The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Kairi Clark
California, USA

I have been wanting to do this since the first year, and either forgot, needed a dress in a certain timeframe, or was just busy. I'm SO EXCITED! I have been making Italian Renaissance costuming for almost 30 years, and have enjoyed the growing body of research the internet provides. I'm a mom, anthropology and education student, and member of the Guild of Santa Maria. We do the run of small faires in Northern California.

I'm making a new camicia, pink woven patterned silk blend underskirt, pink silk gown, and a slate/dull red shot silk overdress trimmed in silver. I'm starting on the handmade buttons now. I also plan on making several of the accessories on this list: a really fancy lace partlet, a pair of green leather or felted shoes, plum hose, chopines, new bloomers, new caul or hair bling, a pocket, or a flag fan. I never know what in my stash will inspire me on any given day.

My outfits are based on these two, and many other, portraits: An Unknown Man and Woman (once called Vasari and his Wife by Sophonisba Anguissola) and a full-length group portrait of three figures, said to be Contesa Constanza Machiavelli and her two daughters.

(Updates listed in reverse order)

First Update: April Progress


This first month has definitely been a challenge. My mom died in April, and I spent most of the month out-of-state taking care of her, and then organizing her affairs, and then trying to recover and get my own life back together after being gone a month. I also had to make a quilt for a wedding and a kilt for my hubby. I only have a tiny amount of work to show, but I’m actually really proud of it.

Item started this month but not yet completed:


I finished the two sleeves of my camicia. I have sewn two shifts completely by hand now, and wanted to challenge myself a little more, so I decided to make embroidered open-work seams. I did a little too much research on Google and Pinterest, and finally decided to do something simple for my first try. I’m using a very lightweight linen-cotton blend. I would live in linen constantly if I could. I’m just making a rectangular cut shift that I don’t use a pattern for - I just tailor it to my measurements. First, I hand- hemmed three sides of the sleeve. I had a lot of help from my attending sewing assistant, Warble.


I decided to hemstitch the wrist opening and pulled threads out of the warp. I didn’t count them, just eyeball them. I think it was about seven threads total I pulled out. I just held one sleeve up to the other to compare and see if they were even.



I am not precise about counting threads - which is why I hve never done any counted blackwork on my garments. I just eyeballed grouping threads together, and followed a hemstitching tutorial from online. I really like how it gives a slightly lacy, open look to the hems.




Unfortunately, I went a little crazy on the first sleeve and forgot I hadn’t tapered it to the wrist yet, and hemstitched waaaaay more that I needed. I’ll just call it practice.


After hemming, I went back on the web and found a herringbone stitch tutorial. I wanted to do something REALLY fancy, but my embroidery skills are not yet up to some of my other crafting stats, and I once again decided to keep it simple. I’m stitching all the visible seams on the camicia in openwork. I think it is pretty and kind of sexy and it will help keep me cool in California summers. It took a few tries, some needlepokes and bleeding, and a little swearing, but I got it. I was kind of surprised how much faster it went than sewing a running or backstitch, and it made sense suddenly why people did seams this way. This is really my favorite part of historical costuming- the experimental archaeology part. I feel connected to the seamsters through the years that had special ways to sew their seams that was quick and pretty. That was a lot of talking for not much sewing.



I have also worked on the wrapped buttons which I started (with permission) before April 1st. I only have the wrapping on about six of them completed. They are silver pearl cotton and metallic over ceramic beads. They will likely also have a pink accent and a pink pearl on the end of each button when they are done. It takes about an hour to do each button. Next time I will try to have beads the same color as the threads, it will make wrapping a little easier. I like learning things as I go! I also made one button with plain old embroidery thread, and I kind of like that one better- but I want this to be a showpiece, and I think the metallic will be more eye-catching. I’m making little shanks at the bottom so I can make the buttons removable for cleaning, instead of sewing them onto the garment.



Next month, I will finish my shift, my pink pattened underskirt, and hopefully dive into the bodice of the pink gown. I’d also like to work on my stockings before it gets too hot. It’s going to be a busy month!