I’m participating in an online costuming challenge. Technically, it’s a contest. Realistically, I have no winning-it goals. I want to have a complete outfit at the end of the contest. Here’s where you can see the contest: go here. Nose around some of the other costumers, please – there’s some amazing work there!
My plans for this challenge include four primary elements, all aiming for a late 16th century look:
- An underdress – in Italian, camicia. This is similar in many cultures – English outfits have chemises, for example. Essentially, body linens that will both protect you and your outer clothing from each other
- A roped underskirt, to give the outer layer some shape and make it more comfortable to get around in
- An overdress (aka, dress) with separate sleeves
- Accessories – in my case, I’d like to make a pocket (in Italian, this is a saccoccia), an apron, and a handkerchief. If I can, I’d like to make a pair of gloves, too.
So far, I’ve completed the camicia and had a fitting with a muslin of the dress bodice. I’ll chronicle progress. I’ll attempt lucid communication. I promise nothing.
Camicia (or “the thing under almost everything”)
Camicie are useful for protecting your clothing from you, and you from your clothing.
To make it, I purchased 3.8 oz bleached white linen from Dharma Trading. It started with a slightly stiff hand, but washed up beautifully. I am planning on washing it several more times to soften it up – this lovely sheer is the layer against my skin, so I want zero irritation.
The sponsor of the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge, Bella Lucia de Verona of Italian Renaissance costuming site Realm of Venus, has some spectacular directions on making a camicia. There’s also a download.
I ripped and ironed, preparing the fabric to become a garment.
I labeled the various identical white pieces. I then constructed the bulk of the garment with my serger (overlocker, for many people), reasoning that completing everything in a timely fashion might allow me to luxury of replacing elements before the end of the competition.
I tried the completed shell on, mostly to reassure myself that it was garment-shaped. It kinda is!
I always try to machine-gather. I always fail. I always end up ripping the machine stitches out and hand-stitching my gathering lines. Will I ever learn? No. I do not think I will. If this had only happened once or twice, I may have learned. Hope springs eternal that this method will work for me someday. Until then, my gathered pieces usually look like this:
I should probably stop being impatient and use two lines of gathering stitches. Again, repetition may learn me someday. Today is not that day.
I gathered each of the four sides of the neckline individually, and tried the garment on.
I fussed with the gathers and deemed it passable. I made a neckline band. I totally went too wide with this, but I’m mumbling “done trumps perfect” to myself nearly constantly. My goal for this project is to simply finish, and I remind myself of this when I get an annoying perfectionist twitch. I pinned, then stitched the neckline to the gathered sections.
I skimmed so many time-appropriate images eyeing camicia cuff treatments! I finally realized that just pleating them into a narrow cuff would be something I could deal with wearing. It gives me the option to unbutton and roll them up to get a look like many of the extant paintings. The image below is a cropped section of Vincenzo Campi’s Kitchen (1580’s).
I serged the unfinished fabric, then pleated them into cuffs. Bring on the Dance of a Thousand Pins!
I added loops and buttons that are…unfortunate. Again saying my mantra of done is better than perfect.
I clean-finished the hem with my serger, and turned it up and hemmed with my machine. It was kinda plain. I wanted pretty. I used a variegated peach embroidery thread and let my mechanical assistant sew my bottom hem trim.
With mere inches left to finish, my mechanical assistant growled and chewed up my fabric. Panicked, I cut it free as gently as possible (spoiler: it wasn’t very gentle). I laid another piece of the lovely linen over the ripped area, and re-embroidered, hoping it would conceal the repair. I used a large scrap, reasoning that I’d trim the excess off.
It looked great! I decided, as planned, to trim off the excess from the second piece. Less great, since I cut a slash into the original fabric. I think I need applique scissors. Here a picture of repairing the chunk my machine ate, then the chunk I cut out.
Sigh. Repair is virtually invisible, at least.
Finally, a camicia:
…now, I just need to continue…