The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Kathleen Zanardo
Sydney, Australia

Hi, my name is Kathleen Zanardo. This is the second year I have entered the IRCC and the second Italian Renaissance costume I have sewn. I have been sewing since I was a teenager.

My proposed outfit will be a faithful reproduction of the outfit in Parmigianino's "Antea". The painting was executed in 1535 in the city of Parma. My outfit will be made for my adult daughter, who bears a slight resemblance to Antea.

My outfit will comprise of a horizontally striped sottana with puffed sleeves, a brown partlet with a hand-printed pattern, a camicia with embroidered blackwork cuffs, an apron with blackwork embroidery, handmade suede gloves, and a zibellino.

To complete the outfit I will also make a corset, an underskirt and a pair of drawers. During March I will start the blackwork embroidery on the cuffs and apron.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


The Completed Outfit


I have created a complete Italian Renaissance outfit of a woman from the city of Parma in 1535. I have attempted to faithfully reproduce the items as seen in the outfit in Parmigianino’s painting ‘Antea’. These items are a camicia, partlet, sottana, apron and a pair of gloves. To this I added a corset, a hooped petticoat, a pair of drawers (calzone), an underskirt, a pair of stockings with garters and a pair of slippers.

The final photos were taken at the historic Woodford Academy and in the bush near my home in the Blue Mountains.

Layer 1: Camicia

Cotton lawn fabric, all seams and flat felling are machine-sewn. The gathered cuffs are decorated with hand-sewn blackwork embroidery using satin stitch, back stitch and tiny blanket stitches. Four hand-plaited cords fasten the wrists.



Layer 1 Extras: Corset (1) and Calzone (2)

The corset is drafted with my own pattern. It is made from four layers of cotton fabric, plastic strapping as the boning, and rust coloured bias binding. It laces at the front with a satin ribbon. The construction is fully machine-sewn.

The calzone (drawers) are made of cotton lawn fabric, seams and flat felling are machine-sewn. The hand-sewn blackwork embroidery decorates the lower section of the legs and around the front opening, using chain stitch and back stitch. The bottom hems have hand-sewn edges of blanket stitch onto which I crocheted two rows of lace stitches. I hand-stitched two eyelets and made a soft plaited cord from black and white embroidery threads.



Layer 1 Extra: Partlet (3), and Layer 2: Hooped Petticoat

The collared partlet is made from brown bemsilk onto which I hand-printed a black lozenge design. I drafted my own pattern based on the partlet in Parmigianino’s painting ‘Antea’. The construction is machine sewn.

The hooped petticoat is made from a subdued yellow fabric with five metal hoops. It is fully machine-sewn.



Layer 2 Extra: Underskirt (4)

The underskirt is made from a yellow cotton fabric. It is machine-sewn with hand-sewn eyelets and a hand-made plaited cord at the waist.



Layer 3: Sottana

I drafted my own pattern and machine-sewed the sottana using a brown and gold satin fabric. The sleeves are topped with large, full puffs and have distinctive square tabs at the cuffs. The sleeves attach to the bodice with ribbons I made from the same fabric. I feel the sottana looks equally beautiful worn with either the partlet or just the camicia at the neckline.






Layer 4: Accessories

1. Gloves – Deep brown faux suede fabric. Mostly machine-sewn with a few awkward parts done by hand. The gloves are lined with a printed cotton fabric.

2. Apron – White cotton fabric with three bands of hand-sewn blackwork embroidery. I created the design myself based on the apron in the ‘Antea’ painting. Construction of apron is machine-sewn.

3. Slippers – Fully hand-made slippers (hand-embroidery and stitched satin ribbons on vamps, carved and painted wooden heels, hand-cut leather inner soles and outer soles).

4. Stockings with garters – Bias-cut yellow cotton fabric, seams machine-sewn. Hand-sewn eyelets, hand-made twisted lacing cord, hand-embroidered posies of flowers, hand-embroidered garters.


Thank you to my daughter Alessia for her patience with all the measuring and fittings that were needed to get this outfit constructed, as well as all the photography required each month. I think she looks fabulous in her Italian Renaissance costume.

Thank you to my friends Csaba for help with the photography, and Rachel for the loan of the marten stole.

