Grim Grinning Ghosts & A Kiss from Captain Hook

As if there wasn’t enough going on during October (Halloween, sewing projects, moving…) I also spent a few days in Disneyland with my family.

It was great fun!

I have some more detailed posts coming up, detailing what I sewed in preparation for the trip, but for now here’s a small outline of some of the fun things I did:


Crammed more than I thought I could into a single carry-on.


Set the record on the game in Sea-Tac Airport.


Ate the best bagel of my life from the Great American Bagel Bakery!


Wore a top hat through the airport because there was no way I was fitting it in my suitcase.


Wore lots of mouse ears and took tons of selfies.


Went on Tower of Terror for the last time before it’s gutted.


We were very sad.


Saw “World of Color” for the first time.


Went on “Midway Mania” a couple of times.


…lost on “Midway Mania” to my brother.


…more than once.


Spent a day in 1955.


And an evening in 1900.

It was a really fun time! Bonus points if you can guess who I’m dressed as in the last picture before I post about it.

P.S. I really did get a kiss on the hand from Captain Hook during the parade!!

Stomacher fit for a…Puritan?

For Halloween this year my sister and I went as witches.

Real, authentic, 17th century, running-from-Puritan witches.

Enter: 1693. You know, the period that (for me at least) is notoriously hard to find accurate information on.

So, enter: flying-by-the-seat-of-my-educated-guess.

One thing I knew for sure: of the most important pieces of my outfit this year was going to be my stomacher. Last year I ran short on time and didn’t have time to trim the dress I wore for our pirate-themed year. As such,the center front was a few inches short on either side and it was a real struggle to sew myself into my dress the night of and get it to close. I had to lace my stays really tight but it closed (although it looked terribly messy).

So this year, my resolution was to follow the wisdom of our ancestors and create an outfit that could be worn easily no matter how loosely I wanted to lace my stays.

Brief blurb about stomachers, to give a bit of background:

Stomachers were most popular from the 16th to the 18th century. Usually triangular in shape, they covered the front opening of a lady’s bodice and were worn by women of  levels of society. Easier to make and more cost-effective than a whole new ensemble, they were a good way to bring variety to a woman’s wardrobe and they also accommodated her changing shape over the course of her life. See some examples.

I searched long and hard to find original source material that I could base my design on and one of the closest (and one of the only) pieces of artwork I came across was Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary by Anonymous.


Painted sometime around the 1670’s, it showed fashions a bit early for what I was aiming for but it was a good starting point. Analyzing her outfit, the key details are her short, rolled sleeves and the ladder lacing across what I had to assume was her green stomacher.

I looked up a few secondary art sources and drew inspiration from them, but relied most heavily on the details of Mrs. Freake’s outfit.


To make the stomacher, I started by drafting the bodice pattern and then the stomacher pattern on top of it. I apparently forgot to take a picture of that part.


But here you can see the shape. I sandwiched a single zip tie between two layers of cotton duck  and zipped around the edges on my machine.


I had the idea to make it reversible, so I cut out a layer of fabric that would match my skirt and bodice and a layer that would match my purple petticoat. I stitched the brown layer down in the car on the way to my grandma’s house and added four tabs made from some tan twill tape that I randomly found around the house. Then I stitched the purple layer on on the way back from her house.

With and without creepy makeup

I laced my stays fairly loosely that night. My bodice was made to lace closed at the bottom, but it was very comfortable – and looked good – open all the way down.

I pinned it to my stays with straightpins and it didn’t budge an inch all night. I had toyed with the idea of adding a waist tape, but I’m glad I didn’t. Here it is at the end of the (very long, very wet) night.


I wore the purple side for Halloween – it felt much more witchy – but I definitely want to do something fun with the “Puritan” side. Hopefully a photo-shoot (or something) once I’ve had the chance to make some accessories to go with the outfit. I didn’t have time to make any for Halloween night, but I found this time period to be really interesting and definitely want to revisit it once I’ve had the chance to do more solid research. Until then, here’s to Mrs. Freake! Thanks for the inspiration!


