This year I’ve entered the Realm of Venus’s Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge (IRCC). The start date is the first of April – today.

The rules: the IRCC is a four-month long challenge to create a complete man’s, woman’s or child’s late Italian Renaissance outfit, from the skin out, of a style circa 1480 to 1600. The outfit can be of any social class and needs to include at least one accessory, with a maximum of four accessories allowed.

What I’ve proposed to make is:

  • a camicia
  • an underskirt
  • a gown based on the extant diamond twill half-gown held in Pisa
  • a headdress or cap

Depending on how things go, I may add one or two of the following

  • an apron
  • a belt
  • a pearl necklace with matching earrings
  • a vest or short cape

Entries started a month ago. That first month was to be dedicated to deciding on what to make and gathering materials.

Deciding what to make was easy; ever since I found out about the wool/linen diamond twill half dress that’s in Pisa, I’ve wanted to make a gown based on it, using the diamond twill I found when King Textiles – one of our local fabric shops – had to move when their building was sold to a condo developer.

I’ve also wanted to try needle lace, so, if all goes well, the “headdress” will be a needle lace cap.

And my current White Wolf Fian challenge is a carved busk. So far all I’ve done on it is taking a carving class at Lee Valley and assembling the tools & materials, so, since I haven’t started on the actual busk, it works with the timing rules. Though, since it’s woodwork rather than textile, I’m not sure it fits in the criteria – I’ll have to check before adding it to the entry.

As for gathering materials, that’s pretty much done:

The materials for my IRCC 9 entry

The fabrics:

The right stack:

  • white lightweight cotton for the camicia
  • blue wool/linen diamond twill for the gown
  • black wool twill for the gown’s guards

The left stack:

  • red lightweight wool for the petticote
  • lightweight yellow linen for the linings (lightweight linen is usually expensive, so when I found this one cheap at Pennsic*, I bought lots of it even though it’s not a colour I’d usually choose for linings)
  • cotton canvas, heavy linen & various interfacings for the bodice

The odds & ends:

  • 50/3 linen thread for my super-ambitious lace cap plus the images & plastic to cover them (it might wind up as a lace-edged cap)
  • Mathew Gnagy’s Modern Maker volumes and the bara tapes I made following his instructions
  • a sample of the smocking for the camicia
  • my faithful roll of butcher paper that’s seen me through many patterning adventures
  • a piece of basswood and some carving tools for the busk
  • and, of course, the obligatory furry assistant.

I’m not sure I’ll use all of this, and will probably find I’m missing some odds & ends.

Today’s project: drafting the basic bodice pattern:

Pattern draft for 16th century woman's bodice

…to be continued


  • Pennsic is an annual Society for Creative Anachronism event that’s held in Pennsylvania and usually draws 10,000 or more attendees. One of its features is a market with lots of merchants who specialize in reenactment-related stuff.