Thank you Bella for running this year’s IRCC. It has kept me busy, motivated and excited for the whole four months. I look forward to doing it all again next year.





Fourth Update: July Progress


Items completed this month:

1. Partlet

My ambition in making this partlet, along with other items, has been to faithfully reproduce it as seen in Parmigianino's painting 'Antea'.

As the fabric I desired is not available I decided to hand-print it myself. The base fabric I chose is a warm brown acetate bemsilk. The black paint is water-based heat-set fabric paint.

I drafted the size of the print based on the fact that approximately seven lozenges are visible from the shoulder to the top of the dress bodice. I drew the design onto the fabric with a lead pencil.

The main printing stamp is simply a wooden ruler held with a bull-dog clip. The other smaller stamp I cut out of cardboard. Once all the printing was complete I heat-set the paint with an iron. The fabric then needed to be washed and I found that a lot of the paint was removed. Initially I was upset to see all my effort washed away, however the more subtle printing is actually better.



The partlet pattern is my own design and drafting. I have included a rounded collar as I feel I am seeing one in the painting of Antea. The partlet is machine sewn. It has ribbon ties at the sides.







2. Hooped petticoat

After looking at the photos of my daughter wearing the sottana I decided that the skirt needed more volume to balance the fullness of the puffed sleeves. To achieve this I made a hooped petticoat.

The dull yellow fabric is from my collection. The five hoops are metal, bought online years ago.

The petticoat is made of four gores which are machine-stitched together. The fabric channels were sewn on at 20cm intervals down the skirt. Once the metal was threaded into the channels they were sewn closed. The petticoat is held together with ties at the waist.







Third Update: June Progress


Items completed this month:

1. Camicia

The body of the camicia is made from white cotton lawn fabric. It has gussets and a drawstring at the neckline. All construction sewing, including the flat felling of the seams, is done with a sewing machine.




I continued working on the embroidered cuffs. After completing the blackwork embroidery I folded the lawn fabric and sewed tiny blanket stitches along the outer edge.

The final task was to attach the cuffs to the sleeves. The gathered cuffs were sewn onto small wrist bands, which were in turn attached to the gathered camicia sleeves. I stitched four small hand-plaited cords in place which will be the fastenings when worn.






I am very pleased with the camicia cuffs and feel I have faithfully reproduced them as seen in Parmigianino's “Antea".







2. Calzone (Drawers)

My calzone are based on an extant pair of 16th century Italian calzone. The fabric is white lawn which I cut into a two legs plus a square gusset. All seams are finished flat felled. The construction of the calzone is machine-sewn.




I created my own design for the blackwork decorations. The bottom hems have hand-sewn edges of blanket stitch, onto which two rows of crochet lace stitches were added.





The hand-stitched bands of embroidery are sewn using chain stitch and back stitch. A waistband holds the gathered top of the calzone. I hand-stitched two eyelets and made a soft plaited cord from twisted black and white embroidery threads.






3. Sottana

The sottana I have made is my attempt to faithfully reproduce the dress as seen in Parmigianino’s painting ‘Antea’. The beautiful brown and gold striped satin fabric was a fortuitous find in a remnant pile in a second hand shop.

I drafted my own pattern by using the draping method on my daughter. The bodice has a lining of dark brown fabric and an inner layer of sturdy fabric to give structure to the bodice.



The separate sleeves are fairly slim fitting, topped with a voluminous puff at the upper arm. The distinctive cuffs of the sleeves have squared tabs, a distinctive feature in the painting. The sleeves are attached to the bodice using ribbons I made from the same fabric.









4. Slippers

I have observed many 16th century slippers and shoes, noting their decoration, materials and details. I decided to attempt the task of making a pair of slippers based on some extant examples from Nordiska Museet.

Firstly I drafted a slipper pattern using cardboard and fabric stretched over my daughter’s foot.




I marked the pattern onto some brown synthetic suede I had left over from making the gloves. I then hand-sewed a stylized floral design using satin ribbons and embroidery thread.




The fabric uppers were thickened with extra layers of fabric to give firmness and a smooth interior. I used gathering stitches and glue to bind the uppers to the leather inner sole.





For the heels I worked two small blocks of wood into the shape I desired. These heels were then glued and nailed to the leather sole.