Fabric: White cotton duck, purple linen, brown linen blend
Pattern: Self-drafted
Year: c. 1680s
How historically accurate is it? I haven’t a clue. I was really just guessing on this one.
Hours to complete: About 3 or 4, altogether
First worn: Halloween 2016
Total cost: All leftover fabric from other projects, so cost was very minimal

Gatsby Halloween

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday combined with the first day of fall, I have some fun photos to share from my earlier days of sewing.


But first, a brief background:

In 2012 I was a student at the University of Washington, living at college in a dorm with my wonderful sister. When Halloween rolled around that year we found ourselves without any plans so we gathered some friends together to go to dinner. Three of us decided to make our outfits 1920’s-themed.

In the time-honored college tradition of procrastination, what better thing to do than give yourself four days to make three dresses from scratch?

This was at the start of my sewing career, when my sewing machine was less than a year old, so there was almost no technique to what I was doing. I made my 1920’s pinterest board and used it for inspiration, not caring much about historical accuracy.

I started with my sister’s dress when I was home for the weekend, drafting the base on her and sewing a bunch of squares that I moved around until we agreed on a final design we could agree on (#3).

Next I made a dress for myself (my mom helped sew it) and finished it up by hand when I went back to my dorm.

And then I did the same for our friend, Molly!


All three dresses were really simple but effective. They were done in plenty of time for Halloween and we had a great time going out! We went out for dinner at the Cabbage Patch Restaurant which is rumored to be haunted although we didn’t experience anything while we were there.

After our food we explored the town a bit, visiting other supposedly haunted locations, taking pictures, and admiring all the cute trick-or-treaters that were running around.

Looking back at these pictures brings back a lot of really fun memories. The dinner was delicious and it was great going out for an event in costume! That’s something that I’ve been wanting to bring back in to my sewing lately. I make really fun things but I don’t usually do anything with them. I’m realizing now that they don’t do me much good (or much fun) just hanging in my closet once they’re finished.

Now to find some things to do around Seattle…

Pocket Hoops + Petticoats

A couple more pieces from what I wore on Halloween…

Pocket Hoops:


I used this panier-along tutorial for the entire process which was very easy to follow and quick to make. I spent an evening preparing for the project, deconstructing an old pillowcase so I could use its fabric and drafting the pattern pieces out of ads from the newspaper.


I cut out the pieces right before going to bed and had it all done by noon the next day. It was such a quick project that I didn’t think to stop along the way to take progress pictures but here you can see them right after they were finished. I strung them on a length of white cord and tied them around Barbara so I could start measuring for the petticoats.

The tutorial pointed out that adding slits was optional. I chose to add them and spent a lovely day being able to carry all of my belongings around with me and stockpile candy to hand out to the kids.



The tutorial suggests using basket cane for boning which I’d never had any experience with. Shopping around a bit online, I purchased what turned out to be a rather large quantity (750 feet!) of 2.25mm round basket reed. I tried to balance price against diameter but one strand of it was too thin to provide much support.

To counteract that, I used ten pieces of cane bundled together in each boning channel. Ten pieces together were definitely strong enough to support the hoops and my skirts atop it all.


Fabric: Blue, 70/30 linen/cotton blend (recycled from an old pillowcase)

Pattern: Drafted using this panier-along tutorial 

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread, cane, cord to tie around my waist

How historically accurate is it? Accurate fabric content, though it’s a blend which I’m guessing knocks it down a few pegs. Partly hand-sewn.

Hours to complete: 3-4 hours.

First worn: Halloween 2015

Total cost: Fabric ($0), cord ($1), cane ($13) = $14 total.

Under & Outer Petticoat:

To make both petticoats I followed this 18th century petticoat tutorial. Another quick and easy guide to follow, I had them both done in a little over 24 hours. Honestly, the part that took the longest was just hemming all the fabric!

They’re both pleated onto bias tape which tie in the front and the back, leaving slits down the side of each side seam long enough that I can access the pocket hoops underneath.

Fabric: White cotton, green and blue synthetic something-or-other

Pattern: Drafted using this 18th century petticoat tutorial

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread and bias tape

How historically accurate is it? Accurate with regards to cut and shape. Not so much the fiber content, color (?), or use of the machine

Hours to complete: 5-6 hours altogether

First worn: Halloween 2015

Total cost: Fabric (~$15), tape ($0)= $15 total.


