Location: Barony of Axemoor, Gleann Abhann
Category/Level: Modern Recreationist/Beginner
Her Project Update Blog: The Casual Costumer
About : Hi there, so I am very new to the SCA, roughly a year or so- but with the pandemic I’ve only made it to 3-4 events. I am fairly new to historical sewing but have been making costumes and cosplay for myself as well as a variety groups and Mardi Gras krewes in New Orleans for several years. I also help run the Sewing Squad facebook page, which is a small group of people in my region that want to learn more about sewing skills and history focused garb.
Project: I’m going to be doing a (roughly) 1480-1500c Italian Renaissance set of garments. This will be inspired by a set of paintings from that period, though the fabrics will be different, since I’m picking this period/style to utilize a yellow silk taffeta and a red silk brocade that I already have. I also wanted an opportunity to work on my embroidery and with the heavy ornamentation on the sleeves of this period, hopefully I can get some nice detail work done ( though I’m pinning that as a “stretch” goal, time allowing).
I am checking in my Spanish camisa layer. This is the Spanish renaissance version of the Italian camicia (shift). They are very similar garments with the main distinction from the 1490’s period I am working in being, that the sleeves do a large bell at the end and dangle out of the bottom of the gamurra sleeves instead of tying or buttoning at the cuff. I have added my art reference to the Facbook album- “Mencia de Mendoza with Saint Dominic”, artist contested. I am hoping to do a complete recreation of this painting. She was high nobility in this period and my fabric and notion choices are reflective of that. These shifts were typically either heavily embroidered with blackwork or lace and were often made of fine linen or silk.
I opted for two types of silk-synthetic mix lace after examining the source painting closely. I sourced and purchased 15c reproduction lace for the collar and used lace I already owned for the sleeves and bottom hem. These were hand sewn on with a cream colored silk thread and a whip stitch. The camisa pattern is drafted by me, using art examples, online research of others recreating this period- “15th C Clothing For Men and Women” by THL Peryn Rose Whytehorse, and several books I own- “Patterns of Fashion” by Janet Arnold, Herald, Jacqueline- (1981) “Dress in Renaissance Italy 1400-1500” by John Murray, “Dress in Italian Painting 1460-1500” by Elizabeth Birbari.
I also consulted with the SCA Iberia Facebook group to get more Spanish specific info for this period, and help understanding the fashion differences between them and Milan. The camisa is made of a semi-sheer silk in cream, with gathers at the neck, back and around both sleeves. The inside sleeve raw edges are covered and whipped down with a cream colored twill tape for additional strength, since the cloth is quite thin and prone to unraveling. The neck was bound with a bias tape I made of the same material, with the lace being attached to the edge.
The sleeve and bottom hems are rolled and whip stitched with the lace added at the bottom.
If I could do anything differently- I probably would have picked a different painting. I didn’t realize at the start of this that there is VERY little information know about this artwork, and most of it is contested. They aren’t even sure this is actually Mencia De Mendoza…. So a lot of assumptions were made based on published research of that art. This led me to the ten year period around 1490, and influences from both Milan, and Barcelona as she was tied to both areas. Her fashion in this painting has elements of both cities- the long sleeves of the Spanish camisa, with the tighter fitting sleeves of Milan gamurra dresses at that time. The bodice of the dress isn’t seen in this gown so I had to use other art references from that period and those regions to help me pattern.
Having none of the support garments and very little of the under-dress showing in this art has been a difficult but exciting challenge. It has also given me a little freedom to make creative choices that would normally be limited in a strict recreation with more of the support garments showing.
