Category Archives: Undergarments

Pink Cotton Sottana

From April to June 2017, I participated in the 7th Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge, hosted by The Realm of Venus, one of the best Italian costuming resources on the web. My entries and the results can be found at the link above, but for reference, here’s photos from about the competition and the outfit I made. The competition required monthly progress updates, as well as a final update with the results of your entry.

I made a pair of white linen drawers based on the bara system and completely hand sewn. I wove the ties (my first weaving!) and flat felled the seams (also a first!).

Bara Tape

Drawers in progress

Finished drawers

The bodice is also based on the bara system, where I tried my best to interpret The Modern Maker‘s notes and drawings to design a bodice that fit well. I’m reasonably satisfied with the attempt, but it could be better.

Toile front

Toile back

Toile side

The bodice interlining was made up of a layer of cotton duck and heavy weight muslin, which was roll-pinned, then stitched together. The fashion fabric was basted to the outside, then folded inwards and stitched in place with a running stitch.

Close up of basting

Exterior sewn to interlining

The lining was basted, then the edges turned in and blind stitched in place. The bottom edge was left open to put in the hide glue “cardboard” insert.

Lining shoulder seam

Bodice front

Bodice back

Hide glue “cardboard”

Wool-covered “cardboard”

The skirt was gathered and attached, but there are no exciting pictures of the process. I also made an over skirt from some random polyester satin I had laying around. I made a pair of orange pockets lined in cashmere, also from stash fabric. The cashmere lining was the only fabric that looked good with the orange, but turns out to be a great place to warm my hands on cold days. Lastly, I threw together a pair of sleeves, with the intention of re-doing them later with proper trim additions.

Assembled gown

Over skirt

Pockets front

Pockets back


Pocket close-up

Pocket close-up

Sleeve interior

Sleeve exterior

The gown ended up being way too long, but I later added a tuck so I could wear it. We took quick pictures for the competition end at an event where it was bloody hot and sunny and I was quick to divest myself of this many layers. Later, we took a posed picture, but I forgot to iron the over skirt!

Gown front

Gown side

Gown back

Gown other side

Over skirt front

Over skirt back

Final photo

Stockings Research

Yesterday, I made a pair of stockings, but they were made from a pattern I drafted several years ago and turned out too big in the calf.

My Stocking

My Stocking

I decided that if I were to make a new pattern, I would research extant stockings and patterns drawn from those items. Below are the results of my research and design.

First up is a stocking from Cluny Museum, and a pattern for a similar stocking, both dated to the 14th century.

Cluny Museum Stockings

14th C Stockings at Cluny Museum retrieved from

Baynard Castle Stocking Pattern

14th C Stockings; Pattern from “Some Clothing of the Middle Ages” based on Baynard’s Castle finds in “Clothing & Textiles”

Next, we have a 15th century pattern for chausses, from “Costume”.

chausses pattern

15th C chausses; Pattern from “Costume” retrieved from

The 15th century pattern evolves into a similar 16th century pattern and further into a 17th century pattern with a taller clock, drafted from an extant stocking.

Textile Conservation stockings pattern

16th C stockings pattern from “Textile Conservation & Research”, retrieved from

POF stockings pattern

17th C stockings, Pattern from “Patterns of Fashion 4”

POF4 stockings pattern

17th C stockings, Image from “Patterns of Fashion 4”

Then there’s an image of a 16th century Venetian courtesan where you can clearly see the tall clocks on her ankles. I’ve decided that *this* is the appearance I’m trying to achieve.

Venetian Courtesan stockings

16th C Venetian Courtesan from “Diversarum Nationum Habitus”, retrieved from

Looking back over the available patterns, they all have a seam beneath the heel that I am not comfortable with. So next I took a look at the modern costumers’ interpretations of patterns.

Melanie Schuessler Stocking Pattern

16th C Original Pattern by Melanie Schuessler

Katerina stockings pattern

16th C Original Pattern by Katerina da Brescia

Both of these patterns are modified to have a full sole without a seam. Both result in a clocked stocking. I decided to go with a pattern similar to Katerina da Brescia’s of Kat’s Purple Files, modifying the triangles to achieve a taller clock such as in the courtesan picture.

To draft my pattern, I used The Medieval Tailor’s instructions for step 1 and step 2 and drew my lines directly on my muslin. Then I cut out the muslin with plenty of excess, stitched the back seam and tried it on. Perfect! From here, I used a technical process of tugging the fabric around and guessing to come up with a pattern that was shaped like Kat’s (above). It worked, but I cut the length of the toe cover too short and ended up having to piece it to the right size.

So my pattern looks like this:

Kataryn Mercer Stockings Pattern

16th C Original Pattern by Kataryn Mercer

Kataryn Mercer Stockings Pattern

16C Original Pattern by Kataryn Mercer

I sewed it all together using a running stitch, then I folded over the remainder and whipstitched it down. So not quite a run and fell seam, but very similar. For the gussets at the ankle, I folded and whip stitched the top first, then the sides.

Stocking stitching

I haven’t finished the top edge yet, because I want to make sure both stockings are the same height, and possibly decorate the part that folds down over the garter, but here is my new stocking:


My new stocking – side


My new stocking – front

This stocking has been done for about a month, but I misplaced the pattern and my mother recently found it for me (exactly where I’d been looking, but somehow was blind), so I can make a matching left foot now!

Properties of Fabric

For my next project, I’m going to make new stockings. My previous pair were made of cotton and stayed wet on rainy days. So I’m doing some research on fabric properties to compare the best possibilities for my new stockings. Below are short summaries of a few types of fabrics, both natural and man made.

Cotton is a natural plant fiber that is strong wet and dry. Cotton absorbs moisture.

Wool is a natural fiber from sheep that is warm and insulating but weak. Wool is elastic and highly absorbent, which causes it to dry slowly.

Silk is a natural fiber from silk worms that is strong dry and weak wet.

Linen is a natural plant fiber that is strong wet and dry. It is highly absorbent and dries quickly. Air is able to pass through linen fabric making it cool and comfortable.

Polyester is a man made fiber that is strong wet and dry. It is non-absorbent but dries quickly and may feel hot and clammy.

Nylon is a man made fiber that is strong dry but weaker wet. It is not very absorbent and may feel hot and clammy, but it is quick drying.

Rayon is a man made fiber from trees that is moderately strong, but weaker wet. It is very absorbent.

Tyvek/Olefin is a man made fiber used in activewear, linings and wicks water away, drying quickly.

Ingeo is a man made fiber that is typically blended with cotton or wool. It is water resistant and wicks away water.

Bamboo is a natural fiber that is light and strong with moisture wicking abilities.

Acrylic is a man made fiber that is light weight and warm. It is moisture wicking and quick drying.