The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Hannah Fuhriman
Colorado, USA

I have been sewing all my life and, in the past, have considered myself fairly proficient in Italian Renaissance costume. In the last five or so years I have sewn very little and what I have created has been more costume-related than historically accurate. I’m hoping that this year’s challenge will help to inspire me once more!

I am planning on making a Venetian ensemble based on those in “Mores Italiae”, being particularly inspired by this woman in blue. I am planning an embroidered camicia and possibly a pair of blue silk drawers for the first layer, blue silk gown for the main/second layer, a white velvet/brocade zimarra for layer three, and for the accessories I would like to make a veil, a partlet, and either a fan or zibellino. The materials are all from the stash, excepting the blue silk for the gown which is my sole splurge for this ensemble and on order.

For extensive handwork begun prior to the challenge’s commencement, I have been working on the embroidery for the camicia on the sleeve panels. The linen has been ripped into panels for years, but will still be trimmed to size once the challenge begins.

(Updates listed in reverse order)


First Update: April Progress


I began by organizing my materials into piles for the other major projects:
1) habotai silk, passementerie trim, and silk ribbon for the partlet and veil, 2) purple linen, blue dupioni, and silk ribbons for the Venetian breeches,
3) blue charmeuse, blue wool, muslin, and trimmings for the gown, and
4) brocade, velvet, and trimmings for the zimarra.

Items completed this month:

1. The Veil

I adore the long flowy veils shown in many images of the time. I had in my stash several yards of silk habotai and found online five yards of tarnished antique passementerie trim. I realized five yards of trim would not be enough to trim the entire perimeter of the size of veil I desired, but I really wanted to use it on a veil. I stumbled upon two images of veils which definitely are trimmed along the sides and bottom but don’t necessarily appear to be trimmed along the top edge: the newly-wed Venetian woman 1581 from Habitus Varium Orbis Gentium and in this image from Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi, Et Moderni di Tutto Il Mondo 1598.



The veil is a long rectangle hand-hemmed along three sides with the selvedge along the fourth. I then joined the gold lace to the bottom and sides with decorative tacking points about every centimeter. The lace has some definitive and lovely weight to it due the metal threads, and I am in love with how it plays with flowy silk.

The veil is finished, and sewn entirely by hand.

2. Venetian breeches

I moved on to the Venetian breeches (layer #1), using Pietro Bertolli’s 1591 engraving of a Venetian courtesan wearing men’s breeches under her gown as my main reference. There are also several examples of breeches, not necessarily drawers, being worn under the camicia, and so I am intending these as my first layer.



I based my pattern off of the 1615’s Venetians in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nurnburg, as found in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 3. Although the extant version is dated slightly post-period for my ensemble, examples of a similar article are the 1581 Venetians (Calzoni) of Cardinal Flavio Orsini.

Although the extant 1615’s pair is interlined with wool, I decided to forego that layer in the interest of lightness. The inter-lining is linen and the outer is blue silk dupioni that I’ve had in my stash for years. The lining is pieced together from scraps of gold and purple habotai I had in the stash.


I knew I wanted to slash the silk, and decided on the diagonal pattern of slashing in order to fit the pattern onto the allotted silk and still have the slashes lie on the bias. I cut the inter-lining first, and then the silk on the bias, and basted the layers together. I then marked for the trim and made it from coiled purple silk ribbon with a row of gold silk ribbon stitched down the center of the rows with simple embroidered x’s. I was worried that all this would be crazy time extensive, but once everything was pinned down, I made progress much faster than expected. This method of trimming was inspired by the trim on the extant guibbone of Pietro of Aragon, 1552.


Once the trim was complete, I slashed the silk in parallel rows and gathered the resulting strips and stitched them down to the linen lining. Here I was roughly inspired by the slashed satin lining in the extant gown of Dorothea Sabina von Neuberg, 1598.

I then assembled the venetians by hand. The lining is stab-stitched into place along the knees. The waistband is a strip of double folded silk; the original had linen interlining, but again I forewent this for lightness. I inserted a placket of linen into the front opening and sewed in three pairs of hook and eye for the closure.

The original pair had openings at the knees, but I felt this unnecessary for my personal use. However, I still wanted some sort of decoration at those points and went ahead and made a few cloth buttons. They are from the same blue silk dupioni, with cotton floss and glass beads. They turned out a little rough, but I’m considering them a warm-up for the buttons I intend to make later for the zimarra. I made seven buttons, two for each knee and three for the front closure, they are all decorative in nature.



The venetians are now finished. They are completely constructed, trimmed, and finished by hand, minus the initial machine basting prior to trimming.


Items started but not yet completed:


Prior to the challenge’s beginning, I completed the embroidery on both the sleeves, eight body panels, and had started on the first gusset for the camicia. Once the challenge started I went ahead and finished up the embroidery on the gussets and I’ve begun trimming and hemming the pieces between other projects.


Plans for May are to finish the camicia and begin working on the gown.