Blog,  Sewing

Renaissance Costume

I wish I could say that I’ve been basking in the last few weeks of the summer sun traveling to my little heart’s content however that has not been the case. I came down with a nasty case of the stomach flu and I am just now back to my normal self, hence the lack of posting here.

In my moments of feeling better I have been working on a Renaissance costume for a friend of mine. It is a surprise costume and I have been conspiring with her husband for sizes, color, and design. We agreed on constructing light and simple as she is neither over the top girly or very into heavy costumes that involve skirts.

For this costume I wanted to channel her personal character while doing something that spoke to the Renaissance era. This resulted in a semi wenchy pirate costume.

My inspiration came from Pinterest. I really wanted to do the full costume on the left but imagined it to be too heavy for her. The costume on the right was something more I envisioned being the perfect lightweight and comfortable.

So I sketched the dress below.


The “corset” colors are actually reversed. I decided to go with a red bodice with black trim because the material I picked up was just that cool. The materials that were used for this costume was a basic lightweight linen for the blouse, micro suede with 100% cotton lining for the under bust “corset”, and 100% cotton for the skirt. I wanted to use materials that breathed as much as possible because Ren Fair in Houston can get pretty warm in October.


To achieve the final look I used Simplicity pattern 3809 for the shirt in view B and the base of the skirt for the basic shape. I was going to try and alter the shape of the bodice pattern as well however I found that to be more complex than to just drape on the mannequin and hope for the best.

I’ve been draping fabric for years but never really knew how to transfer the drape to the final product until one day I came across this video from costume designer Designer Daddy. He is such a great inspiration if you love costume designing as much as I do.

I began using muslin to drape on the mannequin and then transferred that design to my Swedish tracing paper to begin the construction of the bodice. Once that was complete I cut both my lining and exterior fabric and assembled each layered separately.

Bodice cut and side seams sewn together.

I added boning and boning channels to the seams of the lining to give it some rigidity. Keeping both ends open I sewed together the top and bottom of the bodice exterior and lining material and flipped right side out.

Next was the assembly of the blouse. I used the exact pattern from simplicity and followed the directions as best I could. Simplicity instructions tend to be a bit difficult to follow due to the fact that they are not always complete so I tend to rely on the step by step images they provide. I decided at the last minute that the blouse was just too plain and decided to purchase some white lace to add to the sleeves, to give it that “elegant” pirate look. Also instead of a hem I went with surging the bottom of the blouse to provide as much length as possible.

Almost complete bodice and blouse

After the blouse was completed I construct the pattern and assembled the skirt. I decided to go with a double layer cotton skirt that was hiked up in the front so that she could wear leggings. This skirt is your basic one size fits all a-line skirt that you cinch with elastic with a high-low hem. (I forgot to take construction pictures as I went along. Let me know if you would like to see them and I will construct another if there is enough interest.)

The other detail that you may have or have not noticed is that the red layer is not extremely long. That is because I wanted just a hint of red peeking though the lace to tie the color of the bodice into the skirt. This was pain painstakingly difficult to do and I shall tell you why.

When I was free cutting the hem of the first time I had all the layers, red and black, front and back pieces, together I mistakenly cut through the layer that was meant for back of the red skirt when I was cutting the front. (Yes I know what you are all saying, “Why did you even have it stacked together in the first place?” The answer is, I don’t know.) So as a result my red skirt ended up being created at a different time as the black skirt and ended up being too long. As you can see I amended my error but it took a couple days of head scratching to resolve.

Once everything was assembled the lace was tacked onto the red under skirt and we were ready for the first fitting. I will share the final results next week with the finished product.

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