The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Matilda Prevost-Hart
Michigan, USA

I’m an extremely slow sempstress because I’m easily distracted. I’ve completed very few historical costuming ensembles, and no Italian Renaissance outfits, so I am a novice to Italian Renaissance costuming. I’m a cat mom and an inveterate dabbler. I used to run a small festival/con/fair business selling goods that were pretty yet inexpensive. I stopped doing that about five years ago.

My proposed outfit is based on Campi’s images of working women. My conceit is that my family is better off financially than initially apparent, so I’m able to have lovely things. My outfit will consist of:

1. Linen camicia
2. Roped underskirt (fabric TBD)
3. Wool dress with a set of sleeves
4. Accessories: a. Partlet with an attached ruff (linen). b. Pocket (saccoccia). c. Apron (linen). d. Hankie (linen)


First Update


I planned this project with, I hope, meticulous precision. We’ll see…(she muttered, giggling madly). ANYway, my planned steps for this phase and progress thus far are:

1. Determine cord length needed and purchase upholstery cord. This is for the underskirt. I have done this, purchasing 12 yards of ½ cord at JoAnn’s. Cord is boring. Pics when I document the under-skirt.

2. Set up workbook, print pdfs as needed. My workbook is proving to be better as a virtual than an actual object. I printed off Bella’s amazing camicia directions, again. I must have seven printouts somewhere in my various places. (The link is here for any poor deprived souls who haven’t seen it).

3. Camicia construction YES! Success. Messy, slapdash, machine-created, but DONE. See below for notes

4. Dress pattern cutting. Um. Kinda not. Not sure it’s needed

5. Dress draping with muslin. The bodice fit is the crucial bit for me. This was achieved with the assistance of my partner in crime wonderful friend Dianne Stucki. The back of Kass McGann’s Fruitseller dress in the size that Dianne cut for herself fits me kinda perfectly. The front, less so, but that’ solvable.

6. Work on roped underskirt. I’ve planned and plotted. Some info below, will leave elaboration for either a future update of potential blog post (said blog is not actually live yet).

7. Fabric prep. Washed linen, leaving the wool alone. I adore the hand, it is not for anything close to daily wear, and spot-cleaning is something I’m tragically good at. I eat like Cookie Monster, through no fault of my family or good influences.

8. Find pocket fabric in stash. Um. Maybe. I’m being indecisive. I have a really pretty dark red damask. My reasoning is that my well-off working woman might have a lovely pocket in some too-expensive-for-a-dress fabric.

9. Find roped underskirt fabric in stash. Done! I have a drawstring skirt that was whipped up in a frenzy one morning before faire and fell really short of my expectations. I disliked it as an underskirt from its moment of creation. As a ROPED underskirt? The ills (too heavy, no drape, weird weave) become virtues. So yay.

10. May 1 progress report completed and sent by April 30. (Wow. Self-reflexive much? Oy.)

The Specifics


I purchased 3.8 oz bleached white linen from Dharma Trading. It started with a slightly stiff hand, but washed up beautifully.

I ripped and ironed, preparing the fabric to become a garment.

I labeled the various identical white pieces and constructed the bulk of the garment with my serger (overlocker, for many people), reasoning that completing everything in a timely fashion might allow me to luxury of replacing elements before the end of the competition.

I tried the completed shell on, mostly to reassure myself that it was garment-shaped.

I always try to machine-gather. I always fail. I always end up ripping the machine stitches out and hand-stitching my gathering lines. Will I ever learn? No. I do not think I will. If this had only happened once or twice, I may have learned. Hope springs eternal that this method will work for me someday. Until then, my gathered pieces usually look like this.

I gathered each of the four sides of the neckline individually, and tried the garment on.

I fussed with the gathers and deemed it passable. I made a neckline band. I totally went too wide with this, but I’m mumbling “done trumps perfect” to myself nearly constantly. My goal for this project is to simply finish, and I remind myself of this when I get an annoying perfectionist twitch.

I pinned, then stitched the neckline to the gathered sections.

I skimmed so many time-appropriate images eyeing camicia cuff treatments! I finally realized that just pleating them into a narrow cuff would be something I could deal with wearing. It gives me the option to unbutton and roll them up to get a look like many of the extant paintings.

I serged the unfinished fabric, then pleated them into cuffs. Bring on the Dance of a Thousand Pins!

I added loops and buttons that are…unfortunate. Again saying my mantra of done is better than perfect.

I clean-finished the hem with my serger, and turned it up and hemmed with my machine. It was kinda plain. I wanted pretty. I used a variegated peach embroidery thread and let my mechanical assistant sew my bottom hem trim.

With mere inches left to finish, my mechanical assistant growled and chewed up my fabric. I cut it free and laid another piece over the ripped area, re-embroidered. It looked great! I decided, as planned, to trim off the excess from the second piece. Less great. The left picture is of repairing the chunk my machine ate, then the chunk I cut out. Sigh. The repair is virtually invisible, at least.

Finally, a camicia.


Second Update

May was unproductive. A great deal of Life and inertia set in. I’m hoping to tackle June like a linebacker! I have help!

Toni the cat does not notice her lack of thumbs.

I continued working on getting all my supplies for remaining pieces in place.


I am working on flat-patterning the bodice fitting I worked on with Dianne Stuckey.

Roped Under-skirt

I worked on my roped underskirt. I’ve secured upholstery cord, a skirt to re-make into the new piece, and some ribbon to make channels. I’m oddly reluctant to get started.

[Bella: this underskirt can't count towards the layer requirements because it was a already a skirt to begin with. Only uncut fabric which is later made into a garment can count towards the layer requirements]


I think I’m going to use the fabric pictured (below left) for my saccoccia, unless something prettier turns up during a planned deep dive into my off-site stash.


I’m going to use this excellent guide. I’ve ripped and ironed a roughly 15.75” square of the lightweight linen to work on marking/thread pulling/hemstitching.