Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Realm of Venus

The Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

 April 21 to August 21, 2011

Carol Salloum

Location: North Carolina, USA

Bio: Historical Costumer and cast member of the Carolina Renaissance Festival for three years.  I have made Italian, German, Spanish and Flemish clothing inspired by paintings from the 1500s. The creation of upper class clothing in the Renaissance required the work of many different skilled artisans with specialized tools.  I like the challenge of using the tools we have available now to make something that replicates the look of that time frame.  I really appreciate all the information that others have shared in dress dairies, showcases, etc. on how they have achieved "the look".

Project: I plan to make a camisia, partlet, bodice, doublet, sleeves, over-sleeves, skirt, hat, etc. based on information in the book Moda A Firenze.

Project Blog: http://mistresscouturecrf.blogspot.com

My inspiration gown is Clarice Ridolfi Altovit by Cristofano dell'Altissimo (scanned from page 84 in Moda A Firenze).

Here is what I have started on: camicia made of a sheer sari fabric with a woven in golden border at each selvage edge - undetermined fabric content. First I narrow rolled hemmed all the selvage edges, then I cut a smock.

The body is based on the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator

The sleeves cut as rectangles with the border of the fabric at the cuffs.  Each individual piece has the edges finished with a narrow rolled hem.  Prior to joining the pieces, I put three box pleats at the top of the sleeve at the shoulder and stitched them down by hand. The pieces are then placed next to each other and edge joined using a machine faggoting stitch (stitch A27 on my Viking #1). The edges of the cuffs were box pleated based on the geometric design in the border.  I put a button hole in one side and used a pearl with a seed bead as the button.  Still need hem.

I spent a lot of time drawing out the slashing pattern for the
bodice front, back and sleeves.  I even made a small sample piece and put it through the laundry. The area where I have cut out a grouping of 4 little squares, actually seems to be a cross cut horizontally and vertically.  This did not work well on my sample, so I opted for making squares with 4 small cuts all on the bias.  So far I've made the cuts on the bodice back and started on the bodice front using two different Exacto knives. I used embroidery scissors to make the long slashes more like pointed ovals. 

The "peek-through" fabric is special to me.  My older daughter married about a year ago.  When I was pricing rental of table linens I found that I could buy fabric (with a coupon of course) to make the tablecloths for less than renting. The only rectangular tablecloth was at the bride and groom's table - that is the one I am cutting up for my "peek-through" fabric and I will make some jewelery pouches with the left over fabric. I found a trim that looks similar to that in the portrait and will bind the edges of the bodice in a color coordinating bias strip that I cut from taffeta.

May 18: To make a pearled snood like Eleonora de Toledo di Medici wears, I cut a 12" circle of 1" gridded flip chart paper. Then I wound the cord back and forth over the grid pinning the outside edges into a piece of cardboard. Afterwards, I carefully placed a pin at each intersection and removed from the cardboard. Next I will tack a pearl at each intersection.

The bodice pieces are slashed and fray check has been applied to all cut edges. I layered the cream satin underneath, basted the pieces together and started applying the trim over the basting guidelines. Next step is to apply the boning to the canvas interlining and then create a sandwich of slashed wool & cream satin, canvas interlining, taffeta lining. Baste all raw edges together and bind with taffeta bias strips.

The slashing template for the sleeves is complete. There are 4 rows of design that get progressively smaller from shoulder to wrist. Next step is to baste the two woolen sleeves together, lay the template over the sleeves and start cutting with the exacto knives. I will go back with scissors to re-cut the long slashes into the pointed elongated oval shapes.

The beaded girdle is complete but I would like to make a tassel to hang at the bottom. I have been going back and forth with this striped quilted taffeta fabric that I want to make into a doublet with decorative open oblong sleeves. I can't decide how to run the stripes (horizontal or downward bias) and what sort of closures to use. Anyone have opinions or suggestions to share?

May 31: I have completed a chemise and partlet out of a sheer fabric with a gold border at both selvages. All edges were narrow rolled hemmed and the smock is assembled using a machine faggoting stitch. The shoulder seams of the partlet were hand sewn using a modified blanket stitch. Originally the partlet had a square collar, but I did not like how it looked, so out came the seam ripper and it is history!

