The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Mandy L'Estrelle
Christchurch, New Zealand

My name's Mandy L’Estrelle. I’m now living in Christchurch , New Zealand but was previously from Perth, Western Australia. I’m a confirmed IRCC addict. It’s been eight years now and I haven’t been able to give up the habit yet so here goes for a ninth year! I love sewing Italian garb and each year I try to extend my knowledge and skills and also to encourage others to do the same.

My outfit this year is leaning towards an outfit based on 1570s style portraits by Lavinia Fontana. As per previous years I will be trying to use only fabric and trims etc. that I have already accumulated in my stash, this year even more so due to tight budget restrictions.

My four layers will include: a camicia, sottana, giubonne and veste, with coral necklace and earrings, also a veil.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


The Completed Outfit



The only day I had set aside to take my final portraits it was teeming down with rain, so we made the best of it and headed to The Arts Centre in Christchurch which provided a nice background and enough protection so I did not get too damp.

Layer 1: Camicia

The camicia was based on an extant historical item held in the Prado museum which features a squared neckline with attached lace and very full sleeves that are tightly gathered at the cuffs, again with lace added. The extant example shows gores added to give the fullness in the body however the fabric I chose was wide enough that I could simply cut the width rather than add it in. I have attempted to stay as true to the extant example as I could.



Layer 1 Extra: Partlet

The partlet, or coverciere, was actually fairly simple. I used my regular partlet pattern. The lace was a wide lace I found in my stash. I hand pleated it and added temporary stitches to hold in shape, the ends I add some thin lave to give a nicer finish. The lace I box pleated onto the collar piece and sewed onto the partlet. The temporary stitches were then removed. The lace is stiff enough to keep the shape by itself. I am still not quite convinced I like how wide the lace is and might trim it in thinner in the future sometime but for now it is a lovely finish to all the layers of this outfit. The partlet is worn under the giubonne.



Layer 2: Sottana

This sottana serves multiple purposes. It will be worn as an under gown as it is padded and boned as a supportive layer to wear with the veste and giubonne over the top in the of style Lavinia Fontana's self portrait of 1575. The sottana can also be worn with its optional removable paned sleeves in the style of the portrait Eleanora de Toledo of 1545. This style of sottana spanned a number of years and styles in the 16th century, beginning as an under-gown, then becoming a gown in its own right with removable, optional and interchangeable sleeves. Then it moved back to being an under gown again with the incoming veste and giubonne styles later in the century.

I look forward to wearing this very comfortable gown with or without sleeves, and also under its over layers, it will be a very flexible addition to my ever growing renaissance wardrobe. The design and pattern was originally based upon an Alcega pattern that I adapted over time to best fit my ample proportions. The skirt on this gown was not cut with the additional side gores as per Alcega due to the minimal amount of fabric I had, however the skirt is still very full and in keeping with the style I was trying to achieve. The skirt has been hand gathered onto the bodice and carefully enclosed between layers as it was very frayable and was worried it may give way without support. The hem has been thickened with an added layer of felted wool and some beige fabric I had on hand. I have always found this to be very helpful in keeping moisture from wicking up skirts and also to keep skirts from wrapping around ankles causing tripping which I am inclined to do. Both the front and back of the bodice were boned and padded to given the nice flat stiffed look and be very supportive giving a good base for the over layers to come.

The sleeves were created by using a normal straight sleeves pattern which was divied into several pieces, cut and sewn together with its lining. These panes are then turned in the right way and ironed, then the long process of hand sewing these panes together and adding the beading at each catch point. There is also lace with hand beaded added at the wrists and the tops of the panes are gathered onto tapes and then again sewn to each other to create the scrunchy baragoni. The ties for the sleeves are made from folded hand cut silk bias tape, I prefer these on the sleeves not the gown,they also feature lovely cast brass aiglets in the style of the 16th century. These pass through brass rings sewn on the underside of the straps of the gown, making them very easy to put on and take off and very secure once on. The construction and beading of these sleeves took a lot of hand work, but they are certainly work the effort.


