Carol Salloum

Harrisburg, North Carolina, USA


A Florentine Outfit in the Style
 of  the 1550s


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

Carol Says....


My name is Carol Salloum, I am a costumer and cast member at the Carolina Renaissance Festival near Charlotte, North Carolina, where I am known as Mistress Couture. I have been sewing since I was a child – Mom gave us scraps from the clothing she made for us and we made outfits for our dolls. I costume for various local theatre groups including the Old Courthouse Theatre in Concord. My creative passion is historical costuming from the 1500’s. I like to make costumes that are historically inspired and different from others seen at our Renaissance Festival. My first costume was Italian similar to the Campi market women paintings. Next I created Katarina von Mecklenburg, Duchess of Saxony (modern Germany) as painted by Lucas Cranach in 1514. Then I made a costume of a Flemish market woman inspired by Bruegel paintings and various dress diaries online. I have learned so much from the Realm of Venus and other sites that feature dress diaries. The first and fifteenth of every month I always check to see if there is a new showcase up! 

My current project is not of a particular portrait but a composite of design elements appeal to me. I wanted to make a doublet bodice and liked the look of a square necked under bodice underneath. Several of the design elements I incorporated are found in these paintings.

This portrait had a tabbed doublet bodice with a center front V. Split front skirt, V-front doublet bodice with applied trim and button front closure Similar over and under sleeves, square necked bodice and split front skirt.

The smock is based on figure 9a of ‘Cut and Construction of the Pleatwork Embroidered Shirt’ by Baroness Rainillt de Bello Marisco (Lee Ann Posavad ).

The back is 30” wide, each front section is 15” wide, and the sleeves are 18”x32” with an 8” square underarm gusset. There is a selvage edge at the bottom of the sleeves and at the front openings. The raw edges of each piece were narrow rolled hemmed on the machine and assembled using a faggoting stitch on the machine. The neck edge and the bottom of the sleeves were run through a pleater. A friend with an embroidery machine stitched a design for the cuffs and collar band. After attaching the cuffs and collar band using the smocking threads as guidelines, I smocked a few rows so the pleats would release evenly. The machine faggoting looked very much like the detail seen in plate 28. However, I discovered that the faggoting stitch pulled one side more than the other leaving the ends offset. When I use this construction method again, I will make periodic marks along the seam to line things up better.

There has been much discussion online on whether some sort of bloomers were period or not. Though I know mine are NOT historically accurate, I always wear a pair made using Simplicity 2514 bloomers for Raggedy Ann!

For laundering proposes, I prefer to have my skirts and bodices separate. I pre-wash and use the dryer on all fabric so that all garb I make is machine washable. Other than smocks, partlets and bloomers, most of the time I hang the outer garb up to air dry instead of using the dryer.

The silver satin under bodice features a trim along all outer edges that is navy blue satin cut on the bias and snipped and a wide ribbon is applied to the center back and front with a silver cord to highlight the ribbon. The bodice is three layers, silver satin for the fashion fabric and lining and a canvas layer in between. The under bodice is spiral laced at both sides under the arms. I learned about spiral lacing from Jennifer Thompson’s article, ‘The Zen of Spiral Lacing’.

Due to time constraints, the lacing holes are machine stitched eyelets opened with a tailor’s awl. The lacing cord is rat tail cord whose ends were held above a flame to melt and harden them which makes the lacing much easier. The snipped bias trim is not an even width throughout. To be more consistent with the width, I should have basted the trim down and then stitched the seam following my basting stitches instead of sandwiching the trim between the layers and sewing them all at once.

