My chemise was loosely based on an extant example found in Museo del Prato , which is described as “suitable for wearing with a squared necked petticoat.”
The design is one I have used previously based on this historical evidence and I have found it sits quite well around the neckline and doesn’t add too much bulk in the body, it is very comfortable. Instead of inserting gores I have flared the cut of the body of the chemise to make best use of the very wide fabric. Once the soprana (over gown) was completed, I did find the sleeves of the chemise were too long and much too bulky, so I went back and unpicked the chemise and removed the extra fabric and reattached the cuffs, the fit is now much better. It will be a chemise that is used quite a lot in the cooler months although I believe it will be too warm for me in the warmer months. I am extremely please with the edging I used around the neckline and have plans to make another and also add some embroidery.
My sottana was made from a lovely cotton brocade in a nice neutral off white/cream colour. The design is based on the red gown held at the Museo di Palazzo Reale, commonly known as the “Pisa” gown. The bodice pattern has been one I drafted based on this gown and have been working with and tweaking for a number of projects and I am almost happy with the fit, however due to my weight fluctuations I think I will never get it completely right. The bodice has been stiffened, as it is evident that most Italian gowns were stiffened and the use of corsets was minimal, probably due to the heat. The internal layers of canvas give support to the boning, in this case I have used cable ties as they were handy and inexpensive. Also I already had them in my stash and my other challenge for this IRCC was to use mostly my stash and not purchase too much new. The skirt is gathered and sewn onto the bodice, and the bodice is fully lined, only the long seams are done on the machine the rest is all hand finished. The skirt has a wool felt skirt guard to both stiffen and protect the brocade, I have found this method to work very well and gives the skirt enough weight to move out of the way when walking minimising the trip hazard as I am known to fall over anything! The skirt also has some bands of velvet ribbon both for decorative purposed and to help in the stiffening. The bodice is laced through sewn eyelets on the side, slightly towards the back, with a cotton cord in a spiral manner which is evident in many paintings of the era. It is a lacing that enables me to get into and out of the gown unassisted and gives good support and is easily loosened or tightened when required. I think this gown will become a standard underdress for my wardrobe as it is very comfortable and gives a great base for my growing number of soprani (over gowns).
I was inspired to make this particular style of soprana after completing the coverciere (partlet) from the Maria de Medici portrait. I chose a teal green silk that had been lurking in my stash for way too long as it toned in nicely with the purple and green embroidery I had already completed. The design for the bodice is one I had drafted for a previous gown from a pattern in Alcega, of course mine never come out looking much like those in the book due to my body proportions being radically different to those shown in the book. The internal layers of the bodice section are a cotton canvas that give a nice amount of support to the standing collar once they have all been sewn together to add stiffening. I have lined the bodice section with a matching cotton fabric to give some breathability to it and I find silk can be very warm to wear. The edges of the soprana all feature hand made and slashed bindings which I find give a nice finish to the gown, this binding continues all down the open front and around the hem of the soprana. The binding was all cut using a chisel and mallet which is as close to period tools as I am able to afford at this time, they prove to be most effective and easy to master. Both the upper and lower sleeves are inspired by different portraits as I have previously mentioned. The lower sleeves I am extremely proud to have completed and believe I shall make them again in another colour for another gown I have in the planning stages. Also I have been asked to teach a class on how to make them, so will be working on a tutorial on them. All the trim on the gown bodice has been hand beaded with small gold filled seed beads and real pearls, the pearls on the cutwork sleeves however are not real ones as these were a better size for the trim than any of the real ones I have in my stash. all the trim was hand sewn on. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes and over these I have added some buttons that look like pearl clusters, again because I had them in my stash to be used and they looked nice. I am very finicky over the internal finishes of all my pieces and will not settle any raw or unfinished edges to be left, so the skirt has French seams, and the lining of the bodice is hand sewn down over all seams to give a nice neat finish.