Layer 2 Extra: Giubonne / Doublet

The third, but not final layer is the giubonne (doublet) layer. It is based on a blend of a Alcega pattern and the waist coat pattern from the Tudor Tailor.I made a giubonne in last years IRCC and I started with that pattern but then I went on drafting several patterns to get this one sitting just as I wanted it to but without being overly tight as I find it too constricting due to health issues. It also needs to to be able to be buttoned up completed or left with the collar open depending on which style I am opting for on that day. For this outfit it will be worn collar open.

The sleeves in the Fontana portrait are shown with quite full tops coming down to tight forearm so I added flare to my sleeve pattern and made the forearm into a style that is buttoned almost to the elbow. It features diagonal cuts in a star pattern and small holes in lines. It was difficult to make out the actual pattern from the portrait but this seemed fairly close. I cut the silk for the sleeves, NOT on the bias but on the straight grain this time. I then hand beaded small groups of seed beads into the middle of the slashing pattern. This was a very long piece of hand working but again very worth the time and effort. The more the silk has been manipulated during the sewing process the more the slashes and hoes have started to fray and open up showing the lovely cutting pattern and also the gold silk I used as a middle layer in the sleeves. The internal layer is simply a cotton. The cuffs of the giubonne feature hand made slashed binding in the same silk as the body of the piece. This just gives a nice finish to the cuffs and reflects those shown in the portrait. The buttons for the sleeves and front are small pearl buttons carefully chosen to tone in with the ivory silk.

This layer is very comfortable and I am glad I took the extra time to get the fit as I wanted it as another tight layer would have not worked for me. I am especially pleased with how the hand working had added subtle interest to this middle layer, those many hours were worth it.
The giubonne does not fit over the optional paned sleeves of the sottana so these have to be removed when the outer layers are worn.



Layer 3: Veste / Over-gown

The outermost layer of this ensemble is the pinkish silk veste, with its two-layered ruffled and pointed baragoni and very long hanging sleeves. This is a mixture of two portraits, the Lavinia Fontana one and one by Zuccari of a lady seated in a yellow veste. The two portraits are of a very close time frame and both artists were active in the same area so it stands to reason the styles are very similar. Both have the ruffles but one has the long sleeves and the other the second row of baragoni. I have simply added both extra features into one gown.The Zuccari veste shows a loose back to the gown but it is hard to make out the fit in the Fontana portrait but it looks like a fitted back, for my own comfort and preference I have opted for the loose mongil style back as I have previously drafted this style from one in Alcega. I simple use this rather than reinvent the wheel. I had also previously mage the hanging sleeves and had a pattern for those saving myself a lot of time.

The time that I used to careful hand bead and attach the many many metres of trim that went onto this veste. The beading took a couple of days of many hours to complete but really made the trim much nicer. Again though the extra time and pain I put my hands through is well worth the effort and it really adds interest to the piece.

The baragoni themselves did not take too long to actually create. The ruffles were simple box pleated and the points were cut in half oval shape, sewn turned, ironed and more beading. I sewed the two layers together to stablise them before fitting them in the armhole along with the hanging sleeves, this did give many layers to sew through but thankfully my machine is made for the heavier duty sewing. This year I chose to completely line the veste and I hand sewed this lining in with invisible stitches. The body is lined with a cotton/linen blend that tones in with the silk, the handing sleeves are lined with a golden silk. All the edge seams also feature hand made and slashed binding. The top front of the sleeves have a hanging pearl where they finish in a point.

I had intended on make silk buttons for the veste but on making a few I did not like the look of them. So I went rummaging around my stash and found some pearl cluster beads, caps and eye pins, and created 42 buttons for the front of the gown. As these are purely decorative they did not need to be be very strong. The gown is closed in front with hidden hooks and eyes.I really enjoyed hand making the buttons and already have plans to make more for future projects. The veste has very small openings in the side seams to allow the belt to be worn without holding the loose back in.





Layer 4: Accessories


1. Pair of Handkerchiefs

The pair of handkerchiefs were simply off cuts from the camicia, and some of the lace that was left over. It is seen in a number of 16th century portraits that ladies usde lace edged handkerchiefs.




