Carol Salloum

North Carolina, USA

An Outfit in the Style
 of the Lombardy region, 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 (CRF) 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. I have learned so much from the Realm of Venus, the Elizabethan Costuming Facebook group and other sites that feature dress diaries.

This gown is one I started last year, set aside and finished this year. It was originally started for a customer who abandoned the commission. On a whim, I took the partially completed outfit - bodice and skirt -  to the CRF costume sale and it was found by a woman who volunteers at a CRF booth called the Hounds of East Fairhaven (HoEF) that is an educational re-enactment group which participates at our festival as well as the Georgia Renaissance Festival. They provide a chance for patrons of the festival to interact with greyhounds and learn about their place in history, specifically during the 1500-1600’s in the United Kingdom. HoEF is made up of greyhound lovers and adoption group volunteers, and does not promote nor support any one greyhound group. Further, HoEF is firmly neutral on the subject of greyhound racing.

Talk about serendipity, the bodice fit, the skirt had not yet been hemmed, the color looked great on the new customer, and several other ladies at the Hounds of East Fairhaven wear Italian gowns – we both felt it was meant to be!

To complete the gown I needed to finish the skirt and bodice and make a set of sleeves. I love making reversible sleeves to provide more versatility. The obvious choice was one side of the fashion fabric and the other side pinked on a coordinating fabric. Our weather in the Carolinas can get quite warm so I also wanted baragoni or cap style sleeves to be worn when it is too warm for long sleeves. For inspiration, I used two Sofonisba Anguissola portraits. One has a zigzag cuff on the baragoni and a similar partlet, and the other has a similar fabric. 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 Bodice

I started with a basic side back lacing bodice pattern that originated from Jen Thompson’s Festive Attyre web site. The shoulder straps come from the back over the shoulder to the front. This way they are cut a little on the bias and it helps to hug the shoulder and keep the straps from slipping off. The bodice is three layers, fashion fabric, yellow canvas inner lining and cotton lining. For lightweight boning, I stitched over various double rows of hemp cording onto the canvas (great way to use up all those bobbins wound in thread colors you don’t need any more!). The canvas and cotton were cut to finished size (without seam allowances) except for the area for the lacing. To insure the fashion fabric motif was centered on the front and back, I traced around the pattern pieces before cutting the fabric. The fashion fabric was cut large enough to turn under the edges twice over the canvas/ cotton lining and was hand stitched down at the edges.


I used machine stitched eyelet holes opened with an awl in a spiral laced pattern to close the bodice. I learned about spiral lacing from Jennifer Thompson’s article, ‘The Zen of Spiral Lacing’. The lacing cord is rat tail cord whose ends were held above a flame to melt and harden the ends. Recently I have learned that if I use needle nose pliers to grasp the melting end of the rat tail cord and pull, I can make a longer hardened tip that makes lacing much easier. I laced up the bodice and tried it on to mark the placement of the shoulder straps coming from the back to the bodice front and stitched them on by hand. Each shoulder strap has three metal circles from jewelry closures sewn on the right side of the shoulder straps and inset from the edge. There is a ribbon over the metal circles to hide them; when the sleeves are not attached, the ribbons flutter at the shoulders to add visual interest. The sleeves have corresponding lobster claw clasps for easy attachment or removal. 

The Skirt

The skirt is based on Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashions’ skirt of the 1562 satin gown and velvet bodies worn by Eleonora de Toledo. The web site by Katerina da Brescia (K Carlisle) was an inspiration and gave a wonderful cutting layout for the skirt. There is a photo of the skirt sections laid out on the floor before assembly – the marble floor the fabric is on is 12’ wide. 

The skirt has a tuck and a hem treatment of taffeta peeping out ¼” from the bottom of the hem and snipped at roughly 3/8” intervals, similar to the one on Eleanora de Toledo di Medici’s burial gown detailed in Patterns of Fashion. I had purchased the taffeta to make the pinked sleeves, but it was randomly discolored during the pre-cutting laundering. Rather than waste the fabric, I cut it into bias strips for the hem treatment where the discoloration would not be noticeable. After hemming the skirt with the tuck all the way around, when my husband took the photos, I discovered that the finished front of the skirt was too long. I will be adding another tuck in the front of the skirt tapering to nothing at the side seams – this tapered style tuck is shown in portraits of Spanish ladies – so I will consider it a quasi-historical fix to the overly long front hem!

The Long Sleeves

The pattern for the reversible long sleeves is based Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1598 gown worn by Pfalzgrafin Dorotea Sabina von Neuburg. The first time I tried this pattern on a previous gown, I cut them out of scrap fabric and after fitting, modified the pattern by deepening the underarm. When I made my first pair of pinked sleeves, 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. Since the sample pinked on the bias looked better, I’ve done all my pinking on the bias since then. I traced the sleeve pattern onto 1” grid paper and marked the places to cut the pinks. I basted the satin sleeve sections together and then cut through both the right and left sleeve layers at once using an 'X-acto' knife with a flat blade on the reverse side of my cutting mat.



