Only days away from IRCC9

The year has come and gone and I have been very naughty not updating my blog, but well you know life and all that.

Well it’s almost IRCC time again, and yes of course I am entering for my ninth year in a row. I really enjoy working within the four month time frame, and it motivates me to get items on my wish list actually made!

So this year I am working on an outfit based upon Lavinia Fontana’s Self portrait at the clavichord with maid servant painted in 1575.

Lavinia Fontana self portrait at the Clavichord 1575

I really love those ruffled baragoni!

I am also going to be using her other portrait, Lavinia Fontana, Self Portrait in a Studio, 1579, as inspiration for  cut worked white sleeves on a white giubonne (doublet)

Lavinia Fontana, Self Portrait in a Studio, 1579.

and also from Federico Zuccari’s, Winter excerpt (scenes from the life of the painter) . which shows a lovely set of hanging sleeves paired with some ruffled baragoni.


Federico Zuccari, Winter (scenes form the life of the painter with his selfportrait. Florence, Palazzo Zuccari

In choosing my colours I rather liked the pink of the first Fontana portrait but then thought it was a little too pink for me. So I wanted to stay within pallette range, looked through my fabrics and came across this nice piece of silk in a colour similar to the dusty pinky mauvey purply colour that Cosimo de Medici has on this is portrait, so that gave me time context for my fabric colour choice.

Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) Portrait of Cosimo I de Medici,oil on poplar panel,86 x 65 cm. Source-Dickinson Gallery,London and New York.

The sottana will be a nice gold/cream brocade and the giubonne will be an ivory silk wool blend. All fabrics have come out of stash so far which is good for my goals!.


I haven’t as yet planned my camicia but I think the neck and wrist ruffles will be integrated into this layer to save extra pieces being necessary.


I also plan to make myself a nice coral necklace and earrings like those seen in the Fontana portrait.


Anyways sewing starts April first, so stay tuned and I will endeavour to keep updating as much as I can.


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IRCC 8! Yes again….

It’s that time of year, time for the Italian Renaissance costume Challenge 8!

Yes I couldn’t resist and have entered for my eighth year running, the only silly person worldwide to have entered every one of the eight years, I have finished it seven times and fingers crossed I can manage to finish it again this year.

So what am I going to make this year?

Great question!

I am still deciding even though the four month sewing period has already started! I keep falling into the rabbit hole of looking at pretty portraits on pinterest and then cross referencing these with pattern books like Alcega.

So far I think I am going to do something like this

bartolomeo Passarotti Rittratto do Nobildonna col filglio

Bartolomeo Passarotti: Rittratto do Nobildonna col filglio

But with the short sleeves off the green gown out of this one ( I like the point!)

Fresco The Nativity F. Zuccari (1583)

Fresco The Nativity  by F. Zuccari (1583)

So I am envisioning making the white doublet with bands and slashing, the over zimarra in probably a navy blue with gold trim, a sottana OR skirt  and bodice in a blue fabric yet to be selected, and a shirt OR chemise and partlet. Possibly also a corded underskirt to give fullness. Also a ginormous veil and probably blingage. and maybe ruffy things too.

Anyways wish me luck! It’s all good fun in the end. 🙂


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Found another Purple one!

Ok well the sleeves are purple-ish anyways. I like it though, especially the tall hat! 1576 Bartolomeo Passarotti - Pietro Annibale Bargellini

1576 Bartolomeo Passarotti – Pietro Annibale Bargellini

The hat seems to be a Bolognese regional style, may have to make one for my hubby.


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My Red Allessandro Allori gown

I have wanted to do a version of this outfit for a number of years and finally earlier this year all the pieces came together and it happened


Allessandro allori Portrait of a Lady Florence 1560

A few years back I stumbled across a number of beautiful dark red damask tablecloths that had a nice bold design that were on sale so I bought quite a few of them with this gown in mind.

1 april 2018 019.JPG

The partlet fabric was a piece in a throw out bin for only a couple of dollars and I really reminded me of the texture of the one in the Allori portrait, so finally the fabrics has come together.

Usually I would tend towards silk and cotton, not linen I’m allegeric, and these fabric are man made fibres but they just spoke to me ans had to be sewn.

1 april 2018 016.JPG

The bodice has cable ties for boning in front and none in the back as due to a back problem I can’t tolerate boning in the back of bodices, I know it makes them not sit flat like they should but my pain levels are more important to me. The cable ties are encased in channels sewn in canvas, the lining is a red cotton fabric and the outer is the red damask, cut carefully so the big design is centred on the middle. The bodice is laced on both side/backs.

The skirt is a simple tube cut but then trimmed at the hem to give a very slight train, not too long as to trip over my consort. The hem is stiffened with a layer of felt and cotton.

