I originally intended to make an Italian camicia to go with my Italian costume, but ended up running out of time so did a makeshift version in cotton instead.
I opted to FINALLY finish the Italian camicia (shift, underdress, chemise) that I started a year and a half ago for the costume I was making for the elevation of Caterina to the Order of the Laurel. I had intended to do this entirely by hand, but after doing four of the shortest seams by hand, I was frustrated with how long it took, so I decided to switch to the invisible/interior stitching done by machine. All of the seams are finished with a French seam, which I hope will suitably support the thin gauze fabric.
Material: Linen gauze from Fabric-store.com. This is a 2.8oz linen that I’ve used previously for a veil. I suspect that it won’t take any hard wear, but I’m hoping that with the limited amount I actually do wear the garment, that it will be ok.
Notions:Thread. Original hand-sewing thread was silk, machine sewing is polyester, finishing thread is again silk.
How historically accurate is it? I didn’t do extensive fresh research on this, but based the pattern off previous research and portraits. The polyester thread is clearly out of period.
Hours to complete: When I first started hand-sewing it, I was convinced it would take years. Once I skipped the hand-stitching and moved to machine, I did the seams and sleeve hems in one day, let it hang, and did the neckline and skirt hem in another day… albeit about 3 months apart. I just wasn’t inspired by this project.
First worn: November 5, 2016, at Samhain in Montengarde (Calgary).
Total cost: Since it’s been over a year since I bought the fabric, I don’t recall the price of it.
All of the images below are direct links from Pinterest.
Portrait of a Young Woman
Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1508 is a bit later than the 1480s/90s that I’m looking at, but this is the right style for the bodice/gown.
The Camicia here has what appears to have a heavily pleated front, with a narrow (1cm or so) band in white with gold embroidery. It has a dark (black?) picot trim on the top. The sleeves appear to be moderately full, not pleated, and also embellished with stripes of gold embroidery.
The neckline is not visible above the top of the gown; only where the camicia is visible through the lacing of the gown’s bodice.
Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Beheading of St. John the Baptist is my main inspiration for much of this project. For this the camicia is rather… odd.
Despite the v-neckline at the back of the dress, the camicia is not visible at the back neckline. Its unlikely to me that the neckline at the back of the camicia would be v-neck… so I either suspect this is an artist’s choice not to show the camicia at the back neck, or PERHAPS the shift was worn so off the shoulder that it is not visible at the back. I think the former theory is more likely than the latter.
The sleeves on this shift are very full and pleated, and likely have a VERY wide “angel sleeve” hem.
Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni
Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni – this portrait doesn’t give much information about the camicia.
The sleeves seem to have very little fullness.
The centre front, through the lacing is a bit odd – it appears to be dark, rather than white. It doesn’t show any detail to indicate fullness or trim. Like the above two examples, the camicia does not show at all at the neckline. (Thus, no trim is visible on the edge of the camicia.)
Portrait de jeune femme
Portrait de jeune femme – The camicia here is visible at the centre front through the lacing, at the sleeves, and just barely at the neckline.
I believe that the front shows the camicia being highly pleated, like the first example. I do not see any trim here – there is just the golden ribbon.
At the sleeves, the camicia seems to have some fullness, though not a lot.
At the neckline, the camicia appears to directly follow the neckline of the gown, with no trim on the edge.
Portrait of Giovane Donna
Portrait of Giovane Donna – based on the sheen at the arm, it appears that this camicia might be silk – or a polished linen perhaps.
The camicia has moderate fullness at the arms and the centre front appears to be fairly pleated through the small gap of the gown bodice.
The edge appears to be trimmed in a very tiny white picot treatment – likely a shell stitch rather than trim.
From the examples above, I want to do a shift with a moderately full sleeve in white linen. I want it to have a low neckline that mimics the neckline of the gown bodice. I considered pre-pleating the front of the gown, but figured that would make it less useful for other costumes.
I treated the construction of the camicia similar to my other “rectangular construction” dresses. I started stitching by hand, but then quickly realised I would never finish if I continued in that manner, so switched to machine stitching. I did, however, use French seams to add extra support (and invisibility) for the fine linen gauze.
I also drafted this quite a while ago…. and subsequently lost a fair amount of weight. Thus, it’s actually too big for me – so the pleating I was not planning on, will just happen as the bodice cinches in over top of it. I did end up hemming it now though, so it hangs properly at the hem, even if the body is too big.
After letting the hem hang out, I roughly marked a neckline and cut it out smaller, then put it on, and put on the bodice, to more accurately mark the neckline.
That was trimmed, and bound with a very narrow bias tape of the same fabric. It was sewn on by machine and finished entirely by hand with silk thread. My housemate marked the hem, which I trimmed and hemmed with a double-fold. It was hemmed entirely by hand, with silk thread.
I also embroidered a tiny “D” on the centre back in linen thread pulled from the fabric – in a vague way this is kind of a way of identifying this camicia from others – though I don’t anticipate losing it at an event… (I did the same for my veil a while ago, which is much more likely to be forgotten on a table). More so, I did this to give myself a little reminder about which is the back of the dress, since there is no trim.
Ultimately, I don’t think I made the neckline quite wide enough. I really wanted the front neckline of the gown to just allow the camicia to barely show – but it’s much more visible than I had hoped for – however it does make it a bit more modest.
To see how my camicia fits with the dress, please see the gamurra post.