The under skirt is out of two lengths of the same silver satin. The same ribbon used on the bodice is also stitched down the center front and horizontally just above the hem. Since the garb is made to be worn at a Renaissance Festival where it is so easy to loose stuff I always put a zipper pocket into the skirt for preservation of valuables. The skirt has an attached petticoat of blue chambray fabric (I had it in “inventory” and it is wrinkle resistant). Both fabrics were pleated as one into the waistband. I like for the petticoats to have a decorative feature at the hem. For this project I chose to add a strip of the navy satin cut on the straight of grain and slashed on the bias. After sewing the whole thing together late at night, I was horrified to discover that I put the trim on the wrong side – the trim faces the inside of the skirt instead of the outside. When I get the time, I will remove the trim and re-attach it to the correct side of the petticoat.

Under sleeve pattern

Under sleeve pinked and stitched with double needle

Under sleeve pinked with silver cord applied

Comparison of under sleeves with and without cord attached

Alternate side of sleeves with ribbon trim, silver cord and wool inner lining

The pattern for the silver satin under sleeves came from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1598 gown worn by Pfalzgrafin Dorotea Sabina von Neuburg. I cut them out of scrap fabric and after fitting modified the pattern by deepening the underarm. I cut two 10” square samples of fabric and cut the pinks in one on the grain and the other on the bias. I used a double needle to stitch the outer fabric to the fabric to be seen through the slashing. Then I washed and dried both samples to get a better idea of how they would react to laundering. The sample pinked on the bias looked better. So, on the pattern I traced onto 1” grid paper, I marked the places to cut the pinks. I basted the sleeves together and they were cut as one using an 'Exacto' knife with a flat blade on a cutting mat.

After the pinks were made, the navy blue satin “peek through” fabric was laid under the pinked silver satin and the fabrics were attached using a double needle. Afterwards, I added silver cord zigzagged over double needle stitching because it looked better. The sleeves are reversible to silver satin with the same ribbon as was used on the bodice and skirt and have an inner layer of wool for warmth. The wrist finish was a wide bias cut section of navy satin that was slashed to make it look like little tabs and a coordinating narrow ribbon. The sleeves attach to the rings stitched onto the bodice with three lobster claw clasps per sleeve.

The doublet bodice gave me all sorts of problems. I started with the woman’s doublet schematic from ‘Patterns of Fashions’ and could not get it to fit. So, I cheated! I took a commercial pattern for a dress with princess seams that came to the shoulders. Originally, I omitted the underarm seam – but later added it back in for construction and assembly purposes. I traced the pattern onto 1” grid flip chart paper, cut it out of fabric and started fitting it. One of my favorite tricks for fitting a bodice is to sew a separating zipper to the center front (if there is no center front opening, I cut one into the toile just for fitting) and baste all the seams with the allowances facing out. This makes it easier to re-pin the seams to improve the fit. For the collar I used the pattern from Jennifer Thompson’s web site dress diary of a Bergamesque noblewoman’s outfit. I cut the height of the collar down a bit. 

Since I was using an under-bodice, I did not want a lot of heavy boning in the doublet. I decided to use small diameter hemp cording and attached it to the canvas under lining with a three step zigzag. First I constructed the collar taking care to make the width of the trim at the center back of the collar and bodice body match. The bodice is constructed of 3 layers: the fashion fabric is navy blue cotton velveteen, underlined with black canvas that had the hemp cord attached to it, and lined with navy satin. I wanted to cut down on the bulk at the center front opening and dreamed up an innovative method. First I cut off the seam allowance from the velveteen and the canvas; then I stacked those layers together and attached hemp cording on the center front edge of the canvas side. Next I took the lining and marked the center front opening line on the wrong side. I laid the lining right side down and lined up the velveteen/ canvas layer right side down to the line I had marked and pinned the layers together and basted it together. Then I flipped the whole thing over and laid the decorative trim over the raw edge of the lining and top stitched it down. I stitched the shoulder seams on the lining and the velveteen/ canvas layer. I sandwiched the collar between all the layers and stitched the neck seam.