2. Girdle

The girdle belt took quite some time and patience to put together. It was created using some lovely almost cross style pieces with pearling on them, I had to visit both the local stores and buy all their supplies in order to get enough to complete the belt long enough. It is put together using eye pins and three glass pearls. The end is completed with a lovely pearled cross that I had on hand. The belt has a simple beak closure which can be attached at any point on the belt making it's length variable as needed.These beaded girdle belts are seen through a number of portraits in the 16th century.


3. Set of Jewellery

Jewellery set consisting of two short necklaces, one pair of earrings, and a long coral necklace. One necklace to be worn with the sottana and sleeves option, the other two, being the real pearl and real coral ones, for the multi layered outfit. Earrings obviously can be worn for both.

I have a collection of jewellery making supplies which include old pieces that I pull apart and remake in renaissance styles. The necklace and earring for the sottana alone set were made in this fashion. I disassembled some items and played around until I got the look I was after. The short real two colour pearls and very long real coral pieces were simply strung from pearls and coral I bought for this particular purpose. They are strung on very strong wire to ensure no breakages.




4. Garters

The last item made was my final accessory, a pair of woven garters. I used my new inkle loom with some lovely silk thread alternated with some gold tone cotton.

I created the pattern using an online inkle loom pattern generator which made warping the loom much easier. I used the silk as the weft thread as well, and as this was quite a thick thread the weaving was quite a lot quicker than I though only taking me a few days to complete. I sewed the weft thread back into the weaving to finish the ends off nicely.

I did weave the whole warp in one go and thne cut this in half to create two garters, I thought these would be long enough and they do work but I would like some slightly longer and will make another pair sometime in the future maybe. I do love the softness that the silk thread bought to these though and they are very comfortable.


I am so pleased that I finished this again. Nine years! I look forward to next year being the tenth, and for me probably final, but who knows I may not be able to break the habit!







Fourth Update: July Progress


Well it's all over again! and I am so happy I've managed to complete it all once more! I actually got enough of it done so that I could wear the outfit to our local SCA Lochac Coronation.

Items completed this month:

1. Garters

I used my inkle loom to weave myself some garters. I used a lovely soft cream silk thread and a thinner goldish yellow cotton. I designed the pattern using an online inkle loom pattern generator. It was lovely and relaxing, I hadn't woven for a long time but now I see more garters and belts being made very soon.




2. Partlet

The partlet I wore at coronation was one from another outfit, but I have since completed the partlet for this outfit with a large lace collar, which is quite heavy. It is complete but I think maybe in the future I may trim the lace a bit as it seems a little wide but I will wait until I have tried the entire outfit together to decide on this.


Partlet lace

Cutting out

Completed partlet with collar



3. Veste / Overdress

I completed the veste with its ruffles and pointed baragoni, to which I added pearl beads to mimic the look in the Lavinia Fontana portrait. The buttons for the front of the veste are purely decorative as it actually closes using hooks and eyes. I found some wonderful beads that look like pearl clusters and made just over 40 of them into little buttons that go right down the veste. These were not finished by the time I wore the outfit but have since been completed and added to the veste.


I was co comfortable in the entire outfit. So glad I went with the mongil style loose back as I love the flow and comfort.

I managed to make much more than I thought I would and use many more hand work techniques thanks to my dodgy hands actually behaving themselves. So much more hand sewing this year, yay!

Thanks Bella for running this challenge again, looking forward to IRCC10!








Third Update: June Progress


Items Completed This Month:

1. Giubonne / Doublet

This month I completed construction of my doublet and made sure to try on both the sottana with its optional sleeves and then remove those and try on the doublet over the sottana. All seems to be fitting quite well considering I don't have any help with fittings.



2. Necklaces and Earrings Set

I have also completed a necklace and earrings set that I was working on last month, as well as made two more necklaces, one long red coral one and also a shorter real pearl one that features both white and mauve pearls.




