The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Rhonda Neely
Californnia, USA

My name is Rhonda Neely from California, USA. I am 66 years old and know basic sewing but I am a novice to Italian Renaissance costuming. My sister and my daughter are very involved / interested in SCA. Entering this contest allows me the opportunity to learn more about medieval Italian fashion while improving my sewing skills and, more importantly, spend more time with my wonderful daughter.

My proposed outfit is inspired by studying the many beautiful images of late Italian renaissance women's fashion.

1. Corset / Pair of Bodies Underbodice - black & muted gold silk damask fashion fabric with black linen lining (and double cotton duck interlining) - side/back lacing.
2. Sottana Under-Dress with Detachable Sleeves - in arsenic green silk taffeta with detachable gold silk damask sleeves; bodice to be trimmed in black & gold; under-dress to be flat lined with cotton duck.
3. Zimarra Gown with capped sleeves in deep black cotton velveteen, trimmed in black & gold with gold fabric frog closures, probably lined with black linen; and, 4. Perhaps a fan or belt (or both) as the accessory.


The Completed Outfit

This has been a fun, informative and rewarding challenge! I felt honored to be in the company of so many talented women and learned a lot not only from reviewing their work but from my own efforts at completing my Italian Renaissance costume.

I completed all of the required pieces, plus two bonus pieces.

The following portions were hand-sewn: the camicia sleeve and skirt hems, the sottana bodice neck, side and arm scythe bindings, the sottana skirt slits, the sottana sleeve hems, the 'fruit seller' dress arm scythes and lacers (metal lacers attached by hand.)

Layer 1: The Corset/Pair of bodies plus extra item 1, a Camicia


Layer 2: An arsenic green silk taffeta sottana/under-dress with gold silk damask sleeves, plus extra item 2, a red cotton velveteen Italian Fruit Seller’s dress.

Layer 3: A black cotton velveteen over-gown with gold trim


Layer 4, Accessories: A Belt

I look forward to seeing how some of my favorite pieces by fellow contestants fare in the final analysis!

Many thanks to Bella for the effort required to make such a fun and exciting international event enjoyed by so many!


First Update

My project has already taken some significant twists and turns!


1. Corset

I began work on my project corset but then my daughter asked for an Italian Fruit Seller's dress in red velveteen for an upcoming renaissance faire, so the corset is still awaiting completion. I made a mock up which fit perfectly, so I am hoping that this one will fit nicely as well.

Adjusting strap angle on corset pattern.

Cutting out corset pattern from cotton duck.

Cutting out corset lining.


2. Camicia

Even though I cannot officially count it as a contest item because the pattern pieces had been cut prior to April 1st, I am including pics of a camicia that I am making as well. I had trouble with some of the machine embroidery which I had to gently rip out. A new machine needle solved the problem. I embroidered the two front and two back seams.




Since the Fruit Seller's dress is the correct time period, I am including it as one of my contest items. When it was fitted on my daughter, we realized that the bodice came up too high. So, I had to cut the finished bodice down, and squared it up, so that it fits perfectly now. I also had some slight mismatching of trim where the seams met so I had to redo those as well.

Second Update



I completed the corset this month and am very pleased with the damask fabric. I want the wearer to feel elegant wearing it.



I started the sottana by first making a partially-skirted mock up out of muslin before cutting the silk taffeta. The mock up fit perfectly on the first try, so that was satisfying. I have cut out the pattern pieces, zig-zag finished the edges, and sewn the gores to the front and back skirts. I am awaiting the arrival of wool felt stiffener so that I can finish the bodice. My goal is to finish the sottana and start the gown next month.


Finished hand-sewing the hem. Just need to properly gather the neckline to finish this camicia. However, this one is not eligible for the contest because the pattern pieces were cut before the contest. I am inspired by another contestant's lovely sheer camicia, so if I have enough time I intend to sew another one from scratch out of tissue linen with lace insets for the contest.