After the pinks were made in the gold crepe back satin fabric, it was layered over white cotton “peek through” fabric and the fabrics were attached using multiple rows of stitching with a double needle with a guide for spacing on my sewing machine. The sleeves are reversible to the same fashion fabric as the bodice and skirt. The wrist finish on both sides of the sleeves is a scalloped edge Venice style lace which I applied to each sleeve section while they were still flat. At the wrist opening I basted in 5/8” seam allowances, pressed it under, and then mitered the corners at the opening. Next I sewed the sleeve parts together at the curved shoulder seam, and under-stitched the seam. Then I sewed the sleeve seam from wrist opening of the pinked section to wrist opening of the fashion fabric making sure everything lined up properly. After pressing the long arm seam of both sections of the sleeve, I turned one section into the other and hand sewed them together at the wrist opening and added a button (actually a decorative bead with a seed bead at the top) and thread loop for closure. The sleeves attach to the rings stitched onto the bodice with three lobster claw clasps (made for jewelry) per sleeve.

The Baragoni, or cap sleeve

The baragoni were inspired by a portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola with zig-zag shaped cuffs - although I made the cuffs scalloped instead. I took the pattern for the long sleeves modified it to make it a couple of inches long below the armpit and so the seam falls at the underarm and made it 1” or 1.5” bigger around the arm than the long sleeves so they could be layered. I cut this out of a striped canvas for the base and the gold crepe backed satin for the lining. Then I took the pattern and cut it into 1” strips and laid the cut pieces 1” apart on another piece of paper to create a pattern for the puffs. The puff was cut out of three layers of netting and one layer of the crepe backed satin. I laid the satin over the three layers of netting; put gathering stitches in top and bottom.

After pulling up the gathering stitches I laid it over the canvas and lined up top shoulder edge and the bottom with the appropriate stripe in the canvas base fabric. I basted the puff onto the canvas. From the fashion fabric, I cut a series of strips 4.5” wide and stitched them to make 1.5” wide strips – the three layers of fabric help stiffen the strips. After the strips were pressed, turned inside out and pressed again, they were laid over the puffed satin in a pleasing fashion and basted down. The satin lining was stitched to the canvas, puff & strip sandwich at the armhole seam and under-stitched. 

Next the underarm seam was stitched and pressed open. I used my sewing machine’s wide scallop stitch to stitch a border for the cuffs in the fashion fabric and another in the satin, clipped the curves, turned it right side out and pressed the scallops. I stitched the fashion fabric scalloped cuff to the bottom of the sleeve by machine. 

Then I lined up the satin scalloped cuff longer and offset. I hand stitched the lower scallop at the tops of the arcs and at the points with beads. The sleeves attach to the rings stitched onto the bodice with three lobster claw clasps per sleeve. The baragoni can be worn attached to the bodice by themselves or layered over the sleeves for a variety of different looks to the same gown.

The Chemise

I started with a square necked smock from the Elizabethan smock pattern generator on the Elizabethan Costume Page. The square neckline is embellished with a decorative machine stitch. The sleeves are full and long. They have 5 box pleats at the shoulder to take up the excess fabric and the wrists are hand smocked on the front and back-smocked. 


The sleeves fasten with tiny mother of pearl buttons and thread loops. There is enough elasticity in the smocking that I fasten the buttons before putting on the chemise and my hand will slip through the cuff and it fits snugly at the wrist. All edges were narrow rolled hemmed and the pieces were attached together with machine faggoting.

The Partlet

I had some sheer fabric with little dots stitched on it that I thought would make a great partlet (left over from Christmas dresses I made our daughters 20 years ago). To avoid shoulder seams, I took a previous partlet and traced it out as one pattern piece and modified the neck opening to account for wanting to put lace down the front edges.

To keep the partlet as sheer as possible, I opted to line it with netting. I starched the sheer fabric heavily before stitching the layers together because with the one-piece pattern, many of the cut edges were on the bias and I was afraid they would stretch during sewing. After turning it right side out and lightly pressing it, I stitched the lace down from bottom center front to one shoulder, then gathered the lace that would go around the back of the neck, basted it down and stitched it down the rest of the way. Next I put a casing in the bottom of the back and the two fronts and threaded ribbon through the casings. The ribbons tie under the arms and at the center front. The ribbons are tacked at the center back and at the side edge of each front section to keep them from escaping from the casings. The snood is one that I made for IRCC1, and the beaded girdle is prom a previous project.



  You can contact Carol at mistresscouture (at), and see her blog, here.

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© 2001 - 2013 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.