As a bonus I wanted to make mention of what I used as stockings that night. If I’d have had more time I would have liked to make a set of stockings and garters but this fell to the wayside and I had to scramble on the morning of.

At first I had thought to not wear anything on my legs but it was too cold that day. My next thought was to wear tights but I was wary of how that would turn out with stays. I remembered a blog post that I had read awhile back (I can’t find its link for the life of me!) where a lady cut the legs off her tights and used them as 18th century stockings.

She suggested cutting them off as far up as you could go, leaving a bit of the different (“control top”) fabric at the top to keep them from unraveling and rolling them down. She had luck with them staying so I thought to give it a try!


I chopped up a pair of pink tights that I hardly ever wore. They rolled right down to my knees and stayed there the whole night. I made a pair for my brother to use as well though he had a harder time keeping his up. He didn’t want to roll them down as his pants pulled up a few inches when he lifted his legs or sat so he just tried to keep them pulled up.


Mine were pretty muddy and stained by the end of the night. It rained some that day and I walked through a few puddles around the neighborhood. I hadn’t realized that the green dye from the shoes I made would run. The stain didn’t lessen at all with washing so I guess they’re  now a pair. The shoes held up great, though!

18th Century Stays (HSM #10)

October was a whirlwind of sewing projects, one right after another, in preparation for Halloween. I started sewing for tonight back in January but, like it always seems to happen, everything bottlenecks in this month. In the past few weeks I’ve made almost a dozen garments so I figured that at least of them would fit for this challenge. Haha.

The prompt, Sewing Secrets, was a rather clever one. I was really eager to participate in it, though I had a hard time coming up with anything overtly secret to make. Thinking on it, though, I realized that the stays that I made for myself had a few secret things about it, however small.


They’re made from Butterick 4254 View A — with a few adjustments. I’d made a pair of stays for my sister from the same pattern over the summer so I had a good idea of how the pattern, without any adjustments, would fit me. So, to make mine, I raised the top three inches and cut two inches off both back pieces. I improvised the boning pattern.

The garment, in and of itself, is a secret one. It’s meant to be hidden under my outer layers so not many people will ever see it.


It’s made up of three layers of cotton duck and one layer of a turquoise synthetic I’ve had forever. One of the secrets in this garment is a busk. I cut about fourteen inches off of a yard stick and rounded the edges (using nail files – I lost my sandpaper!) so that it would fit nicely down the front of my stays. In the past, busks were often intricately carved and decorated and they made great gifts from one’s lover! Sadly, mine is plain but it’s a fun secret addition.

Secondly, I also like to think of the color scheme as a secret. I picked fun colors, not worrying about staying too accurate, and I had fun with the ribbons at my shoulders. The bright pink goes well with the turquoise and ended up matching the flowers I wore in my hair tonight!

I posted a few in-progress shots in my instagram, so you may have seen it along the way.

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Final view. Please excuse the smudges. A pirate wench can’t be too clean. 🙂

I reduced my waist about 4 inches tonight, pretty much the max that I could do and still be comfortable. It takes forever to lace – I guess I put in too many holes – and the string I have to use is absolutely gigantic. About 12 yards long. Eep. I used zip ties and duct ties for boning and I would call the stays fully-boned, although there are a few small gaps here and there.

The Challenge: Sewing Secrets (HSM #10)

Fabric: White cotton duck (1 yard), turquoise synthetic (1/2 yard)

Pattern: Butterick 4254

Year: 18th century (early-mid)

Notions: Off-white quilting thread, off-white bias tape, black grommets, duct ties, cable ties, yard stick (busk)

How historically accurate is it? Fairly. Except for the fact that it’s largely machine-stitched. It’s hard to put a percentage to it.

Hours to complete: 10 days.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: Cotton duck ($6), blue synthetic (stash), cable ties (stash), duct ties ($5), yard stick ($3), bias tape (stash) = $14 total.

I am really really happy with how these turned out. I’d made a pair of very lightly boned stays over the summer, but this was in a completely different league. So much intricate sewing and detailing went into the garment and I put a lot of effort into adjusting the pattern to fit me better. I feel like I’m getting a lot better at making adjustments, which is excellent. In all, I have some that will make me happy to wear, even if no one else can see it. 🙂

Happy Halloween!!

