The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Raakel Vihavainen
Helsinki, Finland

My name is Raakel Vihavainen. I live in Helsinki, capital city of Finland.

I started sewing at the age of 11. As I started in SCA five years ago, I have been doing Finnish iron-age and 1400-century clothes for myself and my granddaughters. Last year I finished my first very simple Italian outfit. This will be my second try at Italian Renaissance.

I’m planning to sew camicia, drawers, underdress with sleeves and overdress. partlet, hairnet, pocket and muff are in accessory list. Blackwork embroidery for my camicia will be started this month.

The Completed Outfit


Layer 1: Camicia

The camicia is handsewn of linen. I decided to leave emroideries out in April as I realized how little time I had.



Extra item 1: Drawers, plus extra item 2, Pair of Bodies

Drawers are made of recycled material (used to be a tablecloth), all hand sewn and they have a narrow embroidery on legcuffs. They are comfortable to wear though the waist could be little higher.



Layer 2: Corded Petticoat

Corded petticoat/underdress is red linen. Long seams are sewn with machine. I was getting short of time. The hemp cords are handstiched and as they stiffen the hemline it gives nice support for the dress.



Layer 3: Dress

I had Agnolo Bronzino's portrait of Eleanora of Toledo as inspiration for my outfit. If I may say so, I think that it came out quite well. Lots of stitching ( all by hand) and many challenges on the way. I am really happy that I finished all the parts that I started with, even the plan changed a bit on the way.



Layer 4, Accessories: Partlet, Pocket, Hairnet, Muff

They are all handsewn and finished.


I am looking forward to have the opportunity to wear my new outfit. Despite the many layers it is comfortable to wear and i feel like a queen in it.




First Update

I had been gathering materials for my Italian Renaissance dress for over a year already. So I needed to choose and decide on the materials that will make a good looking outfit together.

I started with the underwear. I cut the pieces for the camicia from thin linen, now I have sewn double gathering threads on the neckline and cuffs.

For the drawers I used cotton that used to be a tablecloth. The pattern is adapted from Janet Arnolds Patterns of Fashion 4. All the seams are hand sewn with linen thread. I planned to make blackwork embroidery for leg cuffs but ended up with simple red vine embroidery in stem stitch.

My drawers are done, but forgot to take finished photo. (Bella: Unfortunately, because a photo of the finished item was not provided, it cannot count as finished this month).

For the muff I bought a fur hat and scarf in white mink. I had to open all the seams and do some patchwork to be able to get a flat piece.

The red velvet is from a childs dress that I bought for 5 Euros, braids are bits and pieces from my stash. I used linen thread in sewing all the pieces together by hand. I sew velvet and braids with silk thread.



Second Update

Wow, how the time flies! Even I have been sewing for 40 years, it is still hard to estimate how much each piece takes time to finish. Well, I’m working on it.

Firstly here are pictures of the drawers which I finished in April but didn’t have picture to show.

The camicia that I cut in April is now finished. The neckline blackwork that I planned would have taken too much time so I chose to keep to a simple two centimetre trim for the neckline. I narrowly turned and hemmed all the edges first. Then I whip-stiched the seams together.

I realized that before starting with my dresses I have to make myself stays to reach the needed silhouette. Two layers of rigid linen and beautiful toplayer were stiched together to make the boning channels. I’m going to use zip ties as boning, they aren’t historically accurate but as I’m going to use my stays in SCA life, they are easier to wash and maintain. Holes for the lacing are stitched with buttonhole silk thread that I found from my stash.

The partlet is cut from sheer chiffon. I have sweetwater pearls to embellish my partlet. First I have to sew the 'grid' with the thin gold braid. Next comes the challenging part of deciding which dress to carry on with, and of course drawing patterns and mocking them up.

Third Update


The past month has been very busy. I have had new challenges in my work as an interpreter. Our security police has checked my background and now I’m a 'safe' person to interpret for Finnish Immigration services. Lots of new vocabulary to manage.

Nonetheless I have been sewing hard. Stays that I started in May are now ready. It’s all hand-stitched, including the eyelets. The laces are lucet-cord. I had my lucet work with me sitting in the bus going to work to save time. I’m happy how they fit, they give me the right silhouette and whats best, they are comfy to wear.

I find it almost always scary to do the first cuts when starting a new project. This dress wasn’t an exception.

Well, now it is done. I used Eleanora of Toledo's satin gown from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3 as a model to draft the pattern for my dress.

For the sleeves I used a pattern I had drafted earlier. All pieces are cut and I’ve started to make eyelets in the back bodice part. The sleeve pieces are sewn with golden yellow silk facing and 'golden' braid along long seams.

The sleeve rolls are to be drafted next and then I have to decide which buttons to use on the sleeves.

Well, after finishing and sending off those first parts of my update I decided to do something small. Pocket pieces of red velvet I had cut two months ago were tempting. I sat down to sew and now I have my pocket ready. Light yellow linen as lining and some golden braid and satin band from my stash.

My summer vacation started today so I am confident that I will get everything done in time.


Final Update

(Bella: please note that Raakel has provided me with plenty of detail and 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.)

I had already started to sew a partlet in May but I wasn’t happy how it turned out. This is when I went to a local silk shop to ask if they had something for my partlet. They did, so I got some beautiful silk organza with golden squares woven in. First I cut it out and then turned the edges in by hand. On the neckline I sewed a narrow golden band before sewing freshwater pearls on every corner of the 'golden net'. Those squares are bigger than they are in Angolo Bronzino's painting of Eleanora di Toledo which I’m using as inspiration for my whole outfit. I think that I need to do a new partlet later, after this challenge, to finalize my outfit as close to the original model as possible.

My plans changed once more. I realized that I need to do a roped under-skirt to go under the main dress. The red linen from my stash feels good for the underskirt with twelve rounds of sisal rope sewn to the hem to stiffen it. As I was getting short of time I did the long seams and waist by machine. The sisal ropes were hand-sewn exept one. Now it is finished.

The hairnet was really fun to do. I drew a big circle on cardboard and measured it in squares. Pins stayed well on the outer line of my circle. Then I turned narrow golden band along the lines. It took some patience to stitch every corner to accomplish a round net. And then again, almost 200 freshwater pearls sewn in one by one. I had enough of them, as I had been buying necklaces and other jewellery from charity and recycling shops.

I covered a plastic headband with golden band ant attached my beaded net to it. Underneath half of the net was gathered with same golden band to form kind of a pouch in which I’ll be gathering my hair.

The dress. I love how it has turned out!

It is all sewn by hand. The eyelet holes are handsewn/made as are the lacing cords too. I had some Jaipursilk that I had bought for embroidery but it made nice shining laces. I didn’t put any lining on the skirt part as I want it to look plentiful. At our 11-day SCA summer camp, Cudgel-War, my friend Izabella helped me to fit the skirt and its folds. In fact she did help me in fitting the bodice earlier. I used 10cm-wide rigid linen as facing and finish the hem. I left about 3mm of the linen showing on the edge at the bottom, as is explained in Patterns of Fashion 3 in Eleanora di Toledos dress. I didn’t snip the edge as I want it to protect the main skirt and its hem.

I made the sleeve parts earlier but now I sat down and figured the rolls on the shoulders. They could be better, but well, I have to be satisfied with them for now. It really took lot of time to sew all 48 buttons, fastening the sleeve strips at the same time. Alltogether I like the way they look.