1500’s Italian Kirtle

This project was a labor of love for the Renaissance faire. I wanted to try to self-draft a simple 1500’s Italian kirtle as new garb for the 2018 season. In my research, I had seen examples of some with side lacing in portraits and I liked the variation from front lacing ones I had made before.

(Portrait of a lady as Mary Magdalene, half-length, in a red dress and pearl necklace by Giovanni Francesco Caroto, A Lady with a Nosegay by Francesco Bacchiacca, Donors from The Altarpiece of St Vincent Ferrer by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Plate of the Suicide of Phyllis by Robinet Testard, The Lute Player by Orazio Gentileschi, The Birth of John the Baptist by Domenico Ghirlandaio)


The Smocked Chemise:

I knew an outfit like this would need a very luxurious chemise so I went out to find some ideas. There was an excellent tutorial on Katafalk for a 16th century chemise and I decided to use that to create the look I wanted.


For materials- I bought some absolutely gorgeous cotton Voile from Renaissance Fabrics. It is very light and slightly sheer, but in a voluminous chemise it looks wonderful!
Going through the tutorial on Katafalk, I followed most of her instructions, but I decided that mine would have a low scoop-collar instead of the high collar that she made.


I also made many mistakes on the road to finishing this chemise… I initially tried to use shorter pieces of embroidery thread to smock in batches. This was a mistake because it made it terribly hard to gather it all evenly. What ended up working better was to take the chemise in halves- I did long pieces of embroidery thread that stretched from shoulder to shoulder. I overlapped them slightly so that they wouldn’t leave any gaps.

I smocked the chemise in halves with some overlap

Once the gathering portion was done, I could do the outer embroidery in whatever way I wanted!

I chose to stick to simple rows for my sanity. I thought I could save more complex patterns for the dress that would go over it!


The Dress:

I startled the kirtle portion by draping the bodice on my mannequin (that I call PINelope).

I decided that the bodice was going to be fully boned so that I wouldn’t have to bother with wearing a corset.

My boning pattern

Then I moved on to attaching the skirt and the embroidery!

All in all this is one of the most comfortable pieces of garb I’ve ever made! I love not having to wear a corset. I’m also thinking that there may be some removable sleeves for it in the future.

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