Layer 4: Maximum number of 4 accessories
Coverciere or partlet
This piece was my starting point for the whole outfit. I have loved this collar ever since I first saw the portrait, but not having any confidence in my embroidery skills I was reticent to give it a try. this year I decided it was time. I drew out the design as best as I could make it out from the picture, simplifying it a little due to my lack of skills in the embroidery area. I am extremely proud of myself for pushing outside my comfort zone on this piece. the entire piece except a couple of seams has been done by hands, and I have even hand couched down the strings of pearls and gold cording and added pearl clusters to the gold lace, which proved to be extremely fiddly! My hands went on strike and were very painful for days after completing this piece but I am so happy I managed to finish it.
accessory 2: handkerchief
At an event I was lucky enough to attend a class on drawn thread work, and even though I has zero confidence in my embroidery skills I thought I would give it a go. I was very surprised at how easy the technique was even though it did take me quite some time to complete it as I was so slow. The handkerchief it made from an even weave linen and the sewing has been completed using a cotton thread. Drawn thread work has been done over many centuries and was known in Italy and Spain as Punto Tagliato. I am happy with how it turned out and have been considering trying this method on a coverciere in the future.
accessory 3: Fan
I started this piece as a flag fan, but was not please with what I had managed to make and turned instead to making a fan from the feathers and handle I already had in my stash. The silver handle required quite a lot of gentle pounding with a rubber mallet to make it flat, it was round. Once I had it flattened I used pliers to gently straighten the sides where I had bashed it a little too much and it had gone wonky, luckily I managed it without splitting the metal! The feathers I bought a number of years ago, they are emu, peacock and some plain white. I laid them all out and then trimmed them down to size. The next step was to get them to stay in the handle, I tried a number of glues which didn’t work until I got out my hot glue gun, which I used by quickly laying in some glue and pressing in the feathers in a line, then another layer of glues then the next layer of feathers until I had all the rows in place. The glue styed malleable enough for some last minute adjusting but dried quickly enough that they stayed in place whilst the next row was added. I left it on my desk to dry over night only to come the next morning to find a helpful kitty had “killed” it for me and it was in a heap on the floor! Luckily only one feather was bent beyond help and had to be trimmed out, the rest I was able to gently rearrange into looking like a fan again. The fan now has a box to keep it safe from any future attacks.
Accessory 4: necklace and earrings.
The jewellery I made for this outfit are a necklace and earrings. They feature natural pearls, obsidian beads and teal Swarovski crystal beads. I had hoped to find a natural teal coloured bead to complete this piece but couldn’t find anything in the shade I wanted, the crystals were already in my stash so I went with them. They have been strung on strong jewellery thread and have a magnetic closure to make it easy for me to put them on and off by myself. also by using a magnetic clip, should the necklace become caught on anything the magnet will release rather than break the necklace. The earrings are simple pearl and gold bead drops, as pearl drop earrings are featured in many Italian portraits of this era. I also have a very long strand of natural pearls that I will wear with the outfit.
I also made a ribbon woven and beaded coif which I intended to wear with this outfit, however due to the beading on the partlet and the open nature of the ribbons on the coif, when worn together they catch together making it uncomfortable and the coif is pulled off in the process. I will be making a new caul to wear with the outfit, probably from from fine silk I have on hand or possible an offcut of the teal silk.
I am also working on a mini me doll just for fun! So far I have painted on her face and sewn in her woollen hair. She has a camicia and a sottana. Her outfit will be completed with the appropriate partlet and soprana, also jewellery, hose and shoes.
I also made a beaded belt to wear with the outfit using fake pearls, black, green and gold beads. Unfortunately I left this item on my dressmakers dummy and one of my cats decided to kill it for me and it broke scattering beads everywhere, I have not had an opportunity to restring the piece as yet. So in the photos I am wearing a silk belt that featured gold filigree work and pearl beads closed with a decorative hook closure.
I am thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the IRCC for a fifth straight year. I am over joyed to have also been able to help and encourage 3 other participants to successfully complete the challenge as well. I have again learnt more skills and have ended up with and outfit I am quite pleases with.
I wish to thank Bella for running this challenge again, for all her many hours of hard work and patience, we all really appreciate the opportunity you provide for us.