The leather soles and inner soles were then glued together with two layers of cardboard in between to give extra rigidity.



The final touch was a layer of brown paint on the heels and ribbon glued to the edge of the soles and bottom of the heels.





5. Stockings

To compliment the slippers I made a pair of laced stockings. 16th century stockings were usually made from woven fabric, cut on the bias to give stretch around the calves. They were known as cut hose.

I loosely used a design from a pair of English stockings from 1590 in the V&A. I drafted my own pattern around my daughter’s foot. There are no seams under the feet, so as to give greater comfort. There are two triangles of fabric sewn into the slashes of the stockings which sit over the ankles. On the outer calves I made slits, edged with bias binding, for the lacing (a hand-twisted cord). The eyelets are hand-sewn with embroidery thread.





The butter yellow stockings are decorated with an embroidered posy of flowers in various colours to compliment the slippers. Lastly I made a pair of embroidered garters to tie around the calves to support the stockings.








Second Update: May Progress

Items completed this month:

1. The Apron

I finished the blackwork embroidery on the apron this month. After stitching the pattern in three bands it was time to gather the apron onto a band and ties.






2. A Corset

I decided to make a corset as I wanted to create the correct support and silhouette in the underwear layer. This should give the sottana the correct conical body shape that was desired in 16th century Italy.

Firstly I drafted a pattern by wrapping fabric around my daughter’s torso. The fabric I used is mid-yellow cotton on the face and lining, as well as two internal layers of sturdy cotton.


I machine-sewed vertical channels in the corset and then attached a rust coloured bias edging along the bottom edge. My very modern-day boning is made from waste plastic straping (free from a local hardware store). Once all the straps were trimmed and inserted into the channels I finished the bias binding edge.


Lastly I sewed on 14 small plastic rings and threaded them with a long satin ribbon to tie up the corset.




First Update: April Progress

Parmigianino's "Antea" is dressed in luxurious clothing which suggests she is a young woman of great wealth. There is much symbolism in the items of clothing worn by Antea which suggest they were all possible gifts from a suitor. She is wearing a gold satin dress with silver bands, a golden brown partlet with a lozenge (diamond-shaped) pattern, a camicia and apron richly decorated with fine blackwork embroidery, dark brown gloves, a marten fur stole complete with head, and jewelry (a gold chain, head brooch, earrings and a ring).

My long-held plan for making the outfit for "Antea" was realized when I came across 6 metres of striped gold and brown satin fabric in a second-hand shop that was perfect for the sottana. Following this find I added to the fabric collection with a mix of other second-hand fabric and some new purchases. I have decided against trying to make a zibellino as a friend of mine has lent me a vintage marten stole that will be perfect for the completed outfit.


Items completed this month:

1. The Underskirt

The underskirt is made from a dull yellow cotton fabric. It is constructed from two large rectangles that are sewn together and gathered at the waist. The side opening is held together with a cord made from plaited embroidery thread.

The underskirt is completed.



2. Gloves

In the painting of 'Antea' she is seen wearing a brown glove on her right hand and holding the left glove also in her right hand. As I had never before sewn a pair of gloves I was keen to learn a new skill. I purchased a commercial glove pattern with various historical designs. The fabric is a faux suede in a deep chocolate brown and the lining is a patterned cotton fabric. The sewing is mostly done on the machine, with a few awkward parts done by hand sewing. It was quite a fiddle to sew in the gussets between the fingers. I am quite pleased with the result and I'd like to attempt another pair some day.

The gloves are completed.






Items started but not yet completed:


The only part of the camicia that shows in Parmigianino's painting are the cuffs which are elaborately decorated with blackwork embroidery. I calculated the proportions of the embroidered design by comparing it to the proportions of the woman's hand. I drafted the pattern onto graph paper and hand-stitched the design in black silk thread onto white lawn fabric. The stitches used are satin stitch and back stitch.

The camicia is not yet completed.




"Antea" is wearing a narrow white apron that is embroidered with three bands of blackwork embroidery. Upper-class women of the 16th century often wore aprons which showcased their hand-sewn needlework and were not intended for practical household work. I drafted a simplified version of the design and I have partially embroidered it onto white cotton fabric.

The apron is not yet completed.