1 april 2018 012

The sleeves were the biggest challenge with their unsual slashing pattern. I make a mock up out of a normal sleeve pattern and found that if I made the seam of the sleeve at the top instead of underneath it served as the main vertical slash quite nicely, then the others were cut on a 45 degree angle. The top part are the sleeve was cut off in order for the paned section, in which I have insert faux puffs in a white cotton. The slahes are all hand sewn to the lining with bias binding cut off the main fabric inserted between the layers, This binding was then slashed using a craft knife. This slashed bias binding is also used around the neckline of the bodice. The openings in the sleeve were sewn together at intervals and small knots of red cord to serve as the decoration. The head of the sleeve is bound and ties attached to make the sleeves removeable. I have sewn lacing rings under the straps of the bodice which these tie too.

The partlet is just a simple design which I have added a collar too with four ties.

1 april 2018 0081 april 2018 021


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Cosimo in purple…the collection continues

Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519–1574), Grand Duke of Tuscany Agnolo Bronzino (1503–1572) (after) National Trust, Overbeck’s

Cosimo I de' Medici (1519–1574), Grand Duke of Tuscany Agnolo Bronzino (1503–1572) (after) National Trust, Overbeck's

Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) Portrait of Cosimo I de Medici,oil on poplar panel,86 x 65 cm. Source-Dickinson Gallery,London and New York.

Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) Portrait of Cosimo I de Medici,oil on poplar panel,86 x 65 cm. Source-Dickinson Gallery,London and New York.

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“Purple isn’t period” A quest

Anyone who like me loves the colour purple and involved in anything like the SCA has probably at one time or another been told, “but purple isn’t period. ” or the old classic, “only royalty were allowed to wear purple.”

Well being the avid purple lover that I am, I decided to look more into these claims, also because I am working on a piece now that is lined in purple and I just know I am going to get the comments.

So what exactly is purple?

when we are kids, we’re taught blue and red make purple. OK but how much blue and how much red, changes in the ratio make different hues, but are all called purple?

So firstly I looked up the definition of purple:

1. any colour having components of both red and blue, such as lavender, especially one
deep in tone.
2.cloth or clothing of this hue, especially as formerly worn distinctively by persons of
imperial, royal, or other high rank.
3. the rank or office of a cardinal.
4. the office of a bishop.
5. imperial, regal, or princely rank or position.
6. deep red; crimson.
7. any of several nymphalid butterflies, as Basilarchia astyanax (red-spotted purple) having blackish wings spotted with red, orBasilarchia arthemis (banded purple or white admiral) having brown wings banded with white.
adjectivepurpler, purplest.
8. of the color purple.
9. imperial, regal, or princely.
10. brilliant or showy.
11.full of exaggerated literary devices and effects; marked by excessively ornate rhetoric:

a purple passage in a novel.
12. profane or shocking, as language.
13. relating to or noting political or ideological diversity:

purple politics; ideologically purple areas of the country.
verb (used with or without object)purpled, purpling.
14. to make or become purple.
15. born in /to the purple, of royal or exalted birth:

