The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Crystal Tice
Iowa, USA

I have been involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism since 2011 where I am known as Zaneta Baseggio and reside in the Canton of Axed Root. I have been making Italian gowns off and on ranging from the 14th century to late 16th century. In the past couple of years, I have stepped away from the machine and have started sewing outfits by hand.

My inspirations for this challenge are the 1510's portraits with the huge bag sleeves like La Schiavona and del Piombo's Daughter of Herodias. My second attempt at Venetian garb was based on these portraits. I am looking forward to revisiting the style with a bit more sewing skill.

I plan on making a camicia, underskirt, and an over-gown with sleeves. For the final layer of accessories, I plan on making a partlet, an apron or sash, a coif, and a pair of shoes.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


The Completed Outfit



I had a very good time this year, even with all the other projects I had going on. While I would have liked to do more (finishing the sash), I am quite happy with what I have accomplished. I have been meaning to remake this outfit for many years and three of my accessories have been on my To Do list forever. Now that they are done, I am looking forward to wearing them to more events.

I’m also quite happy that I was able to do a lot of hand sewing this year. I don’t know if I am just bad with the machine or if hand sewing just works that much better for me. By hand sewing, I was able to ease any weirdnesses in fabric corners and control just how the fabric flowed. This wasn’t my first hand sewn dress and it will definitely not be my last.

I wanted to thank Bella and the other contestants for a great year. Having the deadlines really helps me keep on track to finish up a project. Thanks again!


Layer 1: Camicia

Machine sewn construction with hand finished seams and neckline. Handkerchief weight linen.



Layer 2: Underskirt

Machine sewn construction with hand finished seams, hems, and waistband. Hand-made lucet cord and eyelets as closure. Middle weight linen with wool blend padding at hem.



Layer 3: Dress

Machine sewn construction on skirt, sleeves, and interlining. All other construction and finishing done by hand. Lucet lacing made by hand. Middle weight linen with cotton duck interlining for stiffening the bodice. Lacing rings attached to twill tape for side closure and sleeve attachment.



Layer 4: Accessories



1. Coif and Pins

Hand-sewn gauze weight linen and hand-made glass veil pins.





2. Partlet

Hand-sewn gauze weight linen.



3. Garters

Hand woven perle cotton.





4. Shoes

Hand-sewn leather.





Fourth Update: July Progress



This month I remembered why I had been hesitating about entering in the first place. I was an event steward for an Known World event, I went out of kingdom for an event, and I decided last minute to enter an Arts and Sciences event with a project I hadn't started yet. On top of all of that, I have been dealing with a shoulder issue and received my very first cortisone shot. July is always such a busy month.

But regardless of all of that, I managed to finish up my last layer with four accessories. I even managed to get over my fear of shoes to finish my very first pair. I'm quite happy with the results.

Items completed this month:

1. Coif

I have wanted a coif in the style of La Schiavona for a long time. I’ve tried to make it a couple times but it has never quite seemed right. I’ve been assured that it’s a simple thing, but it took me years to figure out how to make a simple t-tunic. Simple and I don’t always understand each other.

For this coif, I started with a gauze weight linen and cut a large circle. Like my previous attempts, I started gathering the fabric with a running stitch. The plan was that those stitches would hide at the nape of the neck. Once I had gathered what I thought was enough stitches, I tried it on but didn’t like it. It has the same problem as the others - it just didn’t feel right and sat weird.

So I tore out all the stitches and started again. This time, I pleated the bottom section instead of gathering it. I also added a few pleats to the top of the coif. These top pleats made all the difference. It suddenly feels like it fits properly. I tacked the pleats down and then sewed on bias tape made of the same linen with a running stitch.

I made two glass veil pins to secure the coif in place. Veil pins are quick and easy for me to make, so I didn’t think about getting an ‘in progress’ photo while I was at the torch. These were made from a white pearlish color stringer of glass and a floral pin. I broke off the plastic pearls that come on the floral pins, heated it in the torch, and then melted and applied a small amount of glass. Once it was in the shape I liked, it went into a crockpot full of vermiculite to cool slowly. The next day, I removed the fire scale with a dremel and a diamond bit.