I am making a mesh partlet as well. I took the sheer partlet, folded the center front back to create a new line from bottom of center front to neck edge of shoulder, and laid it on paper with a 1" grid. I wanted the new front openings to be on the bias. Next I wove the cord back and forth following the grid lines and pinned at the outside edges, then I pinned every intersection and tacked all intersections by machine. 


I placed the partlet over a bodice cut using a similar pattern to decide where to hand sew the pearls and marked with pins.

July 1: I've been working on a doublet. The pre-quilted fabric has a very subtle stripe in it. After much consideration and input from friends, I decided to have the center front and back horizontal stripes to mimic the direction of trim seen in some portraits and make the stripe vertical in the side pieces. I used a chalk pencil to outline the pieces to insure that the stripes matched and then roughly cut out the pieces. 

Next, I basted over the chalk lines in a contrasting color of thread. Using that basting line as a guide, I stitched down two rows of hemp cording using a three-step zig-zag stitch. Then I cut the pattern pieces to the basting line and will cover all the edges with bias.

The stripe on the waist tabs is going to be vertical with the dark stripe centered in each tab. To make the tabs, I cut a three inch strip and with a contrasting thread color, basted diagonally across each lighter stripe. With lining right sides to the striped fabric, I stitched the width of a presser foot from the basting line to make the tabs - one facing up and the next facing down. Then I cut the tabs apart on the basting line using pinking shears, trimmed the corners, pressed, turned and pressed again. In the photo, I used chalk to trace over the stitching lines of a couple of the tabs to show the stitching lines. 

July 12: I've made lots of progress on sleeves. My burgundy taffeta spiral pinked sleeves just need to be lined and have the attachments added. I was sewing beads onto the burgundy wool Clarice pinked sleeves this weekend and ran out of beads. Originally I had intended to make the sleeves reversible - burgundy wool on one side and burgundy taffeta on the other. Now that I have both outer sleeves almost ready for lining, I am having second thoughts about this idea. Benefits, takes less room in the closet, won't need to cut out four more sleeves for lining, can change the look of the outfit very quickly - take off the sleeves, turn to other side and re-attach. Drawbacks - with all the pinking it may be difficult to put arm through sleeve without catching, beads on wool side may be uncomfortable if facing the inside, if I make them individual sleeves - what do I use for lining. Decisions, decisions, decisions....The planning takes more time than the execution!

I've started on a cloak for my outer layer and had to get very creative because I did not have enough fabric to do what I had originally envisioned. The cloak will look like a compass rose.

There are only 40 days left - I need to get with the program!

July 17: I've been working on a skirt for the Clarice outfit. Since the portrait is from above the waist up - I decided to make a spilt front skirt based on the pattern of Eleonora de Toledo di Medici's burial gown without a train. I continued the pinking pattern down each side of the front spilt. The pinking, cutting, and application of fray guard is done. I attached the background fabric and had enough of the gold trim to run 3 rows down one side. Hopefully the trim will go on sale at Hobby Lobby tomorrow so I can continue. Since I wear my costumes to our local renaissance festival and am paranoid about loosing my keys, ID, and money - I am contemplating where and how to hide a pocket in the skirt. I know this will be very non-period because I plan to put in a zipper for my peace of mind. But, I'll make it in such a way that it is well hidden.

The doublet is also in progress - I decided that I want baragoni inspired by two of Alessando Allori's portraits. So, I made a mock-up using 3"x20" pieces of polar fleece sewn into tubes. I tried a three part and a four part braid - but am not really satisfied with the look. It needs more work before I cut the fashion fabric since I have so little of it left. I also need to draft the pattern for the hanging sleeves so that I don't run in to another not enough fabric surprise!
After pondering the sleeve dilemma last week - make them reversible or cut two sets of sleeve linings and make them separate - I cut linings for each sleeve. The linings are attached and I need to attach the wrist closures and the shoulder attachment points to be finished with the sleeves. In addition, the wool Clarice sleeves need to have some more beads attached and the baragoni need to be manipulated so they "play nice". Since I decided to make the sleeves separate, I will need to purchase some more lobster claw jewellery clasps because that is what I typically sew to the tops of the sleeves and those will attach to rings that I sew to the underside of the bodice shoulder straps. 

July 29: My doublet is coming along. I posted details about the lacing strips in my blog. One thing that was holding me back was buttons for the doublet. 
I searched all over for appropriate buttons - and finally found what I was looking for in an unlikely place....