Third Update

This month I completed the sottana bodice and attached it to the skirt. Even though it won’t be seen, I used coordinating green wool felt as an interlining prior to channel stitching. I had the wool interlining half sewn in before I noticed it was crooked so I took it apart and redid it more carefully. I then hand-sewed the seam binding which completed the bodice construction except for the eyelets. I was pleased that the completed bodice was so similar to the sketched plan.

I constructed the skirt, hand-sewing the side slits (#5) and attached it to the bodice (#6). The sottana under-dress is now ready for a padded hem.

I cut out the sleeves, interlining and lining. I used gold damask silk for the outer sleeve, simple muslin interlining, and arsenic green silk taffeta lining to match the sottana. The sleeves will have loops attach to buttons on the sottana.

Next month I will move to the black velveteen over gown and the belt accessory to complete my project. Seeing the incredibly beautiful and talented work of the other contestants makes me smile at my efforts to complete this simple sottana!

Final Update


(Bella: please note that Rhonda 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.)

This month I completed the required project pieces! Yay!

This included finishing the sottana. I discovered how helpful using clips were, instead of pins, for determining the hem length. I cut bias tape for the hem and was very happy with the way the padding made the skirt stand with a little structure. However, when my daughter tried it on, it was a bit too long. I turned the trimmed hem under so now the trim is on the inside – actually this adds even more to the structure and creates a fancy inside hem. I added more trim to the outside lower edge to make up for what was turned under. I added buttons adorned with crystal to the sottana straps to accept the sleeves and added larger buttons to the front and back just for decoration.

I also finished the sleeves that are made from gold silk damask with muslin interlining and matching arsenic green lining. I used gold cord loops to attach them to the sottana buttons. The fitting revealed that the sleeves were a bit too long so I redid them, hand-sewing the end-of-sleeve hem.

I completed the black velveteen gown. I chose wings over the sleeve openings and a curved cutaway front to show off the gown underneath. In order to get the trim to go around the curved front, I used a very short stretch of gathers, the suggestion of my mother-in-law, dampened the trim and weighted it down before using a steam iron on it. It helped that the trim is 37% cotton. I also decided to bag line the gown with black linen. I was very pleased with the look of the 32 gold frogs down the front.

The belt accessory was a simple attachment of leather to girdles, purchased from Australia, by pounding caps onto the girdle rivets and punching holes into the belt.

I discarded the camicia that I started with because it was not eligible for this contest as the pieces had been cut out before the start. Oh, okay, it was really because I was having so much trouble with the neckline. Instead, inspired by Tatiana’s photos, I purchased some lighter handkerchief linen and some cotton lace to make a contest-eligible one from scratch with lace inserts. This was done under the supervision of our cat, Hermes. I did my best to finish the edges well because this linen frays so easily. Gussets are the bane of my existence.

Believe it or not, this simple garment is competing with the sottana bodice as the most difficult for me to make! Just like the discarded camicia, the gathered neckline had to be redone because it was way too large. It was finally finished with matching lace trim. The body was also way too large so I had to cut out and discard two lovely laced panels to make it smaller. I finished the ends of the sleeves with a hand-sewn casing to allow for an adjustable gather.

I was pleased with the final lace sleeve inserts. The final effort was to hand-sew the hem. Except for the loss of two lace inserts on the front, I was pleased with the final camicia.

So, with my trusty sewing machine, I have now completed the required projects with a couple of bonus pieces:

Layer 1: The gold and black silk damask corset/pair of bodies;

Layer 2: The arsenic green silk taffeta Sottanna under dress with gold silk damask sleeves;

Layer 3: The black cotton velveteen over dress gown with gold trim;

Layer 4: Belt accessory;

Bonus Layer 1: The handkerchief linen camicia; and,

Bonus Layer 2: The red cotton velveteen Italian Fruit Seller’s dress.

I now need to complete the required photographs and written summation before August 15th.