The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Penelope Millar
Virginia, USA

I have been interested in Italian Renaissance culture and clothing basically my whole life, starting with an interest in Venice inspired by loving Vivaldi’s music. (I used to play violin.) I participate in the Society for Creative Anachronism and have been sewing my own clothing for that since the early 2000s. About 5 years ago I decided to focus on creating more historically accurate clothing and started researching 15th century clothing in more depth and Realm of Venus was a great help then.

The outfit I am planning to make is in a 1480s Florentine style, inspired by Ghirlandaio's frescoes although not copying any specific outfit in them. I am planning to make a new camicia, a blue gamurra with sleeves with silver trim and possibly embroidery, a silver brocade giornea. For my accessories I plan to make a pocket (I have needed one for a while), a white linen hat, and a necklace. Hopefully I will get to all of the accessories.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


First Update: April Progress


Items started but not yet completed:

Camicia and Gamurra

I did not finish any items in April. I am in progress on a couple of them.

I started the month reviewing my plan and my materials and setting out a to do list. I already had most of the materials as I had bought fabric for this project several years ago and then worked on other projects instead. I needed to make sure I had everything and that it was washed, so that was step one. The patterned linen is the main fabric for the gamurra, with the plain jade linen being the lining. It turns out I also have enough to make a second gamurra from the jade linen, which will be nice. The silvery damask is just a cotton, rather than the silk it would have been in period, but it is a reasonable pattern for the 15th century. That will be the giornea.


Most of the rest of what I have been doing this month has been cutting. When I sew I tend to prefer to do a lot of cutting out, then a lot of sewing in chunks. I also do not put seam allowance on my pattern pieces. This allows me to trace exact sewing line as needed, and to cut my interlining to the finished edge.

First thing I got cut out is the camicia. I am using a modified version of the period raglan sleeve pattern based on the extant 15th century camicie - I alter it by off-setting the joining of the sleeve, gusset and body more in the back than the front. This makes it sit more comfortably where I want it to on my body.



The next step for April was working on my bodice pattern. All of my recent gamurra have been more in the Venetian style with a very high-waisted bodice and much more raised bust than is appropriate for this gown, so I concluded that I needed to start my bodice pattern from scratch rather than modify my existing one. I started from measurements and then with the help of a friend through two sessions of draping and pinning worked out a finished pattern.



I also got the bodice, bodice lining, bodice inter-lining, sleeves, sleeve lining and skirt for the gamurra cut. The interlining is a woven interfacing that is my best modern approximation of what might have been used in period. There is evidence for fine wool felt, a linen "cardboard" stiffened with glue and similar interlinings. I did not have enough of it for the entire bodice, and our local fabric stores no longer carry it, so I cut only the front pieces out of that. The back interlining is from a cotton canvas. This will be the first time I've used it as interlining and I think it may be stiffer than I want. We will see.

I haven't cut out the giornea fabric yet. I am waiting until the gamurra bodice is sewn. I had patterned a giornea several years ago, but had tested that pattern over a the later style gown. I want to test it over this gown, or at least the bodice, to be sure that I am happy with how it drapes and sits over the neckline and shoulders in particular. I expect the gamurra to be the most labor-intensive piece of the project as well.


I have not yet started on any of the accessories. I do have the beads and cord for the necklace and white linen for the cap. I will be using leftover pieces of the patterned and plain jade linen from the gamurra for the pocket.