The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Kelly Prim

Virginia, USA

I have been sewing for about 12 years now and my focus area is Florence in the late 1400s. I have mostly explored sewing in the Society for creative Anachronism, though I enjoy other eras as well. I often find that I like making things from the transitional period between the era of the Houppelande into the later period fitted styles. Ideas were changing and the structure of society was changing, so it is fascinating to me to see that reflected in both art and garb.

I want to reproduce the brown Gamurra in Leonardo Da Vinci's portrait of Genivra di Benci which dates at the latest to 1478 which is two years before the cutoff, however the painting does not show much construction so I must look in the focus period for the actual form of the dress. That painting is where I get my details, but I will be referencing paintings from 1480s for overall construction. For the layers I would make a chemise ( layer 1), a brown gamurra ( layer 2), a cape ( layer 3) and the two accessories I know I want to make are a silk partlet and a silk coif with embroidery.

EDITED: I have changed my mind and will be recreating the gold dress (standing, centre) in Domenico Ghirlandaio's Birth of the Virgin, which dates to 1485-90. All other pieces will otherwise be the same.

First Update

It has been a very slow month due to a bit of real life, however I finally got over my fear of cutting this fabric from my stash. I used a gown I had made to trace the shapes then tweaked that pattern a little bit for greater ease of movement. The next thing I need to pattern out are the sleeves. This gown has unusual sleeves as they flair outward at the wrists instead of the usual shape as is common for the period, coming to a smooth small wrist with ties. The painting of the woman in red is housed at the V&A and is believed to have been painted by a follower of Da Vinci. This is the closest detailed painting I have found depicting an Italian gown with flared sleeves but with the other usual features of the gamurra ( gown). I am really awful at patterning sleeves so this may be a very frustrating part of this project as a whole. I think I will have a whole lot more done by next month.

Second Update

It has been a busy month for my family and I didn't get quite as much done as I wanted though now at the halfway point I am confident of each piece I have working out.

The chemise is all cut out and is a replica of the chemise I have worn and loved for about seven years now. It is cotton voile because that material is light as a feather and inexpensive.

The outer layer is a garment I am researching called a Tabardo and the collar which is still just patterned but not yet cut out, will be cut from camel colored wool and be sewn to the hunter green wool of the cape. I haven't worked with wool much and this was a gift so I can't get more in case I made a mess up (major cutting anxiety) but I got it cut anyway and am happy with the way it is hanging.

The gown is all cut out except for the sleeves, the fabric pressed and I have started sewing the skirt parts that will ready it for attachment to the bodice. I was particularly happy with the neatness of the back of the bodice and how clearly the pattern of the damask is centered in the back. The sleeves will be patterned out next. I plan on cheating a bit and doing some of the sewing on the machine, but all visible sewing will be by hand. I plan on sewing the Tabardo while it hangs on the dressform so that the wool doesn't buckle in unpredictable ways. We are taking a short family vacation so whatever I take with me will have to be something I can work on in the car.

I finally got a new partlet cut out of fine sheer silk but it is so sheer it barely shows up in pictures, so till I get a little of that done unfortunately you won't be able to see it very well. I will be taking the partlet and the chemise with me on vacation since they both pack better than big bulky garments. The chemise will be sewn in cotton with flat felled sleeves, and the partlet will be sewn in silk with flat felled seams as well.

I think I want to make a matching hat in either green or camel color wool to go with the Tabardo, but that will be something I pattern out when I have the time.