2. Partlet

This is another item that I have wanted for years - a partlet in the style of La Schiavona. I debated on how to make this partlet. On one hand, it looks like a shawl. On the other hand, it is a partlet that is thrown back to skirt the edges of sumptuary law. I actually cut two partlets from a gauze weight linen. One was a long rectangle and the other was a typical Y shape partlet. The plan was to compare and contrast. However, I only finished the rectangle version.

I folded over the edges of the partlet and used a whipstitch to hold the hem in place.




3. Garters

These were hand woven with twenty four cards and dark blue perle cotton. The pattern is a checkerboard / basketweave pattern. The pattern is subtle and can only be seen in the right light from the right direction. Once the weaving was done, I cut it into two pieces, finished off the cut end and attached buckles. The other end was knotted.

Originally, the garters were meant to be an extra item so I could test the pattern. But I didn’t manage to get my longer sash done in time. It is currently half done on my loom. While that would be enough to go around my waist once, I really wanted to wrap it at least twice. So I am leaving it half done and will finish it later.




4. Leather Shoes

I have a hard time with shoes. My feet are weird and it takes trips to several stores before I can find a pair that fit properly. If dress shoes don’t have a strap across the top, they will not stay on and my heel slides right out of them. So for this project, I went looking for something that would stay on my feet. What I found was a late 14th century English shoe while browsing through the site, Historical Italian Shoes.

My husband has been making shoes on and off for a couple years. I’ve watched the tutorials with him and watched him put shoes together but never did any of my own. These are my very first shoes. My husband helped to make the pattern by making a duct tape cast of my foot. Once that was done, he advised me on how to create the pattern and put it all together.

The bottom of the shoe is a thicker veg tanned leather. The upper is a thinner leather we had laying around the house. The shoes were sewn together by hand with waxed leather cord. Typically, the seam connecting the two sides of the shoe should be done through the center of the leather and the inside of the shoe. I...did not have the skill to try to split the leather so I tried to make them as even as possible on the outside of the shoe.

I punched holes through the sole for sewing and then attached the upper to the sole with Barge cement. Once the cement was dry, I punched sewing holes through the upper. I sewed the upper to the sole and then sewed a strap and buckle in place.

I’m pretty happy with the way the shoes turned out. They seem to fit nicely and are just a little bit big on the sides. They definitely stay on my feet. The next pair I make, I will probably narrow the sole a bit and try to work the big crease out of the toe.







Third Update: June Progress


Item Completed This Month:

Overdress with Sleeves

This month I completed my overdress and sleeves. All work this month was done by hand.

First, I finished up the stitching on the neckline of the bodice. Once that was done, I knife pleated the skirt to the lining of the bodice. I then turned the lining inside and folded in the seam allowance of the outside fabric. The outside was whipstitched to the skirt to hold it in place. I went back and used a running stitch/back stitch to secure the skirt in place and hopefully to keep the seam allowances from bunching up between the layers once it is washed. I left small gaps of skirt fabric unpleated between the side openings of the bodice. The edges of the gap were turned under and whipstitched to hide the raw edges.

To close the bodice, I attached lacing rings to twill tape. The tape was then whipstitched into place. I went back over the tape with a running stitch to make sure I caught all layers for added strength. I wrapped the ends of lucet cord so that they would function as aiglets. Once the dress was wearable, my husband marked out the bottom hem for me and I finished it up with a whipstitch.

I am always afraid that the edges of lined things like bags or sleeves are going to get out of place. Since my sleeves are pretty much just closed fabric tubes, I went around three edges with a running stitch to hold the fabric in place. Lacing rings were added to both sides at the wrist and elbow so that the sleeves could be tied together as needed. I added knife pleats to the fourth edge to reduce the size of the armscye from 40 inches to 25 inches. Several portraits of this type of dress/sleeve look like they have pleats falling from the shoulder. I sewed the pleats down with a running/back stitch and finished off the fourth edge with a running stitch.

