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.

The Completed Outfit

I am so thrilled to have completed this change yet again, I really did not think I was going to when life decided to throw me some difficult times but I managed to knuckle down and complete it.

Layer 1: Camicia

I made the camicia out of a nice soft cotton ( no linen for me: it makes me itch). The style is my idea what seems to be the under layer of the portraits of this era. It could have been a regular stule low neck camicia and an added partlet, but for comfort and to minimise layers I chose to make it in a high neck shirt style instead. Originally the collar was much higher but I shortened it for comfort after trying this layer on with some of the over layers.

Layer 2: Corded petticoat/farthingale:

I had never made one of these before so I did a lot of research into how to get the correct shape. It is made based on a pattern from Alcega and is from navy blue cotton fabric and cotton rope. I am really happy with how it turned out and was amazed at how comfortable is it and how it made walking in so many skirts a lot easier. I can see this piece being used quite a lot under many of my gowns.


Layer 3: Sottana

This green silk literally fell out of my cupboard asking to be used, it must have known I wasn't entirely happy with my original fabric selections. It is a really rough silk, very slubby, so would not have been one used in period for this style, but the colour is just so luscious and it really toned in well with the small amount of green and black brocade I had, so the colour scheme just re-invented itself really quickly. The trim for on the sottana was proving a little problematic as nothing seemed quite right, so I left it alone for a day or so then came back and rummaged in my stash a little more and the black velvet ribbon with the white stitch edging just looked right and I had copious amounts of it to do all the multiple bands I wanted. I sewed all those bands on by hand.The bodice as usual has been boned with cable ties, but this time I experiemented with adding a small number to the back of the bodice to alleviate the wrinkle I sometimes get there, it has seemed to work! And its still comfortable! The hemline is stiffened with a layer of wool felt and a layer of cotton fabric. I have slightly shortened the front hem as I find myself tripping a lot of the time as I seem to bend over a bit when I walk, must be an age thing, and the inch or so shorter has helped a lot.


Extra item 1: Doublet

This again was supposed to be a different colour but this silk threw itself out of the cupboard at me along with the green and some black so they obviously wanted to be sewn. I have made many doublets for my husband before but never one for myself so I drafted a new pattern using my bodice pattern as a starting point and referencing various costuming books to try to get as period correct shape as I could. I wanted to give the sleeves bands but all trims looked wrong, so I decided just to use my double needle on my machine and sew 3 sets of this twin sewing around to simulate trim. I am totally astounded at how much this changed the whole feel of the sleeves. It gave them structure and body, I now have a theory that all those banded sleeves in portraits have the bands to give such structure to them.

I thought a lot about what sort of buttons to put on this doublet, I thought of making some but after making a protoype didn't like it, then went back to my collection laid out many on the brocade and the gold oval ones just set of the pattern in the brocade nicely. I was concerned they may be too bright but went with them and now I like the little lift they give to the entire outfit.

Layer 3: Zimarra

I am totally in love with how this layer turned out. I used a former mongil trancado pattern as I knew it was comfortable and gave me enough movement that I did not feel too constricted. I only had very limited bocade left so only visible portions got that as lining, the rest is all black cotton. I drafted the hanging sleeve pattern and added the ruffled baragoni, I think I love these and will be using them in future outfits. The edges are all piped in hand cut and hand slashed binging. The trim has all been hand beaded with teeny tiny green and black beads, that part was a real challenge for my dodgy hands and eyesight!

Layer 4, Accessories: Veil, Ruff, Belt, Necklace and Earrings Set

I think the veil was the simplest item I made. A lovely big piece of black silk chiffon and some lace. My hair is extremely slippery and I have had much problems trying to hold veils on, but I search through my accessories and found a large bone comb and sewed the veil onto it. The veil did not slide off! Yay!

My quick and easy ruff I made the day before the challenge ended. Some linen fabric, some lace, a pleater machine, and some hand sewn finishing. It breaks all the how-to guides but I got it made. It's stiffened with cheap spray starch, and it's comfortable. I really like it and maybe one day I will make another actually following how its meant to be done.

For the belt, some of the left over black silk was sewn over cotton tape and then I hand sewed on the gold plates and beads. I had to drill some extra holes into plates to be able to sew them down properly but that was easily done with my dremel tool. The belt threads through small gaps in the zimarra side seams and ties together at the back.

For the necklace and earrings, I delved into my jewellery making stash and pulled out anything that looked like it may tone in, found a pendant pulled off the stone and replaced it with a green cabochon and surrounded it with tiny pearls. My husband helped me string the pieces onto tiger wire for strength as I have a habit of breaking necklaces. The earring were just made with left over beads and some drop pearls.

I am really happy with how this outfit turned out. It is very comfortable and I will be wearing it to an event as soon as I can. I am a little angry at myself over the portrait photos, one little tug on that zimarra ( otherwise known now as the Jean Luc Picard maneuver) would have got rid of the annoying bust wrinkle but I did not see it and my photographer husband did not notice either, but I didn't have time to retake all the pictures so here they are anyways. I am so proud of myself for finishing the challenge again and for using all the main fabrics from my stash and really only purchasing one piece of cotton for lining.




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.