The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase


Lady Catarina Caravello
(Laura Parker)

Barony of Windmaster’s Hill, Kingdom of Atlantia
(Raleigh, NC, USA)

Costumer and SCA Participant

A Milanese Working-Class Outfit in the Style of  the 1580s

(Highlighted/bordered images are click-able for enlarging)

Catarina Says....

My name is Laura Parker, also known as Lady Catarina Caravello in the SCA. I live in Raleigh, NC (Kingdom of Atlantia, Barony of Windmaster’s Hill), and I have been dabbling in historical costume for 15 years. I started out visiting King Richard’s Faire when I was 10, and was instantly hooked. My first costume was made when I was in high school – panne velvet and zippers! J I became involved in the SCA 4 years ago, and since then I have become interested in various styles of historical costume – primarily 13th – 16th century Italy and Spain. I adore the challenges of working from historical references, patterns and paintings, and I am greatly indebted to so many other costumers who have shared their knowledge and research with the world. Thanks, guys! 


This outfit is not a copy of any specific painting, but rather based on the 1580’s working-class paintings of Vincenzo Campi – specifically ‘The Fruit Seller’, ‘Kitchen’, ‘Christ in the House of Maria and Martha’ and ‘The Fishmongers’. Although working-class paintings were popular in the Netherlands at the time, there were few southern European artists experimenting in the genre – so his work gives us wonderful insight into the working class of Italy. There are a wide variety of color combinations and variations of details in these portraits, so I felt comfortable drawing elements from them all to create something representative of them as a whole. 

‘The Fruit Seller’


‘Christ in the House of Maria and Martha’

‘The Fishmongers’

 As an SCA participant, I tend to be a “worker-bee” – so my clothing needs to be sturdy, well-constructed, and able to stand up to a rigorous day of work. I figured if it worked for the Italian working-class in 1580, it’d work for me in the 21st century.

The undergarments: The outfit begins with a simple square-necked shift done in white linen. I chose to fit the smock sleeves a bit more closely than the Campi paintings show, simply for ease of wear. As a personal preference, I don’t particularly like puffy sleeves. 

The smock is paired with a white linen partlet. The Campi paintings show the women wearing their partlets with a medium-sized ruff at the collar, and open at the neck. The ruff is box-pleated onto the collar, and ties with ribbons under the arms. 

The next layer is a corded petticoat, also done in white linen with hemp cord pin-tucked every ½” about 1/3 of the way up the petticoat. The petticoat is cartridge pleated onto a waistband, and laces through eyelets on the sides. I find that this gives the skirt some body and fullness without being overbearing, and mimics the look of the women in Campi’s paintings.


The Dress

This dress was an exercise in fabric-stash management. I decided that I had MORE than enough linen in the house to make a full outfit, and worked fully out of stash fabrics. 

The gown is constructed out of 5.3oz green linen. I chose linen for a number of reasons. It is sturdy, it washes well, and it holds up over time. We live in a geographic area that can get below freezing in the winter and blistering hot and humid in the summer, so I wanted a fabric that would breathe well and would be adaptable to a variety of weather conditions. As this is a working dress, I wanted to be sure that at the end of the day I could just toss it in the washer and not have to worry about it, as well. 

The paintings show women wearing gowns with either front lacing or side-back lacing. Although aesthetically I prefer the side-back lacing, I chose to use front lacing for ease of wear. I used lacing rings in a spiral pattern, which achieved just the look I wanted. It is interlined with a layer of heavy linen, and lined in the same green linen as the dress. 

The guards are black linen, cut on the bias and hand-stitched on. I chose to mimic the guard patterns from ‘The Kitchen’.


Although others have worn corded corsets or reinforced the bodice of the gown with hemp/cotton cording, I chose to only add a single row of hemp cording at the lacing points. The bodice does wrinkle under the bust, however the same horizontal wrinkles can be seen in the paintings as well. The wrinkles in the paintings make me think that the bodices on these working-class dresses were not heavily boned or reinforced, and I chose to mimic that in my gown as well. The bodice is snugly fit under the bust, which gives me ample bust support without boning. It’s amazingly comfortable, and I can do absolutely anything while I wear it!

The skirt is simply rectangular panels sewn together and cartridge pleated onto the bodice. It has a lovely flow when I walk without being overly bulky.


The Sleeves

All of the women in the Campi paintings show basic, straight sleeves that tie onto the bodice with plain cords or decorative ribbons. ‘The Fruit Seller’s gown shows her wearing the dress without sleeves, but with terribly festive ribbons tied on where the sleeves would attach. This is one of my favourite things about this ensemble – it’s so versatile!

I chose to make basic, straight sleeves in a pumpkin-colored heavy linen. They are single layer, and button at the wrist. Lacing rings in the bodice and sleeves give me the option of switching out the ties for colored ribbons if I choose. Currently, the sleeves lace on with black cotton cording tipped with gold-toned aglets. Although none of the Campi paintings show the use of any tips or aglets, I chose to use them to keep the ends of the lacings neat and tidy. 

The Accessories

I made a basic linen coif, using the information published on the Elizabethan Costuming Website. On days that I don’t feel like messing with the coif, I wear a pumpkin-colored striped flat cap – which isn’t really Italian, but it looks nice and it doesn’t jump out as being utterly awful. ;)

The belt was made by my husband, and is simple leather with a brass buckle. For shoes, I typically wear either black leather ‘mary jane’ style shoes, or black leather turnshoes. 

The white and red coral necklace is a SCA anachronism – this was a gift when I was inducted into Atlantia’s Order of the Coral Branch, an A&S Order. The red coral branches just look so pretty with the orange sleeves. 


Overall, I am terribly happy with the way this outfit has pulled together. I’ve been working on it in bits and pieces for two years, and it’s lovely to see it transformed from “eh” to “oooh!”. As always, there are bits that I would like to change and improve – but overall, I’m pleased. I have a few accessories on my project list – a pretty apron like ‘The Fruitseller’, and some patens to wear with the turn-shoes. This is a comfortable, flattering style – and is one of my favourite wardrobe pieces.



The kilted gentleman in the ‘formal’ portraits is my always-patient husband, who supports me through all of my costuming trials and tribulations by bringing me dinner when I’m on a roll, and beer when I’ve had enough. ;)



  You can contact Catarina at silverstah (at) and her website is available to view here.

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(Copyright Information: As author I, Anabella Wake, known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona, hold copyright on all information on these pages. In addition I hold copyright on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.)