The Renaissance Project – Lorenzo

For Halloween last year my brother decided to join in the fun and dress up with us. He chose Lorenzo de’ Medici as his historical persona and was surprisingly enthusiastic about the whole thing!

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I started out making him a basic shirt out of cotton.


I used black ribbons at the wrists and neck for closures, which weren’t yet added in the picture above. It took about a day. This garment was so simple and easy to make that there’s not much more to say about this garment.

Next I moved on to making a doublet, or farsetto. There was some inexpensive forest green suede at Joann’s that we picked up for a really good deal.

Annunciation with Two Kneeling Donors by Fra Filippo Lippi

I cut it to look like the doublet seen in this portrait. Two resources I found extremely helpful along the way were: Farsetto Constuction of the Italian Renaissance and Men’s Clothing in 15th Century Florence.


I draped a pattern on him one evening and sewed like crazy trying to get as far as possible before he came home from college next. The body is lined with the same leftover plaid fabric as my dress, which stiffened it a nice amount, and the sleeves are unlined.

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I cut it a little close to the wire on this one, sewing right up until midnight to get it finished. I had to enlist his help which I was happy to have. He was decidedly less enthusiastic about it.


We worked diligently, though, and were able to get the sleeves cartridge-pleated at both the shoulder and elbow and get them attached in time.


The doublet closes in the front with four sets of leather ties using this method. I also made him a set of fall-front “hose” out of brown linen. I put it in quotations because he was adamant against wearing a proper set of hose. Haha. So I used a pair of his pajama pants as a pattern and put a fake seam up the back of both legs. They close on the front with leather ties and are attached to his doublet on the underside. It’s a period-correct method but he said they were mighty uncomfortable. Apparently this happened a lot throughout the night:

St John Altarpiece (detail) by Hans Memling

Things came united, seams popped, and it was hard to keep them from falling down in the back. Next time I will add some elastic, for his sake.

Of the three pieces the shirt is his favorite – he said he’d like to wear it more than just Halloween. The pants he could do without and the doublet was neither here nor there. I was rather happy with all of the pieces but I consider it a victory in and of itself getting him to dress up with us! Score!!

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)

The Renaissance Project – Lucrezia

So, continuing the series about last Halloween (just in time for this year’s)…
The dress that I wore – the Lucrezia dress:


 After completing my sister’s dress, I turned my attention to what I would be wearing. I searched and sorted through a ton of portraits and paintings, looking for just the right dress for inspiration. It happened when I came upon this image:
The Betrothal by Meister des Jahrhunderts, c. 1470.

I fell in love with the dress the bride is wearing. It was one of the few examples I could find of a dress that didn’t feature front lacing which was something that I desperately wanted to avoid for fear of not being supportive enough.

So I sketched out the dress to take with me to the fabric store. There I picked up some gold trim reminiscent of what the bride is wearing and looked around for a suitably shimmery red fabric, but couldn’t find anything that was within my price range.

Going home, I sorted through my stash and found just what I had been looking for: three and a half yards of a dark candy apple red satin (at least, I think it’s satin – I’m terrible at identifying fabric). I’d bought it almost two years earlier when it was on huge clearance at Joann’s. I believe I got it for around $2.50/yd.


I started working on October 18. I draped a bodice muslin on my duct-tape dress form, Barbara. I couldn’t really fit the pattern on myself so I had to approximate and eyeball the fit in the mirror when I tried it on.

When it looked right, I cut out two more layers – fashion fabric and some leftover sturdy plaid – and sandwiched it all together. The bodice had two pieces, front and back, that were almost identical. Both sides were left open for lacing.

When that’s done, I finish the seams all the way around.

