Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Realm of Venus

The Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

 April 21 to August 21, 2011

April Maybee

Location: New York, USA

Bio: I have been sewing/costuming for most of my life (basically since I could tie a washcloth around a Barbie doll!) but I have only done 3 Venetian gowns at this point. I'm madly finishing up several half-completed projects since I will be attending Pennsic this year (my first!) and I think the Challenge dress will round out my wardrobe very nicely!

Project: My project will be an under-bust gown from late 1590's Venice, with attendant pieces yet to be determined. I had just decided to attempt one when I learned of the Challenge, who am I to ignore such a cosmic hint?

Project Blog: http://the-earth-is-flat.blogspot.com/p/what-holds-breasts-up.html

I've recently been experimenting with appliqué and embroidery and I decided to use my new skills to dress up some white linen from my stash. I've purchased some wool blend felt and crochet cotton in two colors of red and I will be experimenting with various techniques as I transform the linen into a gown suitable for the red and white ball at Pennsic 40. At least I hope it will be suitable. Much of what I will be doing is a first time for me--so I have no idea how it will turn out--and it is the only red and white outfit I own!

This week I have been working on a pair of spiral sleeves inspired by an illustration by Cesare Vecellio (right). Clearly, my sleeves are not done yet but I'm pretty thrilled at how closely they reflect the feel of the illustration, and at how well the stitching is coming out.

May 17:
Sleeves: I've finished the first curling line of the rinceaux pattern on both sleeves. The rest is on hold until I get farther along on the under-gown because I need to see them together to decide what technique I will be using to complete the sleeves.

Under-gown, skirt: I finished the red stitching which encases the cord at the top and bottom of the first two bands, stitched the bottom line of the third band, and began the process of cutting the applique pieces out of the wool-blend felt I found on my first shopping trip and pinning them in place. I plan to attach them by couching using the dark red/maroon crochet thread I bought on my initial shopping run stitched down with red thread. (The paper template in the photo shows what the final pattern will be.)
Flag fan: I've been working on the first of my fans. The stick still needs some work (In fact, I'm thinking of making a new one because I'd like it to be a little longer in proportion to the flag) but I'm happy with the process I have come up with, the painting, I've done so far, and that I succeeded in my goal of actually *learning* the subject song. "The Escarbuncle."


Over-gown: I confess, I succumbed to fabric lust and bought some new cloth for the over-gown. (Giant brocade patterns really say "Venetian" to me.) Happiness!

And yeah, I'll probably be doing a second challenge outfit for my husband. I made a doublet from my new pattern last week and suddenly the whole idea seems...do-able. We'll see.

Lots more pictures are available on my project blog.

May 31: Well, like many of my fellow challenge-ees, I'm feeling a rather behind on my work for the challenge. Not that I haven't been working. I just have too many 1/2 finished projects! My solution, of course, was to start another one.

I rediscovered a length of moderately sheer white linen/cotton blend with a fine metallic gold stripe in my stash and decided that it would make a pretty fancy camicia. Especially when it gets its gold lace edging and red and gold embroidery. I include 2 pictures of my progress, one with the camicia laid flat, and one being worn (please forgive the mundane undies.)

I've still got enough of the fabric to make matching drawers, and possibly matching stockings so look for those in future updates.

By the way, I know that there are other folks also working on a late period under-bust gown so I posted lots of details of what I did on my blog. I can't wait to see your camicie too!


June 15: Here is a (rather blurry, sorry) photo of the progress I have made on my petticoat hem. There are about 20 elements to each pattern repeat, 14 pattern repeats on each band, and three bands on the skirt, so I am going to be working on this part for a good long time. However, I am partially finished with the first seven repeats on the bottom band and it is coming together well enough to make me really excited about the final product.

(Pretty, pretty, pretty!)

I admit to being rather less excited about doing all the work, but it is actually surprisingly fun now that I am connecting up entire segments. I just love how the pattern looks and It makes me happy to have more of it come into existence.

In addition to updating about my IRCC project I want to say thank you to all the other people who are working on the challenge--whether officially or not. I've been following along with great interest on as many blogs and updates as I can find and I've got to say that you people are amazing! I'm learning so much from all the different projects people are working on, the approaches you are taking to similar projects and the wealth of knowledge, resources, creativity, ideas and inspiration all of you are sharing. Let me just say, Wow!

June 23: Two months down and I have finished none of my project pieces. Zero, zip, nada. The good news is that I have started: two flag fans, one camicia, one pair of sleeves, one petticoat and gotten the supplies for: the over-gown, crochet lace for the camicia, an assisi worked pocket, a damascence and pearl girdle and a pair of chopines.

I am currently working on all three of the bands of my skirt.

I've picked the patterns I will be using for my pocket and the camicia lace.
And I've collected nearly enough jewelry to start on the girdle.

