Firstly I sewed running stitches along all the outer edges of the design and then filled them in with satin stitch, all using white embroidery thread. Lastly I took a pair of small, sharp embroidery scissors and cut away the fabric from the centre of the shapes.

The apron is complete.