At this point it’s lacking support so I add some zip ties on the front, back, and sides. I put five lacing rings on each side (jewelry toggle clasps) and cartridge-pleat the skirt front and back to the bottom of the bodice. Once it’s on, I sew up the sides until about four or five inches below the bottom of the bodice and hem the bottom so I can wear heels with it.
It’s finally to a point where I can try it on to check the fit and I’m incredibly happy with how it’s turned out so far. It was a lot of guess-and-checking up to that point but my estimates had been right on! I don’t have it pictured, but I was able to sew on the trim around the neckline pretty fast that night and the dress was done! Unfortunately, by that point, I had misplaced the cut of fabric I had set aside for sleeves so I had to skip them. (Of course, I found it in a bag about three days after Halloween.)
The other garment that I needed was a camicia, which was very quick to make. If I remember correctly, I followed this tutorial which was quite easy and straightforward.
It’s floppy and loose and long and flowy and I love it! I accidentally made it a bit too long so I’ll have to re-hem it eventually, but it’s great for now. The sleeves have ties on the cuffs but other than that it’s nothing too extraordinary.
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The final product. On Halloween – rolling up my sleeves to get some final decorating done.

Final Numbers

Fabric: Satin and cotton

Pattern: None

Year: c. 1500

Notions: Thread, lacing rings, white and gold trim, black ribbon

Hours to complete: Seven days.

Total cost: $15 for fabric. $2 for trim. Everything else from stash. Altogether, about $17.

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)

The Renaissance Project – Caterina

My initial plan of attack for making multiple costumes was to make each person’s full outfit at a time. Start from the base and work out, finishing it before moving on to the next one. Since I’d never made anything from this era before, I would be able to work out the kinks as I went along and, hopefully, be able to do each set quicker the next time around. Plus, I could check off whole outfits at a time and get (what felt like) a lot off my plate.
First up was my sister’s outfit, the Caterina dress.

Portrait of a Lady by Sebastiano Mainardi, late 15th century. © The Norton Simon Foundation

I wanted to make something like the dress in the portrait by Mainardi. I liked the squared neckline and the evidence of side lacing (which my sister had specifically requested instead of front lacing), but I would have to do something about the spots where the camicia showed. 
My sister already had a medieval shift that I’d made for her about three months before, so (to save money) we both decided just to use that. It had a nice, wide neckline and long sleeves, but it was basically just an a-line garment without any extra fabric gathered in the style of a renaissance camicia. So that meant that it wasn’t large enough to pull through any slashes or lacing.
Profile Portrait of a Woman by Piero del Pollaiolo, 14 © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The next image I looked to was this one. The camicia looked much more like the one that we were working with and there weren’t any slashes or gaping seams on the dress (except for the lacing) that would show it. I really liked the trim around the neckline and it’s one feature that I carried through to my final design.
Portrait of Maddalena Doni by Raphael, 1506.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided that this would be the best direction to go with the sleeves. It would add width to the arms without having to rely on bulk from the sleeves. The only part where the sleeves were puffed through was at the shoulder, which I thought we might be able to pull off. Doing this tipped the date of her dress forward a few years, but that was okay by us.
One item that was important to make was a pocket. I made it in less than an hour, based on some of the wonderful research done here. The pockets dated from about half a century later, but it was a necessary addition to the outfit so my sister could have her insulin pump on her. I sewed a ribbon on the top so she could tie it around her waist.
My sketches. 

When I had an idea of where to start, we headed to the fabric store. We picked up about three yards of a thin, flowy, black fabric (that I’ve since forgotten the name of) and half a yard of a pre-gathered, burgundy ‘novelty taffeta’ for her sleeves. We got a yard of trim for the neckline, a package of leather strips (for lacing), and some square toggles from the jewelry section to use as lacing rings. We had all the materials and were ready to begin.
Fabric for the sleeves. So pretty! And only $2.
a.k.a. Thank goodness for time-stamps

October 10, 7:54 PM:

My sister puts on her shift and cooperates while I pin on some square cuts of cotton so I can make a pattern for her bodice. It goes fast (in my opinion) and I have a pattern ready soon thereafter. It’s square-necked, ends just above her natural waist, and is left open on one side under her arm.
She got bored fast.

 October 10, 8:59 PM:

The bodice pattern is trimmed down to be even all around and I cut it out of the black fabric we bought earlier that day. I use the cotton to flat line it and sew all around the edges, joining the layers together. I sew the front to the back at the shoulder seams and one of the side seams.


I spend the rest of the night overcasting the seams and finishing the edges.

October 11, 10:40 AM:

I cut out four pieces of zip ties to use for some light boning in the bodice. I panic a little because I’d never ever done this before. I take a deep breath and just go for it. I sew them into little casings so I can attach them onto the bodice at the side seams.

