The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Hastings Sanderson
Utah, USA

I'm a textile artist, modelbuch researcher, and mother of 4. I've become a bit obsessed with Italian Renaissance costuming over the last decade and have been sewing for at least 30 years, so I don't get to call myself a novice even though I constantly find myself starting from scratch. Finding new challenges is the best part of this activity.

I'm planning to do a version of the dress in Guilio Romano's 1531 "Portrait of Margherita Paleologo." The 4 layers will include an embroidered camicia, the pink/pale scarlet sottana, the black velvet strapwork gown, a balzo, a lapis paternoster, a necklace, and a pair of gloves.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


Second Update: May Progress


Item started but not yet completed:


I've done bits and pieces of things all month, but don't have much exciting to show. Piles of ironed fabric ready for cutting, unpicked work on the underskirt, and the rectangles of linen for my camicia ready to have the insertion started aren't really progress.

I did begin a set of sprang garters. There is an extant pair in the Museum of Fine Art in Boston worked in pink, green, and gold. While I don't have the skill to do a pair nearly as intricate, I have wanted to try sprang garters. As the stretch of sprang goes sideways, I wonder what the advantage of doing them in the technique is? It seemed worth making a pair to try it out. I set up a continuous warp in pink and green wool on one of roller embroidery frames and started twining.





First Update: April Progress


Item started but not yet completed:


Most of my focus this month has been on the underskirt. I have tried plain skirts, corded skirts, and farthingales with reed in the past and been interested in the different results. This time around, I decided to try the doppia method. This form of stiffening is discussed in both Landini and Arnold's examinations of the Eleonora di Toledo burial dress and the red Pisa dress. While both dresses are 1560's and Florentine, the method could plausibly be used elsewhere in Italy. The hem has multiple layers with an outer fabric, a band of wool felt, an interlining of linen and a lining layer that matches the exterior layer. Additionally, there is a snipped sort of piping sandwiched in between the outer and inner layers that peeks out at the bottom. Both dresses also have decorative trims at the hem which add further weight and body.


I decided to reuse some thrifted materials I had on hand and selected a burgundy silk drape lined with cotton and a taupe cotton velvet for the applique trim I planned to make. I used a pattern taken from Giovanni Ostaus' pattern book for embroiderer printed in 156, La Vera Perfettione del Disegno di varie sorti di recami. This particular pattern is intended to be cut out of silk or velvet and then appliqued with metallic cording covering the edges. I took the page with the pattern I wanted and cropped a repeat of it, printed it, and then cut it out as a paper stencil to trace onto my velvet. Conveniently, this counterchanged style pattern creates two lengths of trim for every section you cut as it is horizontally mirrored, so it is fast to make.



I cut nine lengths of my velvet and should have enough applique for both my underskirt and the matching breeches that are my next project. Once the applique was cut, I tacked it into place a bit above the hem of my skirt.

I'm having a few eye issues right now, so fine embroidery isn't a possibility. I decided therefore to forgo the gold cord at the edge and do a buttonhole stitch that I would further use to quilt the applique and silk to the cotton lining and then go back and whip stitch the buttonhole stitches decoratively. I thought the buttonhole stitch would keep the applique in place and the whipped stitches would add texture and further body to the trim. I used two thicknesses of perle cotton for all the stitching with the buttonhole stitches matching the tan velvet and then a variegated in pink and green for the decorative edging.



I've finished the embroidered trim, but still need to do the stiffening layers, cartridge pleat the skirt, and put the waistband on. So some progress this month, but nothing completed. I have reconsidered my original plan and think I will be changing my inspiration portrait to one of Battista Zelotti's frescoes in The Room of Aurora at the Villa Foscari (La Malcontenta.) The house was built in about 1560 so it shifts my planned ensemble a bit later. Conveniently, my underskirt already matches that time frame.