Someday I may even finish at least one of my many projects!

July 10: My pocket is done. Really, truly, actually DONE!

Which means that I have FINISHED my first item for the challenge. (Woo hoo!)

While the embroidery way done on Aida cloth, the back, lining and waistband are all of the same white linen I am using for my petticoat. I'm hoping the waistband will just visually disappear when it is worn. After I had the pocket assembled it told me quite firmly that it needed something...more...to complete it. As you can see what it needed was a braided edging and tassels made out of the two colors of red crochet cotton I purchased for my IRCC project.


Currently, I am working on bleaching the bobbin lace I purchased on e-bay (not that really fancy 17th century pointed needle lace I posted about on my blog) but something else which was *far* more affordable! No points but perhaps I will have the time to make some before the deadline. I intend to piece together this lace for the collar of my camicia and may well have enough to trim something else. It all depends on how the bleaching goes.

(And did I mention that my pocket is done?) :)

July 24: I finished my girdle!

I wanted to have a lot of ornamental gold work and I discovered that not only do I *love* the look of damascene metalwork but small damascene jewelry pieces are often surprisingly affordable. I've been collecting bracelets (and a pendant!) since the opening of the challenge. I just recently added a gold and Mabe pearl bracelet to the collection, for contrast, and discovered that I'd acquired enough combined length to give it a whirl.

I disassembled the jewelry, mixed the pieces up a bit, added some pearl beads and wire I had lying around and reassembled them into this.

The close-up gives a better idea of the patterns of the damascene.

For the detail oriented, I used about 3 1/2 bracelets, 1/2 a pearl necklace (already broken), a pedant, some wire and some crochet cotton (used to link the stations together when I ran out of wire.) The girdle has a interior dimension of about 52" which I hope will perfectly fit the waistline of my finished dress. If not, my plan is to sew ribbon on at the clasp and tie the belt on. We see enough ribbon and string holding jewelry in period art that I feel it is a perfectly plausible solution for an ill fitting girdle. (Mind you, I'm hoping it won't come to that!)

I've been longing for one of those lovely jeweled belts for years so the challenge provided a perfect opportunity for me to create one. Thanks! 

April's Final Update

We're moving across several states in a few days and the move takes priority so I abandoned work on the IRCC at the close of Pennsic. (Sigh) While I am far from finished with my outfit the allotted time for the IRCC is over and so it is time to report on my challenge dress. What a wild ride it has been!

Layer 1: Camicia - incomplete. I made a close fitting camicia with a low square neck, gored skirt and sleeves gathered into a cuff from a medium weight linen with a gold stripe. I then trimmed the neckline with vintage bobbin lace. Work remaining is to trim the sleeve cuffs with the same lace, create and attach a pointed lace edging to the neck and sleeves, hem the camicia and perhaps embroider over the seams and around the edges.

Layer 2: Petticoat (underdress) - incomplete. I made a white linen underdress and sleeves hand trimmed in red embroidery and applique done in a combination of crochet cotton and wool/synthetic blend felt. Both the bodice and skirt are stiffened with cotton cord (considerably thinner cord is used in the bodice than in the skirt) threaded thru two layers of linen. The bodice was then covered with a third layer of linen for a smoother appearance. The bodice laces on both sides of the back using handmade cord (I learned to fingerloop braid at Pennsic!) run thru handmade eyelets.

The skirts were pleated and attached to the bodice slightly higher than I intend to keep them because I wanted to allow some space above the ground to keep the hem clean-ish at Pennsic. I intend to remove and lower the skirt to expose the third row of embroidery. While the sleeves do not appear in the final pictures, I also intend to finish the sleeves and attach them to the petticoat with buttons.

Layer 3: Overdress - incomplete. I have finished the hemp corded under layer for the bodice of the overdress but as it remains without a skirt and uncovered it does not appear in these final pictures.

Layer 4: Fan, Pocket and Girdle - Complete

Fan: I printed an SCA song, "The Escarbuncle" on paper which I then painted and stiffened with card stock. I attached it to a carved dowel with wire and trimmed the edge with gold ribbon which I stitched on by hand. The flag fan spins on the dowel to move the air.

Pocket: I embroidered a pattern from a period source onto my white linen with the same crochet cotton I used on the dress embroidery. The pocket is trimmed with a needle worked faux braid and tassels.

Girdle: I assembled the girdle from a broken pearl necklace and a collection of vintage jewelry--chiefly damascene bracelets--which I separated into component pieces and reassembled.

Other pieces not part of challenge: I am wearing a purchased crocheted sweater in the final pictures in place of the partlet I have yet to begin. This piece is just for modesty and does not count toward the challenge.

This has been a marvellous experience and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Bella and my fellow challengees, for the opportunity to participate!


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