The size of the shoulder and waistline tabs was determined by the width of the trim and the pattern repeat on the trim. To stiffen the tabs, I stitched two lines of hemp cording on the back side of the velveteen and top stitched the trim on the right side adding silver cord at each side of the trim for highlight. The tabs are backed with navy satin and are the width of the trim where they attach to the bodice and taper out to show about ½” of velveteen at the other end. The three tabs on each shoulder and the five at the back are sewn into the seams. The remaining tabs are tacked on after the bodice is assembled and turned right side out. The bodice is edge stitched to keep the edges crisp. The buttonholes were spaced based on the pattern in the trim. The sleeves are attached to the bodice with rings hand tacked to the lining. The buttons were purchased from Cheep Trims.

The pattern for the bodice’s detachable round sleeves came from Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashions’ 1610-20 Girls Loose Gown. Instead of a vertical opening, I have a horizonal opening just above the elbow. Since I wanted the curve of the sleeve not to fall at the lowest point of the underarm, I modified the top of the sleeve pattern to look more like the S curve of the under sleeve. The trim I used for this project was a wired trim. First I sewed the longer outside curve, and then I pulled the wire and gathered the trim into the shorter inside curve, pinned it down, edge stitched and pulled out the wire. The upper portion of the round sleeves attach to the lower portion of the round sleeves with loops of silver cording. I lined the sleeves with a burgundy satin that I had left over from making the maid of honor dress for one daughter for the other daughter’s wedding in May 2010. I am disappointed that the sleeve lining hardly shows – I thought it would be a nice splash of color. Perhaps I will go back and slash the sleeves vertically and apply trim over the cut. The open rounded edges are fastened with buttons and two layers of the silver cord were hand applied to the other side by hand – one whip stitched all the way and the second layer with loops for the buttons.

The overskirt of navy velveteen is based on Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashions’ skirt of the 1562 satin gown and velvet bodies worn by Eleanora of Toledo with the split front as shown on the statue in figure 284 of Isabella of Portugal. The web site by La Signora Onorata Katerina da Brescia (K Carlisle) was an inspiration and gave a wonderful cutting layout for the skirt. I put a tuck in the skirt and used a hem treatment of satin peeping out ¼” from the bottom of the hem similar to the one in Patterns of Fashion. 

Our Renaissance festival requires headwear. I made a “pillbox-style” hat using plastic canvas, wire, felt and navy velveteen. First I covered a 6” circle of plastic canvas with felt, and then I sewed a long rectangular piece of plastic canvas into a circle the same diameter as the top of the hat. I attached wire to one long side and covered the sides with felt and zigzagged it on. I whipped the top of the hat to the side by hand with a strong thread. I cut a large circle of navy velveteen and marked the edge into sixteenths. I pinned the circle over the plastic canvas and felt frame and folded in 16 pleats. I finished the raw edges and stitched them to the inside with a curved needle. Using a narrow silver cord, I used a closed blanket stitch (similar to Patterns of Fashions 4 page 6 figure XIV) over each of the pleats. Then I stitched rows of freshwater pearls purchased from the Bead Lady in Concord between the pleats. I disassembled a grey feather fan Christmas ornament and tacked it to one side of the hat and tacked a pearled brooch over the feathers. I tacked a comb to the inside center front of the hat. I braid my hair and wrap a pearl necklace around the braid and attach the top of the braid to my head under the area covered by the hat. Then I put three pearled hair pins (that my daughter wore at her wedding) into the braid and set the hat on my head at a slight angle.

I picked up a round pearled Christmas ornament photo frame, printed out a copy of a portrait as a mock miniature and hung it from a burgundy ribbon as an accent piece.

This regal looking outfit is surprisingly comfortable and can be worn with or without a corset. The multiple layers that can be added or removed to deal with the weather make it an ideal pattern for festival wear. The silver satin underskirt was worn without the overskirt and already has pulls in the fabric due to the hard wear everything at an outside Renaissance festival receives.

If you come to the Carolina Renaissance Festival, you will most likely see my niece in this outfit and I will be in one of my previous year’s costumes.


  You can contact Carol at mistresscouture (at)

Would you like to be Showcased? E-mail me!


© 2001 - 2010 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and 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.