The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Mandy L'Estrelle
Christchurch, New Zealand

My name's Mandy L’Estrelle. I’m now living in Christchurch, New Zealand but was previously from Perth, Western Australia. I’m a confirmed IRCC addict. It’s been seven years now and I haven’t been able to give up the habit yet so here goes for a eighth year. I love sewing Italian garb and each year I try to extend my knowledge and skills and also to encourage others to do the same.

My outfit this year is leaning towards an outfit based on 1570s style with the white under doublet, as now I am living in a much colder climate I can move towards wearing all the layers instead of dealing with heat issues. I have a number of portraits I am studying for ideas. As per previous years I will be trying to use only fabric and trims etc. that I have already accumulated in my stash, this year even more so due to tight budget restrictions.

First Update

This year I have decided to work on an outfit based on Bartolomeo Passarotti's Ritratto di Nobliodonna col figlio, which is currently held in the National Museum of Art of Romania, and dates from around 1570.

However I have also decided I like The Nativity fresco by Frederico Zuccari, which dates from around the same time and place, Bologna, so my zimmara will be inspired by both of the two styles, which are very similiar, with just the sleeves being the main difference.

I have started working on a long shirt with high ruffled collar. I decided to go with a shirt instead of a chemise and partlet this year, as I already have many chemises and partlets in my wardrobe. This will be something different.

I based my shirt pattern upon one in Pattern of Fashion, it has a long straight middle section that is folded at the shoulders to form front and back panels, the sleeves are cut as straight pieces with small square gores to give plenty of movement in the arms, and triangular gores at the sides to give fullness and comfort. This is nearing completion.

The second piece I have made is a navy blue corded petticoat. I based it on Alcega's farthingale pattern. It has bias cut channels, that I hand cut and folded, into which I have inserted double lengths of cotton rope to give it a little hold but now too stiff. The hem is also padded with a layer of woollen felt. The waist is a drawstring made from the same bias cut tapes I used for the channels but folded and sewn in half.

This piece is complete.

I have also stared on drafting a new bodice pattern for the sottana.

All the fabrics have been chosen for the various layers, and happily they have all come from my stash with nothing extra to purchase.

Second Update

This month has been extremely difficult health and life wise and I have only managed a little progress, and sadly next month is looking worse but I am still hoping to manage to complete this challenge.

My original colour choices weren't working for me so I went back to the drawing board, or rather the silk cupboard and selcted new fabrics. I have gone with an emerald green for the sottana, even though this silk isn't the quality that would have been used in period, it's very slubby and lightweight, the colour just sings to me and it was time it got used. So out with the burgundy and in with the green.


Next on the chopping block was the blue brocade for the zimarra this has been replaced with a plain black. I have also selected a piece of green and black brocade which I hope to make the doublet and maybe line the sleeves of the zimarra with but it is only a couple of metres so will have to see how far I can make it stretch. Otherwise the doublet will be the original plan of white with gold banding, I am sort of hoping to have time to make both the black/green doublet and the white to make them interchangeable.

I have managed this month to construct the internals for the bodice in black canvas from my stash with boning channel with cable ties for boning and have cut the green silk. The bodice is coming along. All the skirt panels have been cut and french seamed together.

Bodice started

Internal bodice in black with channels sewn, and cut silk bias being sewn together

Cutting out the skirt

Cutting out the skirt gores

Skirt panels together

I have also started a silversmithing course and decided to make my ring with a green stone so I can wear it with this outfit as an accessory.

Third Update

This month has been completely nuts. We have had to move house so sewing has really been difficult. However, I have managed a little progress. I have almost finished off my green sottana. I was thinking it was complete but I have now decided the hem needs another row of trim.

I have also started on my next layer in a nice black and green silk brocade. The sleeves have had banding stitched with a double needle in three rows to simulate trim, and I really like the effect and how much stiffness it gave to the sleeves. I have started construction of the doublet body as well.

Hopefully next month life doesn't throw me anymore hiccups so I can complete all the rest.

Final Update

(Bella: please note that Mandy has provided me with the required in-process shots. Due to this being a busy time for me with study and assignments, I have saved some time by not using all of them in this update, but will of course be using them for evaluation purposes.)

This last month has been really hectic, with moving house, a visitor from home and starting a new job, but I have managed to get all my planned projects completed.

I started by finishing off my doublet, which originally was to be white but is now black and green, the sleeves have been attached. On trying it on, the lines of faux trapunto sewing really make them feel comfortable and slightly supportive. I ended up choosing gold oval shaped buttons that went nicely with the pattern in the brocade fabric.

Next up was the veste. I chose some black silk from my stash and decided to go with a mongil loose-backed style as I find them the most comfortable, and as I was a little concerned about feeling restricted with the added doublet layer that I have not worn before, the looser veste seemed the best choice for me. There is a painting by Zuccari that shows a lady of this era wearing a loose backed gown so I was happy I wasn't straying too far from the bounds of the styles of 1570s.

The sleeves I based on the gowns in The Nativity by F Zuccari (see first update, above), with the points at the front and the long hanging parts at the back. I scoured my pattern books for something similiar but came up empty so drafted the shape myself. For the baragoni, I really loved the ruffles I came across in Lavinia Fontana artwork and was really happy to see them echoed in the portrait by Zuccari which showed the seated lady in a loose gown. I decided I really needed ruffles, as you do. They were very straightforward strips that were box pleated and sewn into the arm holes along with the sleeves. The veste is completly lined however due to my very small amount of the brocade I had to only use it where visible aound the neckline and the hanging sleeves.

I decided to hand bead all the trim for the veste, and also finished the edges with hand made and pinked binding. This took quite some time.

On pondering the inspiration portraits, I decided the neckline on my chemise was too high, so I unpicked it and shortened it.

I then gathered some black silk chiffon from my fabric stash and edged it with black lace to form a veil.

Yesterday, the day before this challenge ended, I decided I really needed a ruff, but having never made one before I did some research and created my own short cut version. I am astounded at how well it actually turned out in a little under three hours from start to starching. I didn't have anything to really set the ruff so I manipulated it by hand as best I could, but I really like the slightly rough look it has.

I then turned my attentions to bling, The belt is some cast metal plates I had in my stash, originally had blue cabuchons, but I popped these off and glued on green ones. A long strip of off-cut silk and some mini pearls and a belt was formed.

The necklace also had to have gems changed to green, and all the rest was gathered from my collection. Earrings finished off the collection.

The finished outfit:

I am totally amazed that I have managed to even complete this challenge this year as I started with no clear vision in mind and life threw me so many extra hurdles. But it has all come together in the end and I feel really pleased with yet another completed outfit ready to wear to the next appropriate event. Eight years in a row, I am so happy.