Those born to the purple are destined to live in the public eye.
OK so no surprises in that, except I didn’t know there were butterflies called Purple, must look into those later.
It is interesting that the definition even mentions rank in regards to the colour.
This is an Italian dictionary of 1598.
on page 326 the entries are as follows:
pupura the purple colour, a princes or chiefmans colour,or the dignitie of a chief or magistrate. Also a purple fish, which is a shell fish, wherof the purple colour cometh.
purpurato, purpled, apparelled in purple, of, or, belonging to purple or purple colour, also belonging to the place where fishes kill or take the purple fish. Also clothed in garments of purple. Also a nobleman, a peer or the realme.
purpureo, of the colour of purple, like purple, red, bluish, avaid in purple.
purpurillo, red painting wherewith some women do use to paint their faces, a lively ruddie colour called cheeke-varnish. also like purple, or of the colour purple.
purpurino, as purpunio. Also a lively redde colour women use for painting, called cheeke-varnish.
purpurite, a kinde of marble in Egypt, ruddie and full of white spots.
So we now know that the word purple was used pre 1600 but that doesn’t get us any closer to what is period purple?
Off I go to look for an exact definition of what hue is purple.
OH my goodness, what a rabbit hole that turned out to be!
So after trawling through many pages of colour theory, auras (yeah got side tracked there) RGB and pantone colours, I have come to the conclusion that purple is not a particular colour. There are amethyst, eggplant, violet, pansy, lavendar, orchid, and numerous other shades and tones with as many names to match.
So where to now on my journey on the purple road.
I know the term purple was used pre 1600 but perhaps what pigment what it referring to. Well in Florio, it mentions pupurite as a purple marble found in Egypt, I believe we now call this porphry. I was lucky enough to see this beautiful stone in person when I travelled to Italy,. There are many examples of it in the Vatican Museum. It is a very  beautiful red purple colour.
purple sarchophygus
Also Florio talks about the dye made from shellfish.
Tyrian purple, Phoenician purple, Tyrian red, royal purple, imperial purple or imperial dye is a reddish purple natural dye made from shellfish.  It is a secretion produced by several species of predatory  rock snails originally known by the name Murex. In ancient times, extracting this dye involved tens of thousands of snails and substantial labour, and as a result, the dye was highly valued.
Below is Byzantine Emperor Justinian I clad in Tyrian purple, 6th-century mosaic at Basilica San Vitals, Ravenna, Italy.
Although this is getting closer this still isn’t substantiating what I call purple, it seems to be a different shade completely.
Before I go on further I guess I should share with you the colour I am chasing after. I have been a lifelong lover of the colour purple but to me this is the colour of an eggplants skin, or a Cadbury chocolate wrapper, The colour worn by Prince on his famous Purple Rain album cover. It’s lush dark deep colour.
After delving into all this research I am leaning towards the idea that the colour that I know and love was actually called something completely different pre 1600.
So maybe I thought I would go on to check out those purple butterflies I found mentioned in the definition of purple.
nope, wrong track entirely.
Sorry but they really do not look purple at all to me
So back to my research.
I decided to look for examples of clothing in purple in the period that I love, 1560 to 1580s Italy, mostly Florence and Venice, but pretty much anywhere on the boot will do.
On my ever growing pinterest boards I have categorised art work into colours. I looked into my purple folder and sadly there are only three in there!
Both these gowns are from The Milanese Tailor’s Handbook, written in the 1570s, and held at the Querini-Stampalia Library in Venice. It was published in A Tailor’s Book, or Il Lidro del Sarto by Alessandra Molfino, a number of years ago but is now a rare book and hard o find copies, however I am one of the lucky ones to one a copy of the book which I tracked down a few years back.
The reddish purple sleeves on plate 92il libro del sarto plate 92
Plate 96, a purple gown over a fascinating black and gold chevrony underdressil libro del sarto plate 96
Also another pair of purple sleeves on plate100
il libro del sarto plate 100
In the book Lorenzo De’ Medici at Home: The Inventory of the Palazzo Medici in 1492, the inventory of the household goods names many purple items.
Closer and definite proof that purple was worn in period by ladies and men. Sadly not my purple
Back to the theories then.
I went looking into pigments and dying. I found this page called Renaissance Colour Palette.
Scrolling down to the purple section it states,

Purple Colours

For purples and similar hues, Florentine, Venetian and Northern Renaissance artists used traditional pigments like Indigo, processed from the Indigofera plant, and Madder – a plant pigment made from Madder plants. The latter colourant had been brought back to Europe by returning Crusaders during the late 12th century.

A quick search for indigo and madder dyes leads me to these pictures

indigo and maddersdyed with indigo and onion skins


And by george I have finally found my purple!

On a side not, check out this purple codex! wow purple dyed parchement, so cool!

Where am I now? Well I have found that my particular purple can be created by products that were used in the reniassance, and that the colour may not have been called purple in period, it was more likely to have been regarded as a violet.


I found reference saying that the Medicis were known to have worn purple, or “pagonazzo” as it was called in her inventories published in Moda a Firenze.


Eleanora di Toledo by Allesandro Allori 1572

Also there are these extant examples of purple/violet fabrics


Zimarra- Interior dress with geometric decoration brown, purple and straw Description: last quarter 16th century; Renaissance (period)  Material: silk Production site: Venice

fabric purple 16th century

purple fabric 16th or 17th century Italy in V&A Museum

Altar Frontal (detail), showing violet velvet with flowers in gold.

Altar front piece showing violet background with gold flowers.  A Treasury of Great Italian Textiles, Antonio Santangelo, Harry N. Abrams Inc, New York.


I have looked at so many purples throughout this journey of discovery, and I think the answer to my question of whether purple is period and if it were only for the upper classes, is yes. Yes there was a colour called purple, is it the same to what we call purple now? Most probably not in the Prince Purple Rain colour scheme, but it does still fall on our modern pallete of purple, possibly called a mulberry or something similiar. Was it believed to be for the upper nobility, in the references I have found yes it was, but that is because the colour was difficult to achieve in the dying process and therefore made fabrics these colours expensive. The modern purple was more than likely available, again quite expensive being that it could only be achieved with imported dye products,  madder and indigo, and was more into the violet range in terminology.

A couple of last portraits to consider, blue or purple? or violet?


Titian’s Portrait of Laura Dianti


Allessandro Allori’s Portrait of a Lady

I think this will continue to be an ongoing quest for me, to gather as many period examples of purple as I can, just for fun you know. 🙂




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Coverciere/partlet nearly done

I worked steadily on my new partlet yesterday for around 6-7 hours, I am really slow at hand sewing but it’s coming along!


Just need to finish sewing on the edge trim and finish the construction work and she’s done!

I popped it on my mannequin with the necklace and some of the black velveteen the zimarra/coat with be made from and I actually think it looks quite nice. 🙂

It may get some more beading but I am not sure just yet.



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