To close the sleeve and attach it to the dress, I sewed lacing rings to twill tape again. I put five rings on the tape and offset them just slightly. There are two rings toward the front side of the shoulder and three toward the backside. The center ring was placed just behind the midpoint. The tape was sewed to the sleeves to hold them closed. Matching tape and rings were added to the shoulders of the dress but set back from the edge slightly. Hopefully this will hide the join a little bit. More lucet cord was used to tie the sleeves into place.








Second Update: May Progress


Items started but not yet completed:

1. Dress

This month, I worked on my third layer and an extra accessory but neither were completed. My third layer is a linen gown with wide, baggy sleeves.

Before the challenge started, I had a friend help pattern the bodice by draping and pinning. We have been trading draping help for years. Based on the portraits of the time period, I put a square neck on the front side of the bodice and a curved neck on the back. Both the lining and the main fabric are linen. The lining is a cotton duck canvas. Since this bodice does not require as much support as some others, there is only a single layer of canvas.

Once the layers were cut out, I machine sewed the canvas to the lining. Everything else was done by hand. I sewed the outer fabric to the lining using a backstitch. I didn't sew all the way up the shoulders to make it easier to attach the two sides together. Once both sides were sewn together and turned inside out, I matched up the lining shoulders and sewed them together. The seams were pushed to one side and the main fabric was matched and pinned in place. I used a whipstitch across the top of the main fabric. One side was nice and easy, the other was a bit fiddly as I ended up without as much seam allowance as I should have had. The side openings were then sewn together to catch all the edges inside the shoulders.



One of my inspiration portraits has a contrasting band around the neckline. I made bias tape from linen and pinned it around the neckline. I am using a running stitch to tack the bias in place.



The skirt for the dress is comprised of two panels that were machine sewn together. I hand sewed the seam finishing. The sleeves were cut out as two rectangles. The lining and main fabric were sewn together mostly by machine. I turned them right side out, ironed them, and finished off the openings by hand. I plan on either adding trim along the edges with the ties or using a running stitch in the same color to keep the edges neat.


2. Garters / Sash

This month, I also warped up my baby loom with a new tablet weaving pattern I wanted to try for my sash. There is enough warped that this sample piece will become a pair of garters when I am done. The pattern is a simple forward back pattern that produces a muted checkerboard look in the right light. My second inspiration portrait, La Schiavona, has a sash with a muted pattern and so this will be my take on it.




First Update: April Progress

Items completed this month:

1. Camicia

This month I spent my time on my under layers.

My camicia is made of a lightweight linen. I used the width of the fabric as my front and back panels. I divided the width in half for each sleeve. There are nine inch gussets under each arm. I followed the instructions from Bella's website for construction. The seams were sewn by machine and then flat felled by hand. I hand sewed a small hem around the neck, hem, and sleeves. Once all the edges were finished, I cartridge pleated the neckline with two lines of running stitch. The pleats were then pulled to the size I wanted and sewn down to a twill ribbon.



2. Padded Underskirt

The skirt is a middle weight linen made of two panels. The panels were sewn by machine and everything else was hand sewn. I pleated the top of the skirt and attached it to the waist band. Eyelets were added to one side and a lucet cord to the other for closure. Once the waist band was sewn in place, my husband marked the hem line for me in chalk. I decided to experiment with the underskirt and added a stiffened hem. I took the extra length of skirt that had been cut off from the bottom and used it as facing. Wool blend felt was cut into strips and tacked together to create the length I needed. The facing fabric was folded around the felt and pinned slightly lower than the folded edge of the skirt. I then used a running stitch to sew the two together. Once that was done, I used a whipstitch across the top of the facing/felt to attach it to the skirt. I tried to catch the felt just a little bit on both sides so that it will stay in place. It definitely 'poofed' the skirt a bit and I am liking the way it looks.



The completed items: Layer 1, camicia and layer 2, padded underskirt.