1490’s Spanish/ Italian- Milanese style gamurra
I modeled my entire outfit off of a painting entitled “ Mencia Mendoza with Saint Dominic” which is roughly dated to 1490(s). When researching this painting I hit a ton of snags so some suppositions were made. Per the biographical information on Mencia Mendoza she was Spanish with heavy Milanese influence. So, because of that, and the fact that the gamurra layer is not heavily visible in the painting I sources comparative works for that region and time period. “Bianca Maria Sforza” by Ambrogio de Prendis 1493
“La Belle Ferroniere” Leonardo da Vinci 1490
“Lady with an Ermine” Leonardo da Vinci 1490
“Detail from the Pala Sforzesca” unknown 1494
I created my own pattern using some input and research from online sources. In particular, for bodice construction the paper “15th C clothing for men and women” by THL Peryn Rose Whytehorse, Barony of the South Downs, February 2015. The gamurra layer is composed of a layer of canvas, with boning inserted in an attached linen burlap backing. Then covered in an additional canvas front. This is covered in a 100% yellow silk taffeta. I debated between the more historically accurate cording vs. boning, but time constraints won out and I used synthetic whalebone.
The bodice is fitted with 7 bones in the front and 5 in the back.
I then started on the skirt, with is 7 yard of the silk taffeta, lined with a thin bleached muslin. Because of the weight of the skirt I opted not to used the heavier weight linen I had. I also attached a twill tape the the top of the lining and felled the silk on top of that so I would have more stability when attaching the skirt to the bodice.
The panels of skirt were then cartridge pleated and whip stitched to the bodice.
This layer was 90% hand sewn. The only machine process was sewing the skirt panels together.
The sleeves are a linen burlap covered in the yellow silk taffeta., they are deliberately not lined with silk, as I plan to embroider them at a later date.
The lacing rings on both the bodice and the sleeve are 15c reproduction, and are hand sew on with a 3 strand embroidery floss.
I then made 18 fingerloop braids- 2 for the bodice lacing and 8 per sleeve, using 6 strand embroidery floss. I purchased aglets for the points, and sewed them onto each braid.
The sleeve cuffs are a layer of linen canvas covered in silk taffeta and have a 4mm yellow gold cording sewn in, to match the cuffs from the painting. The cuffs are attached separately to the finished sleeves.
In retrospect, I will probably go back and do hook and eye for the cuffs. And will probably shorten the sleeves overall by 2-3 inches. There is just slightly too much bunching in the forearm.
1490’s Sbernia overcoat
This layer was the most visible in the painting. I was not able to find a satisfactory pattern or tutorial for its construction so it was made using the drape method over my dress form. The construction was fairly simple, with two gores at either side. I did pleating at the shoulders to get the appropriate sloped look in the painting. The panels are machine sewn and all seams are hand finished.
I left this layer unlined as the damask fabric was already quite heavy.
I then took a vintage mink stole I was gifted and reconditioned and lined it, cut it into tim sized panels and whip stitched this onto the front opening and the sleeve openings. I trimed this in a maroon silk bias tape.
This layer was 80% hand sewn.
15th century pointed turnshoes
This was my first attempt at shoe making. I watched several youtube tutorials and looked at a few extant pieces before getting started.
The shoes are made out of 4 oz for the top, and 8 ozfor the soles- veg tanned leather.
I created my own wooden shoe lasts to work on this project using two 2x4s cut to about 1 foot each and using my foot tracing and measurements I sawed, whittled and sanded each last. Then sealed with neem oil.
The soles are then tacked onto the lasts and the top portion is sewn together then placed inside out on top. I then used an awl to punch diagonal holes from the soles to the leather tops. Then using waxed linen thread, I sewed the tops to the bottom. Wet the entire shoe in warm water fo 30 minutes or so. Turn right side out. Let dry overnight on the lasts, and condition, stain and seal with leather waterproofing.
I created the patterns on the tops of the shoes based on a 15th century extant find from Italy.
While the tops are still flat, I used my leather knight to cut the small lines, and a leather hole puncher to create the 4 point design.
The shoes are hammered and flattened at the seams before and after turning to create a smooth bottom.
I lined the heels with an alaskan fish leather, which isn’t period accurate, as far as I know but looks fabulous, and has the benefit of not rubbing my heels raw.
The buckles I had on hand were attached with a grommet at the ankle.
Velvet lace belt. I used a yard of leftover black velvet I had. Hand sewed into a wide belt then whip stitched onto a set of lacing facetings I had. Unsure about the historical accuracy of this, but I needed a belt for the sbernia and was about 36 hours from due date.