Lorna McKenzie
(Bethan of Dismal Fogs)

Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

Costumer and SCA Member

A Generic Italian style, circa 1470 - 1540


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

Lorna Says....


I have been sewing for as long as I can remember; my mother was a couturier in Sydney, I was her tailor's apprentice, she taught me how to make clothes that fitted well and were fashionable.

I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism a few years back and discovered historical sewing, making garb in the style of a particular period from between 650 AD to 1650 AD. I’ve always loved vintage and dress-up, but this was the first time I had made something exactly in period.

Like most beginner SCA-ers I started with a T-Tunic but quickly moved on to cotehardies, Burgundians, etc, but when I found the Italian Renaissance, I found my home.

For me, making a gown from another time period is like time travel. I am taken back to a pre-industrial world, when a new gown couldn’t be bought in a shop; where creating something special was exciting and filled you with such anticipation; where you spent time on the embroidery and beading and couldn’t wait to finish your creation and wear it to the ball.

I use historical construction methods and my 21st century sewing machine. I use hand stitching that is period correct on the outside of the gown, combining the best aspects of past and present. It’s immensely satisfying.

As an authorised marriage celebrant specialising in historical weddings, having a wardrobe with appropriate garb is always useful.


Two years ago, J-L and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a Renaissance Ceilidh, a strange combination you might think, but we wanted to encompass dress-up, dancing, and our friend’s Celtic band as part of the celebrations.

To encourage friends to dress the part I ran sewing workshops for three months using the online resource the Italian Renaissance Gown Construction by Mistress Leona Khadine d'Este and Mistress Enid d'Auliere, and for my less able seamstresses, the less complicated An easy Italian renaissance Gown, by Madonna Contessa Ilaria Veltri degli Ansari. I emailed them for permission to use their resources with the group and it was graciously provided.

In the end a variety of gowns were made, along with a monk’s garb and some simple ‘great kilts’. The workshops were great fun and we all enjoyed ourselves. They inspired me to set-up The Tailor’s Apprentice.

For my gown I used the ‘Italian Renaissance Gown Construction’ workbook and it is an excellent resource to make a simple but effective gown for the period from approximately 1470 to 1540. 



The gown wasn’t designed with a particular portrait in mind, its more a generic style inspired by the guidelines in ‘Italian Renaissance Gown Construction’ and the many images they provided for inspiration. From these images, the gown is loosely based on Vittore Carpaccio's 'Two Venetian Ladies' (also known as Two Venetian Courtesans), (circa 1505, seen on the right), and this one.



For my chemise I used Festive Attiyre’s ‘How to make an easy Italian chemise’. I’m sure everyone knows it but if you don’t, it’s a fabulous resource. My chemise was constructed from linen, not as fine as I would have liked unfortunately but it was in the stash.

Next I made the corset, even though Mistress Leona Khadine d'Este and Mistress Enid d'Auliere have created a construction method that makes a corset unnecessary, I wanted one in my wardrobe.

To make it, I used the fabulous resource of the ‘Custom Corset Pattern Generator’. I then used Festive Attyre’s  ‘Everything you ever wanted to know about boning with hemp cord, but were afraid to ask!’ to ‘bone’ my corset. I couldn’t locate hemp cord, but I used a natural twine that worked as effectively.

Finally, I used ‘The Zen of Spiral Lacing’, also on the Festive Attyre website to ensure correct period lacing. I didn’t make hand bound eyelets but used metal ones and then covered with hand stitching.

The corset is extremely comfortable.

The internet is just such a great resource for historical costuming, so many experts who share their skills and knowledge for all of us to benefit, so wonderfully generous.

Gown Construction

I followed the instructions in the ‘Italian Renaissance Gown Construction’ workbook and drafted my bodice first and then the sleeves. For the bodice I made a toile, fitted it and then adjusted as required, following the usual pattern making stuff.

My fabric and trim were all taken from my stash, the bodice and sleeves are of blue velveteen and the gown’s split overskirt is a heavy upholstery fabric, it’s also a natural fibre but of what kind I have no idea, but it past the ‘burn’ test.

The underskirt is also made of a curtain fabric that was given to me by a friend, once again a natural fibre of unknown origin.

Everything is interlined from the stash as well. Heavy weight pale blue cotton for the overskirt, underskirt and bodice, the bodice is also reinforced with canvas and is lightly boned, I used cable ties as boning, they work very effectively and are very inexpensive.


I should have used spiral lacing in the back of the gown, but as I was finishing the gown on the day, I used hooks and eyes and as yet haven’t redone the fastenings; this is my only regret in the gown construction.

I love this gown, its extremely comfortable to wear as well as stylish and ‘in period’ so I can wear it to SCA events without a qualm of the ‘garb police’.

The anniversary party was a great success, everybody did their best to be Celtic or Renaissance inspired and we all had a wonderful time ‘tripping the light fantastic’ to my friend’s Celtic band.


  You can contact Lorna at lorna (at) offbeatceremonies.com.au

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© 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.