The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Josie Welch
Christchurch, New Zealand


My name is Josie Welch and I am from Christchurch, New Zealand. I have been in involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (Barony of Southron Gaard, Lochac) since 2002 where I am known as Signora Onorata Elisabetta Foscari. I have been making Italian clothing for nearly all that time but wanted to make my outfits more authentic after falling in love with the dresses in Bronzino's portraits. Some of the outfits I have made since then can be seen here.

For this challenge I want to make the dress of the Duchess of Urbino, Eleanora Gonzaga, painted by Titian.

I will be making a camicia and drawers, a petticoat, a under dress and overdress. My accessories will be a partlet, zibellino, balzo and girdle.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


First Update: April Progress

I changed direction this month as I found this rather fabulous green and gold silk brocade on Etsy. When it showed up it was even more lovely than the photos and definitely wanted to be made in to the dress in Moroni's 1555/6 portrait of Isotta Brembati.

I will be making similar types of items as in my first plan: camicia, drawers, petticoat, sottana and overdress with partlet, zibellini, belt, fan, beaded head piece and necklaces.


Items started but not yet completed:

1. Camicia

I have cut out and hand hemmed the edges of the chemise. I will embroider the neck and wrist bands for it then sew it together.

2. Sottana

I decided to start with the sottana as I am going to our May Crown event in a few weeks and wanted something new to wear! I decided to base the sottana/underdress on this 1550s Florentine portrait but chose to make it in red silk with black velvet trim instead of the brown in the portrait. This seemed a suitable choice although it is from a different area of Italy (Isotta was from Bergamo), the date and the shape of the dress were similar. Red sottanas were certainly worn around this time as can be seen in Zucchi's portrait of a lady and in the extant red Pisa dress which I was lucky enough to see over New Year.


I started with creating the bodice pattern based upon a Venetian one I had made that fit well. I chose to bone the interior of the bodice with cable ties, between two layers of linen/cotton canvas, as it gives me the flatter shape of this style and the support I need.



I then handsewed a layer of cotton corduroy over the boning to help hide the ridge lines of the boning. Over this I handsewed on the red silk. The trim is made from velvet ribbon with an edging of a narrow black braid. All braid on this dress is handsewn on. The red linen lining was hand sewn in place. I chose to use metal eyelets as this is a support layer and I wanted the extra strength. I did however couch over them in silk thread.



I made a four-gore panel skirt and machine sewed that together. I sewed another row of the wide velvet trim and two narrow edges on down the front. I cartridge pleated that in to the bodice by hand gathering it and then hand whip stitching it to the bottom edge of the bodice. I still need to hem the skirt and hand sew two rows of narrow trim around the hem.

The sleeves are almost completed. I created a sleeve cap out of the silk, silk organza and lined with linen. I chose to interline in the silk organza as it gives extra puff to the sleeves without extra weight. Again I hand sewed the wide and narrow trims to this cap. I made an extra tab that went round beneath the cap and had narrow velvet ribbon sewn at intervals.


I hand sewed a gathering stitch to the top and bottom of the sleeve cap. I then hand whip stitched this to the top of a full silk sleeve. I then hand sewed the tab all the way around where the bottom of the cap would sit and again whip stitched the bottom gathered sleeve cap on to this tab.

I have so far hand sewn one spiral of narrow velvet on to the lower sleeve. I have unpicked the other one at least three times as it is not right so will finish next month. The sleeves will be tied to the bodice with narrow velvet ribbon.

Next month I will also work on the rest of the undergarments and some accessories.