Item started but not yet completed:

1. Veste / Over-dress

I cut out and have almost completed construction of the veste, which is from a silk lined with a linen/cotton blend lining fabric. The sleeves are long hanging design. All the trim has been hand sewn on and beaded, a process taking quite some time. I also hand sewed in the linings. The edges also have hand cut binding which with be slashed once construction is completely finished.



I am currently constructing the pleated and pointed baragoni which will be sewn in when the sleeves are attached.



I also bought myself a new inkle loom, so I am weaving myself a pair of garters using a combination of cream silk thread and a gold cotton thread. It's slow going as I haven't woven for a while but hopefully I will get them done in time.

So far I am tracking very well to get the outfit completed by my shortened timeframe of July 12 in time for our local SCA coronation weekend. Just the partlet to go after the veste is finished.




Second Update: May Progress


Items completed this month:

1. Sottana

So this month was sottana month.

I had some nice cream and gold curtains I found in an op shop that were just perfect to go with the mauve silk I have chosen for the veste so they were pulled apart. I inspected them and there looked to be no visible imperfection, I doubt they had ever been used.

Deciding which side of the brocade to use.


I used my usual pattern that was based on the Toledo burial gown, and that I know fits comfortably. The internals are two layers of cotton canvas boned with cable ties.

Bodice internals

Boning in place


I ended up using my good light gold silk to line the bodice as nothing else seemed to tone in nicely with the brocade.

Bodice front

Bodice construction


The skirt is very simply gathered and attached to the bodice. I use soutache as lacing as I have a huge stash of it.The hem is felted and lined to give stiffness.


Once I got to this stage the sottana was too pretty to be just worn as an under gown, she wanted sleeves so she can be worn on her own as well. So I ascertained how much fabric I had left and decided some "simple" Eleanore of Toledo style paned sleeves as an extra seperate piece were possible with a few extra seams that I wouldn't normally do but wouldn't be too awfully noticeable.

Cutting out panes

Many panes


So back to my pattern stash. I cut out and constructed the panels for the sleeves. but on arranging them in order, I discovered I must have done something wrong, they were huge!!! So rather than unpick them all, my 8-panel sleeves became 6-panel sleeves. This is when I remembered that this style of sleeve is anything but quick and easy! I spent the best part of two weeks, probably 4-6 hours most days, hand sewing and pearling the sleeves together.

They are lined with the same light gold silk, feature a lovely beige venise lace around the cuffs and alternating pearl sizes up the panes where they attache to each other. The tops of the panes are hand gathered onto cotton tapes to give the scrunched effect. The ties are made from the silk, with cast brass aiglets sewn onto the ends. Lacing rings are sewn on the inside of the sottanna straps to attach the sleeves easily when necessary.


So the sottana is now complete.



2. Belt

I also played with some jewellery pieces to go with the gown. I have made a belt so far, and I'm working a necklace and earrings. These will probably only be worn when the sottana and sleeves are worn on their own. I forsee other jewellery pieces for the complete outfit.


Item started but not completed:

Giubonne / Doublet

I have also managed to cut out the next item, an ivory silk/cotton blend giubonne with decorative slashing on the sleeves.


The slashing pattern took me a few hours to draw up onto a calico pattern, which I then pinned down onto a board with the two layers of silk. A mallet and wood chisel came in handy to do the slashed and then a small hole punch for the rest of the pattern.


Next month I will be constructing the giubonne and also moving onto the veste and further accessories.




First Update: April Progress

Items completed this month:

1. Camicia

It has been a rough month for me. We have to suddenly move house again and it has taken a real toll on me mentally and physically. I have however managed to make a simple chemise with tightly pleated cuffs, thanks to my smocking pleater, and a couple of simple handkerchiefs.

The chemise design is based on an extant one in the Museo del Prado, however I simplified the design by flaring the cutting of the fabric rather than adding gores as the fabric was wide enough to give enough fullness without the extra seaming.

2. Handkerchiefs

The handkerchiefs occurred as I ended up with two square off cuts so I hemmed them and added lace edging so as not to waste the fabric.