Sewing the zip ties into separate channels. You can see Barbara (my dress form) to my left.

I sew them onto the bodice, four in all. Then I worry because they’re starting to poke through the flimsy cotton I used so I go over them again with a needle and thread. In the end, I pull out some ribbon and use it to cover two of the four channels. It’ll hold.

Covered with a ribbon on the right, exposed(ish) on the left.

11:47 AM:

I sew on the lacing rings. The opening is only about four inches long, so I only need six out of the package of 17 that I bought. This doesn’t take long.

The puppy even decided to cooperate and take a nap.

The lacing rings on one side. There’s one more at the bottom there that you can barely see in the picture.

1:57 PM:

My sister comes home and I rush to have her try on the bodice which now laces up!

I was so pleased how it was turning out!

The lacing held it tight enough to be supportive and the light zip-tie boning prevented the sides from wrinkling or riding up, just as I’d hoped.

3:46 PM:
I pull out the rest of the black fabric to make the skirt. I cut off the little bit of rough edges from where I cut out the bodice and see that I have a lot left. Almost the whole three yards. I decide on cartridge pleating, which I’d never done but always wanted to try. I try to do some calculations but give up halfway through and just go ahead with it.
This took
I lay it all out and mark the halfway point. I fold down the top about 8 inches (to meet the height of her legs) so I don’t have to cut anything off. It’ll add extra bulk to the pleats since the fabric is pretty thin and I won’t have to hem anything. I place a pin every inch and sew two rows of cartridge pleats every half-inch.
5:57 PM:
I gather it all together and pin onto the bodice. I don’t sew up the side seam (yet) so the dress hangs completely open on one side, save for the shoulder strap.
The creepy face in the microwave is just a reflection of the TV. No need to get worried like I did.
My brother comes home and graciously models the dress, careful to not get stuck by any of the pins.
7:54 PM:
I finish sewing the skirt onto the bodice, slip it onto Barbara (my duct-tape dress-form) and settle in to sew the trim around the neckline while watching Survivor.

9:41 PM:

I finish sewing on the trim and get really excited and make my sister try it on.

She asked for it to be left long so she could wear heels with it.
It fits wonderfully. I go to bed quite pleased.
October 12, 3:48 PM:
I spend the better part of the day procrastinating by playing Super Mario World and beat it on my own for the first time ever.

And with Luigi, too!
11:40 PM:
I get to work and sew up the sleeves: basically just two tubes of fabric gathered at the wrist and with two ties at the top. I make up a quick pocket (that I forgot to take pictures of, but it’s really nothing special at all) out of the leftover black fabric.
I sew up the side of the dress until about four inches from the bottom of the bodice so she can still get it over her head.
This shot reminds me a little of a da Vinci painting – plenty of chiaroscuro.
And we’re done!
Final Numbers
Year: c. 1500
Pattern: self-drafted
Materials: 3 yards of black fabric, .5 yard taffeta, 1 yard of trim, scraps of cotton, lacing rings, leather cord, zip ties, small pieces of ribbon, and polyester thread.
Hours: I finished it all, from start to finish, within 52 hours. Counting just the time I was working on it, probably about 12 to 15 hours.
Cost: about $15-20. Lots of sales at Joann and plenty of coupons.
And I’ll leave you with a sneak peek of how she wore it on Halloween.

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)


The Renaissance Project – Background and Research

The Renaissance Project
Background, Research, and Planning
When planning out the costumes, the first thing I looked to was original sources. I scoured through paintings from the 15th century and found a lot of inspiration. I’d had a Renaissance board on my Pinterest page for a while, but I pinned more specific images to a new board specifically for Halloween costume ideas (you can also see that we had been originally intending to do an 18th century/pirate theme).
Now, when this whole thing started, there was a little over a month until Halloween. In the interest of time, and saving my sanity, I wasn’t too overly concerned with keeping things historically accurate. I know there are some out there to whom it matters a great deal and others to whom it matters not at all. I all somewhere in the middle, leaning towards the side of ‘favoring’. In my opinion, if it looks accurate (a.k.a. no exposed mechanically-done seams, fabric that at least looks correct, the right cut and shape, etc.) then I’m good. I just wanted to put that out there in case anybody is totally turned off by the fact that my creations will end up being about 80-90% accurate, so they can stop reading before they get really far in.
So, back to the background. We all picked personas that we would play for the night. My sister chose Caterina Sforza, I chose Lucrezia Borgia, my mother chose Vannozza dei Cattanei, and my brother chose Lorenzo de’ Medici. These decisions didn’t feature too heavily into the clothing designs, but it’s what I’m naming the outfits after. I decided to make all of the outfits from the same time and place, c. 1490 Florence, a particular favorite of mine.
Thought to be Lucrezia in a fresco by Pinturicchio, c. 1494.