My friend Jennifer owns an antiques and gift shop called Past and Presents had a two strand necklace of sturdy gold filigree beads. On a Saturday afternoon I remembered it and called her and asked her to count the beads for me because I couldn't remember if there were enough! She has helped me with several jewelery pieces for my costumes and I have also gotten lots of help and beads from another friend in town who owns and is The Bead Lady. 

The large beads from the necklace are the buttons down the center front and smaller similar looking beads are used at the attachment points between the center front/ back section to the side sections - 28 on each side - my fingertips are sore from all that hand sewing. 
Need to change gears and get back to the machine to give them a rest!

August 11: The 'Clarise' gown is complete with pinked bodice, sleeves, and over skirt. The outfit is made with a smock, partlet, pearled snood, and girdle made for IRCC.

Also completed is my compass cloak. The lining is pinked taffeta lined with white cotton and stitched together with a double needle to mimic the parallel rows of stitching shown in several samples in Patterns of Fashion. I also added pockets lined in pink flannel to tuck my hand into at the center front of the lining.

The bottom border is a 5" wide bias strip of taffeta. I laid it on my cutting mat, placed one ruler 1.25" in from one long edge and cut perpendicularly into the strip at 2" intervals using the other ruler as a stop so I ended up with something that looked like an exaggerated fringe. On the right side of the cloak, I placed the border strip with the cut side facing the center and the uncut side hanging about 1" over the bottom hem. I pinned it all down at the hem, then I took each cut section and twisted it twice and pinned it down. Then I ran a row of basting stitches a the bottom and the top of the slashes through the right side of the cloak. I stitched down a gold trim over the top of the twisted trim. The next step was to sandwich the collar between the right side of the cloak and the lining (add a ribbon loop at the center back for hanging), stitch up the center front opening, around the neck edge, back down the other center front, trim, turn, and press. I laid the cloak lining side up on the floor, did a little trimming at the hem to make the pieces match, pinned them together, stitched the bottom row of trim though the front and lining to anchor the sections together, turned under the edge of the 5" bias edge trim to the lining side, pinned down and hand stitched to finish.
Also complete is the Neapolitan woman - taffeta skirt (used as the underskirt for the Clarise gown), pre-quilted taffeta doublet with hanging sleeves, taffeta sleeves slashed and decorated in a spiral fashion, partlet with box pleated neck and center front, the smock and pearled snood are common to the Clarice gown.

The skirt is made of 3 full widths of fabric. Two of the widths were cut vertically down the middle - one was used on either side of the complete width of fabric to avoid having a center back seam and the other had a 5" strip of pin-tucked taffeta sewing between them for the center front. The front of the skirt was double box pleated and the rear was triple box pleated. The hem treatment is a 6.5" strip of the pin-tucked taffeta with a strip of plain taffeta behind it. At the bottom, there is a 2" strip of bias cut taffeta sewn between the layers and snipped at about 1/4" intervals. Two strips of horse hair braid are used to help stiffen the hem. The top of the bottom strip is attached to the skirt with a 5/8" hem. The seam is pressed up, the skirt is pressed down, then I stitched through all layers creating a tuck that encased the seam. The effect is reminiscent of the hem treatment of the Eleonora de Toledo burial gown.

There are lacing strips inside the doublet armholes and at the armhole edge of the hanging sleeves. When the sleeves are laced in, it looks like they are sewn in. There are also loops of ribbon sewn to the inside of the doublet armholes to attach the spiral sleeves. This way if it is very warm, one or both sets of sleeves can be removed and the doublet can be worn in alternate configurations.

August 17: I finished hand stitching the pearls to the mesh partlet and have attached a photo of the completed partlet. I do not plan to re-take the full costume photos, since in the photos I was wearing new partlets.

Carol's Final Update

My inspiration gowns are:
1. Clarice Ridolfi Altoviti by Cristofano dell'Altissimo (figure 31 in Moda A Firenze)
2. an engraving of a Neapolitan woman being carried on a litter (figure 48 in Moda A Firenze)

Layer 1: Chemise.

Layer 2: Clarice Ridolfi Altoviti Gown - the underskirt is the skirt for the Neapolitan woman’s gown. Neapolitan Woman’s gown.

Layer 3: Compass Cloak.

Layer 4: Accessories: Earrings and Necklaces, Beaded Girdle, Pearled snood, Partlet 1, Partlet 2, Partlet 3

Clarice Ridolfi Altoviti Gown

Neapolitan Woman’s gown


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