The undergarments for this time period were relatively simple. For men and women, the garment worn closest to the skin was called the camicia, which is also known as a chemise or shift. It’s a loose garment made mostly of linen that is a lot like the ones worn throughout history, just fuller. Males’ were shorter than females’, reaching about to mid-thigh. They also had a split up the side and a collar. Women’s were longer (about ankle-length) and had wide necks that could be easily slipped over the head.
For women, a dress was called a gamurra. The style varied over the years, but overall the bodices were on the short side (think empire-waist with some extending down to the natural waist), the sleeves were detachable, and they laced up the front (but moved to the side as fashion moved to the next century). They were worn by ladies of every social standing and could be as plain or as fancy as the wearer deemed.

Also for women was the gionrea, an overdress. They were sleeveless and were worn by men and women, with the male version being shorter than the female. I had initially planned to make one for me, but I scrapped that idea soon into the research phase.

One accessory I whipped up was a pocket, or saccoccia, to go along with the Caterina dress. The pockets seemed to date form about the middle of the sixteenth century which was a bit late for us, but it was a necessary item.

A Renaissance Saccoccia by Anéa

A man’s outfit from this period was much harder to tackle for me. I’d been researching female’s clothing from this time period for years (just out of personal interest) and had it down pat before I even started. By the end of October, I had gathered that a man’s doublet was called a farsetto, and he wore either split or joined hose (split had been commonplace until about now when joined hose began gaining popularity). I found a few fantastic resources that really helped me.

Farsetto Construction of the Italian Renaissance by Elizabeth Jones

So up next in this series will be the actual outfits, so you’ll finally get to see what I’ve been talking about this whole time.

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)

The Renaissance Project (Halloween 2014)

The Renaissance Project Master Post
a.k.a. Halloween 2014
Halloween has been a big deal in my family for as long as I can remember. My siblings and I spent the last half of the summer counting down the days until the Halloween display would be put out at Target. Our own decorations were put out on September 1 (the earliest date we could justify). Our costumes were worn all day – to school and dance class.
In the more recent years, however, our excitement has justifiably waned. We had grown older and we’d moved out of our childhood home into a new place that didn’t have very many trick-or-treaters. It wasn’t until 2011, when we spent the holiday in Disneyland, that my sister and I rekindled our interest in celebrating. We dressed up that year, but we really got the ball rolling from there.
In 2014, we decided to pull out all the stops.
My sister and I were in charge. We decorated our parents’ house and arranged my whole family to be there for Halloween. Starting halfway through September, we stretched fifteen bags of fake spider webs up and around two stories on our house and throughout the front yard. We arranged more than 500 fake spiders throughout. Special lighting. A fog machine. Full-sized candy bars. Soon our spider den ready and waiting, it was time to decide on the theme for our costumes.
October 8 – still a long way to go!
We toyed with a couple ideas, but settled on the Italian Renaissance. It’s one of my favorite time periods (fashion- and otherwise!) and I admit that I pushed for it pretty hard. In the beginning, it was just me and my sister who were dressing up, so it was pretty easy for us to agree on it. It also seemed like it would be a pretty easy task of making two quick dresses for us to use. But before I knew it, the project had more than doubled in size.
So, this lengthy back-story is to set up a Costume Diary for this huge project. In all, I made three dresses, three camicias, a doublet, a pair of hose, and a pocket. I tried to document my work along the way, so I’ve got a lot of information and pictures to share. I’ve split it all up into six parts that I’ll be publishing over the next few weeks.

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)

Happy (belated? early?) Halloween!